In Berserk, it seems like all the major nobles in Midland are out to get Griffith, who ends up as the target of two assassination plots by the jealous nobility. Griffith, however, is no slouch himself, and all of the nobles who take part in the assassinations end up dead.
In The Bride Of The Water God, both the Emperor's Court and the Court of the Water Kingdom are filled with intrigue and characters at cross-purposes. Of course, many of the characters are in both courts...
In Vinland Saga, the court of King Sweyn Forkbeard is said to be so opulent it is populated with beautiful slave women taken from every corner of the world, filled with conniving politicians, and the arena of many a bloody duel to the death.
Ooku is set in the Shogun's harem, which develops into a place of backstabbing maneuvers.
In Code Geass, the Britannian Royal Court comes off as this, given the scheming nobles and The Social DarwinistEmperor. The Chinese court has this as well, with the scheming Eunuchs being the Chinese counterpart to the Britannian nobles.
The Russian noble houses in Nikolai Dante especially the ruling Makarovs and the Romanovs.
Most, if not all incarnations of the Hellfire Club in the X-Men Comics. While they are not technically royality, they try their best to invoke this.
Louis XVI's court as portrayed in the French movie Ridicule exemplifies this trope, showcasing how nobles' political power and status was highly dependent on their wit. One victim of a mocking jest saw his request to the King rejected, got ostracised and ended up killing himself as a result.
And they're so busy fighting each other that they don't notice the army of zombies and god knows what else from beyond the Wall.
The nobles from the Bitterbynde books. The heroine, being a borderline Mary Sue, makes a few faux pas and has to run away when her pretense gets discovered — but of course till then she's been the most graceful and beautiful of women at court as well as a thousand times purer than these cruel, superficial twits.
In Interesting Times, the Agatean Empire has definitely fallen into this, with murder via poisoning or assassination being an acceptable way of promotion (as long as it is discreetly done), powerful noble families, a rather insane Emperor, and rigid class stratification. Of course, Cohen the Barbarian and his Silver Horde make things, well, interesting.
The nobles from the first novel of The Final Empire when their society is still intact. They indulge their extravagances while the rest of the population is nearly starving and there's the extra fun of some of them secretly being Mistborn which means powerful sorcerers and born assassins.
In the second The Wheel of Time book, Rand al'Thor comes into Cairhien, a big city with such a court. At least the intrigue bit is definitely fitting - everyone tries to pull him to their side by sending him invitations. Rand tries to avoid this by burning all the invitations... which they, of course, take as a cunning political move. Ultimately, his actions indirectly lead to the assassination of the king and the entire country falling into a civil war.
The Seanchan also seem to operate under these rules. Tuon, the Empress's daughter and heir, notes that her position was attained partly by eliminating the competition, permanently. She also forgives Beslan's acts of treachery during a crisis because he was unaware of the crisis. Her tone suggests that if it were not during a crisis, there would be little to forgive.
Seanchan nobles routinely make assassination plans for anyone they deal with, even if they don't really intend to go through with them. Tuon finds it incredible that she and her new husband Mat won't have to scheme against each other.
The court of Governor and Sole Autocrat Barholm Clerett in The General, where intrigue is an artform, treachery a given AND on top of everything else the Governor is borderline insane. As the saying goes, 'A simpleton from the Governor's Court could give lessons in intrigue to [any other royal court on the planet, save possibly the Colony's]."
The high council of Menzoberranzan. Usually, the backstabbing comes from a lower-ranking House that wants to be on the high council, but frankly the entire city is afflicted with a pernicious case of Chronic Backstabbing Disorder.
David Eddings is very fond of this trope: it shows up in the Imperial Courts of both The Malloreon and The Tamuli, and the main characters are very enthusiastic participants: in The Malloreon, they foment discord to the point that they engineer a civil war inside the walls of the palace as cover for their escape, while in The Tamuli they help the figurehead emperor overthrow his own government and seize control by throwing a party, getting the assorted aristocrats drunk, and imprisoning the lot of them.
The civil war doesn't work out quite as planned, since a plague breaks out in the city, trapping them in the midst of war.
In the furry fantasy novelFangs Of Kaath, the royal court of Osra is a den of decadence and coldblooded political calculation that could consider genocide as well as accommodation as solutions with equal ease. While the heroes, Prince Raschid and his love Sandhri are the first to note it's a fun place for a party with food and sexy serving girls (who are openly eager to hop into bed when asked) galore when it is in a peaceful mood, they are otherwise repelled by its venal side and it suffers a Karmic Death at being nearly totally destroyed in the climactic battle in the end with nearly the entire villainous Royal family dead except for the straight arrow heroes who find themselves unquestionably on top and in charge of things to run their way.
His Forest Kingdom Series and Hawk and Fisher books also feature a wide variety of these. Special mention has to go to the court in Blood and Honour, where they recklessly dally with eldritch abominations.
In James Swallow's Warhammer 40000 novel Faith & Fire, the Battle Sisters find the aristocrats like this: hopelessly languid, using fans that could double as weapons if they were capable of fighting, and so heavily perfumed that one Sister says they obviously used a crop duster.
The crop duster comment was actually because a particular set of noblewomen insulted Hospitaller Verity because she was the smallest and plainest person for kilometres around.
The Japanese Imperial Court in the Tale of Genji - and Real Life - was an epitome of this trope. If its members weren't plotting against each other they were having illicit sex with somebody else's wife or mistress.
The Heian Court started out much more benign—see literature like the Man'youshuu for examples of what Japan was (supposedly) like about two hundred years prior to the Genji. The Genji is set in Heian Japan, about a century before it fell apart and was replaced by the Kamakura bakufu, which in turn led to the Muramachiperiod.
The entire first "book" in Dune is practically one long convoluted case of court intrigue. The Emperor, who was secretly in league with the Baron, was trying to off the Duke by giving him a deathtrap "promotion" to take control of a flailing production operation that he surely had no hope of turning around, while the Illuminati-like women's convent neared its ultimate goal and began pulling the political strings in new and dangerous directions, all ending in the collapse of the Corrno Imperium and another Jihad.
Special Mention to House Harkonnen, who are revoltingly decadent and incredibly dangerous - the Baron is a fat, revolting, gluttonous, implied paederast, as well as being a sadist, his nephews are 'just' maniacal sadists, torture is something of an after-dinner entertainment (a passage shows Harkonnen workers cleaning up the remains of one of these in one of Brian Herbert's books, a favourite pastime of Caligula), and the whole affair generally resembles Ancient Rome at its worst (gladiatorial arenas, paedophilia and all.) The aesthetic is pretty bizarre, with sweeping robes and gold combined with stinking oil and huge pollution, smoke and filth - the Harkonnen are clothed and live in finery, but completely filthy both morally and physically.
The Winter Court as well. When attending a party in Arctis Tor, Harry tries to keep an eye on anyone suspicious. He soon realizes that's impossible, and instead resolves to keep an eye out for anyone charging at him with a knife and screaming.
The First Born do no work. The men fight—that is a sacred privilege and duty; to fight and die for Issus. The women do nothing, absolutely nothing. Slaves wash them, slaves dress them, slaves feed them. There are some, even, who have slaves that talk for them, and I saw one who sat during the rites with closed eyes while a slave narrated to her the events that were transpiring within the arena.
All four fey courts in Wicked Lovely have elements of this, but the worst would have to be the dark court, and the winter court.
The court of Herod Antipas, under the pen of romantic writers (e.g. in Oscar Wilde's play Salome). King Herod is depicted as an incestuous womaniser; Queen Herodias a murderous schemer. The princess Salome, of course, has a famously pathological infatuation with John the Baptist.
The royal court of Terre d'Ange, in Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Legacy series. Everyone sleeps around, there is much scheming and backstabbing, and there are Masquerade Balls.
Regimol: “A quite delightful planet it was. They weren't without their political intrigue, of course, and their class structure wasn't fair by Federation standards. Still it reminded me a lot of Romulus, if you could turn the Romulans into a peaceful, insular people”.
Captain Picard: “Their overseer was recently murdered.”
Regimol: “See, reminds me of Romulus”.
The Egyptian: The palace has a higher child mortality rate than the poor quarter of the capital city.
Maledicte by Lane Robins stars a god-touched murderer dropped into a shark tank of limp-wristed sociopaths. In other words, a Deadly Decadent Court.
The emperor's court in The Chronicles of Magravandias is famous for its rare imported pleasures and exotic slaves. And the death and disappearance of inconvenient people.
The French court in La Reine Margot certainly falls into this as you're almost guaranteed to die the second you're not useful to the Valois, or specifically to Catherine.
In Jack Vance's Planet Of Adventure: the Yao people of the Kingdom of Cath. Adam Reith rescues Ylin Ylan, the Flower of Cath, from barbarians, which ends up complicating his life more than it should.
Anything and everything by the Marquis de Sade basically involves this trope turned Up to Eleven. This is maybe not totally without any base in reality, as Sade himself was certainly part of this court, although large numbers of readers have missed the fact that Sade was also a moralist who was condemning society in his writings.
Most of the action of The Curse of Chalion happens in one of these, with the main character as tutor to the inexperienced but quickly-learning royesse. As her eyes begin to open to the court's true nature, she says to him "We're under siege here, aren't we?"
British statesman Lord Chesterfield mentioned this trope in his Letters To His Son. (letter 78/79)
"In my next I will send you a general map of courts; a region yet unexplored by you, but which you are one day to inhabit. The ways are generally crooked and full of turnings, sometimes strewed with flowers, sometimes choked up with briars; rotten ground and deep pits frequently lie concealed under a smooth and pleasing surface; all the paths are slippery, and every slip is dangerous."
"Those who now smile upon and embrace, would affront and stab each other, if manners did not interpose; but ambition and avarice, the two prevailing passions at courts, found dissimulation more effectual than violence; and dissimulation introduced that habit of politeness, which distinguishes the courtier from the country gentleman."
In It Cant Happen Here, Buzz Windrip's fascist administration is characterized by ruthless internal politics and jostling for power. Doubly so near the end of the book, when Saranson forced Windrip into exile in France, and Haik later assassinates Saranson.
When they're not jostling for power, Windrip's advisors engage in depraved parties where alcohol and sex are plentiful. Macgoblin once hosted talks with business leaders during a lavish party in a Roman-era boat, served by naken hostesses. After exiling Windrip and assuming power, Saranson has debauched parties with plenty of handsome young men.
The Psi Lords of Takis in the Wild Cards series. One character from Earth observes that skullduggery is "like a fifth classical element" on Takis.
Live Action TV
The court in The Tudors might be even more corrupt than its real-life counterpart, and that's not easy to do...
Queen Elizabeth's court in Black Adder II tends towards this trope. She beheads someone if she's bored. Or if they don't tell her that her nose looks pretty.
The Centaurum (the Imperial Court Senate of the Centauri Empire Republic) on Babylon 5 are a textbook example of this trope. See the quotes page.
The court of Gilboa is a polished, modern-day bureaucracy where the king wears suits and rules from a conference table. That doesn't make any difference to the murderous, treacherous and utterly corrupt proceedings that go on behind closed doors, though...
Mark Antony's and Cleopatra's Court in Rome is so decadent it turns former Magnificent Bastard Mark Antony into a fat whiny crybaby.
Expanded Universe tells us just how much the Doctor's lying-even before the Time War there was a specialized branch of Time Lord bureaucracy specifically to act as a Deadly Decadent Court, the Celestial Intervention Agency. At first, they were nothing more than a darkly intrusive Internal Affairs sort of organization. When the Time War came, they started taking measures to enforce Time Lord dominance across the timelines. Theysucceeded.
I Claudius, starring Derek Jacobi and numerous other high-profile British actors. This series, based on a series of novels, recounts the life of Claudius, the awkward fool who would be emperor... and the drama, treachery, and intrigue that happened in the royal household. It's even more intense when you consider that it is based on historical events. But then, truth is stranger than fiction. (Historians, however, reject the idea of Livia as poisoner.)
Another BBC Production, The Cleopatras, takes place in a court where, if you weren't marrying your sibling (or your parent, or uncle, or niece), you were having them killed to keep them from becoming a threat to you. (Sometimes you married them, and THEN killed them when you fell in love with someone else.)
King's Landing in Game of Thrones. Don't trust anyone, and watch what they're putting in your wine...
Though not monarchial, Washington DC resembles this in NCIS.
In King Crimson's debut album, In the Court of the Crimson King, most of the lyrics (for songs like "21st century Schizoid Man", "Epitaph", and the title track) described a corrupt, falling-apart world of medieval/futuristic kingdoms. The lyrics were written by Peter Sinfield.
Great princes' favourites their fair leaves spread But as the marigold at the sun's eye, And in themselves their pride lies buried, For at a frown they in their glory die.
