"Rulers make bad lovers
You better put your kingdom up for sale"
A monarch's romantic choices are directly linked to everything going to hell thereafter. Usually, this is for one of three reasons:
- They're having so much fun with their paramour, they forget about the actual ruling part.
- It's an extramarital affair or some other sort of slap in the face, and it makes them a lot of enemies. (Common case: it interferes with an Arranged Marriage and disrupts everyone's plans for inheritances, alliances and succession.)
- Their significant other starts to exert an influence on government policy, and causes problems either deliberately or through simple selfishness.
are completely immune to love-related repercussions. Compare Fisher King
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- In Sailor Moon, particularly in the manga, Serenity and Endymion's love affair resulted in the fall of the Moon Kingdom via Green-Eyed Monster - when Queen Metaria showed up offering power, Beryl jumped at the chance, rallying the people of Earth to follow her in revolt by claiming Endymion's relationship with Serenity meant he was betraying Earth in favor of the Moon Kingdom. When Endymion rejected her, she killed them both.
- Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon takes it to the extreme, revealing that Endymion's death caused Serenity to use her powers to destroy the world. This "curse" was carried over to their new incarnations, but they decided to Screw Destiny anyway.
- Magic Knight Rayearth: Any details are a giant spoiler. When the Pillar falls in love, the world of Cephiro is literally ruined, as in, overcome by monsters and natural disasters because she is not putting absolutely 100% of her concentration on it. She summons the Magic Knights to kill her so it doesn't get worse.
- Twelve Kingdoms: the empress Jokaku went insane with love for her advisor, Keiki, and slaughtered or exiled all other women from the kingdom. Being that the state of the kingdom is directly dependant on the competency of the ruler in this series, things went downhill very quickly.
- In Gundam SEED Destiny Yuna Roma Seiran tries to use this trope to convince Cagalli to break off her engagement to Athrun and marry him instead. It nearly works until her brother disagrees
- One of the Sandman books recounts the story of Dream's love affair with queen Nada. Unfortunately, the heavens didn't approve of a human having an affair with one of the Endless, and started destroying her kingdom's cities left and right until she broke up with him. At which point he sent her to hell, forever.
- In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (IDW), Princess Celestia discovered a portal to the Mirror Universe and fell in love with its version of King Sombra (here a heroic king instead of a tyrant). Their affair had repercussions because keeping the portal open destabilized the two worlds and Celestia was too distracted to rule, to the point where Princess Luna had to disguise herself as her to prevent the citizens from thinking Celestia had abandoned them. For the good of both worlds, the portal was closed, separating the two.
- The above Sailor Moon example is noted in White Devil of the Moon. Nanoha, who in this fic is the reincarnation of Princess Serenity, calls out Queen Serenity for allowing her daughter to do everything that she did, noting that in addition to the above consequences, the princess was placing herself in danger of coming to harm and sparking an international incident, and potentially allowing Endymion to seize control of the Moon Kingdom through marriage.
- In Of White Trees And Blue Roses, Rhaegar Targaryen was very aware of how badly things could turn out after his abduction of Lyanna Stark, particularly after hearing of his father's execution of the Northern lords. Other characters had also thought to themselves (or voiced their opinions on) just how bad the idea really was.
- This is brought up in The Familiar of Zero fan fiction Jus Primae Noctis, but ultimately averted. It is not love that nearly dooms the realm, but ambitious traitors.
- Dido and Aeneas in The Aeneid. According to Virgil, their short fling caused, much later, the Punic Wars. Let this be a lesson to all Good Romans to never put love before duty.
- Guinevere and Lancelot of the Arthur mythos are a classic example.
- Though it wasn't exactly love per se - Arthur and his Half-Sister Morguese counts since it produced Mordred.
- Antony and Cleopatra from the Shakespearean play, which is based on historical records of just how bad this relationship was. Caesar—Cleo's previous paramour was accused of letting his love for the Egyptian Queen cloud his judgement.
- Older Than Dirt—bad policy (and subsequent Divine Wrath) in the Old Testament is often blamed on the influence of foreign wives.
