Created By: aurora369May 20, 2012 Last Edited By: ArivneFebruary 15, 2013
Troped

The High King

This king is greater than the others, yet he isn't very intrusive

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Trope
So you want to show that your character is no mere monarch, but one so important that the other kings swear fealty to him. But you don't want to call him an emperor, since this word carries so much negative cultural baggage. The solution is making him a High King.

High King is a title found in historical Britain and several other places and widely used in fiction. A High King rules a feudal alliance or federation of states; usually he doesn't manifest direct power over all subjects of his vassal kings, which makes him different from a totalitarian emperor who is omnipresent in the daily affairs of his subject. That's why a High King is likely to be good, or even Big Good.


Examples:

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder:Literature]]
  • Variant in the Belgariad: Garion assumes the title of Overlord of the West (sometimes called Overking), which gives him nominal power over the countries on the "good" side of the continent. This doesn't give him actual rule in those countries, but he can order them to mobilise their armies in the inevitable event that the Angaraks finally invade. Similarly, the various schemers on the "evil" side of the world deign to call themselves "Overking of Angarak", but none of them manage to truly achieve that power, except for Torak, who is called "King and God".
  • In The Chronicles Of Narnia, Aslan names Peter High King of Narnia. As such, he has authority over other rulers of Narnia (such as his siblings, and King Caspian), but is still under the authority of Aslan.
  • Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles. Math son of Mathonwy was the High King of Prydain, but he was never shown doing much of anything - that was left up to Prince Gwydion. He appeared in the first book to thank the heroes for their efforts against the Horned King, was mentioned in each of the next three books, and appeared shortly before his death in the last book.
  • Codex Alera: The First Lord of Alera is basically this, dispite his title. His subordinates are called High Lords, not kings, but are largely autonomous and rule over enough territory they might well have been called kings if it weren't for inherited Roman cultural baggage regarding kings.
  • Dwarves in Discworld consider lower to be better than higher, so they have a Low King who is acknowledged by most dwarves as the most important monarch.
  • In the Land Of Oz the rulers of the four countries (Munchkins, Gillikins, Winkies, and Quadlings) are under the ruler of Oz in general who lives in the Emerald City. Or at least after book one, where the Wicked Witches of the East & West were destroyed and replaced.
  • In JRR Tolkien's The Silmarillion, the exiled High Elves in Middle-earth spread out into multiple kingdoms with separate kings, but they were all (at least in theory) subject to the High King. In practice, most subjects of the House of FŽanor pretended that there wasn't one.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Mythology, Religion, and Legend]]
  • Agamemnon in The Iliad is said to be the king over all the Achaians (Greeks), who are also divided into various smaller kingdoms.
  • The High King (Ard Ri) of Ireland. The office did exist in real life, but it was primarily a ceremonial title, and is not definitely documented before the 9th century CE. In the Irish legends, however, there is an unbroken succession of powerful High Kings starting in the 2nd millennium BCE with Slaine mac Dela of the Fir Bolg, and containing mythical and semi-mythical figures like Nuada and Lugh of the Tuatha De Dannan, Conaire Mor, Conn the Hundred-Fighter, Cormac mac Airt, Niall of the Nine Hostages, and Loegaire, up to historical kings like Brian Boruma mac Cennetig (a.k.a. Brian Boru). Traditional Irish chronicles regard Mael Sechnaill (died 1022) as the last undisputed High King, with the kings after him considered "High Kings with Opposition", and Rory O'Connor (Rudraige Ua Conchobair) being the last bearer of the title when it was made obsolete in 1171 by the Norman invasion of Ireland. The last king to style himself High King of Ireland was Edward the Bruce, who tried to break Ireland from English control, but was killed in 1318.
  • King Arthur was said to be High King over the petty kings of Britain.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
  • Dungeons And Dragons, Forgotten Realms campaign setting: In the Moonshae Islands, the Folk are divided into a number of small kingdoms loosely controlled by a High King, who's more of a figurehead than a true ruler.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Video Games]]
  • In The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim the High King of Skyrim is the liege of all Jarls. His throne is right now vacant and hotly contested.
  • Final Fantasy XII: The Dynast King Raithwall in the back story united the nations of Ivalice into the Galtean Alliance and it is the goal of the Big Bad to do the same thing.
  • The Lycian Alliance of Fire Emblem is a group of fiefdoms each ruled by a Marquess that all answer the the Marquess of Ostia only in times of war. In the ending of the Binding Blade the Ostian Marchioness Lillina (Alongside Roy if they marry) unites them and becomes the High Queen.
  • In World Of Warcraft Varian Wrynn, King of Stormwind, has become this for the Alliance, though this was mostly done to have an Alliance counterpart to the Horde's Warchief.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Western Animation]] [[/folder]]

