If the English Bill of Rights 1689 makes clear that the British Monarchy does not rule by divine right how can the British Monarchy reasonably retain the motto "Dieu et mon droit" (God and my right) without drawing accusations of hypocrisy?

EDIT (to bring the question up to date with the ensuing conversation): What strikes me as potentially hypocritical is on the one hand the Monarchy is saying (by agreeing to Bill of Rights Act) that they accept that they are not installed by the will of God (to placate an uprising), but then contradict this with every piece of stationery they issue. The Bill of Rights Act is an immensely important document for British constitutional law and the Monarchy (whom it sought to put under the rule of law) have a motto which directly contradicts it.

  • I don't see the potential hypocrisy? The Monarch is the head of the Church of England, and (as far as I know) has the right to succeed to the throne by reason of birth.
    – Bobson
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 19:32
  • 1
    The queen is still head of the anglican church. Moreover, changing this could mean remaking some of her jewelery. Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 19:33
  • 2
    Yes, but the phase was coined by King Richard I long before the CoE was established. The meaning and intention behind the phrase is clearly that of divine right. "Richard was speaking what he believed to be the truth when he told the Holy Roman Emperor: 'I am born of a rank which recognises no superior but God'." Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 19:53
  • 3
    Mottos are not legally binding, and in this case it is kept for tradition's sake. There are some out there that are way worse, specially if you have been convicted to jail time: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Live_Free_or_Die#Similar_mottos
    – SJuan76
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 21:20
  • 1
    @WinEunuuchs2Unix: also, as Wikipedia helpfully tells us, "For the Royal coat of arms of the Kingdom of England to have a French rather than English motto was not unusual, given that Norman French was the primary language of the English Royal Court and ruling class following the rule of William the Conqueror of Normandy and later the Plantagenets." Commented Feb 21, 2017 at 11:03

1 Answer 1


At the core, you are conflating political culture with political institutions. Political institutions are things like laws (including constitutions), courts, legislatures, offices - all the formal bits of how government works. Political culture is a largely intangible set of symbols and acts that are used to represent values.

The two interact in some ways. Institutions make use of symbols to communicate. Sometimes institutions formalize symbols (for example, by adopting the design of a crest or flag).

However, the two are ultimately incommensurate. There is no legal value to a motto; regardless what the motto says it does not really tell you anything authoritative about how the government functions. What it does do is provide a symbol which tells you something about the culture that produced it. I'm no expert in English political culture, but this looks like a fairly normal case of preserving an antiquated symbol to keep a tie to the past.

There are plenty of similar issues in all (or most) cultures. Societies are multi-faceted and you shouldn't expect all the pieces to line up in an orderly, rational way.

There is a lack of references here, which I acknowledge. In keeping with the Good Subjective/Bad Subjective principle, I am basing this on my background as a political scientist.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .