The phenomenon in fiction (primarily in high fantasy) of commoners being allowed improbably free access to the royal family.
In Real Life, access to royal families is usually tightly controlled, and in most cases commoners, unless they are friends with royal family members, are not allowed to have extended interaction with royals outside of formal events. Not in fantasy, though. In fantasy, Farmer Joe can go into the royal palace and give King Richard their secret handshake and a slap on the ass and say "What's up, King Dude?" Royals Who Actually Do Something tend to do this more than others, since they're already active anyway and "actually doing something" more often than not entails working with common folk.
The reason for this trope is likely the fact that, in ancient times, rulers of small clans and chiefdoms were often referred to as "kings." Later on, such as in the Renaissance, these stories were modified to better fit then-modern times (i.e. with bigger kingdoms and more powerful kings)... but they forgot to edit the part about the farmer visiting his "king."
Royal security did, however, remain rather porous; common peasants were certainly not allowed in the palace, but just about anyone who could afford a nice set of clothes and some bribes could enter freely, especially during the eras of feudalism where local lords held more practical power than the king did. It was in early days of colonialism that royals grew tremendously in power and thus allowed few of common blood into their courts. (The fact that easy access to concealed firearms suddenly made political assassinations depressinglyeasier certainly didn't help things.)
In fiction, however, it's rather common for anyone — nobles, farmers, merchants, bribers, and military chaps alike — to be able to waltz into the palace with few or no repercussions.
Compare Swiss Cheese Security, where supervillains do a rather poor job of securing their lairs; they often overlap in the case of Evil Overlords.
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
Spider Riders: The citizens of Arachna do this all the time with Prince Lumen.
Sort of inverted with the Princess (and later, Queen) Henrietta de Tristain in Zero no Tsukaima, who despite being depicted as alternatively pressured, sheltered and/or cloistered by the royal court seems to be able to slip out of the palace incognito for a brief chat with her lower class friends with remarkable ease.
In One Piece Princess Vivi was shown in a flashback to be a Tomboy, who played with other kids all the time. It is noted how unusual it is for commoners and royalty to be able to freely associate in that manner.
To a lesser extent is Queen Otohime of Fishman Island's Ryugu Kingdom, who would daily make public addresses in the middle of town when she could just as easily do so from the palace. It's noted as a part of both her own nature and those of her abilities (a form of clairvoyance called Haki) that she prefers to be among her people.
Hotohori in Fushigi Yuugi and later his son Boushin, actually relishes this due to loneliness although his advisors discourage it.
In Magi - Labyrinth of Magic we have Sinbad. He regularly spends time with his citizens and pretty much anyone in his country could have audience with him. This situation contrasts with every other kingdom or empire in the Magi-verse, though, admittedly, Sindria is just an island with a relatively small population and Sinbad would have no worries about his own safety.
Zero no Tsukaima: The main character is invited to the palace for stopping a thief. The princess gestures with her hand, Louise tells him to take her hand in lips. Saito kisses her instead because that's what Japanese manga said to do. Hilarity Ensues (said princess is too sheltered to take offense).
As seen in the trope picture, Astérix and Obelix have a habit of doing this (though in that instance there was security, it just didn't last long). They also have a habit of calling Caesar by his first name whenever he shows up.
In Asterix the Legionary, Asterix's Ragtag Bunch of Misfits unit wanders one by one right into Caesar's tent during a strategic meeting, identifying their unit when an exasperated Caesar demands to know who these people are. When their CO starts berating them for this, Caesar has him arrested for not keeping discipline.
This is the case to the U.S. president on Gabriel Over the White House, leading to a Narmtastic scene where the Mafia does a drive-by shooting at the White House footsteps.
In Frozen, the kingdom of Arendelle normally had an open-door policy with its citizens, but its doors ended up being closed for several years to try to hide Princess Elsa's ice powers. The plot is kick-started when the doors are opened again for Elsa's coronation ceremony.
