The King Archetype

The Sovereign or Inner King

Although all the archetypes are important in building a balanced personality, to me the Sovereign – the King or the Queen – is the one that matters more than anything else.

The King archetype is the foundation of self worth, self-esteem, self-love even. The King archetype allows us to imagine and achieve our higher aspirations, to find our calling in life, and to take control of those situations for which we are responsible. The King archetype within us can enable us to provide a mature, safe, and secure environment for the people for whom we are responsible.

And the King within each of us embodies the energy of leadership – which is why some writers nowadays prefer to call the Sovereign archetype the “Heart Centred Leader“.

This term really gets to the heart of the matter: the Heart Centred Leader is a King who is working for the benefit of all. He is not in the position of leader just because he’s looking for self-aggrandisement, or to big himself up, or to make himself feel better, or indeed to influence others so that he can achieve his own perverse desires. (There has been an endless supply of  dictatorial tyrants throughout history for whom that has been true…. they probably represent the ultimate corruption of the King archetype.)

The King Archetype In Mature Fullness

There are some universal qualities associated with both the King archetype and the Queen archetype in their fullness, their maturity, their highest level of expression.

To start with, of course there is leadership. This is an essential element – maybe even the foundation stone –  of the Sovereign archetype.

Leadership means many different things to different people. In terms of the King archetype what it means to me is a leader who is responsible and permanently on duty. A good King is a leader who fulfils the requirements expected of him or her. That means being a King who is fully engaged and capable of rising to the challenge of looking after his Kingdom. And what is that Kingdom, exactly?

Well, it is those people and situations and places for whom he or she is responsible.

Along with this, the King archetype in its most mature and evolved form embodies certain qualities. These include authenticity, integrity, wisdom, clarity of thought, readiness to take action when necessary, an inherent sense of morality, and ability to protect the people in his or her care.

That sounds like a daunting list of qualities. Does every King embody them? No, surely not.  However, the truth of the matter is that when a man has grown into his own leadership, and has a strong sense of self-confidence and self-worth, these qualities flow naturally. And then, embodying the King archetype (or the  Queen archetype) can seem almost effortless – it is, in short, a natural state of being.

There are, naturally, many more qualities to the King archetype. They include the ability to make clear decisions without fear or favour – that is to say, the ability to take appropriate action that serves the greatest good of the greatest number.

And Kings throughout the ages have traditionally been charged with ensuring the generativity and wealth of their kingdom.  That requires not only wise stewardship in the present, but also clever planning for the future. That’s not just planning for the succession when the current King (or Queen) dies, but also planning the strategy that will keep the kingdom going successfully for years, decades, even centuries to come.

I can imagine that some of you reading this will be thinking, “But I don’t have a Kingdom!” However, it’s a metaphorical term which includes those people, places and things for which you are responsible.

That might be your family, it might be your business, it might be your circle of friends. And  it most definitely includes your own inner world – and therefore by implication your outer world.

The fundamental question about Kingship (or, if you prefer, hear Centred Leadership) is this: are you the leader in your own life?

And more than that,  what kind of leader are you in your own life? How do you treat your spouse, partner, children, family, friends? Are you emotionally mature enough not to be triggered by the events, words and deeds of those around you? (Which means, have you done enough work on yourself to overcome your own emotional wounding?)

Sadly, the archetype most lacking in our world today is the King archetype. However, this is also the archetype which can lead to the greatest happiness, the most fulfilled life, and a consistent sense of internal satisfaction and pleasure, no matter what might be happening in the outer world around you.

Indeed, from one point of view it’s possible to say that the King archetype is the archetype where our humanity most truly resides. If you’ve ever experienced the influence of a benevolent father, mother, older relative, boss, or mentor, you’ve probably experienced the energy of the King archetype to some degree.

Sadly, few of us can actually imagine the power and possibilities that open up when somebody really stepped into their King archetype fully and allows himself to live from that place.

And when someone fully embodies the King Archetype, they somehow become a King, a Heart Centred Leader.

More Qualities Associated With The Mature King Archetype

He Is Centred and Grounded

This essentially means that the Sovereign is balanced –  psychically, intellectually and emotionally.

