The palace parking lot was built as a deep and sinister plot.
Some are jerks, but most aren't.
Plotting and scheming are common. But it takes the form of petty tricks of bureaucratic sabotage rather then poison and daggers. Violence is rare and when it occurs, it is in the form of an honest Duel to the Death.
Most of the aristocrats at court are useless but fairly harmless Upper Class Twits. The worse they do is spend to much on luxury and that probably would have been wasted on useless government projects if they weren't there anyway. Occasionally however one of them will come up with a really evil scheme.
Justified: The House that currently holds court has been in power for centuries and has created an aristocracy and court that are by and large isolated from the lower classes, and have been brought up to hold them in contempt.
The nobles are genuinely noble people who put the good of all first.
Double Subverted: ...At least, that's the facade they put on in public. Behind closed doors, however...
King Goodland seems not to monitor his court; when he hears about extreme incidents of its decadence such as Duke Bloodlust massacring entire towns of civilians in his "hunts" and forcing a taxidermist at sword-point to mount the heads of the blacksmith from the town he just massacred today and stuff some peasant girls for his "collection," he shrugs them off. After all, the nobles do have a divine right to rule, anyway, and therefore why shouldn't they be allowed to do what they want?
Alternately, the King doesn't really care when presented with evidence. It's about what he's come to expect of the nobles.
The whole thing is really a reality show.
Zig Zagged: The nobles' actions and morality vary Depending on the Writer. One day they're ordering entire villages to be burnt down, and the next day they're patiently rebuilding them.
Averted: The members of court are for the most part just regular people. Some are corrupt, but the majority are simply ignorant or genuinely believe that their actions are for the good of whomever.
Enforced: "We need it to be clear that you're not supposed to root for the hotnobles. Have them abuse their privileges".
Lampshaded: "And here comes Duke Bloodlust. He's going to have some commoners fight to the death for his amusement, bet you a silver piece". "No bet".
Invoked: Duke Bloodlust relies on this trope to get people to accept his over-the-top evil persona.
Of course we can manipulate The Empire into serving our noble cause! All it takes is bribery!
The lower classes get fed up by the nobility's jerkassery and start a massive rebellion.
Reconstructed: ... which eventually leads to a revolution that the Royals Who Actually Do Something quietly back, deposing the cynical nobles and imposing more just ones in their place. The ones that are left, however, are just that much more devious...
Played For Laughs: The court is packed with Upper Class Twits who are completely incapable of doing anything more than stand around talking about how rich and amazing they are, and the mere suggestion of work makes most of them instantly faint from shock.