Discworld usually doesn't play this straight, but Lord Vetinari's guards are under orders to accept any and all bribes, and he generally doesn't object to any commoner with both enough courage and a good enough reason to walk right up to his desk. Given that he cultivates a reputation as a tyrant (a very benevolent and competent one, nonetheless) anyone who gets that far is probably worth listening to for a minute.
It helps immensely that he's known to be an alumnus of the Assassin's Guild, but no one can quite remember exactly what his focus was. And no one wants to be the one to find out by trying anything funny.
The situation in Lancre is ... complex. Basically, royal security consists of Shawn Ogg, who is more likely to obey his mam than his monarch. Verence wants to be a man of the people in any case, but the Lancrastians believe the king should be holed up in the palace eating, quaffing and exercising his droit de seigneur (which is believed to be some kind of big, hairy dog), and are mistrustful of one who wants to listen to them. In fact, when Verence attempts to make a parliament and form a constitutional monarchy the Lancrastians think he's just trying to fool them into doing his job for him.
In Thomas Malory's magnum opus Le Morte Darthur, a poor cowherd seems to just walk up to King Arthur and asks a favor of him. In fact, alot of quests and tales begin with some stranger just waltzing in to say/do something.
Both these incidents - and numerous others - took place at Arthur's Pentecost Court which might be considered a sort of royal open house where all comers were feasted and invited to ask for boons.
Fflewddur Fflam in the Prydain Chronicles was king of a country so small you could walk across the whole thing in a single day. Children would often play games and sports in his throne room because of ease of access, and they knew that he was far more likely to join in their games then shoo them out of the castle.
Deconstructed in Septimus Heap, since the lack of guarding results in Princess Jenna being kidnapped.
Eon in Belisarius Series is first seen arm wrestling with Roman soldiers. He comes from an informal but spartan and militaristic culture where princes are first and foremost expected to prove themselves as soldiers and playing with soldiers is as natural to him as fighting beside them.
Subverted in Vorkosigan Saga. While the main characters refer to the emperor informally they are closely related. Armsmen have close access but not informal access.
Played with in the Dragaera novels. Technically, any citizen of the Empire can seek an audience with the Empress at a certain time each week; in practice, her guards and bureaucrats make the process of requesting such an audience so intimidating and bothersome that most commoners back off and leave long before they get near her. Likewise, while it's possible for any citizen to communicate with the Empress psychically, peasants are never taught how to do so, and other social classes are warned that she might use the Imperial Orb to destroy their minds if they contact her for any reason she doesn't consider worthy of her time.
Mostly averted in A Song of Ice and Fire; however, while hearing petitions on King Robert's behalf, Ned is surprised when many of the peasants do not know what their king looks like, hinting that things may typically be less formal in the North.
Live Action TV
In the Doctor Who episode "Monster of Peladon", it seems anyone, including miners, can walk into the throne room and talk to the queen whenever they want to talk to her about something.
Various people have startling amounts of access to Kai Winn on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, especially considering that she is essentially the Bajoran Pope. Major Kira, who granted is the second-in-command to the Emissary on the most strategic installation in the quadrant, still seems to get away with a lot in terms of informal meetings in which she can get very lippy indeed. Then there's Jake and Nog in "In the Cards," and, more grimly, "Anjohl Tennan" (read 'Gul Dukat') in the closing arc.
In the last case, the Kai's aide was at least duly incredulous (eventually), pointing out that the man simply appeared one day for an audience with the Kai and had, over-night, become her closest advisor to the point of living in her residence and ordering her servants and priests around.
Child Ballad 99, Johnie Scot, and 110, The Knight and the Shepherd's Daughter—with the usual variety of titles and texts—have lines in which, after a character has "dingled at the ring" or "tingled at the pin" or "knock-ed and she's ring", then "none was so ready as the king himself/to let the fair maid in" or "rise and let him in". In 110, despite the maid having swum across a stream without a chance to change into dry clothes, his majesty (e.g., King Edwards [sic]) graciously ignores her dishevelment.