- King David's adultery with Bathsheba nearly ruined the rest of his life with his kingdom racked with intrigue and civil war, although this is attributed in The Bible to God's punishment rather than a natural consequence.
- It's made explicit with David's son, Solomon. All his famous wisdom didn't do him much good when he started thinking with his other head and taking wives from other kingdoms who swayed his heart away from God, thus setting his kingdom up to fall.
- From the Deryni novels by Katherine Kurtz: Imre, the last Festillic king, indulges in an incestuous affair with his sister Ariella, which (aside from being incestuous) distracts him from marrying and producing a legitimate heir. On top of that, Ariella is no force for moderation or mercy, and Imre is a weak man who allows himself to be swayed by her.
- A Song of Ice and Fire:
- Cersei and Jaime.
- The third book sees Robb Stark and Jeyne Westerling; of course, the realm has already gone to hell by that point, but when the whole fiasco has played out, it's worth a couple of circles.
- Fifteen years before the events of the first book Robert Baratheon led a rebellion that ended the Targaryen dynasty after the already married Prince Rhaegar disappeared with Robert's fiancee Lyanna Stark.
- Ultimately revealed that Littlefinger engineered the War of Five Kings with one of the goals being the exile/death of Ned Stark so that he could make a play for Catelyn Stark, who he'd loved as a young man. Boy, did that go wrong.
- Ser Barristan finds himself pondering all the various kings and princes who acted on their own feelings and unwittingly brought misery on the realm. He also reveals The Mad King would have rather wed Joanna Lannister than his sister Rhaella. The implication being Aery's subsequent madness served to fuel his envy of his childhood friend Tywin Lannister to the point of hatred.
- Historically, the case of the oft-rumored relationship between Queen Naerys and Aemon the Dragonknight is complicated. It didn't seem to cause too many issues while they were alive (presumably because Aemon the Dragonknight is an actual heroic figure for a change). However, after they were dead, the rumor that Aemon was actually the father of Naerys's son Daeron was the reason Daeron's half-brother Daemon Blackfyre gave for rebelling against Daeron's rule and trying to claim the throne. This led to more than a century of war.
- The nobles (and, perhaps more importantly, his wife) in Christopher Marlowe's play Edward II claim this as their reason for having the king offed: he was spending too much time with his... um... friend Piers Gaveston, a mere commoner.
- Similarly, there's undertones of this in Shakespeare's Richard II; Richard neglects his duties, his wife and more importantly the nobles in favor of a lavish good time with his favorites. Prior to the time in which Shakespeare's play is set, similar accusations had been leveled at Richard's close friend and maybe-lover Robert de Vere, in particular because this undercut the authority of his uncles.
- Subverted in Kushiels Legacy. Moirin's relationship with Jehanne was said to make her a better ruler. Amusingly enough, it was the King (Jehanne's husband) who said this.
- King Edward IV's romantic follies contribute to the fall of the House of York in The Sunne in Splendour. He marries the beautiful Ice Queen Elizabeth Woodville, whose greedy, corrupt brothers are allowed to bleed the realm dry, but years later it's revealed that years before his marriage to Elizabeth, he had secretly agreed to marry an earl's daughter and then bedded her, which turned the agreement into a legal marriage. The testimony of the bishop who negotiated the agreement between Edward and the earl's daughter results in the marriage deemed null ab initio, Edward's children with Elizabeth judged illegitimate and their uncle Richard offered the crown.
- Phaedra's love for Ulfin in The Cup of the World. Made even worse when it's revealed that her love is the product of a faustian bargain.
- The Stone Prince is pretty much all about this trope; Prince Demnor starts a civil war in the backstory over his gay lover and is heading toward another one until said lover talks him into accepting an Arranged Marriage.
- Inverted in Legacy of the Dragokin. Daniar so focused on running her kingdom she neglected her husband. The former is doing great but the latter is lonely.
