All Hail Fiction’s Most Memorable Royalty

The Once and Future King

Well, we’ll never be royals, but for the record, Lorde, that luxe would totally be for me if you happened to find it lying around somewhere. That’s assuming luxe includes gunpowder, guillotines, and dynamite with laser beams. Because I seriously just can’t wait to be king. Though I’d settle for the Dancing Queen.

Ahem. As I was saying, we may never be royalty ourselves, but as Will-and-Kate is an entity watched with breathless enthusiasm, it seems we commoners still get a real kick out of observing our benevolent overlords, their sleek hair, and their fine china.

And it’s even more fun when they’re not real! Fiction has a fine sampling of good, bad, and ugly monarchs, each more delectably devious or divine than the last. So long as you’re not one of their subjects, it’s easy to love some of these eccentric rulers:

Princess Buttercup (The Princess Bride, by William Goldman)
Oh, go ahead, bow down to her if you want. “Bow to the Queen of Slime, the Queen of Filth, the Queen of Putrescence. Boooo. Boooo.” Thankfully for the Ancient Booer, Buttercup never becomes Humperdinck’s queen. In fact, her time as princess (consort) is quite short-lived, unless hitching your wagon to a Dread Pirate Roberts carries some title of swashbuckling nobility. But she burned bright while it lasted. I mean, she found true love—you think that happens every day?

The Little Prince (The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
Interplanetary love between a little boy and a rose turns into one of the wisest “children’s” books of any age: “Well, I must endure the presence of a few caterpillars if I wish to become acquainted with the butterflies.”

Westeros’ Kings, Queens, and Khaleesis (A Song of Ice and Fire series, by George R.R. Martin)
May they all rest in peace, now or in the near future, for none of them lived peacefully. (Though Robert Baratheon knew how to throw one heck of a party—for himself—at any brothel or bar that could fit his ample frame.) A Song of Ice and Fire‘s royalty deserves applause for their sheer breadth and variety: you’ve got your schemers (Cersei), your righteous indignation sufferers (Stannis, Danaerys, Robb), your arrogant charmers (Renly), your clueless children (Myrcella, Tommen), and your monster (Joffrey). And that’s not even counting Robert’s eleventy billion illegitimate children. And those are just the ones we know about!

The Queen of Hearts (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll)
Can a sister get a shout-out for just sheer, unadultered, raging lunacy? And can she, for once, not be confused with the calculating yet calm Red Queen? The Queen of Hearts does not play chess; she plays croquet with flippin’ hedgehogs and flamingos, because it is her world and you are just living in it. Homegirl knows how to Lean In. I’d say ask the King of Hearts, but, well, you don’t want to talk to any of these cards. Off with their heads!

King Arthur (The Once and Future King, by T.H. White)
The king for our time. The king for all times. God save the king. Be he real, made up, or a combination of the two, Arthur is the most storied ruler in the history of ever. He’s so well-known that even his posse gets to live in the limelight, which you can bet Bedivere’s mother never expected. So few monarchs can claim such immense popularity, except for that one time he ran into a testy autonomous collective on his search for the Holy Grail.

Aragorn (The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien)
Aragorn, son of Arathorn, is a man of many names (Strider, Longshanks, Wingfoot, Estel, Thorongil, Elessar Telcontar, Spanky), but just one butt, sitting comfortably upon its rightful throne of Gondor. He is also the dreamiest geezer this side of, well, Legolas. It’s rare that literature presents a king skilled at more than just playing with maps of battlefields and beheading people, but Aragorn has Elven wits, Dunedain foresight, healing hands, expert battlefield command, a strong jawline, a sensitive streak…I could go on.

Prince Prospero (“The Masque of the Red Death”, by Edgar Allan Poe)
If Vanna threw up H-_-B-R-I-S up on the board, Prospero still would have to buy a vowel. He may not have been able to outsmart the Red Death, but boy, does he know to throw one great shindig! Though, as one of the lowly commonfolk, I might suggest skipping the seventh room, filled with black and ominous dread, when throwing a theme party.

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (Hamlet, by William Shakespeare)
Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark, alright. It’s the stinking decay of order in this castle. We’ve got murder plots, unstable families, ghosts, insane bouts of brooding, doofy sidekicks, and people getting oopsy-daisy killed inside drapery. It’s a veritable buffet of dismay, and at the center of it all, in a swirl of angst, is dear Hamlet. Alas, we knew him.

Who is your favorite fictional royal?