In Pippin, when Pippin becomes king, he graciously invites "high and low alike" to stand in lines and submit their petitions for reform. At first he's inclined to grant them all what they want, but when that turns out to be not such a good idea, he falls back on telling them the same answers his father used to give to nobles' requests: "Denied!" and "Take that man away and hang him!"
World of Warcraft does this with literally every playable race leader. As long as you are of the same faction, you can just barge into the royal throne room and talk to the king/queen/president.
Semi-justified as Asskicking Equals Authority is in full effect here. It literally takes, at the very least, 15 enemy players, all at max level, to fight the faction leaders.
The Lord of the Rings Online lets you stroll up to some fairly important people, like Elrond or Galadriel. In fairness, though, you're not exactly having a casual chat with them... either they've specifically sent for you because they want your help with something, or someone they already know has sent you to talk with them. Depending on your race, you may even know some of them already yourself (for example, the introduction for elves shows that you were on the scene six hundred years ago when Elrond soloed a troll; your contribution to this epic combat was basically to stand there and pee yourself, but he does know you).
Of course this is somewhat justifiable. To meet Elrond for instance, one has to first walk through most of the valley of Rivendell to the Last Homely House, presumably being watched at every turn. To meet Galadriel is even harder as one has to earn the right to enter Lothlórien first, otherwise you risk get peppered by arrows by multiple hidden archers.
Seems to be the case in the Super Mario Bros. series. Okay, Mario and the like might be justified for having saved the kingdom a few hundred times, but apparently anyone even remotely affiliated with them can walk straight through the front door of the castle without opposition. Or how Bowser really, really ends up getting right next to Peach pretty dang often, at least in the RPGs, where he apparently just walks through the front door before Mario and Luigi have to defeat him practically next to the throne.
Averted in Suikoden V: the Queen is living in an insular bubble, and relies on her sister and a few select knights to maintain contact with the common people
Kings and Queens in Dragon Quest games are typically lazy about security. Sure they'll have guards stationed at various points in the castle, but you can pretty much walk up and talk to them without any trouble.
Played with in the Dragon Age games. In the first game you are able to speak to Teyrn Loghain before the Battle of Ostagar, though the easiest way is for you to pick the Human Noble origin and tell the guard that the reason that Loghain should deign to speak to you is because you're the son of the only other Teyrn in Ferelden, Bryce Cousland, who has been killed in a sneak attack on his castle.
Another way is to persuade the guard to allow you to speak with him. This still makes sense however, as the Warden is a member of a well-respected order dedicated to fighting the Darkspawn, the enemy they are soon to be facing in the upcoming battle.
Lampshaded by King Cailan, who mentions driving Loghain insane by constantly disappearing to spend time talking and drinking with the soldiers at Ostagar, with very few guards present to keep an eye on him.
If Alistair becomes King at the Landsmeet, it's mentioned in one of the epilogues that he does the same thing as his half-brother, often sneaking out of the palace to buy everyone a few rounds at the local tavern.
It's actually averted pretty neatly in Dragon Age II. While you can wander into the Viscount's Keep whenever you want, you're only allowed to see the Viscount himself when you're called into his chambers. Unless you personally save his son's life in Act 1, you won't meet him until you've made your fortune.
Similarly, while Hawke can wander into the Gallows' courtyard at any time in the first two acts, they're only granted access to the inner sanctum and Knight-Commander Meredith and First Enchanter Orsino in the third act, after having become Champion and one of the key players in the city.
Depending on the game, Lord British is a very accessible monarch.
In The Sims Medieval, villagers are frequently seen in the Throne Room interacting with the Monarch, Royal Advisor and visiting diplomats.
In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, the Counts and Countesses apparently have an open-door policy, allowing anyone who comes during visiting hours to wander in, armed to the teeth, and have a friendly chat. It makes the one Count in the game who generally refuses audiences with commoners to seem stand-offish by comparison. This is possibly justified later on in the game, when you're a hero renowned throughout Cyrodil, and have done each and every one of the Counts and Countesses at least one personal favor. But at the beginning of the game, when you're a total nobody (and an escaped convict at that), it doesn't make a lot of sense.
