In fantasy series it's fairly common for a king or other high-ranking ruler to keep a magic-user on staff
, primarily to provide mystical advice and services, and possibly general wisdom as well. Can also show up in historical fiction or even Real Life
, as during time periods when sorcery was widely believed in, having a mage or alchemist on hand was generally seen as a smart idea. The character can be The Good Chancellor
, the Evil Chancellor
, or anything in-between. Contrast The Magocracy
and Sorcerous Overlord
for instances where the mage(s) is actually the ruler, rather than an advisor. If the character has high standing among other mages as well as the king, they're also The Archmage
. If this is common and magic is real and powerful, one may have to ask why the wizards don't run things
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Anime and Manga
- The Tainted Grimoire has a few examples.
- Babus Swain is such to Queen Remedi.
- Auggie is such to the Baron of Fluorgis
- Lyndess, kind of, in With Strings Attached. Her main job seems to be providing sexual stimulants for Grynun, the Idri-Head. And she really, really doesn't want to be there, but it's the best place for her to be, given that she's cursed to remain in Ketafa.
- Jeremy Irons plays one of these (also an Evil Chancellor) in the Dungeons & Dragons movie.
- In the first Wishmaster film, the court wizard in service to a ruler who once fell prey to the Djinn's machinations sealed the Djinn in a gemstone to prevent him from granting a third wish (which would unleash Hell on Earth).
- In The Name Of The King: A Dungeon Siege Tale has John Rhys-Davies play King Konreid's magus named Merick, serving this purpose. Later in the film, he mentions that a magus only has his power as long as serves a king, meaning the magi were always in this role. However, only two (three if you count Merick's daughter Muriella) magi remain: Merick and Gallian. The latter has somehow managed to become extremely powerful and uplift the mindless Krug into a horde, all without serving a king. During their confrontation, Gallian reveals that he found a loophole - no one says you can't declare yourself king of some group (like the Krug) and serve yourself. Of course, it's implied by Merick's reaction that only a madman like Gallian could justify such twisted logic. By the end, it's implied that Muriella will now serve this role for Farmer, AKA Camden Konreid.
- Merlin, of course. Unquestionably the Trope Codifier.
- Both Gandalf and Saruman from The Lord of the Rings have done stints as advisors to various monarchs.
- Binnesman and Raj Ahten's flameweavers from The Runelords.
- Marwort the Illustrious was this to the Kingpriest in Dragonlance, despite the latter's well-documented Fantastic Racism towards wizards (it only worked out because Marwort swore never to use magic without the Kingpriest's permission, and then never in his presence). Other wizards, of course, considered him a traitor. Later on Fistandantilus took the job for his own ends.
- In Dragon Bones, Ward's father keeps a mage.
- In Malazan Book of the Fallen most civilizations have a court mage of some kind: the Malazans have Tayschrenn, the Letherii have their Atri-Cedas (High Mages), and so on.
- Skeeve becomes one early in the Myth Adventures series. His mentor Aahz insists it's a cushy job, where all you have to do is show some parlor tricks and be a status symbol. As it turns out, the king expects Skeeve to single-handedly face down an invading army...
- In Black Moon Chronicles, Ghorgor Bey's sworn enemy keeps a mage by his side. Quite hilariously, when Ghorgor slaughters the entire castle guard and advances on the two, the lord orders the mage to kill him, at which point he says "I'd love to, your lordship, but I've got a teleport on the boil!" and teleports away.
- Many Qirsi have this as a profession in The Winds of the Forelands.
- Flagg from Stephen King's The Eyes of the Dragon is the King's magician and also an Evil Chancellor.
- In The Last Unicorn, Schmendrick becomes one of these for King Haggard, displacing his former court wizard Mabruk.
- Played with in Mort. When Princess Kelli becomes all but unnoticable to non-wizards, she appoints the mage Cutwell, to be her Royal Recognizer. He also fills this trope, albeit incompetently.
- Rulers in The Wheel of Time commonly have an Aes Sedai adviser. Most of the time its kept secret, however, due to the Fantastic Racism against them.
- Cimorene, from The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, learned some magic from her father's court mage before she was told that magic wasn't a proper pursuit for princesses.
- Several examples in Tamora Pierce's books, with probably the straightest being Ishabal Ladyhammer of The Will of the Empress. The plot of the book is the four leads trying to escape becoming this themselves.
- The Imperial Saik from the Prince Of Nothing books are an entire order of Court Mages.
- The King's Sorcerer, Suliman, in Howl's Moving Castle.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire Melisandre serves as a combination of court mage/religious adviser/oracle to Stannis. In later books, Qyburn becomes this to Cersei, and Moqorro to Victarion. Danaerys briefly has Mirri Maz Duur, but it ends badly for both of them.
- Generally in ASoIaF-verse, this position is filled by court scientists (or whatever passes for such in a medieval world) called maesters. Some of which secretly study magic.
- The Mad King Aerys used to have pyromancers at his court to make wildfire for him. He is obsessed with burning people, and has them make enough wildfire to burn King's Landing to the ground.
- A popular profession among the titular Magisters of the Magister Trilogy. Kings consider these immortal, nigh omnipotent sorcerers indispensable to their reigns.
- Serving a term as a Court Mage for a minor lord is a standard step in a magician's career in the Witcherworld. High-ranking magicians are independent, but often advise kings and other rulers.
- Pug's first master in Magician served as this for Duke Boric of Crydee. On the Tsurani side the Warlord had a pair of Great Ones who supported his political ambitions functioning very much like this, though the Tsurani Great Ones normally stand outside the political intrigues that a part of life in the Empire.
- We meet several in Mercedes Lackey's Vows & Honor; somewhat averted is that one of the rules of Kethry's order, the White Winds, is that they DON'T accept permanent posts.
- Morgred in the Goosebumps book A Night in Terror Tower. He served the previous king, and cast a spell on Prince and Princess Eddie/Edward and Sue/Susannah of York to protect them from their wicked uncle, the usurper. It fails because the High Executioner interrupted his ritual and stole one of Morgred's magic orbs to chase the children into the future, causing the new memories Morgred gave them to be incomplete.
- In Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, Doctor Morgenes is officially employed as a scholar and physician by High King John, he's also a wizard of not-inconsiderable talent, albeit one who prefers to use his powers sparingly and not flaunt them. After John dies, his son Elias makes Pryrates his chief counselor. Subverted later in the series with the Duke of Nabban's advisor, the astrologer Xanassavin, who is presented as a quack, albeit one who occasionally gets lucky.
- In the Schooled In Magic series, Emily comes across several court wizards as she is traveling with Princess Alassa. The court wizard in Zangaria (Alassa's kingdom) is named Zed, he is a talented alchemist as well.
- Many vermin leaders in Redwall have a seer on hand to explain their prophetic dreams, give advice, and keep the troops afraid with stage magic (multicolored smoke and explosions are popular). However, it's not a very desireable position, as they're just as likely to be victim of the warlord's moodswings, tantrums, and general bad temper.
- Several variations in The Death Gate Cycle:
- King Stephen and Queen Anne from the first book keep a wizard named Trian as one of their closest advisors; he is a friend to both royals and The Good Chancellor.
- The Sartan are a powerful Witch Species, but those of Abarrach have lost most of their magic, the chief exception being Necromancers. Some of their rulers (like Dynast Kleitus) are necromancers themselves; those who are not tend to keep a necromancer as an advisor. Baltazar, Court Necromancer to the king of Kairn Telest, is a significant character in the third book.
- When discussing the distant past, the Sartan leader Samah describes how the Sartan's rivals, the Patryns (also a Witch Species) would often take this role and use it to manipulate mensch governments without sitting on the throne. He gets rather defensive when the person he's talking to points out that the Sartan used to do the same thing.
