A very popular image in fictional works is to portray a King as tremendously fat. At a minimum, kings are considered corpulent, though more extreme examples will depict them as morbidly obese. This stems from the popular impression that a king spends his days sitting on his throne, feasting on the spoils from his taxation of the masses, or simply warming it while doing nothing. Depictions of monarchs and aristocrats as overweight usually meant to convey that they're either hedonistic Fat Bastards who grow fat on the work of the oppressed lower classes, or benign-but-weak rulers who are helpless when their kingdoms are threatened.
Given that getting enough to eat has been a problem for much of humanity's history, it is a logical consequence of being the one in charge, and owning most of the wealth and land.
Usually this will be averted in the case of "heroic" kings; obesity is most often when the king is corrupt, a peripheral force for good, or a relaxed neutral arbiter.
Obviously, fat monarchs other than the traditional European model (sultans, emperors, etc.) also qualify for this trope.
This trope can sometimes be applied to queens, but it tends to happen less frequently. Whether this is because mocking women as fat is considered unseemly or due to the relative scarcity of fictional queens in general is left to the reader. A notable exception is the Hive Queen; if she's an egg-layer for the species, then the queen will probably be depicted as overweight to convey this aspect.
In actuality, the trope is universal in neither fiction nor reality. In Real Life, monarchs vary as widely in body shape as everyone else, so it stands to reason that some would fall under this trope.
This trope was probably popularized by Henry VIII, who was infamously morbidly obese in later life. This is also from the "jolly fatman" etymology, as the rich are often depicted as fat. The rich can buy more food, so they can eat more. Also, before the advent of cheap fast food, being fat was considered high fashion- as a scarce necessity food was worth more than gold or diamonds, and having a fat wife proved that you are wealthy enough to stuff her with food. Therefore, if you're the king, you must be tremendously fat.
Name comes from both a pun on Oedipus Rex and adipose tissue (or "fat", as it is known to the layman).
Often related to Villainous Glutton and Fat Bastard. Also see Large And In Charge if they possess Stout Strength. Commonly overlapped with Too Important to Walk.
Contrast Royals Who Actually Do Something, Modest Royalty. Has nothing to do (other than the etymology) with the Adipose aliens from Doctor Who.
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King Ding Dong on the packages of Hostess Ding Dongs.
Anime & Manga
The Big Bad of the first Dragon Ball movie is King Gurumez, who's fat because the cursed rubies he's torn up his kingdom to excavate have given him an insatiable appetite... as well as turning him into a giant monster.
Gennon, a noble and later governor of Doldrey who Griffith once prostituted himself to in Berserk.
Wapol of One Piece. His entire ability revolves around being able to eat absolutely anything. He has to eat constantly and is, of course, appropriately obese. Though there is a subversion near the end of the arc he appears in, where he eats himself to become thin and fit through smaller gaps.
Marvel Comics' Kingpin isn't a king but he's the King of New York Crime, and he's bulky (some would say fat... but they'd be wrong). Taken to the extremes in the 90s animated series of Spider-Man, where he is said to have body mass of which only 2% is fat. The remaining 350 pounds of flesh is stated to be solid muscle... and seeing as how he takes on giant robots with his bare hands, and wins, on several occasions, this may be true. While the comics aren't this drastic, he is more muscle and height than fat, working out every day in a private dojo and being a master sumo wrestler.
Iron Man has an old-school villain called King Midas whose gimmick was he loved gold (and riches) and was so fat and overweight he needed a hoverchair to get about, armed with LASERS of course.
Caliph Haroun El-Poussah, the jovial and benign ruler from Iznogoud.
Chief Vitalstatistix from Astérix. Does not stop him from kicking ass when properly motivated, though. Of course, compared to Obélix, he may look slim....
Fables: Mayor King Cole of Fabletown is, as his story goes, "a very large king of a very small kingdom". Noticeably, when reduced to hiding in a cave with a handful of his subjects, he divides the food evenly among everyone according to size and leaves no share for himself. (Not that he loses any weight from starving.)
General Tara from The Phantom isn't technically royalty, but he proclaims himself to be. He orders Diana Palmer executed after she throws him with a Judo move in "Return to Tarakimo". Her crime? Threatening "his royal person." Seemingly spending most of his day seated on an enormous throne, the overfed despot also sports a kingly handlebar moustache and accompanying goatee, Jabba-like table manners, and smokes with an aristocratic cigarette holder, further accenting his vanity and basic sloth. Though he appears threatening, it's all an act —- he's essentially a spoiled cowardly bully with a lot of brain-dead (but heavily armed) henchmen.
Films — Animation
The Sultan in Aladdin is perhaps the best known example of the "fat and jolly sultan" in Western media.
He's based on the Sultan of Basra in The Thief of Bagdad, who while fat is not actually a particularly extreme example of this trope; he's only a little paunchy and only a little shorter than the Lean and MeanGrand Vizier villain. As opposed to the Sultan of Agrabah, who is half the height of his even Leaner (and about equally Mean) Grand Vizier villain.
Boss Nass of the Gungans in the Star Wars prequels. He's so fat he looks like a different species. He's actually of a different subrace (Ankura Gungan rather than the standard Otolla Gungan), which as a whole tends to be fatter.
The sultan in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen is pretty hefty. The members of his harem, even more so,
Old King Cole is usually portrayed this way whenever the nursery rhyme is illustrated. (Most people seem to interpret "jolly old soul" as Big Fun in this case.)
Legendary benevolent and jovial kings of European Good Old Days, like Gambrinus or Le Roi d'Yvetot, are usually depicted as quite plump fellahs.
King Robert Baratheon from A Song of Ice and Fire is shown to have put on a lot of weight since Eddard had known him prior to his ascension to the throne, to the point where he's gotten too fat to put his armour on. Eddard estimates that Robert put on about ten stone (140 lbs or 60 kg) since becoming King, which would make him morbidly obese. In the TV adaptation it's not quite as bad, but he has a significant belly.
King Rhodar of Drasnia from the Belgariad, although he also happens to be the greatest military strategist in the Kingdoms of the West and quite possibly the most intelligent ruler in the world at the time.
Otha, the Emperor of Zemoch from The Elenium, is what happens when you take the villainous type of this trope and give him several centuries to perfect his laziness and corruption. He needs several strong men to carry his litter around (having long ago lost the ability to move under his own power) and is frequently described as a "slug" by the other characters.
The King of the Union in The First Law is this example taken Up to Eleven. He is so fat he has to be carried everywhere, and seems nothing more than a figurehead — indeed, he is portrayed as having a hard time thinking about politics (or anything much) at all.
In The Redemption of Althalus, the leader of the Arum tribe in the beginning of the book is Gosti Big-Belly. The name speaks for itself - he's so large he can't walk.
In the Tortall UniverseTrickster books, one of the princes who briefly becomes king of the Royally Screwed Up Copper Isles is a real food-lover who finally dies of an apoplexy. The palace healer-mages had seen this coming a long way off, but still have to flee so they won't be scapegoated by his crazy family for not warning him enough.
Enforced trope. The prince's ghost explains that he purposely ate richly, because he figured it was better to die naturally, doing something he enjoyed, than to suffer an inevitable and painful death at the hands of his scheming relatives.
Grandgousier, Gargantua's father, is like his more famous son a fat giant with a nearly infinite appetite.
The magicians of Robin Hobb's The Soldier Son trilogy are fat, but not necessarily evil. They're definitely in charge, though, and fat because that's how magic works.
Baron Vladimir Harkonnen of Dune is grotesquely obese, but counteracts this by wearing small anti-gravity devices that make him as agile as a healthy young man. In one of the Prequel books it's reveald that it's because of a disease, and that he was quite fit in his younger days.
In the Nightside novels, in one alternate universe where Merlin chose to become the Antichrist and corrupted Arthur's bloodline to rule for him, the last of that line dies at the hands of Shooter Suzie, prompting Merlin to take the throne as this (albeit briefly).
Queen Sollace from Jack Vance's Lyonesse novels is described as being a very large lady, but considers herself to have a "fashionable figure" nonetheless. It's unclear whether other people think so or not.
In the first Deathlands novel Pilgrimage to Hell the protagonists decide to attack the headquarters of the Baron of Mocsin, Jordan Teague to discuss why their wagon train has just been gassed. They're surprised to find the once feared and grudgingly respected Big Bad is now grossly fat and doped out of his mind, as it's actually The Dragon who's now running things.
Roya Orico in The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold is both obese and sickly, frequently with food stains on his clothing. He is a peripheral force for good at best and his moral weakness puts major characters in peril.
The Star Wars Expanded Universe has established that Hutts (as in Jabba), whose Hat is being crime lords, frequently become fatter the more powerful they become, to the point where they sometimes become unable to move and must rely on antigravity sleds. The inverse is also true: Hutts afflicted with a congenital wasting disease are ostracized.
In Abarat, King Claus becomes this after the death of his beloved daughter Princess Boa. Stories say he weighed a thousand pounds.
Victor Buono as (a guy with Easy Amnesia who thinks he's) King Tut on the 1960s Batman TV series.
The Get Smart episode "Survival of the Fattest" features a fat Arab prince who has to maintain his weight to maintain his rulership.
Game of Thrones gives us King Robert Baratheon, who's clearly let himself go since taking the throne. Leads to an amusing exchange where the first thing he says upon seeing Ned Stark for the first time in several years, is to jokingly accuse him of this.
The Bible presents Herod the Great as hugely fat and beardless, not his usual depiction. (Just to rub it in, the first time we see him he's shirtless.) It makes him come across as something like a eunuch.
George: Had just ten years on the throne, do you remember that? No, all that you remember is...I was really fat!
Star Trek: The Next Generation featured Chancellor K'mpec as a Klingon example, fat and morally ambiguous in his willingness to dishonor Worf's family to save the supposedly honorable Empire from civil war.
The official art◊ for Razia's Shadow depicts The King this way. Given that he tries to block the fated marriage, deeply mistrusts the protagonist, and implies that Anhura is a slut, it's fitting, even if he's meant to be the king of Light.
Dungeons & Dragons: Orcus, in addition to fulfilling the royalty factor thanks to the trope he named, was always depicted as obese before the third edition Book of Vile Darkness's statblock on him illustrated him as lean and muscular. Since then, his level of girth has Depended on the Artist.
Greasus Goldtooth is an exaggerated, but utterly justified, example, being king of the Ogres. To a lesser extent, Chaos god Nurgle may also fit the bill.
Nurgle is not so much fat as he is bloated by rot.
Exalted has Sesus Nagezzar, aka "The Slug". He's not a king, but he is nobility, being one of the Terrestrial Exalted. A former Super Soldier like all Dragon-Blooded, he became grossly overweight after being supernaturally crippled. He's got some fairly detestable personal habits, but he's one of the few hopes The Empire has for survival.
The title character of Ubu Roi is morbidly obese, a physical expression of his greed.
Ganondorf also looks like he's gained some weight since Ocarina. Compared to characters like King Daphnes, Lenzo and Mila's father it looks more like Ganondorf's a Top-Heavy Guy rather than overweight. The huge robe he's wearing doesn't help matters.
King Bowser from is also on the heavy side, though he is quite a bit more athletic than most of these examples. He's not exactly overweight though. He's a huge turtle-demon-thing — he weighs a lot because he's simply very, very big.
The Princess of Tunlan in Breath of Fire II. Like other villains in the game, she's been possessed by a demon preying on her particular vice: in this case, gluttony. A Womb Level involves shrinking the party down to size and battling demons inside her body, causing her to gradually deflate.
The King character who is central to the game when playing in Regicide mode in Age Of Empires II. Overlap with Acrofatic; his running speed is actually faster than several infantry units, so it's best to use cavalry or archers to kill him.
Melvin Underbelly from Overlord managed to gorge himself to spherical proportions after becoming King of the Halflings. Like the other corrupted heroes, he represents one of the Seven Deadly Sins, Gluttony in his case.
Queen Cadavra from Bug!, a fat black widow spider who treats her minions like dirt... either that, or food.
King Frost from the Frost line of enemies in Shin Megami Tensei. He's so morbidly obese he's seen as being made ofhundreds of his minions merged together in a single snowy mass.
King Zior from The Legend of Dragoon definitely, umm... measures up. Not only does he have the build for it, but you only ever see him in two places, sitting on his throne (which is in the most luxurious throne room in the entire game by the way) and the banquet hall.
The Empress of Blood from The Order of the Stick. A few strips later, it's revealed that she's trying very hard to get fat (something that according to D&D rules is quite difficult for a dragon to do), because she's not very bright and mistakenly thinks increasing her size class will increase her power.
Emperor Krelchzeeber from The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, the long-dead Nemesite ruler who killed Fructose Riboflavin's father. It's worth noting that, as insect people, most Nemesites are rail-thin.
There is also the queen in Bob Clampett's notorious short, Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs.
Fattish, King Wallace in the episode "Royal Pain" of Kim Possible.
Played up in an episode of DuckTales. The heroes visit a remote island where the king is fat precisely because in their culture the fattest person is made king. Various attempts to buy a rare mask off him with Worthless Yellow Rocks fail — and then somebody thinks of trying to pay him with fattening processed foods instead.
This episode was based on the Carl Barks story The Status Seeker, except Scrooge traded a crate of peppermint candies for the "Candy-Striped Ruby".
As with his original video-game incarnation, King K. Rool from the short-lived Donkey Kong Country cartoon.
In the episode "Legacy of Terror" from Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Anakin and Obi-Wan discover the lair of the Geonosian queen, a oversized and immobile Hive Queen who rules the Genonosians with telepathy. It's unclear whether this is due to her being an egg-layer or general obesity.
One episode of Garfield and Friends had a folktale where Jon Arbuckle was depicted as an overweight king of an imaginary kingdom, but one day one of King Jonathan's servants grew jealous of him because of his gluttony and decides to make the king's life miserable by sending an orange cat with black stripes (who clearly resembles Garfield) to eat all of the king's food.
In that story, the kingdom's yearly gold income depended on how heavy the one wearing the crown was and the evil Duke intended to decrease this income as part of a plot to become King (King Jonathan's weight used to bring enough gold he didn't need to make his subjects pay taxes). King Jonathan foiled the plot by placing the crown on the cat's head.
In the Adventure Time episode "Too Old", the Earl of Lemongrab has become obese after eating much of Lemongrab 2.
This trope does have some historical basis. In the old days, being chubby was considered beautiful and a sign of wealth, and the king was often the wealthiest guy in the land, so...
It was also helped by the belief that vegetables, being cheap to produce, were "food of beasts and peasants" so both royalty and nobility avoided them while devoted to ingesting expensive beef and game (since almost anybody was barred from hunting, too). Both HRE Karl V and his son Philip II of Spain died of gout for this reason.
Henry VIII of England (who was also a massive man by the age's standards around 190 cm tall) is possibly the Trope Codifier for fictional depictions of fat kings (especially with the "holding a roasted turkey leg" bit). Justified in that Henry injured his leg in a jousting accident that led many to worry he was near death, and certainly stopped him from further exercising. He also had a profound love of good food and enjoyed substantial catering support. Also a bit of a subversion; his familiar appearance as in the Holbein portrait◊ is from his late middle years, in his youth◊ he looked completely different, and before getting injured he was known for his health and fitness, and that he certainly wasn't weak in spirit helps.
Nowadays politics has a tendency to make you fat (even if you're not a royal). Just look at what happened to Arnold◊. Twenty-odd years worth of aging and giving up the workout schedule of a professional bodybuilder also has a tendency to make you fat. Hard to say which is more responsible in Arnie's case.
Although for that, the classic example has to be Nigel Lawson, former British Chancellor of the Exchequer, former Secretary of State for Energy, a politician for 18 years and later the author of The Nigel Lawson Diet Book. Of course, there's little doubt that having Nigella Lawson for a daughter didn't help a bit.
John III Sobieski of Poland has been fat◊, but also a subversion for being a very good horseman, swordsman and stellar military leader for most of his life and reign.
France's Louis VI Le Gros (The Fat) and Charles III, just to name two.
The French "les rois fainéants" (Lazy Kings, so called because they didn't try to expand their territory during their reigns and because they delegated much of the decision-making to their officials), are often represented like this, to the point of being carted around as they've become incapable of supporting their own weight.
Subverted, as this is referring to the Frankish kings of the later Merovingian dynasty. Yes, they moved around on ox-driven carts from villa to villa, yes, they didn't have much to do with the daily running of the kingdom, but the carts were used so the king could dispense justice wherever he went.
King Louis XVIII of France was known for being incredibly obese.
Despite her reign being a byword for elegance, Britain's Queen Anne was reportedly fat (also ugly and unhealthy). Her portraits at the time of her marriage in 1683, at the age of 18-years-old, depict Anne as rather slender. By the time she rose to the throne in 1702, at the age of 37, Anne had given birth to six children, had eight stillbirths and four miscarriages. 18 pregnancies didn't exactly do wonders for her figure. And all for nothing. She survived all of her children.
The Prince Regent, later King George IV, became an easy target for caricaturists◊ in his later years because of his obesity. In his case easily explained: his habits included heavy drinking and huge banquets for decades. By the end of his reign, George suffered from gout and arteriosclerosis (also cataracts, though that was probably unrelated to his obesity) and had breathing problems. Also, accounts from his last years report signs of mental instability, possibly inherited from his father. One of his more polite epithets is Prince of Whales.
Actually most of his family- the Hanover dynasty- and all its ruling monarchs (including Victoria) were on the hefty side, especially in later years. Britain didn't have a monarch who wasn't this between the death of the diminutive William III in 1702 and the accession of George V in 1910!
Roman Emperor Vitellius is depicted by Roman historians as morbidly obese. Also lazy, overly fond of banquets (having four of them each day) and with a taste of exotic foods. Despite that, his short reign (it occurred in CE 69, during the Year of the Four Emperors, and he wasn't the fourth) resulted in some decent reforms on the Roman Army and Civil Service.
Averted by Emperor Elagabalus, but only because he died young: his notorious gluttony (according to rumor, he would regularly eat a lamb in one sitting) would have very probably caught up with him at some point.
Catherine the Great put on weight as she entered her thirties, though her official portraits◊ show that she remained quite the Big Beautiful Woman rather than simply obese. Traces of this lingered even when she became old and was no longer traditionally pretty, likely helped by the fashion of corsets always maintaining that her waist stayed smaller than her hips and chest—having even mildly hourglass proportions is a traditional indicator of voluptuousness rather than just fatness. On the other hand, it also helped that she was very good looking in her slimmer youth to start with.
Edward IV (elder brother of Richard III), began to grow rather fat toward the end of his life, though he never reached the proportions of his grandson Henry VIII. Most accounts of his appearance in that period give a description that would today be analogous to a still-powerful American football player with a hanging gut and a face that was beginning to turn doughy.
King Frederick I of Württemberg was incredibly tall and weighed around 400 pounds. Some sources say that the king's servants had to use a pulley to help the king mount a horse (poor animal!). He didn't exactly suffer from gigantism; his height is estimated to 2 meters, 11 centimeters (6 feet, 11 inches). Same as some modern athletes, such as Jon Rauch, Aaron Sandilands, and Peter Street.
King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV of Tonga weighed 440 lbs. In fact, kings of Tonga were traditionally very fat since before Captain Cook first reached the islands.
Queen Lydia Liliuokalani and her brother King David Kalakaua weren't exactly slender.
There is a story that when Queen Sālote Tupou III attended the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 and she was riding in her coach with an aide, someone asked Noël Coward who the small man accompanying the Queen was. "Her lunch", replied Coward.
William the Conqueror reportedly grew very fat in his later life, and when he died they couldn't fit him into his sarcophagus (partially due to bloating after death). The rest of the story is... not pleasant.
In Romani language, the word for "Mayor" means "Fat Man".
Not so much a king as a tyrant, but after Dong Zhuo (whose villainy gets exaggerated in The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, but he was not a nice man in the least) was killed, his corpse was set on fire. According to historical records, it took days for the corpse to burn.
Spanish history — always a treasure trove of all tropes involving royal peculiarities — gives us King Sancho I of León, a.k.a. Sancho the Fat. Indeed, he was so very fat that in 956, two years after he had taken the throne, a group of nobles deposed him. Sancho appealed to the Muslim Caliph of Cordoba, Abdulrahman III, who referred him to his de facto prime minister, the (Jewish) court doctor Hasdai ibn Shapirut. In a subversion, ibn Shapirut put Sancho on a diet—ending up reasonably svelte—and, after two years, took back his throne with the aid of the Moors and Navarre. Double subversion: upon reclaiming his throne, he promptly became fat again.
Farouk, the last King of Egypt, note Technically second-to-last, but the last king, Farouk's son Fuad II, was an infant who took the throne after a coup forced Farouk to abdicate, and less than a year later the army ended up abolishing the monarchy and sending the kid to join his dad in Italy anyway. was famous in his time for his lavish parties and extraordinarily rich feasts; after his exile, he became enormously fat. Between this, Farouk's famous penchant for other elements of the high life (including ornate Louis XV-style furniture, gambling, fine wine, and Scotch), and the Egyptian royal family's splendid palaces and wealth despite the fact that Egypt was economically underdeveloped, "King Farouk" became something of a byword for "living in extreme luxury among really poor people"; for instance, Hunter S. Thompson used it in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
Danish language has this joke on why sultans are fat of all the monarchs mentioned here.
Why are sultans always overweight? It's because when they visit Denmark, they also always says to the Danish people "jeg er sultan". People think they want food and stuffs them until they get fat.
"Jeg er sultan" means "I am a sultan", but the pun is that "sultan" sounds quite much like the Danish word "sulten" which means "hungry".
Napoleon Bonaparte. At the time of his downfall, Boney had become quite fat, in stark contrast to the skinny and hungry young general he was twenty years earlier.
The Roman Emperor Nero grew to be much fatter as his appetite for self-indulgence increased.
Infamously, North Korea's Kim Jong-un is fat while many of his people are literally starving to death.