Character Archetypes – R for Royals & Rulers

The Royals – Kings, Queens, Princesses, Monarchs etc, are often also the Rulers of our fictional worlds. But both archetypes also come in good or bad forms.

archetypes royal

The Royal or Ruler

“I am in control” or “Power isn’t everything; it’s the only thing” ~ Royal/Ruler Motto or

Royals come in many forms – Kings, Queens, Princes, Princesses, Duchesses, Dukes, Monarchs, Emperors, etc; and as many stereotypes – Evil Queens, Spoilt Princesses, Queen Bees, Down-trodden Kings, Evil Emperors, Evil Warlords, Foppy Nobles.

Unless writing a historical novel with a royal figurehead, or a fairy tale, the Royal as character is more likely to be a secondary power or authority figure in your fiction, rather than your protagonist. Be aware of the tropes and stereotypes associated often with any character of wealth and power. One of the tropes which most annoys me is how often a Queen is portrayed as evil or manipulative, while the King in the partnership is a duped man.

The Royal character may not actually be a monarch or somebody in power. But such characters, if considered royal, will display a maturity and manner about them which may be described as “noble” or “gracious”.

In shadow terms, this nobleness will become a shallowness or materialistic passion, perhaps by “putting on airs” or using wealth and privilege to manipulate and expect a higher level of power over others.

We also nowadays have socially engineered royals – those of celebrities, and entertainers who have achieved such a status that they are accepted as royals (without anything much to rule over). Michael Jackson was the King of Pop, Elvis Presley: The King of Rock; The Kadashians are public royals based on celebrity alone.

Our politicians – particularly Presidents or Prime Ministers – who have taken over the roles of pure Royalties through many societies, can also be considered our Royalty.

The Ruler as character can be controversial also. Good rulers are recognised easily – not by what they do, but by how others around them accept their authority and advice on what needs to be done. On how rulers inspire trust and faith in others.

However, bad rulers can also take power, using force, manipulation or sheer force or inheritance to gain authority over a group or nation. In business there are lessons over what makes a good leader over what is simply being a manager or boss.

Matriarchs and Patriarchs are heads of families or family rulers, often gained by age (and applied wisdom). However, even then, there are several stereotypes within these archetypes to avoid – matriarchs in particular are often portrayed as manipulative or scheming women with their own screwed-up agendas or overbearing morals for the family.

From all of this comes the contradictions in our understanding of power and giving it to certain people. Most of us believe that power and control, in the hands of a good ruler, is necessary for our own safety and security of our lives, but we are also very mindful that “power corrupts”.

Jung and the King

The King is one of Carl Jung’s twelve main archetypes. As such, the King is profiled across the web, and is also found as a brand archetype.

Jung embroils the King with several good and bad traits – they are naturally authorative and powerful, confident and competent, with strong personal values. Kings are well-respected for their level-headedness, organisation, and wanting to use their influence to better their and other’s worlds. On the negative side, Kings tend to need their status to be known usually by image – outside appearances can be over-the-top regarding material and luxurious things. And because of their natural authority and power, Kings can become corrupt.

In “King, Warrior, Magician, Lover – Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine” by Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette, the authors suggest the King is a mythical and much needed archetype in our history, and also an archetype which many of us turn into with maturity. The two negative forms of this King (and an equal Queen archetype) are Tyrant or Weakling. From these two we have many of the forms of shadow king or queen.

Recognising the Royal or Ruler

Okay, if we had a party of characters all standing around and we walked into the room, how would we recognise the royal or ruler in the crowd?

  • The Royal is denoted by their attire (a wardrobe which denotes their important status, and can be created for formal occasions), where they are housed (a royal palace, castle or at least a luxurious mansion), and how they are addressed by other characters (as in, “Your majesty…). But most importantly, by their mannerisms – the true Royal is confident of their authority, of being listened to, and of their status.
  • The Royal naturally gathers an entourage or group of supporters and advisers around him or her. They are likely to have a successor who will take reign on the royal’s death.
  • The Ruler is less evidenced but will have some form of authority to recognise – normally by what they wear (a wardrobe which denotes their role and status), and how they are addressed.
  • The Ruler too will have an entourage which is assembled to support their values, give advice, and lead on their behalf or delegate the tasks and activities. A Ruler is likely to have a second-in-command or right-hand man who will take on the role should the ruler disappear or retire; but the position may also be an appointed one.
  • Both the Royal and Supreme Rulers have the challenge of balancing responsibilities and appearances between a public and private life. Many Royals have difficulties in finding and holding relationships, particularly when under constant public scrutiny.
  • The ruler is goal-orientated, decisive and takes on responsibility. He is not put off by challenges. The good ruler/leader will delegate and make use of other’s skills and talents, but ultimately will accept full responsibility.
  • The rulers’ traits and acceptance are derived from a societal need to have order made from chaos, to have a stable and fair life, and to have traditions and customs, rules and guidelines in order to preserve that life.
  • The natural ruler will be appointed by others if he has not inherited the role. You will typically find he has held leadership roles all through his life, such as sports captains, class leaders, managers and bosses of others at early ages, and he’s been recognised as a leader by others and worked up the ladder to achieve his public success.
  • Conversely, those that inherit rather than are appointed, into a ruler role must face challenges nowadays of questions around entitlement, greed or irrelevancy.
  • The bad ruler will take on leadership roles even when it’s not necessary. He will not use the skills or talents of others, and is normally self-appointed or has manipulated systems or other people to achieve his appointment.
  • Typical goals of any royal/ruler is to protect those under them, and to use their authority and power to improve the world; to create or maintain a prosperous family or community
  • Good rulers feel a huge sense of responsibility, but will also hope or expect to be respected (possibly revered) for their work. They are aware that they are role models for others.
  • Rulers may have a fear of being overthrown, or forced to abdicate their responsibility. (This goes for the corporate executive or CEO also)
  • Many rulers have a weakness of being too authoritarian, or being unable or unwilling to delegate or give away their power.  Ruler types need to be careful about dominating others, getting bogged down in policies and procedures, and becoming overly hierarchical or political.
  • Combined with the possible corruption of power, and fear of being overthrown, this creates the shadow aspects of the royal ruler – the corrupt rulers, the dictators.

