KING. The primary signification of this word is a person in whom is vested the higher executive functions in a sove reign state, together with a share, more or less limited, of the sovereign power. The state may consist of a vast assem blage of persons, like the French or the Spanish nation, or the British people in Which several nations are included ; or it may be small, like the Danes, or like one of the Saxon states in England before the kingdoms were united into one; yet if the chief executive functions are vested in some one person who has also a share in the sovereign power, the idea repre sented by the word king seems to be com plete. It is even used for those chiefs of savage tribes who are a state only in a certain loose sense of the term.
It is immaterial whether the power of such a person is limited only by his own will, or whether his power be limited by certain immemorial usages and written laws, or in any other way ; still such a person is a king. Nor does it signify whether he succeed to the kingly power by descent and inheritance on the death of his predecessor, just as the eldest son of a British peer succeeds to his father's rank and title on the death of the parent, or is elected to fill the office by some council or limited body of persons, or by the suffrages of the whole nation. Thus there was a king of Poland, who was an elected king ; there is a king of England, who now succeeds by hereditary right.
In countries where the kingly office is hereditary, some form has always been gone through on the accession of a new king, in which there was a recognition on the part of the people of his title, a claim from them that he should pledge himself to the performance of certain duties, and generally a religious ceremony performed, in which anointing him with oil and placing a crown upon his head were con spicuous acts. By this last act is sym bolised his supremacy ; and by the anointing a certain sacredness is thrown around his person. These kinds of
ceremonies exist in most countries in which the sovereign, or the person sharing in the sovereign power, is known as king ; and these ceremonies seem to make a distinction between the suc cession of an hereditary king to his throne and the succession of an hereditary peer to his rank.
The distinction between a king and an emperor is not one of power, but it has an historical meaning. Emperor comes from imperator, a title used by the sove reigns of the Roman empire. When that empire became divided, the sovereigns of the West and of the East respectively called themselves emperors. The em peror of Germany was regarded as a kind of successor to the emperors of the West, and the emperor of Russia (who is often called the czar) is, with less pretension to the honour, sometimes spoken of as suc cessor to the emperor of the East. But we speak of the emperor of China, where emperor is clearly nothing more than king, and we use emperor rather than king only out of regard to the vast extent of his dominions. Napoleon usurped the title of emperor ; and we now sometimes speak of the British empire, an expression which is free from objection. The word imperium (empire) was used both under the Roman emperors and under the later Republic, to express the whole Ro man dominion. [EMPEROR.) The word king is of pure Teutonic origin, and is found slightly varied in its literal elements in most of the languages which are sprung from the Teutonic. The French, the Italian, the Spanish, and the Portuguese continue the use of the Latin word rex, only slightly varying the orthography according to the ana logies of each particular language. King. traced to its origin, seems to denote one to whom superior knowledge had given superior power, allied, as it seems to be, to know, con, can ; but on the etymology, or what is the same thing, the remote origin of the word, different opinions have been held, and the question may still be considered undetermined.