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God Save the King: The Concept of Monarchial Authority in Colonial America

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Miller, Dennis. “God Save the King: The Concept of Monarchial Authority in Colonial America.” (Under the direction of Dr. Holly Brewer.)

In April 1586, Queen Elizabeth I of England acquired a now-obscure title that helped establish English societal values over the New World. This title, “Weroanza,” meant “Big Chief” in the Native American language. Elizabeth’s new imperial status established the central authority of the monarch and her government over the untamed land and “savage” people of America. By the 18th century, royal government prevailed over the entire colonial population.

Some historians contend that the King and the concept of monarchy were unimportant to the average colonist. However, many colonial publications, especially the popular sermons published on a monarch’s coronation or death, demonstrate the importance colonists placed on their King and his patronage. Further, the documents produced around English dealings with Native Americans show numerous references to royal authority. Indeed, evidence shows that the English settlers imposed their English ideas about hierarchy onto Native American social interactions. Finally, the usage of the monarch’s image and/or symbols of monarchy reified the colonists’ ideas about the King and the monarchy; the ubiquitous nature of these images and symbols underscores the importance of the monarchy to the average colonist. The paper concludes that the King and the concept of monarchy represents widely held and understood concepts to colonial Americans.

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