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Faerie Court

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"Arrival of the King and Queen of Fairyland", E. Stuart Hardy

While The Fair Folk are often portrayed as mysterious and chaotic, they are often ruled by an aristocracy, a court of noble fairies or archfey. As Our Fairies Are Different, the lords of the Faerie Court range from standard humanoid aristocrats to straight up demigods with immense magical power. A common archetypical story involves The Hero stumbling into a forest (or portal to the Land of Faerie) and encountering a fairy lord or lady, who grants them favor. Such favor typically involves great power, but often at a great price.

The most common courts from traditional legends are the Seelie or Summer Court, and the Unseelie or Winter Court. The Seelie consists of more benevolent fairies, while the Unseelie consists of more malevolent, demon or goblin-like figures. However, some folklore and many modern works depict the difference between the two as purely aesthetic. Due to the Lighter and Softer trend with depictions of fairies, modern depictions may depict members of the fairy court as Princess Classic or Benevolent Mage Rulers ruling The Good Kingdom.

Sub-trope of Supernatural Elite. Sister trope of Demon Lords and Archdevils. Will usually preside over the Land of Faerie.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In The Seven Deadly Sins, Harlequin is the King of the Fairies, when he's not off having adventures with the Seven Deadly Sins. His absences have created a lot of tensions with his subjects, who at one point got so fed up with him that they named Ban as their new King.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • The Crystal Court: The fairies are all lumped into the four different courts, each of them representing the four seasons (each based off of the four courts of the Diamond Authority), with the Crystal Gems each being fairies who rebelled against their respective court.
  • Faerie Tales adapts the Kingdom of Dunbroch from Brave into a kingdom of gentry, Rapunzel being the princess of a neighboring kingdom and Hiccup being a dark fae with dragon characteristics from the North who becomes Merida's lover.
  • The Queen's Consort: The Fair Folk are all divided between kingdoms that each represent different aspects of nature, complete with their own royal families. Such houses include the ones who rule over the four seasons, the Night, Daylight, the Woods and the Sky.
  • Spellbound (Lilafly): Unfortunately for Adrien's peace of mind and Marinette's safety, the Court of Paris is an Unseelie Court. Though most who know about the fae would agree that Seelie Courts are not to be trusted either. Bridgette later plots with Tikki to bring the Court down.

    Film — Animated 
  • Ferngully The Last Rainforest features Magi Lune as the fairy equivalent of the Wise Woman; her powers greatly surpass those of other fairies. Krysta's father acts as the spokesman for the fairies gathered around Zak's tape player.
  • Scooby-Doo! and the Goblin King: The fairy named Willow is a Rebellious Princess who decided to enter the human world and ended up getting kidnapped by an evil Stage Magician. Willow's magic was good magic to contrast the magic weld by the Goblin King, and at the end, it turned out that the Goblin King is Willow's father, making her not only a fairy princess, but the princess of the magic world.

    Film — Live Action 
  • Darby O'Gill and the Little People: King Brian is the king of the leprechauns, and the main plot is that he gets captured by the title character and is forced to grant him wishes. While humorous, he's also sly enough to get out of it if Darby isn't careful.
  • Labyrinth: Jareth is technically King of the Goblins, but because he is played by David Bowie in full glam rock-new romantic mode fits the archetype of Fairy Queen. Of course, goblins and the Fae have very little differences in folklore.