Pick an Elysium (or court) with Fae or Vampires in any The World Of Darkness game, and this is what they're like. Granted, you'll have biker lords and harlot duchesses along with your typical "proper" lords though, oddly on an equal footing.
Mage caucuses and consilii can veer into this as well.
The article picture from Weregeek features a perfectly typical Elysium. Medieval decor, biker vampires, Victorian vampires, and Bela Lugosi ripoffs.
The Seelie and Unseelie Courts of Dungeons & Dragons are the epitome of what happens when the Deadly Decadent Court is run by The Fair Folk. The Unseelie Court is noted as downright lethal runless you are very, very carefully prepared.
Invoked by Azalin, ruler of Darkon, in the Ravenloft setting. Although personally above such self-indulgence, he actively encourages Darkonian nobles to debase themselves at wild court parties, the better to expose their vices and collect dirt his secret police can use to control them.
The Various Courts of Raksha in Exalted are like the above, and everyone's a Reality Warper to boot. The Realm's various social organizations come close to this as The Empress valued competition among her underlings and descendants. Heaven is a cross of this and the Corrupt Corporate Executive as its a deadly decadent bureaucracy.
Pretty much all Exalted types have charms that can encourage or discourage this type of behavior. Abyssals take the cake, however, as they possess a Socialize charm that causes any social group they use it on to devolve into infighting and backstabbing. In other words, they can ''create' a Deadly Decadent Court at will.
Ars Magica covenants are prone to becoming like this when they fall into their Winter phase, with larger, more powerful covenants and Domus Magni being major antagonists because of it. Coeris, the House Tremere home covenant (yes, ''that'' Tremere) is especially ripe for it because of their extremely competitive and cutthroat political policies and general impenetrability by anyone who can't beat them at Certamen.
The Dark Eldar in in Warhammer 40000 fit this trope to a t. The Dark City basically started out as a composition of trade hubs and private realms of noble houses that were outside the jurisdiction of the rulers of the old Eldar empire. It was there the spread of decadence that would eventually lead to the Fall of Eldar started, and many of those same noble houses continue to exist 10 000 years later (although many have reinvented themselves as Kabals), still continuing the behavious that lead to the Fall.
The courts of Warhammer Fantasy's Dark Elves are essentially based on control, cruelty and the dominion of the powerful to exercise utter obedience in those underneath them. The Hanil Khar is an annual pledge of allegiance to the ruler of a city that regularly features the cold-blooded torture of any who dare to bring insufficient tribute, with outright execution common to those who really fail to produce. Keep in mind, this is their awards ceremony here. Another indicator of the murderous nature of Druchii court life is the rigid etiquette of social space that evolved because the Dark Elves are so damn paranoid about being straight-up assassinated. Very tellingly, it is measured in sword-lengths. Lowborn Dark Elves may not approach a lord closer than three sword-lengths without being summoned, retainers may remain within two lengths, and lieutenants, trusted retainers and lower-ranking highborn may approach to a single sword-length. Within a sword-length is the most intimate space, and is reserved for lovers, playthings and, very characteristic of the Druchii, mortal enemies. You have to really think about the parties that these guys attended that forced this sort of system to be adopted.
Pretty much ALL of Shakespeare's histories, with Richard III being the most extreme example. Even in Henry V, Act II opens with three nobles being exposed as plotting the King's assassination; he tricks them into arguing against mercy for a minor offender, reveals that he knows what they've been up to, and has them all executed without trial, then carries on with his war plans as if nothing's happened.
The court of Orlais in Dragon Age is, according to Leliana's stories, totally this trope. The Orlesian aristocracy is perpetually involved in "The Game", constantly vying for increased influence in the court through pretty much any means possible.
Don't forget that if you play a noble dwarf PC, five minutes into the game you can order someone assassinated. And Gorim, your second, treats it as an everyday occurence. And if you do choose to have him killed, the assassination happens within the hour. Apparently, the noble dwarves of Orzammar have an express assassination service.
Gorim: That fool doesn't know how weak his house is, or how low he sits in it. Shall I have him killed?
This is so common in Zevran's home country, Antiva, that assassin's guild the Crows of Antiva practically run the place from behind the scenes. Nobles can hire Crows for assassination without anyone batting an eye.
This is the rule rather than the exception in Dragon Age. According to Sebastian (whose family was murdered by people they considered allies), Starkhaven aristocracy is as cutthroat as the dwarf merchant's guild.