- Very narrowly averted in A.L. Phillips's The Quest of the Unaligned. Alaric, the newly discovered Crown Prince of Caederan, is deeply in love with the aesh (fire-mage) Laeshana. Unfortunately, the law requires that the Crown Prince must marry an unaligned mage, in order to preserve the balance between the four elements. It briefly seems that Alaric will have to choose between giving up Laeshana and marrying someone he does not not love, or breaking his nation's laws and starting a civil war. Fortunately, he is able to Take a Third Option, using the Prince's Crown to actually change Laeshana's magical nature, transforming her into an orah, which are elementally unaligned
- Titus Caesar's affair with Queen Berenice is mentioned in several of the Marcus Didius Falco novels. The lovers get compared to Antony and Cleopatra, and Falco notes dryly that because of historical precedent, Romans get nervous when their leaders fall for exotic beauties.
- Shown to be part of the reason everything goes down the drain in the realm of the Tiste in Forge Of Darkness, the prequel to the Malazan Book of the Fallen series. Various factions in the realm want Mother Dark, their queen turned goddess, to find herself a husband for the sake of propriety, and to set aside her Consort, Lord Draconus. In this case, though, it is not Mother Dark's love for her Consort that ruins things, but Lord Draconus's love for her, as it's implied that he is actually the creator of the Tiste as a race and thus fell in love with his own creation. So neither does Mother Dark bother to do something about the situation, nor will Lord Draconus step down from his position; no, instead, to prove his devotion, he commissions a gift for Mother Dark that ends up causing civil war, the sundering of their whole realm and a war on the concept of Death itself. Nice Job Breaking It, Hero.
Live Action TV
- Also shows up in Rome, where Anthony and Cleopatra are having so much fun drinking, screwing, getting high, cross-dressing, etc (yeah, it's that kind of show) that they don't notice till the last minute that Octavian's coming to pwn their asses.
- Since The Tudors is about Henry VIII, this shows up here when he throws England into political and religious turmoil in order to be with Anne Boleyn.
- Kaamelott: Boy does Arthur run into this one. By falling for the Manipulative Bitch wife of one of his knights, he ensures that the gods abandon him, that each of the knights of the Round Table thinks he can run the country better, and generally gives up on the idea of a unified kingdom.
- Notably averted in Merlin with Gwen. While Uther and Agravaine argue that marrying a commoner would weaken Camelot (as opposed to marrying for political ties which would strengthen its position) Gwen turns out to be the most competent Camelot monarch in the show, successfully rooting out a traitor in her first episode as Queen. She eventually becomes Arthur's heir and Queen Regnant of Camelot.
- And then Word of God has it that after Arthur's death she reigns over the Golden Age of Camelot and lifts the ban on magic (heavily implied when she figures out that Merlin has magic and reacts with joy at the revelation).
- This is the reason of why Liu Kang refuses to become Edenia's king, alongside Kitana, in his ending in Mortal Kombat 4.
- In the EVE Online metagame, the Tribute War was partly started by one of the CEOs of NCDot starting a liaison with the head of a more aggressive alliance, and the latter force started a war with the CFC (an alliance bloc that included Goonswarm). Furthermore, NCDot collapsed in part because the other CEO of NCDot hadn't really been interested in joining in this mess in the first place, and when the war turned against NCDot, the alliance's internal politics grew more and more toxic until finally the two sides split apart completely.
- This has happened in some of the Fire Emblem games, particularly in the Jugdral, Elibe, and Tellius sagas.
- In The Gamers Alliance, Sultana Razia al-Saif ends up having an affair with Count Belial de Ardyn, and they genuinely fall in love but have to keep their affair a secret because the Sarquil tribes and the court, who follow the rigid religious teachings of the Old Ways, would never accept their Sultana marrying a foreigner. However, the affair doesn't escape the eyes of the Sultana's twin sister, Emira Adela, who has also set her eyes on Belial, but Belial rejects her in favour of Razia. Adela doesn't take rejection well and, coupled with other things related to her sister's political moves, eventually challenges Razia to a duel which ends in Razia's death and Adela ascending the throne. This begins a chain of events which leads to the exile of Razia's son Khalid and his supporters, the Clergy of Artemicia rising to power thanks to Adela backing them up and forcing the Sarquil to convert to the new faith, and Adela's sorcerous accomplice Iblis al-Djinn becomes Grand Vizier. It leads to both the rise of the Sultanate of Karaganda but turns the Sarquil nation corrupt and decadent until Khalid returns with the Grand Alliance to dethrone Adela in a daring coup. The resulting battle weakens the sultanate enough so that the demons invade the divided land by surprise and eventually take over the sultanate, forcing the Sarquil into exile. All of this took place because both Razia and Adela simply fell in love with the same man.