In Skyrim, jarls seem to have the same kind of open-door policy. The dragonborn can just walk in and ask if they have a job for him. In fact, it is usually harder to get into a town jarl resides in (1 dialogue with a guard) then to get into the jarl's palace.
It's played with in the beginning of Skyrim, as when you first go into Dragonsreach, Balgruuf's Housecarl stops you and demands to know your business, and you can't get past her until you tell her.
Also the first time you visit the Palace of the Kings, when Ulfric Stormcloak tells you that "only the foolish or the courageous approach a jarl without summons." It's worth noting that the extra caution in Windhelm and Whiterun is justified, since Ulfric is leading a rebellion and Balgruuf is pissing off the Stormcloaks and the Imperials alike by trying to maintain neutrality - both are prime assassination targets.
Faleen (housecarl to Igmund) also confronts you the first time you approach him in Understone Keep.
Not so in Morrowind, however. You can try and waltz into the personal quarters of various Great House nobles if you want to, but they will not talk business with you unless you have a reason for bothering this particular noble (i.e. have a letter for them, belong to their House and want to serve them, are sent with a secret diplomatic mission, are a noble too and want to get a land deed from the duke, are the Messiah and want them to acknowledge that, etc). To have business with them, you should have business with their henchmen, hirelings and recruiters in the House Council Halls first. And the god-kings of the Tribunal avert this absolutely; you will not meet one unless they want to meet you (or you're brazen enough to crack the Difficulty 100 lock, in Vivec's case).
Similarly averted in the Dawnguard expansion for Skyrim, where the only reason Lord Harkon agrees to allow the Dragonborn into the Castle Volkihar for an audience, is because they are escorting his daughter. If you turn down his offer to become a Vampire Lord as reward for your service, he spares your life but immediately banishes you from the premises.
An inversion occurs in Shining Force. In one of the towns about halfway through the game, the item and weapon shops are connected to the castle. When you approach them, the King comes running up to stand behind the counter, and says something like "Just because I'm King, doesn't mean I can't make some money!"
Averted in RuneScape. Players can freely approach the king and queen of Misthalin, yet the king and crown prince of Asgarnia do not even appear as ingame characters. One of the two kings of Kandarin is likewise accessible, yet the throne room guards of Miscellania will only allow a 'hero' in to see the king. These are some examples, but there is a bit more as well.
Kraden having ingratiated himself with world leaders everywhere over the last thirty years, and during the events of The Lost Age (Champa, Yamatai),
The most heavily-lampshaded instance is when, after your awkward arrival into Ayuthay, you are immediately taken to see King Paithos... because he had a standing order that any Adepts who showed up were to be brought to him in case Amiti's father was with them.
This clearly runs in the royal family of Ayuthay. Amiti's reaction to learning a group of Adepts sent by their enemies have infiltrated the sanctuary? Personally greet them and offer Sacred Hospitality. And Amiti's mother was apparently a little more than friendly to an unknown foreign Adept about twenty years prior.
Might and Magic VI appears to have this, though it might just be that the convincing of the guards to let you in takes place off-screen — your commoner main characters do have a perfectly valid reason to see the Regent (proof of a plot against the Kingdom involving the missing King), but it isn't shown that you tell anyone before you see the Regent, and it wouldn't make sense to show the proof of it to the guards.
Averted in Tales of the Abyss, since the party consists of the son of a high ranking noble who's also nephew to the king, and fiance to the princess, who's also part of the party, and his personal servant who is later restored to his former status of noble, as well as the best friend and personal advisor to the emperor of another nation, personal guard to the highest religious authority in the game world (who also travels with the party) and a soldier who works personally for yet another high ranking religious authority and is a descendant of Yulia, giving her status in the Qliphoth. The party more or less has access to everywhere in the world, conveniently enough.
