For despotic rulers, good help has always been hard to find. There seems to be a fundamental tension (even to the level of a paradox) between the existence of despotic regimes where the lives and happiness of people were dependent on the whims of a single impatient and temperamental person and the free passage of truth in the closed societies that such satanic models of leadership foster.
As I was reading one of my history books this morning, I was struck by two observations about different kings within the same corrupt system of “one-man” or “divine right” government that show the paradoxes and inadequacy of such a model in a poignant way. The following observation concerns the fiance of a French crown prince: “In 1680 Louis XIV ordered Bavarian princess Maria Anna Christina as a bride for his son and heir. The lovely portrait carted about the court was irrelevant compared to the marriage treaty. According to Madame de Sèvignè, as the bride was approaching, “the King was so curious to know what she looked like that he sent Sanguin [his chief butler] whom he knows to be a truthful man and no flatterer. ‘Sire,’ that man told him, ‘once you get over the first impression, you will be delighted.’ The unhappy couple managed to catapult three children into the world before the neglected wife died .”
This incident is particularly sad for one big reason. Louis XIV, otherwise known as the “Sun King,” was particularly insistent upon the divine right of kings , but he had to sent his butler to get an honest report because his parasitic courtiers were liars and flatterers. Unfortunately, a despot is the loneliest sort of person because someone who insists on seeking the domination of others can have no true friends. Friendship depends on love and mutual respect, whether that friendship is in a family, a church, a business, or a civil society . Since Louis XIV insisted on centralizing the power of the nation of France within his own unworthy hands, he could have no true friends as a rebel against God’s sovereignty and a tyrant over everyone else within his kingdom or within the path of his rapacious armies. And yet for an honest answer on a very important question, he knew that he could not rely on the flattering nobles and servants who clustered around his court–except for an honest butler who (unlike everyone else) was no flatterer. And yet he was only a butler, and not a counselor or officer of state, as his integrity would have merited. Louis XIV did not promote virtuous men, and so they were scarce in his palace establishment. He got what he wanted–and deserved–a parasitic court of flatterers and liars, vicious backstabbing mistresses and officers who gained great wealth by exploiting the people–leading to a revolution that overthrew the French monarchy within a century after his death.
The second anecdote concerns an equally doomed monarchy, that of Austria-Hungary: “With his children married and his wife away, the lonely emperor had no one to see to his personal comfort. He had dozens of servants to snap to his commands, but not one would have dared to see what he was lacking and make suggestions. Katharina [his mistress] filled this role, giving him a painted screen to protect him from the draft, a thick wool smoking jacket, a cozy little rug. His favorite gift was a hand mirror with the words in French “portrait of him whom I love .”
We see from this particular (and sad) anecdote that a longtime leader over a massive empire could not rely on his dozens of servants to speak up and notice what was obviously lacking. Apparently Franz Josef, who ruled from the revolutions of 1848 to the middle of World War I, the war that toppled the Hapsburg dynasty from power and obliterated his mismatched empire into a group of small and often squabbling nation-states, did not reward honesty among his servants, and so he had dishonest servants. A leader gets the help he deserves and asks for, whether he realizes it or not. Being a despot is a lonely job indeed–keeping a tight grip on power often means that others simply cannot trust one with the truth, especially unpleasant truths. Only servant leaders can cultivate genuinely loving and trusting relationships with those they lead and serve.
Obviously, the lives of these lonely despots can provide worthwhile lessons for us. How many dictators have we known growing old and lonely, unable to trust anyone because all the people around them are blood-sucking parasites looking to fatten their own wealth and power and prestige and wait for the old man to die so they can angle for the throne or more power and influence for themselves? It is a terribly lonely fate to be an autocratic leader, one I would not wish, not only destructive of one’s soul and threatening to one’s eternal destiny through the inevitable abuses of power and the deliberate violation of God’s commandments and the perversion of His ways, but also in the simple absence of honest friendship and conversation. To be an honest man in a corrupt court is an act of almost suicidal bravery, something to be looked at with awe and wonder.
Therefore, if we truly wish to receive honest reports from others and wish to have others respond to our needs without micromanagement, we need to cultivate and develop a reputation for honoring truth-tellers (even unpleasant ones), punishing flattering liars, and showing love and respect for all rather than enforcing rigid and satanic hierarchies. If we desire respect, love, and honesty, we must value it. To do otherwise, to persist in a satanic model of leadership, is to join Louis XIV, Franz Josef, and a depressingly long line of deeply lonely men who had great palaces and expensive houses, mistresses, fancy vehicles, and glittering but lonely lives, abandoned by friends and family, lied to by courtiers and servants, and with almost no one at all there to tell them the truth, or to be concerned about their comfort. Don’t we all want a better fate than that?
 Eleanor Herman, Sex With Kings: Five Hundred Years of Adultery, Power, Rivalry, and Revenge (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2004), 16.
 Eleanor Herman, Sex With Kings: Five Hundred Years of Adultery, Power, Rivalry, and Revenge (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2004), 45.