We don’t usually think good thoughts about kings, but these men were different.
In our modern world the kings of old seem rather barbaric and unjust. Americans tend to view kings as oppressive and foreign. Yet, there are many saints in the history of the Catholic Church who were good kings and who tried their best to follow God’s law.
In particular, here are four kings who recognized that their kingship came from God and had a duty to serve the people of their realm with justice and charity.
Louis IX of France
King of France from 1226 – 1270, King Louis is probably the best known royal saint. Among his many achievements, he was a model father and wrote this letter to his son:
My first instruction is that you should love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your strength. … If the Lord has permitted you to have some trial, bear it willingly and with gratitude, considering that it has happened for your good and that perhaps you well deserved it. If the Lord bestows upon you any kind of prosperity, thank him humbly and see that you become no worse for it, either through vain pride or anything else, because you ought not to oppose God or offend him in the matter of his gifts.
Be kindhearted to the poor, the unfortunate and the afflicted. Give them as much help and consolation as you can. Thank God for all the benefits he has bestowed upon you, that you may be worthy to receive greater.
Edward the Confessor
Considered the last Anglo-Saxon King of England, Edward reigned from 1042 – 1066. His reign was marked with peace and prosperity and took a personal vow of chastity. He strove to do what was right and just according to his times and frequently assisted at Mass.
Stephen I of Hungary
Ruler from 1001–1038, he is considered the first King of Hungary. Similar to King Louis, he wrote to his son and advised him to keep the faith.
My dearest son, if you desire to honor the royal crown, I advise, I counsel, I urge you above all things to maintain the Catholic and Apostolic faith with such diligence and care that you may be an example for all those placed under you by God, and that all the clergy may rightly call you a man of true Christian profession. Failing to do this, you may be sure that you will not be called a Christian or a son of the Church. Indeed, in the royal palace, after the faith itself, the Church holds second place, first constituted and spread through the whole world by His members, the apostles and holy fathers, And though she always produced fresh offspring, nevertheless in certain places she is regarded as ancient. However, dearest son, even now in our kingdom the Church is proclaimed as young and newly planted; and for that reason she needs more prudent and trustworthy guardians lest a benefit which the divine mercy bestowed on us undeservedly should be destroyed and annihilated through your idleness, indolence or neglect.
Ladislaus I of Hungary
King of Hungary from 1077–1095, Ladislaus is remembered as a chivalrous king. He was known for his virtuous character and generosity to the poor. He is currently regarded as one of the patron saints of Hungary.