Example Royals or Rulers

In Fiction we have Marlon Brando and Al Pacino as Vito Corleone and Michael Corleone in The Godfather; Candice Bergen as matriarch Murphy Brown; Ben Kingsley as Gandhi. Lucy in Charles M. Schulz’s comic strip Peanuts is matriarch and queen bee. Colin Firth as Darcy (a Royal-like attitude) in Pride and Prejudice. Aragorn in The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King.

Obviously in real life, even right now, we have plenty of examples of real Royals, Dictators, Corrupt or Good Leaders, and Created Royals in our celebrity pop culture.

The Ruler as a brand archetype can be seen in companies like Microsoft, Mercedes and American Express

Other Names, Associates and Origins

  • Other names:
    • Royals – King, Queen, Noble, Emperor, Monarch, Prince, Princess, Heiress, Duke, Duchess, Baroness, Baron, Majesty, Aristocrat, Role Model, Celebrities
    • Rulers – Dictator, Boss, Manager, CEO, Leader, Commander, Chief, Executive, Authority, Administrator, Protectors, Matriarch/Patriarch, The Godfather, Politician/Statesman/Stateswoman, Presidents/Prime Ministers/National Leaders, Village Elder/Village Leader
  • Sub-archetypes / stereotypes:
    • Evil Queen, Spoilt Princess, Queen Bee (teen trope), Warlord or Tyrant, Puppet Leader/Puppet President, Class Leader (teen trope), Diva (teen and modern trope), Celebrity (modern trope); Workaholics and Corporate Climbers.
    • Straight leaders are sub-types of pure rulers, as they take charge of people and situations. Other sub-types are – Powerbrokers (use power or influence to get things done); Conductor or Orchestrator – directs complex systems or creates order, Role-Models who set standards for others to follow; and Peacemakers – who find areas of common ground among disparate individuals or groups (see Judge)
    • Village Elders are an interesting sub-type. In some genres such as fantasy the Village Elder is often the Village Leader.
    • Nobles are actually an archetype also, often found in the fantasy genre based on historical times. But the Noble means more in personality – someone who is indeed, noble of nature, can be the hero or warrior leader for your story.
    • The Midas is somebody who is extremely fortunate – anything they touch turns to gold (relevant in business terms also). The Shadow to this type is the Miser.
  • Shadows: Royals or Rulers as villains or antagonists – corrupt Royal, Dictator, Queen Bee, Spoiled Princess, Poor Little Rich Boy, Brat, Foppy Noble, Evil Queen, Duped, Stupid or Weak King, Evil Warlord, Bumbling or Incompetent Boss; Puppet Leaders such as the Puppet or Figurehead President, Destroyers, Tyrants, Punishers; The Bitter Overthrown Ex-Leader; The Jealous or Bitter Second-in-Command; The Jealous or Corrupt Rival; The Win-at-all-Costs Boss; The Overbearing Boss; Autocrats; Dominating Mothers, The Bully or The Bossy; The Vampire (a dignity who is a drain on others) or The Entitled.
  • Associations:
    • Leo – The King of the Animal Kingdom, and also a Zodiac Sign which has royal traits and expectations
    • Capricorn – this is another Zodiac sign which contains leadership traits.
    • Zeus – Ancient Greek God and King of the Greek Pantheon. Other Pantheons contain similar King Gods such as Odin.
    • Jung and Brand – as above. And the derivatives such as Pearson-Marrs which discuss the ruler archetype.


Part of 2016’s Character Archetype Series (A-Z) @ Hunter is Writing.

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