Live Action TV
- Surprisingly averted in the episode of Sliders where the heroes find a world where magic is real. However, played straight in another episode where they slide into a world where a significant percentage of the human population has Psychic Powers. After one of them foresees and warns Abraham Lincoln of his impending assassination, the President creates an official Cabinet position of Prime Oracle, which appears to be a lifetime appointment. Not only that, but the next Prime Oracle is chosen by the previous one, not by the current President. Presumably, he or she uses their abilities to pick someone who will not be corrupted by this position.
- An episode of Legend of the Seeker has Zedd accidentally rewriting history with a spell and making Richard the ruler of not only D'Hara but also all of the known world. Apparently, Zedd is his court wizard. Interestingly, while Darken Rahl himself had a powerful wizard and hundreds of sorcerers in his employ, they don't really fit, as they were never present in his court. Rahl himself could cast some spells.
Mythology and Religion
- The Bible ascribes court magicians to Pharaoh (Exodus 7 and 8) and to the King of Babylon (Daniel 1, 2, 4, and 5).
- Confirmed at least for Egypt in historical sources: a Pharaoh always had a court mage and a physician on the payroll - the latter was expected to perform mystical healing arts as well as mundane, thus overlapping the role somewhat. It's believed that the death of at least one Pharaoh was indirectly caused by a treacherous court mage removing the divine protection from him, and getting caught in the act - placebo can work in both ways. (The negative effect is actually called "nocebo")
- Donald Duck holds this position at Disney Castle in Kingdom Hearts.
- Delfador in Battle for Wesnoth.
- Evil Chancellor and Mad Scientist Lord Yuna serves this role to Emperor Soniel in Breath of Fire IV.
- In The King of Dragons, atleast according to the SNES manual, the king of Malus has an advisor in the wizard Guindon.
- Merlin reprises his usual role in Knights of the Round.
- Minwu the White Wizard from Final Fantasy II served as the court magician for the royal family of the kingdom of Fynn.
- Kefka Palazzo, the Monster Clown Big Bad of Final Fantasy VI, serves this role to Emperor Gestahl.
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim sees several court mages; every major hold (IE: with walled-in city as its seat) has a court mage, and two of the four lesser holds have one. They serve as local vendors for various magical paraphernalia and their quarters/laboratories have alchemy and enchanting stations in them.
- Though most of the court mages mostly serve as sidequest-givers and vendors for magic, the court mage for Whiterun, Farengar Secret-Fire, factors into the main questline, being a dragon researcher. He also tries to take a sample of blood and scales from Odahviing when he's captured in Dragonsreach, but that doesn't end well. Farengar is also the only one (aside from the Jarl himself) who is aware of the ancient daedric artifact they've got sealed in the basement of Dragonsreach.
- The Imperial Battlemage is this for the Emperor. The first known, Zurin Arctus, betrayed or was betrayed by his Emperor, while the second known, Jagar Tharn, used magic to exile the Emperor and assume his appearance and rule. High Chancellor Ocato may have been this, or may have been a leading advisor that just happened to be an Imperial Battlemagenote as well.
- Rone from Avernum counts for the titular kingdom of that game, whereas Garzhad is the court mage for the Empire.
- The King of Enrich from Shining the Holy Ark has two. His old trusted Good Chancellor; Sabato, and an evil old hag that turned up a few months ago (in which time the King has gone a bit strange); Rilix.
- A number of characters from The Witcher 2 Assassins Of Kings, including Dethmold, Sile de Tancarville and Triss Merigold.
- A staple in the Dragon Age series:
- In Dragon Age: Origins, the Mage Warden can become this as well as The Good Chancellor, for the new King or Queen of Ferelden. Another ending can similarly have them share this responsibility with Wynne.
- In The Stolen Throne, Severan serves as this to the Usurper King Meghren. Since Meghren is completely insane, this means that he gets to run the country behind the scenes.