The Interactive Fiction game Varicella plops you in the middle of such a court; the first time you play through you'll spend a while exploring then run out of time and get killed. The next time you'll solve a few more puzzles, until in the end you know exactly how to make every move count.
The Aristocrat Club in Rule of Rose consists of a bunch of orphaned children playing rich and powerful nobility, complete with constant intrigue and rivalries, accompanied by complex rituals which often involve torture and/or hazing of one another, as well as cruelty against animals.
In Crusader Kings 2, your court is filled with people conspiring against you, and vice versa. Evil Plots are a core game mechanic.
In the Dawnguard DLC for The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim, joining the Volkihar Vampire Clan makes you the target of two different backstabbing plots during your very first quest with them. According to Garan Marethi afterwards, this is considered standard Volkihar politics.
In all five galaxies of Imperium Nova the roleplaying forum features at least one. Though the mechanical side of the game only covers the more overt actions of the players (wars, duels, dynastic marriages, etc, the worst they can do is assassination).
The City of Theatrica and its citizens. The society considers itself classless and entirely noble, relegating peasant status to all non-Theatricans (thereby keeping the elite/pleb contrast intact).
A bit of a Truth in Television trope, since nations with absolute rulers and a wealthy aristocracy have tended to breed Deadly Decadent Courts like flies. Imperial Rome, Imperial China, the Byzantine Empire, and pre-Revolutionary France are the archetypal examples that most writers seem to crib from.
Non-royal "courts" often work too, such as the Soviet Union.
In Stalinist Soviet Union, the somewhat "puritanical" version of this trope was in effect. There was officially not supposed to be any decadence, luxuries or other stuff of the sort, but there were plenty of luxuries for Stalin and his close comrades, though how much they enjoyed them is a different matter. Stalin gave his mother a palace, for example, but she refused to make a use of it, sleeping in the servants' quarters and cooking her own meals. In post-Stalinist times, the decadence finally came to the town, though it was still discreet and subtle, never fully shown to outsiders. Though one of the causes of the fall of the USSR was exposure of this corruption and decadence, it survived the fall unscathed and continued in The New Russia, now stripped clean of any and all Communist puritanism and reveling in their new status as the officially unequal upper class.
Hell, Simon Sebag Montefiore called his excellent book on Stalin The Court of the Red Czar.
The Byzantine Empire was so infamous for this that another term for this trope is "Byzantine politics." Case in point, Byzantine Empress Irene and her gender swaped version of King Henry the eighth's spouse killing spree. cutting out the eyes of former Emperors and current Emperors. Plus the court was subject to other influences. The Church, the Vikings hired for the Varangian Guard, (famously resulting in Harald Hadrada, Viking, Varangian Guardsman, soon to be King of Norway, and would be conquerer of England, castrating and ripping out the eyes of Byzantine emperor Michael V Kalaphates in 1042.)
Irene specifically had her own son and successor blinded, in a way calculated to cause his death, in the chamber where she had given birth to him.
Even if it sounds strange, The Hittites. The royal court of Hattusa was truly a deadly place- full of relatives ready to betray the king at the first opportunity.
The court of Saudi Arabia approaches this, although exile, shaming, and reassignment to Antarctica are preferred to outright killing; after all, almost all members of the court are (half)-brothers or cousins (being descendants of King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud), and the public image of family unity must be maintained. However, by all accounts, the internal politics of the Al Saud are quite dangerous—particularly now that there's a Succession Crisis due in a decade or so that everyone can see coming from a mile away—and the decadence of the Saudi court is so legendary, it has a trope.
Probably apocryphal, but worth repeating. The astrologer at Louis XI's of France's court had (quite by accident) accurately foretold the death of someone close to the king. Louis decided to have the unfortunate astrologer executed, but had a last question: "When do you foresee your own death?" The astrologer replied: "That I cannot divine, but it will be three days before Your Majesty's death." After that, the (in real life) superstitious Louis gave the astrologer all possible protection.
Machiavelli himself strongly recommended that rulers avoid these, as aside from the obvious risks there's the fact that the high taxes required to support it tend to encourage rebellions.
Adolf Hitler's inner circle was full of people vying to outdo the other - they called it the Obersalzburg Kamarilla.
Depending on who you ask, the US President's staff, Joint Chiefs, and various executive underlings qualify. Although YMMV as the person you ask may say it was worse under one president and not so bad under another.