- One episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic had the Cutie Mark Crusaders discover their concocted love potion was a poisonous variant, which caused the collapse of a kingdom at some point in the past because of "too enamored to do crap" version of this trope.
Truth In Television
- Louis XV and Madame de Pompadour were falsely accused of this, for political reasons, to make him look like under the cat's paw. In fact her influence was very limited in foreign politics, she mainly focused on getting various relations cushy jobs. She did strongly influence the kings' patronage of various artists, and the Academie Française to a lesser degree.
- Lola Montez, the mistress of Ludwig I of Bavaria, has been credited with destroying his popularity and pretty much single-handedly causing a revolution.
- Ancient Chinese attitudes towards women being what it was, historians very rarely had anything nice to say about wives and concubines of emperors:
- The last king of the Shang dynasty had a cruel concubine named Daji, who dragged the entire kingdom into senseless debauchery, cruelty and bloodshed.
- The next dynasty didn't learn the lesson: one late Zhou emperor got his fool ass invaded because he'd keep Crying Wolf to entertain his concubine, so his disgruntled troops refused to mobilize when a real emergency hit.
- For varying values of "ruin" (there's still no consensus among historians), Empress Wu Ze Tian started out as a concubine, (supposedly) murdered her way up the ladder until she was made head wife, and then forced her own husband and son into early retirement to sit on the throne herself. While this did briefly interrupt the Tang dynasty and result in a Reign of Terror, she also made a lot of significant positive reform.
- Emperor Xuanzong (reigned 712-756) spent a whole lot of his later reign with his beautiful consort Yang Guifei and passing out all sorts of high offices to her friends and family. Little details like national defense were neglected right up until the inevitable rebellion by a cocky general. The poor consort didn't survive the evacuation, as what troops Xuanzong had left demanded her scapegoat's head.
- The Dowager Empress Ci Xi of the Qing dynasty was accused of wanting to be the next Wu Ze Tian and at the very least indirectly putting the final nails in the coffin of the Qing dynasty. (She did try to reform, but by then it was too late.)
- The relationship between Emporer Ai of the Han dynasty and Dong Xian is a gay male example. Ai's extreme favoritism of Dong Xian angered many of his officials, some of whom he had executed for complaining about Dong's power.
- Henrietta Maria the wife of Charles I of England,Scotland and Ireland. Besides being a French Catholic in a Protestant Kingdom, she continually advised him to take actions that, when discovered, led his opponents to regard Charles as untrustworthy and treasonous, such as repeatedly trying to get foreign (and also Catholic) nations to invade in support of Charles in the Civil Wars. She wasn't the only one, but Charles was so devoted to his wife he also made catastrophically bad political decisions when he heard rumblings she was threatened, including marching at the head of a troop of soldiers into the English Parliament to arrest his opponents, the event that made War all but inevitable.
- Henry VIII's attempts to divorce Katherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn led to centuries of religious warfare in England.
- Ironically, Henry's actions in that case were an attempt to avoid this trope. Apparently, he did love Katherine but didn't think she could give him a son. He believed that his duty to England to provide an heir was more important than his duty to Katherine.
- And for all that, poor Anne got her head cut off anyway.
- Because by that point, Henry realized she couldn't give him a son, either, and had already begun courting Jane Seymour—who, as the saying goes, 'had the good fortune to bear a son and the good sense to die immediately afterward.'
- Procopius (perhaps an Unreliable Narrator) claims that Justinian's marriage to the notorious actress/prostitute Theodora brought about the ruination of the Roman/Byzantine empire.
- Others opine that Theodora and Justinian were a competent power couple.
- Judging from her famous quote during a particularly nasty chariot race riot about staying and possibly dying as queen rather then running as beggars, she encouraged her husband to try to quell the riot - one could suggest she was the more competent (or at least the bolder) of the two.