  • Artemis Fowl frequently mentions that the fairies used to have a line of elfin kings (one of whom, San D'Klass, apparently inspired Santa Claus). The monarchy ended at some point in the past with King Frond; Holly's unseen rival, Lili Frond, is apparently proud of being descended from him.
  • Cassandra Palmer: The Fey are beings who live in the land of faerie. They come in two different varieties : the light fey and the dark fey with each having their own governing system. The light fey are divided and ruled by three clans known as Blarestri, Svarestri and Svarestri with each having there own monarch. Inheritance of the crown only occurs if the heir has more then 50% fey blood in there heritage. The dark fey are ruled by a singular dark fey king in contrast.
  • Chicagoland Vampires features Claudia, the fairy queen of Chicago. The fairies of the city are fiercely loyal to her and guard her in her underground palace. Claudia though can be an extreme Bad Boss and will permanently scar any fairies who disobey or upset her.
  • Several of these appear and play a central role in the A Court of Thorns and Roses series (it's even in the title). The High Fae of Prythian are divided into different Courts, each ruled by a High Lord: the Spring Court, Summer Court, Autumn Court, Winter Court, Dawn Court, Day Court and Night Court. Some are more benevolent than others; the Night Court has the most sinister reputation by far although it turns out some of this is intentionally played up to keep enemies out.
    • The neighboring country, Hybern, is also inhabited by fae, and its unnamed king is the Big Bad of the first trilogy.
  • The Darkest Part of the Forest features the Alderking. The Alderking is the sadistic ruler of the fae who live by the forest of the town of Fairfold. A fairly handsome looking humanoid fae with horns, the Alderking intends to expand his range and brutally conquer the court of termites.
  • Discworld: The chaotic, malevolent, malicious Elves seen in Lords and Ladies, The Wee Free Men and The Shepherd's Crown . The Elf Queen is vicious, imperious, capricious and not nice to meet. Her lieutenant, Lord Lankin, is a psychopath who commands and demands respect. The King of the Elves is loud, rumbustious, undeniably male, and slow to grasp current realities on the Disc. There is the increasingly Treacherous Advisor Creator's Pet Lord Peaseblossom. There are also the Wee Men themselves, the rioting, chaotic, Nac Mac Feegle, whose clans each have a Queen, called a Kelda, who is generally wise, motherly, thoughtful and somewhat regal, in her own way.
  • The Dresden Files: The Courts of the Fae play a fairly large role in the overall story arc. Both the Unseelie and Seelie courts require there to be three queens: the Queen who was (known as the Mother), the Queen Who Is (the true Queen) and the Queen Who Will Be (known as the Lady) with even the Lady being amongst the series' most powerful beings. In the event of one's death (which is itself virtually impossible) someone else must take up their mantle.
    • The Fairy Queens manifest the important roles of their courts (the Winter Court protects the universe from the Outsiders, the Summer Court protects the rest of existence from the Winter) as well as the seasons themselves. Likewise, both take heavy after the natures of their seasons. The Unseelie or Winter Court is ruled by Mab, Queen of Air and Darkness, who in particular plays an important role in the narrative. Mab is ruthless and cold, but cunning and pragmatic. The Seelie or Summer Court is ruled by Queen Titania, who is warm and passionate but driven by emotion, short-sighted and equally ruthless.
    • Mother Winter and Mother Summer are a pair of sisters who are beyond ancient and possess powers far greater than any other fae. Mother Summer represents creation and life, while Mother Winter represents its natural end. Despite their conflicting natures, both live together and are overall personable, reasonable and benevolent.
    • The Lady of each courts acts as heir to the Queen and rules her own lesser court beneath. At the start of the series, Aurora is Lady of the Summer Court and Maeve is Lady of the Winter Count, their being the daughters of Mab and Titania respectively. Following Aurora's death, she is replaced by Lily, a former changeling; later, after her own death, Lily is replaced by Sarissa, Mab's other daughter. Meanwhile, Maeve is replaced after her own death by Molly Carpenter, Harry's former apprentice.