[[folder:Real Life]]
  • Ireland had a ceremonial High King (Ard Ri) at least as early as the 9th century CE, and possibly before (see the Mythology folder). This tradition is probably an inspiration for some of the Literature examples (such as Middle-earth and Chronicles of Prydain).
  • The East Slavic, and later Russian equivalent is the title "veliki knyaz", usually translated to English as "grand prince" but otherwise identical to the other High Kings. It started as the title of the prince of Kiev, considered first among equals in Medieval Ruthenia, and continued in specifically Russian principalities of Vladimir and, later, Moscow when Kiev lost prominence. Ivan III was the grand prince who did away with all the feudal patchwork and became a de facto emperor in everything but name, but the title persisted as tradition until his grandson, Ivan the Terrible, gave himself the de jure imperial title of Tsar.
[[/folder]]


Community Feedback Replies: 41
  • May 20, 2012
    LordGro
    Mythology & Legend
    • The High King (Ard Ri) of Ireland. The office did exist in real life, but it was primarily a ceremonial title, and is not definitely documented before the 9th century AD. In the Irish legends, however, there is an unbroken succession of powerful High Kings starting in the 2nd millennium BC with Slaine mac Dela of the Fir Bolg, and containing mythical and semi-mythical figures like Nuada and Lugh of the Tuatha De Dannan, Conaire Mor, Conn the Hundred-Fighter, Cormac mac Airt, Niall of the Nine Hostages, and Loegaire, up to historical kings like Brian Boruma mac Cennetig (a.k.a. Brian Boru). Traditional Irish chronicles regard Mael Sechnaill (died 1022) as the last undisputed High King, with the kings after him considered "High Kings with Opposition", and Rory O'Connor (Rudraige Ua Conchobair) being the last bearer of the title when it was made obsolete in 1171 by the Norman invasion of Ireland. The last king to style himself High King of Ireland was Edward the Bruce, who tried to break Ireland from English control, but was killed in 1318.
  • May 20, 2012
    FrodoGoofballCoTV
    • In The Chronicles Of Narnia, Aslan names Peter High King of Narnia. As such, he has authority over other rulers of Narnia (such as King Caspian), but is still under the authority of Aslan.
  • May 20, 2012
    Generality
    • Variant in the Belgariad: Garion assumes the title of Overlord of the West (sometimes called Overking), which gives him nominal power over the countries on the "good" side of the continent. This doesn't give him actual rule in those countries, but he can order them to mobilise their armies in the inevitable event that the Angaraks finally invade. Similarly, the various schemers on the "evil" side of the world deign to call themselves "Overking of Angarak", but none of them manage to truly achieve that power, except for Torak, who is called "King and God".
  • May 21, 2012
    Dacilriel
    King Arthur was High King over the petty kings of Britain.
  • May 21, 2012
    lexicon
    Five examples is enough since the recommended number to start is three. You should mention that it's the Spear Counterpart to The High Queen.
  • May 21, 2012
    FordPrefect
    The High Queen already has a Spear Counterpart in The Good King, both of which are at the king/queen level rather than the emperor level. High King is closer to the emperor level (specifically, The Emperor acknowledges that "Benevolent Emperor" exists but is relatively uncommon).

  • May 22, 2012
    Arivne
    Tabletop RPG
    • Dungeons And Dragons Forgotten Realms setting. In the Moonshae Islands, the Ffolk are divided into a number of small kingdoms loosely controlled by a High King, who's more of a figurehead than a true ruler.
  • May 22, 2012
    randomsurfer
    In the Land Of Oz the rulers of the four countries (Munchkins, Gillikins, Winkies, and Quadlings) are under the ruler of Oz in general who lives in the Emerald City. Or at least after book one, where the Wicked Witches of the East & West were destroyed and replaced.
  • May 22, 2012
    Nithael
    King of Stormwind Varian Wrynn becomes this for the Alliance in World Of Warcraft, though this was mostly done to have an Alliance counterpart to the Horde's Warchief.
  • May 22, 2012
    aurora369
    No, this doesn't have anything to do with The High Queen. That's very another trope.
  • May 23, 2012
    lexicon
    If this has nothing to do with The High Queen it should not be called The High King. That would make them sound like counterparts and really confuse people.
  • May 23, 2012
    Dacilriel
    I agree it could lead to some confusion, but The High King is what this character is generally known as, so I don't know what a better title would be. Adding in a note to the effect of "Despite the similarity in naming, this is not a spear counterpart to The High Queen" should solve the problem. Many trope pages have similar notes due to I Thought It Meant.
  • May 24, 2012
    Arivne
    Literature
    • Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles. Math son of Mathonwy was the High King of Prydain, but he was never shown doing much of anything - that was left up to Prince Gwydion. He appeared in the first book to thank the heroes for their efforts against the Horned King, was mentioned in each of the next three books, and appeared shortly before his death in the last book.
  • May 24, 2012
    Alynnidalar
    Dwarves of Discworld have a Low King rather than a High King, considering lower to be better than higher, although not all dwarves consider him supreme ruler. Just most.
  • May 26, 2012
    lexicon
    It would be better to call it King Of Kings to clear up the confusion. That sounds like it would fit the discription.
  • May 26, 2012
    Antigone3
    One problem with King Of Kings, that phrase happens to be a title given to Jesus -- if memory serves, it's from an Isaiah quote. I'd stick with The High King with a disclaimer.
  • May 26, 2012
    aurora369
    Yeah. Too Biblical and thus gives an entirely wrong impression.
  • May 26, 2012
    elwoz
    ^ Agreed. If the confusion is really a problem, I think it would be better to rename The High Queen than this one. ("The Good Queen", maybe, since it's contrasted with God Save Us From The Queen?)
  • May 26, 2012
    lexicon
    Can we rename The High Queen to The Good Queen before this is launched?
  • May 26, 2012
    TheHandle
    ^Good idea.
  • June 1, 2012
    aurora369
    Bumpity
  • June 1, 2012
    lexicon
    Does anyone know how to change a title or does there need to be a discussion about it first?
  • June 2, 2012
    aurora369
    I think you should be a wiki admin to do that. Making a discussion or crowner about that will help, too.
  • June 2, 2012
    nameheregrrer
    • Agammemnon in the Illiad was the High King of the Greeks. Trope Namer?

