Logophile of Kings and Monarchs

It’s been a while since I discussed words with you and so I thought I’d bring up another regal topic. This time I want to discuss the idea of being Imperial in an Empire.

Imperial & Empire

While these words appear quite different in English they actually come from the same Latin root. They both come from the Latin concept of ‘command’, in the word ‘imperare’. By Middle Latin the word had morphed into ‘imperium’. In Middle English the word had become ‘emperial’. Both of our English words imperial and empire spring from that original Latin root.

Hence it is true that imperial things belong to the empire. What is done by the monarch’s command is that which is deemed imperial and impacts his empire.

Of Kings and Monarchs

Consider these various meanings for the term ‘imperial’.

1. Pertaining to an empire

2. Pertaining to an emperor or empress

3. Characterizing the rule or authority of a sovereign state over its dependencies

4. Of the nature or rank of an emperor or supreme ruler

Both our words Imperial and Empire are intrinsically linked to Kings and Monarchs. Since much of the world has been under some form of monarchical rule – including all former British colonies, much of Europe, Russia, many Asian nations, African countries and South American cultures – the idea of Imperial things and Empires is relevant to most people on the planet.

Things Imperial

We have an interesting collection of things designated as ‘imperial’ due to their monarchical origins.

There is a coin called an ‘imperial’. It is a Russian Coin used from 1897 – 1917. It is so called because of the same Latin root as our word imperial, which became ‘imperialis’, meaning a coin, as something authorised by the monarch. A Roman coin bearing the monarch’s image, then, was in imperialis. The coin which was shown to Jesus Christ, with Caesar’s image on it, was an imperialis – an imperial coin.

Imperial Measures are those measures that were used in Britain and British colonies. In most nations the imperial measures have been replaced by metric measures. Imperial measures were ‘imperial’ because they were the ones approved by the monarch. Standardisation enabled the authorities to regulate against false measurements and fraudulent dealings. As the monarchs determined the set weights and measures their officers could then enforce accuracy and punish those who used unjust methods.

Imperial Law is that body of law which comes down to us as law enacted through the centuries by various monarchs. In their imperial capacity monarchs are able to impose law and regulations which all in their empire must follow. What is particularly significant about Imperial Law is that much of the freedom which western societies take for granted have come to us by rulings of various monarchs down through the past 1,000 years.

Imperial Law

Not all laws enacted by monarchs were so enacted with the enthusiastic support of the monarch. The Magna Carta, for example, is a law that was forced on King John. Yet, by his action of ratifying that law it comes to us as ‘imperial law’.

In Australia the original national constitution is built upon the pre-existing Imperial Law. Subsequently the various states of the Commonwealth have enacted legislation ratifying that pre-existing Imperial Law as continuing its validity for the benefit of Australian citizens.

So Imperial Law is not as out of date or irrelevant as the idea might suggest to our modern minds. We are indebted to imperial laws for many of the freedoms we have taken for granted all our lives.

Baedeker Preaches Across Europe

This is the day that … Frederick Wilhelm Baedeker was born in Germany, in 1823.

At the age of 25 we find him discharged from compulsory army training due to ill-health.

In 1851 he married, but, alas, his young bride died three months later.

Sick and distraught, Baedeker set sail on a French ship (which was nearly wrecked on the way) to Australia. He arrived “on crutches”.

Four years later a neighbour invited him to hear Lord Radstock, an evangelical Anglican, who was speaking at a series of meetings organised by the local Brethren assembly. He reluctantly consented to attend one meeting.

In Baedeker’s own words: “I went in a proud German infidel and came out a humble believing disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Ambassadors for Christ, page 245).

His wife was also converted. For the next 40 years Baedeker preached the gospel across Europe … in Germany, Bohemia, Poland, Switzerland, Finland, and especially in Russia. Three times he crossed Siberia as far as the island of Sakhalin.

“Into every corner of Russia he penetrated with the gospel message. Permits were granted, through the influence of a Christian countess … which gave him access to all the prisons of Russia and Siberia …” (Chief Men Among the Brethren, page 145).

Thousands of Bibles and gospel portions, supplied by the British and Foreign Bible Society, were distributed.

But his ministry also took him into the homes of the aristocracy. Drawing-room meetings in palatial country homes would see him opening the Scriptures to “princesses, counts and barons”. Such meetings raised the opposition of the media and authors like Dostoevski and Tolstoy (Ambassadors for Christ, page 246).

“Forbidden by police to hold religious services in Riga, Baedeker obtained permission to lecture on ‘sin and salvation’!” (ibid, page 247).

Thousands packed into the hall night after night …

Despite this extensive missionary activity he lived most of his life in England, except when on evangelistic tours. He was a close friend of George Müller of Bristol and Lord Radstock, and was originally a member of the Plymouth Brethren (Open Brethren) but later worked as an independent. He worked with Radstock in the first St. Petersburg revival in 1874-1876.

During a two-day Brethren conference back in England, Dr Baedeker caught a chill and died soon after – 9 October, 1906 – at the age of 83.

To those who came to visit him during his last hours he would say: “I am going to see the King in His beauty” (Twelve Marvellous Men, page 20). And he surely did.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.