MAJESTY (Fr. majeste; Lat. majeslas, grandeur, greatness, from the base mag-, as in magnus, great, major, greater, etc.), dignity, greatness, a term especially used to express the dignity and power of a sovereign. This application is to be traced to the use of majestas in Latin to express the supreme sovereign dignity of the Roman state, the majestas reipublicae or populi Romani, hence majestatem laedere or minuere, was to commit high treason, crimen majestatis. (For the modem law and usage of laesa majestas, lese majeste, Majestatsbeleidigung, see TREASON.) From the republic majestas was transferred to the emperors, and the majeslas populi Romani became the majestas imperil, and augustalis majestas is used as a term to express the sovereign person of the emperor. Honorius and Theodosius speak of themselves in the first person as nostra majestas. The term " majesty " was strictly confined in the middle ages to the successors of the Roma,n emperors in the West, and at the treaty of Cambrai (1529) it is reserved for the emperor Charles V. Later the word is used of kings also, and the distinction is made between imperial majesty (caesareana majeslas) and kingly or royal majesty. From the 16th century dates the application of " Most Christian and Catholic Majesty " to the kings of France, of " Catholic Majesty " to the kings of Spain, of " Most Faithful Majesty " to the kings of Portugal, and " Apostolic Majesty " to the kings of Hungary. In England the use is generally assigned to the reign of Henry VIII., but it is found, though not in general usage, earlier; thus the New English Dictionary quotes from an Address of the Kings Clerks to Henry II. in 1171 (Materials for the History of Archbishop Becket, vii. 471, Rolls Series, 1885), where the king is styled vestra majestas, and Selden (Titles of Honour, part i. ch. 7, p. 98, ed. 1672) finds many early uses in letters to Edward I., in charters of creation of peers, _etc. The fullest form in English usage is " His Most Gracious'.Majesty "; another form is " The King's Most Excellent Majesty," as in the English Prayer-book. " His Sacred Majesty " was common in the 17th century; and of this form Selden says: " It is true, I think, that in our memory or the memory of our fathers, the use of it first began in England." " His Majesty," abbreviated H.M., is now the universal European use in speaking of any reigning king, and " His Imperial Majesty," H.I.M., of any reigning emperor.
From the particular and very early use of " majesty " for the glory and splendour of God, the term has been used in ecclesiastical art of the representation of God the Father enthroned in glory, sometimes with the other persons of the Trinity, and of the Saviour alone, enthroned with an aureole.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)