    The First Lord of Alera might be an example. His subordinates are called High Lords, not kings, but are largely autonomous and rule over enough territory they might well have been called kings if it weren't for inherited Roman cultural baggage regarding kings.
  • June 2, 2012
    elwoz
    ^ Agree on both counts, although I suspect in Real Life the title might be even older than that (does anyone know the etymology of the Chinese word that's usually translated "emperor"?)

    Alera brings two related tropes to mind: First Among Equals (should we have that one?) and Just The First Citizen.
  • January 18, 2013
    elwoz
    Bump; still needs more fictional examples.
  • January 18, 2013
    elwoz
    ... and I've gone ahead and done the The High Queen->The Good Queen rename unilaterally, since the latter page already existed as a redirect to The Good King, which was just confusing.
  • January 18, 2013
    aurora369
    So we can finally launch this one?
  • January 18, 2013
    lexicon
    You changed a title without a TRS. Are you allowed to do that? Even if the name already existed that doesn't necessarily make it okay. If it is then the links to the page should be changed to fit the current main title. If the name is going to stand then the third paragraph of this can go away because they (this and The Good Queen) no longer sound like counterparts.
  • January 18, 2013
    LOAD
    Bump
  • January 19, 2013
    lycropath
    • The Dynast King Raithwall in the back story of Final Fantasy XII united the nations of Ivalice into the Galtean Alliance and it is the goal of the Big Bad to do the same thing.
    • The Lycian Alliance of Fire Emblem is a group of fiefdoms each ruled by a Marquess that all answer the the Marquess of Ostia only in times of war. In the ending of the Binding Blade the Ostian Marchioness Lillina (Alongside Roy if they marry) unites them and becomes the High Queen.
  • January 19, 2013
    Darthcaliber
    on He Man the planet Eternia is made up of several kingdoms but King Randor is the high king of the whole world.
  • January 20, 2013
    aurora369
    The East Slavic, and later Russian equivalent is the title "veliki knyaz", usually translated to English as "grand prince" but otherwise identical to the other High Kings. It started as the title of the prince of Kiev, considered first among equals in Medieval Ruthenia, and continued in specifically Russian principalities of Vladimir and, later, Moscow when Kiev lost prominence. Ivan III was the grand prince who did away with all the feudal patchwork and became a de facto emperor in everything but name, but the title persisted as tradition until his grandson, Ivan the Terrible, gave himself the de jure imperial title of Tsar.
  • January 20, 2013
    ArcadesSabboth
    I'm sorting and folderizing the examples so the page will have the correct format when launched.

    Oh, this also needs an index or two. I suggest Royalty And Nobility Tropes, Politics Tropes (media about politics, since this is also a system of feudal government), and Authority Tropes (monarchy folder).
  • January 20, 2013
    IsaacSapphire
    Old Worldof Darkness tabletop RPG Changling:The Dreaming has High King David.
  • January 20, 2013
    IsaacSapphire
    That was supposed to link to Changeling The Dreaming
  • January 20, 2013
    dvorak
    thank goodnes for the laconic or I'd have thought this was "the king is a stoner".
  • February 2, 2013
    aurora369
    Bump-o
  • February 3, 2013
    aurora369
    2ArcadesSabboth: Yes, these indexes are exactly what we need.
  • February 3, 2013
    ArcadesSabboth
    The improper renaming of The High Queen has been reverted, presumably by mods. Please refer to related tropes by their current/old names.
  • February 5, 2013
    aurora369
    Okay, so we have to TRS The High Queen properly.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable