The meaning of “Broken Crown” by Mumford and Sons. Religion, hypocrisy, and Christianity.

Nearly a month ago a small indie folk band released an album that instantly shot to the top of most music charts.  Babel by Mumford and sons raced past albums by long time stars like Justin Bieber to make it the best selling album in 2012. After a few times of listening to the whole albums the angry lyrics of one song in particular captivated me. That song is called “Broken Crown.” Marcus Mumford was asked about the meaning of the song and replied “I’m never gonna tell you who or what it’s about.” To me that says this song is something very personal, possibly even about family.

The lyrics speak of sinning and being sinned against, in the same distressed voice. My interpretation is based on the fact that Marcus grew up as a pastors kid in the Vineyark UK Church. Yet today’s he doesn’t even want to call himself Christian, though he remains “spiritual.” Being a pastors kid and a fundamentalist church exile myself, I can understand this quite well, and I find some truths in the song. I think Marcus is speaking of the brokenness of the human condition, and that it offers only two, also broken, choices. The broken path, where one loses love and attention, or the broken crown, which one wears to becomes a hypocrite and earn love or attention. I think Marcus is admitting religiosity doesn’t work and refuses to wear its “broken crown.” He then bares his soul and admits that his way was full of weakness and ruin as well.

It is a song about a broken man who refused to wear a broken crown in a broken kingdom, and instead he took a broken path.

Below are some key lyrics, and my interpretation.

“Touch my mouth and hold my tongue, I’ll never be your chosen one

He refuses to be the ‘chosen one’ in the church system. Perhaps he was encouraged or told that he has a specific role or calling. Perhaps he was chosen to perpetuate a broken religious system. Perhaps since he was a child he was told he would be a pastor in the system, like I was. He vehemently rejects this.

“Better not to breathe than to breathe a lie

Marcus is tired of hypocrisy and pretending to be something. I once talked to a friend who said this same line. He left the church for a year because he was tired of faking he was perfect when he wasn’t.

“So crawl on my belly ’til the sun goes down. I’ll never wear your broken crown” 

He prefers to be like the serpent in Genesis, condemned to crawling on his belly but he will not wear the crown, because the crown is broken. The crown represents goodness, righteousness, and authority, but all of this is broken. The religious church wears such a broken crown and he would rather be an open sinner who is mocked, than being a hypocrite who is adored and respected by wearing this broken crown.

“I will not speak of your sin. The mirror shows not; Your values are all shot”

With stinging pain he rebukes someone, perhaps the religious system or someone in it, perhaps even his father. He states this person or system has completely wrong values, but they cannot even see this in the mirror.

“The pull on my flesh was just too strong. But oh, my heart was flawed; I knew my weakness”

The crown is not the only thing that is broken. He exposes that he is broken too.

“So hold my hand; Consign me not to darkness”

With this he makes a final plea, a last prayer.  But this prayer is not enough for his own darkness drives him away. He refuses to play religion, to pretend, to wear a crown that’s is broken.

“I took the road and I f*cked it all away. But in this twilight our choices seal our fate.”

He ends with these haunting words. He took his own road, he gave up being the chosen one for someone else, for example, the religious system. Now his fate is sealed to his broken path, if not his broken crown.


Alas, the song misses a third way, a better way. The way of a crown that was never broken, though the one who wore it, was broken for us. Learn more about Christianity.

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18 responses

  1. I agree about what you said there at the end. There is a path to follow the “broken crown” The way of the church right now of the hypocrites and “fake” Christians….and also the path of the sinner…..But there is a third path, a path that does not go either way. I am a Christian but sometimes I don’t like to call myself that because Christians have made that term a hated term to others by meaning “selfish, unloving to people who are different and other negative things” You can be a good person…there is such can accept all people and love all people and still Believe In God and know him as the one who saved you from sin. You don’t have to choose the hypocrite path and you don’t have to choose the sinner path. Its a three forked road ;-D not sure if that is what you were getting that but those are my two cents lol.

    • I took it as a man who was weary after trying to do the right thing for so long. Afterwards that fighting against hypocrisy has worn him down. There are probably some King David references in the song that I’m missing as well.

  2. Great interpretation, when you look at the song that follows though I think it’s important to note that it’s written, “When I was told by Jesus all was well/So all must be well.” :)

    • To be honest, we’re all bad people. Whether you’re Christian or Atheist, religious or spiritual, when it gets down to it we’re all pretty rotten creatures, whether from our arrogance, our spite, our selfishness, or what have you. That’s where the doctrine of original sin comes from. Even if you are a “good” person, which I doubt, you could probably be so much greater than the person you are now. Compared to the person you could be, you are, in fact, a bad person. As soon as Christians forget that they’re sinners, that’s where you get hypocrisy. Course, at that point they’ve technically stopped being Christian.

  3. I have listened to this song,I could be wrong but it just seems that there has been some betrayal. Maybe an affair even. Maybe it’s adultery rather it be adultery that was spiritual or of flesh and physical.

  4. Thank you for this… i enjoy Mumford and Sons music, lyrics and honesty… as a former PK .. i know too well what the father can do to aggravate his children .. thankfully I have my own faith … just wrote about it today as a matter of fact.. blog post but God… enjoyed this post!

    • I think that’s definitely possible too. It sounds like someone falling from grace, just like Satan was once an angel but betrayed God and fell from grace.

  5. What a well written explanation of that song. I go to a private Catholic high school and my best friend is the daughter of a Deacon, yet she was turning away from Catholicism and faith. She was turning away because it had been shoved down her throat her whole life and kept seeing how corrupt the church was, which made her an evil and sinful bad child, yet her parents were extremely sinful, just like the corrupt and sinful church can be. Even though they were sinful hypocrites, my friend was punished and had to choose between wearing the broken crown or finally saying no to the lies and sins, making her a wanderer on the broken road in life. To me, most of the “most dedicated, holiest, and extreme faithful are the ones who are the biggest hypocrites, as they stand high and mighty in their holy throne while judging others for the same sins they are guilty of Beautiful article, thank you for writing it.

  6. Oh how I pray more come to find that third road, one free from a religious spirit. We are broken people in a broken world that need the love and grace of a perfect Savior. He covers us. It is all about a love relationship with Jesus Christ. He wants to know us, and there is nothing we can do to make him love us more or less. And, in this love relationship, we can’t help but love and serve others for He is all love. Know that He loves you. God loves you. Why? Because He loves you.

  7. I wasn’t raised in the church but grew up rather atheist/agnostic. However, when I was 19 I found Christ in my life so naturally this song was rather haunting and caught my attention. I think your right about their being hypocrisy in religion. I think a true follower of Christ isn’t a religious person by nature because Jesus himself condemned that… “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.” -Matthew 23:27. Ultimately church shouldn’t be a retail shop, it’s a repair shop full of broken people needing Jesus to fix and heal them. The gospel is one of love and grace and I’m sorry to hear Marcus Mumford and all of you guys grew up seeing such hypocrisy.. That hurts my heart. God is righteous and holy and does have standards, but he’s also a loving God. John 3:16, Romans 5:8 and I love 1john 4:7 :)

  8. Does anyone see the reference to Martin Scorsese’s film The Last Temptation of Christ? That opening line of the song is almost a quote of dialogue from the film. In my interporation, he may be comparing himself to the character of Jesus in that film who was struggling to accept his calling.

  9. Love the interpretation you have. Do you think it is possible that this song is directed toward a pastor or even his father who was encouraging him to be a leader in the Church? The beginning sounds much like the person “tempting” him is someone he knows personally (“touch my lips and hold my tongue”). It almost sounds as if the person he is addressing has some form of control over him and his upbringing. The song also implies a certain inheritance factor (“I’ll never wear your broken crown – I took the road and I f*cked it all away”), perhaps stating that he tried to do what he was encouraged to do but he threw it away. It definitely sounds as if someone specific is encouraging him to take a path that he doesn’t want to (“And in this twilight, how dare you speak of grace”). Very powerful song. I’ve listened to this album for years and it still never gets old.

  10. Naah. Too much ado about nothing: A broken song justifying the broken acts of broken people in a broken society believing in a “broken truth” of liberal messages propagated by its broken journalism.

    In the end, the song is nothing but a broken piece.

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