It is said that the Ravyah was a daas yachid among Rishonim that reclining does not apply in our later generations. But how can that be said about him if no other Rishonim explain how reclining applies to sitting in chairs "kederech melachim"?? If even Kings sit in chairs, then how would any Rishon refute the Ravyah when that was how Chazal explained reclining?!
David Goldman, USA
David, I hope this answer is not like Matzah after Pesach! I only saw the question now, so my apologies if we are out of date.
1) The Bach on the Tur (Orach Chaim 472, DH u'Mah she'Kasuv b'Shem Avi) writes that the Ravyah agrees that even nowadays if one wants to recline that is fine, because this still represents a distinguished and emancipated way of eating. The Ravyah merely says that one is not obligated to recline. Since reclining is sometimes the way that sick people must eat, this means that nowadays sitting straight is always the way of free people, while reclining is not always the way of the free. However, if a healthy person reclines, others will not think he is ill, because reclining still indicates freedom.
2) According to this we can argue that if even the Ravyah, who is the champion of the view that reclining is not necessary, nevertheless maintains that it does still represent freedom, then the other Rishonim will certainly say that it is "Derech Cheirus." When it is said that the Ravyah is a Da'as Yachid, this means that he is the only one who holds that one is not obligated to recline, but everyone agrees that reclining is the free way.
3) In fact, I do not think that kings are actually mentioned in this discussion, but rather we are talking about "Bnei Chorin" who are regular freemen of a lower status than kings. However, even though kings might sit on chairs, if they lie on a sofa this is also pleasant and shows "Derech Cheirus."
Wishing you a very healthy and happy summer,