- In Dragon Age II, a Mage Hawke unofficially serves the Viscount of Kirkwall in this role, becoming a legend throughout Thedas as the Apostate who rose from a simple refugee to become "The Champion of Kirkwall". Due to the fact that the "City of Chains" is known worldwide as a Templar stronghold, Knight-Commander Meredith was not happy that the people chose to embrace a Mage as their protector.
- In Dragon Age: Inquisition, Vivienne was the former Court Enchanter of Orlais. While this originally more or less amounted to the role of a court jester who performs parlor tricks for nobles, she managed to make it into a role of influence. However, by the time of the game, the the title has been taken by Morrigan, something that Vivienne is still incredibly bitter about.
- In the backstory of Warcraft, the Court Conjurer of Stormwind, Nielas Aran, was such a powerful and talented mage that the Guardian Aegwynn believed he would be the perfect father for her successor Medivh. Aegwynn left their son for Nielas to raise. Things went pear-shaped when Nielas was slain by the backlash of Sargeras' and the Guardian's power awakening within Medivh. Medivh then took on his father's role, all the while working to destroy Azeroth under the influence of Sargeras.
- Osric from the Sluggy Freelance Story Arc "The Storm Breaker Saga."
- Aikonia: There was one, until the king killed him out of paranoia against mages.
- Erfworld shows many examples of this trope with the side's casters. In Erf, casters are the units able to use magic and owners of special sense related to their discipline. They are popped randomly by a side and, although the respect they get is widely dependent on the side they popped in and their especific discipline, are generally considered a very useful asset. In sides with many casters there's even a position called: Chief Caster, which is a high rank position but still below Chief Warlord.
- Erik plays this role in the Kings War arc of Roommates, despite not having any magical abilities himself, because James who got promoted to Goblin Regent temporarily and also got the magic with it had absolutely no clue how the spellcasting thing works.
- Waterbending Master Pakku could be seen as Avatar: The Last Airbender's version of this in the Northern Water Tribe, while the Earth Kingdom's Long Feng is a more malevolent version.
- The Magus to Princess Katherine in Gargoyles. The Archmage previously held this position to her father, but was banished for attempting to usurp the throne with his powers.
- Hotep and Huy from The Prince of Egypt, though it's unclear if they really have powers beyond clever sleight-of-hand.
- Ixis Naugus was originally this in Sonic Sat AM. He was one of the few beings War Minister Julian feared (because Julian's technology couldn't do jack against him), so when he decided to explore the Void Julian took the opportunity to leave him stuck there.
- In ThunderCats (2011) Apart from being head of an order of Church Militant Praetorian Guards, Jaga holds this position in the court of Thundera's King Claudus, which means that all his subordinates are also Kung-Fu Wizard Magic Knights.
- The Smurfs have Mordain serving King Argon in "The Good, The Bad, And The Smurfy", and Morlock serving Prince Theodore in "The Prince And The Hopper". Both are evil mages who seek to take over their kingdoms, and both were deposed from their positions with the help of the Smurfs.
- Thrasyllus, Sr. and Jr. — court astrologers of Tiberius and Nero
- Angelo Catto — court astrologer of Louis XI of France
- Guido Bonatti — official astrologer of the city of Florence
- Michel de Notredame (Nostradamus) — court astrologer of Catherine de Medicis
- Lucas Gauricus — court astrologer of Popes Leo X and Clement VII
- Dr Faustus is often associated with the court of Charles V
- Dr. John Dee — magician associated with the courts of Elizabeth I of England, Stephen of Poland, and Ruldolph II of the Holy Roman Empire (also associated with Rabbi Loew, the creator of the Golem)
- Joan Quigley — astrologer whom Nancy Reagan consulted to help plan her husband's schedule while he was President of the United States.
- Rasputin The Mad Monk — He had a truly unhealthy influence on the Tsar and his family. However, historians still debate how much of what was attributed to him was truly his unhealthy ideas, and for how much of the imperial family's unhealthy ideas he was framed as polite fiction, to avoid lese majesty.