The word “grounded” is used to describe somebody who is calm and emotionally stable, but for me it represents more about being in control of one’s emotional responses. That is to say, being able to step in and out of your emotions at will, through choice, and to exercise a kind of executive function over your feelings, so that they cannot sweep through you and leave you powerless.

This kind of emotional maturity is the product of a great deal of personal work on your emotional wounds, as you may well imagine. In essence, a centred and grounded Sovereign is stable, trustworthy, emotionally consistent and solid. He can stand on his feet without flinching in the face of whatever comes flying at him. He knows that he has the strength and the resolve and the qualities that will enable him to sustain himself through the storms that may assault him or his kingdom.

He Inspires Others

Of course we are all inspired by a good leader – history demonstrates that simple truth over and over again.

A good leader can get his citizens, his followers, his subjects, on his side and motivate them in a way that produces a massive force of energy directed towards particular outcome.

When you analyse leaders who are able to do this, you consistently find that they embody the qualities of presence and charisma.

When you’re in the company of someone who embodies presence,  you feel different: you feel like their whole attention is devoted to you. Psychically, there’s something about an energy flow through the sovereign which comes from forces greater than him; he simply acts as a conduit and so he can energetically embrace those in his kingdom without draining himself.

Charisma is a quality that is related to presence but not exactly the same. The easiest way to define it perhaps is to look at those people have no charisma whatsoever! Doing so immediately brings into focus the energy of charisma.

And inspiration is about caring for people, wanting them to achieve the best they can, so their lives improve. All great leaders throughout history have been able to inspire others; to inspire creativity, hope, and a clear vision of a better future.

The Sovereign Blesses Others

When you think about the King archetype’s blessing, you might think of the throwaway line “Bless you!” What does that actually mean?

Well, the King’s blessing is something that we crave.  One of the best examples to illustrate this is to think of the way a son craves his father’s blessing.

That craving for blessing is inherent in boyhood: we look to our fathers for blessing and for inspiration. Few of us find it. We look to fathers as our King to show us how to access our own sovereignty. Few of us are shown.

But while few boys are actually given such a lead into sovereignty, my point is that the desire to be blessed is an inherent element of our psyche – and equally so for girls and women.

So what is that blessing?

First, it’s certainly a desire for acknowledgement of our existence. Throughout history, citizens have craved the attention of the Sovereign, the acknowledgement of their Sovereign.

And yet blessing goes beyond acknowledgement, way beyond, into the realm of what we could call unconditional positive regard. That’s a term taken from the psychotherapy world which means coming from a belief that every person is of inherent value and worth, no matter what they might be doing or saying. To go beyond what you can see, and to reach a place of heart centred acceptance and love for your citizens, is the mark of a true King.

He Sets Boundaries

Just as a father in the family would – or should – set boundaries for his children, so a King will define the acceptable limits of behaviour on the part of his citizens. Without the order imposed by his boundaries, chaos can develop. The King knows that his citizens need to feel safely held within a secure boundary. He understands they need to know what is acceptable and what is not acceptable within the kingdom.

He Leaves a Legacy

Unless the King is a short-term tyrant or an abdicating King  who cares not one whit for his kingdom, he will always be working to leave a legacy.

The way that a father might invest money for his children’s benefit is an example of this. Another example of a legacy is the emotional legacy that a King can bestow upon his children or his “citizens” – by giving them every opportunity to mature into emotionally whole adults.

Other men leave their legacy in the businesses that they create, or the family dynasty that they leave behind, or their written works, or their works of art. An interesting question for everyone of us who aspires to be a king is this: what is your legacy going to be?

He Holds the Vision for the Kingdom

It goes without saying that you can hardly leave a legacy if you don’t have a vision of what that will be.

Of course a vision might be more concerned with what’s going on in the present than creating the idea of a legacy. Even so, working towards a legacy  is also part of holding a vision.

So vision can be regarded more or less as what the King would like to achieve. It’s not the same as Mission – which is more about what would the King wants to do to fulfil his own internal sense of purpose.

For most Kings, their main Mission may well be about sustaining the kingdom, but other personal missions have played out in kingdoms throughout history.

Often these were about conquest (an energy perhaps mirrored in business takeover battles today). Sometimes they were about protecting the kingdom from external threats. Sometimes they were about increasing wealth and prosperity.