- Procopius' writings are often well known as they were some of the most complete extant writings of his time for centuries. Later research and discoveries showed how unreliable a narrarator he was, as he was a notorious sensationalist and collector of gossip in his time. While he is considered a highly Unreliable Narrator by modern standards, such was not only par for the course in his time, but such accounts were often the norm, as personal accounts were often more likely to survive than actual records. It also did not help that Theodora and Justinian were not popular rulers amongst the Greek dominated aristocracy of his time, so his writings often pandered to their prejudices while also putting in writing a lot of highly accurate facts on Justinian's reign. His works are still the most complete (if at times inaccurate in some of the details) extant account of Justinian's reign from that time period.
- One source of Mary, Queen of Scots' unpopularity as a ruler was her alleged tendency to get involved in numerous affairs (granted, her husband was known for being an abusive brute) that undermined her reputation, to the point where she was commonly referred to as a whore (via images of the Mermaid).
- Antony and Cleopatra VII, who probably deserve Trope Codifier status even though this is a very Truth-based trope. Interestingly, Antony didn't get in trouble for screwing Cleopatra — such things were rather expected of Roman leaders — but rather for letting her co-rule. Octavian pounced on the opportunity to slander Antony with some nasty PR (he was letting a woman rule!), got the Roman people to back a civil war against an otherwise wildly popular general and the rest is history. Ironically, Cleopatra's actions made political sense; sleeping with Caesar/Anthony kept Egypt independent for several decades after the Romans decided they wanted it.
- Marie Antoinette, the poor girl, was and still is often accused of influencing her husband inappropriately and substantially.
- Eric XIV of Sweden (reigned 1560-1568) managed to upset large parts of the Swedish nobility, including his own brothers, during his reign because of his sometimes violent insanity and paranoia. His decision to marry his mistress Karin Mċnsdotter, the daughter of a common jailkeeper, became the final straw that made it possible for his brothers and other political opponents to dethrone him.
- For a while, it looked like this was going to happen with Queen Elizabeth I of England (1533-1603) and Robert Dudley. He was universally hated and was generally supposed to have murdered his wife; the Queen's intimate relationship with him scandalized Europe and damaged her reputation. If she had married him, Elizabeth might have had a hard time holding on to her crown. Eventually, she decided to become the "Virgin Queen" and renounce marriage, but she kept her "sweet Robin" close by until he died in 1588.
- Edward VIII of England was on the verge of causing this. Subverted in that his abdication got rid of a King with fascist sympathies, and put on the throne King George VI, who - with the help of his wife, Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon - listened to Winston Churchill and guided England through World War II. Love Saves The Realm?
- Although ironically - despite what The King's Speech tells us - Churchill didn't actually want the succession to be diverted. (Just Because, as far as is possible to see - he thought at the time it made a nonsense of the idea of monarchy. And George was also extremely - some might say, as he announced it as king before parliament had agreed on it - inappropriately eager to celebrate the achievements of Neville Chamberlain's peace treaty...)
- Edward IV married Elizabeth Woodville because of love instead of political reasons. This got him a lot of enemies within his own court, as she was not only completely inappropriate (was the widow of a Lancastrian soldier with two children), but she also did things like securing all the best jobs and marriages for her relatives. This helped cause the Earl of Warwick to fall out with Edward and try to overthrow him, as he felt that Edward wasn't following his advice.
- This actually counts as a subversion. Edward IV was out of power for barely a year before he got his shit together, gathered an army of Burgundians, sailed back to England, and killed virtually all of his enemies at Barnet and Tewkesbury, including Warwick, destroying the House of Lancaster as a political force in England for the next fifteen years.
- After Edward's death, it was alleged that his marriage to his queen was illegitimate due to a prior secret marriage to another woman (see The Sonne In Splendour above). The accusation was highly political and there is no surviving evidence of this marriage, but his many known mistresses may have helped sell the story. This resulted in his children being removed from the line of succession (with some of them being killed outright) and yet another war for control of England.
- Certainly the view of some people with regard to the growing (but usually very unofficial) influence of the Royal Harem in the late Ottoman Empire. Of course, the late Ottoman Empire had a great deal more problems than that. It wasn't called the Sick Man of Europe for nothing.