Played to a lesser extent in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time; Link needs to sneak past extensive security just to reach Zelda, and only sees what is presumably the royal audience chamber through a window (which Zelda herself apparently has to spy through). Darunia also bars himself off until a royal messenger arrives, although he apparently has an open door policy at all other times. The Great Deku Tree seems like he's supposed to be like this, but Mido arbitrarily won't let Link through. Played straight with King Zora.
In The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, Link is able to just waltz into the mayor's office during an important town meeting, and his wife's audience room (where she just kind of assumes that he's an investigator that she sent for). There's a receptionist who seems like she's supposed to control visitors, but she seems pretty disinterested.
King's Quest: Graham tends to take this approach to leadership. Justified by the fact he started his career as a low-level knight and hadn't any ambitions higher than serving the country of Daventry. He just happened to be the knight the dying Edward the Benevolent trusted most, which made him heir to the throne. Graham is very much a soldier and adventurer at heart and will ditch royal finery for his favorite red tunic and Nice Hat as soon as he's given opportunity.
Averted in Three The Hard Way. The party is only able to enter the palace because they are travelling with Duchess Fayette, and even the Duchess herself was only allowed to eventually meet the king because there was an ongoing conference between the King and his vassal dukes.
The Darths & Droids webcomic both uses this straight and lampshades it with GM comments and notes after the comics.
Early U.S. presidents were fond of doing this, starting with Andrew Jackson, who often invited working-class folks to his parties, which were informal and wild and featured whiskey and roast beef instead of champagne and caviar. Grover Cleveland made sure the White House's phone number was in the phone book and answered all of the calls himself; interesting to note, he also answered his own doorbell.
"Schott's Miscellany" includes a description of Presidential meet-and-greets: everybody (from foreign aristocrats to poor folks) gathered in a waiting room, lined up. They would then file through the meeting chamber, shake hands with the President and maybe exchange a few words, and file out. To be clear, there was no vetting process, no verification of why one wanted to meet the President, or what one intended to say to him. President William McKinley was assassinated during just such an event at the 1901 Pan-American Exposition, and James Garfield was assassinated while walking unguarded into a crowded train station.
Rather ironically, Abraham Lincoln commissioned the Secret Service on the very day of his assassination. Of course, the original purpose of the Secret Service was to investigate counterfeit currency (A function which they still carry out to this day). The Secret Service was not actually tasked with protecting the President until after the assassination of William McKinley in 1901.
There was a time when anyone could walk up to the front door of the White House and knock. Exactly when this stopped is up to some debate - during the Civil War or During World War II, but the fact is you once could. Probably didn't mean the president would see you, though.
At the closing ceremony of the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Swedish King Gustav V praised American Jim Thorpe as the greatest athlete in the world. Thorpe's response? "Thanks, King!"
Charlemagne to a great extent. As well as dressing very much like a commoner, it is also said of him that he would happily dine with commoners and he held education in such high esteem that he would sometimes sit in a schoolroom along with the children learning there.
During the German occupation of Denmark in World War II, King Christian X took a daily ride through the streets of Copenhagen, unaccompanied. A German soldier is supposed to have asked 'Who guards your King?', to which the response was 'We all do'note The actual wording of the exchange varies between sources.
The original word King comes from the Germanic form meaning "leader of kin" or chieftain in other words. Germanic "Kings" were expected to party with their warriors and share out spoil with them. The poetic name for King is "ring-giver" meaning they gave out rewards to their followers including rings, an item of jewelry which had a mystic significance because of it's unending circularity and which was often attached to swords. The idea expected was a Barbarian Hero leading a Barbarian Tribe, rather then the center of an extravagant display of ceremony.
Vladimir Lenin suffered a lot from his "What's up, Premier Dude" attitude in the middle of a civil war; one time, some gangbangers kicked him out of his car, the other time he was shot, fell ill because of the complications and died soon after. His successor, on the other hand, was very paranoid and anal about security.
Modern Scandinavian monarchies are very austere and down to earth, and the monarchs freely mingle with their people.