In short, a King without a mission and a vision is not a full King. In my experience of working with men, comparatively few men think beyond the demands of the present. Even fewer formulate either a vision of what their lives and kingdoms could look like in years to come. And very few have a mission statement that sustains their sense of purpose in everyday life.

The Unbalanced King Archetype: 
Inflations and Deflations

You can see that history is full of leaders who were tyrannical or self-centred. And that’s true for both men and women. Although we tend to think of leaders in our society as men, that is simply an illusion left over from a cultural bias.

Women are often the leaders of a realm both in literal and in practical terms, but they tend, I believe, to be more Heart Centred Leaders than men, and this is the kind of leadership that seems to attract less attention.

(While we all know about the antics of people like Donald Trump and Boris Johnson, who seem to embody the crude energy of the tyrant King, until recently the recognition that there might be something deficient in that style of leadership has probably been lacking. However,  the presence of Jacinda Ardern on the political world stage as New Zealand’s Prime Minister has demonstrated the nature of truly Heart Centred leadership. Her response to the pandemic in 2020 was held up as a model of how to lead from the heart all around the world.)

When someone does not feel good enough, lacks self-worth, feels inferior, and yet somehow has power, and seeks to express some kind of Kingship, they may either inflate into a tyrant or deflate into an abdicating King.

Unfortunately, for some reason, tyrant leaders seem to find it easy to attract followers who will be devoted to their cause. There are many who will support the tyrant, even when his actions or her actions are manifestly unjust, unfair, or even unbalanced and deranged.

Perhaps that fact speaks to the need in all of us to look up to some kind of Sovereign, perhaps because without our own Sovereign we need to be told what to do. Maybe even a tyrant King can help us to feel safe. (More likely they act as a screen on which we can project our own shadow King.)

For me that’s an unwholesome thought. Surely the idea of being human on this planet is to reach into yourself and find the fullest expression of who you can possibly be? To embody your King archetype to the fullest extent possible?

And to be the fullest expression of who you could be, you need to find a way to overcome the emotional wounding of the past that holds you small and keeps you stuck in a place of “less than”. As I said, that deep sense of being inadequate can lead you into a place of tyranny, a place where you need to big yourself up to demonstrate to others that you are, in fact, really important.

Alternatively a sense of not being good enough, of not having enough self-worth, can lead you to become an abdicating King who never steps into his King archetype, let alone embodies it in the world. To sum up the abdicating King – he’s never present, he’s never doing what he needs to be doing, he’s never visible to his citizens, and generally he takes every opportunity to escape from the responsibilities that his position gives him. All because he just does not feel good enough to hold the office of King. (In other words, to embody his King archetype.)

The Mature King Archetype

After all, well-balanced sovereignty, in men and women alike, comes from an innate sense of knowing you are good enough, that you don’t have to prove anything to anybody, that you are in control of your life, and that you have a purpose and passion. You are in a place of complete self confidence and you know that you know how to live your life in a way that satisfies you – regardless of what others might think.

Many people who come across the idea of the King archetype or the Queen archetype believe that all of the qualities described above are too challenging or difficult for them to learn.

They may think that to embody, and to express these qualities in their everyday life is impossible.

But like every journey from a place of naïveté to a place of knowledge, learning how to be a balanced Sovereign and express those qualities to the full is a slow and gradual journey.

In an ideal world our parents would model to us qualities of sovereignty. Somehow, mysteriously, by some process of psychic osmosis, the essence of what it means to be a King would soak into us as children. Somehow we would become princes and princesses, prepared by the example of our parents, and other Kings and Queens around us, to step into our own Kingship when the time arrives.

Regrettably however, as you yourself may be well aware, there seems to be a serious lack of sovereign models, whether in the family or outside it.

There are many reasons why this is so, but analysing why there is a lack of sovereigns in our world is no substitute for each of us stepping out on a path of exploration that would allow us to develop our own sovereignty to the full.

Yes, it requires time, yes it requires a considerable amount of personal work to overcome the deficits and wounds of the past, but the rewards of doing so are immeasurable.

If you’re interested in becoming more sovereign yourself, a great place to start is by getting hold of my book, Warrior, Magician, Lover, King which is available by clicking on this link (Amazon.co.uk and European sales) or this link (Amazon.com sales)