    • For the Unseelie, other prominent faerie nobles include the Leanansidhe, Mab's lady in waiting, second only in power to Mab herself and Harry's literal faerie godmother. The Fetch, led by the Eldest Fetch, are Queen Mab's elite spies and assassins. For Seelie there are the Gruffs, a series of brothers who act as Titania enforcers, with Eldest Gruff being her personal advisor and occasionally therapist.
    • Other Faerie courts and rulers exist amongst the Wyldfae, fae who live outside of the two main Courts. These include the Erlking, the Lord of the Goblins and leader of The Wild Hunt, acknowledged by Mab herself as her contemporary. Kris Kringle, aka Santa Claus AKA Odin, is Mab's counterpart and represents the more compassionate side to Winter (as the Erlking represents the crueler side of summer). There is also King Gwynn ap Nudd, a minor faerie king of Welsh fey.
  • The Faerie Queene: The titular character. Generally thought to have been an allegory for Elizabeth I; because, you know, even great authors do need promotions when they do civil service work. The story isn't actually about her, though, but her knights.
  • Faerie Wars provides a Science Fantasy twist on this. Protagonist Henry is transported through a portal in a bush to an alternate dimension that is the home of the Faeries. He gets embroiled in a political conflict between one group of Faeries (who are basically humanoids aristocrats with some magical powers) and their demonic opponents, who are basically The Greys. Henry gets adopted by the court of the first group and falls in love with their princess.
  • The Folk of the Air takes place in the magical islands of Elfhame in Faerie. These islands were created by Queen Mab who was the first High Queen of Elfhame. Mab's crown is magically enchanted so that it can only be passed from blood relative to blood relative in an unbroken line. This ensures that only her direct descendants can rule Elfhame.
  • The Iron King: The fairy royalty. There are Oberon and Titania as the Summer King and Queen, Mab as the Winter Queen, played with Leanansidhe since her "Queen of the Exiles" title is self-proclaimed, and later on Meghan as the Iron Queen
  • Labyrinth Lost: The Fawn King Agosto is the benevolent ruler of a clan of fae who fled there home kingdom of Adas and came to the dimension of Los Lagas. Agostso fled with his people due to not wanting to bow down to the wicked king of Adas.
  • Mercy Thompson features the Graylords who are the ruling lords and ladies of the fae. The Graylords are the most powerful members of the fae. They set the events of the series in motion by revealing there existence to humanity created The Unmasqued World that the series takes place in.
  • In Mick Oberon, the Seelie and Unseelie courts have styled themselves after city bureaucracy and mobsters, respectively, meaning that titles like 'Duke' or 'Lord' have been replaced with 'Judge' or 'Don'.
  • Modern Faerie Tales: The Unseelie court are a group of murderous, hedonistic Fae led by the deranged Queen Nicnevin. In contrast, her sister Queen Silarial controls the Seelie Court, who are seemingly better, but in reality can be just as evil and vicious in their own way. Both courts are eventually dissolved by King Roiben, who takes the throne from both of them and founds the more peaceful Court of Termites using the members of both courts.
  • The Moon of Gomrath, by Alan Garner, introduces traditional British Elves (based on Nordic and Celtic mythology) the lios-alfar. Their king Atlendor is haughty, imperious, and a little bit stiff-necked and pompous. As humans in Britain have industrialised, pollution, the smoke-sickness, has forced Elves to flee to the barren mountains - Snowdonia and the Scottish Highlands. He is consequently no friend of humans.
  • October Daye:
    • The Divided Courts rule the collective kingdoms of the Fae, and are ruled by a High King and Queen who are in charge of all the Fae of North America (the other continents and Undersea realms presumably have their own). The various cities and locales have their own individual rulers who are in charge of the day to day affairs of the Fae that live there. The High King and Queen will sometimes organize a conference which invites the various rulers in order to create new rules or for decision making.
    • The Court of Cats, consisting of the Cait Sidhe, is the only kingdom of Faerie that is excluded from the Divided Courts by decree of Oberon, one of the progenitors of the Fae. Their monarchs act independently from the others and are given more freedoms due to this.
  • Paranormalcy features the sisters known as the Light Queen and Dark Queen. These two rule the fae with the Light Queen ruling the Seelie Court and the Dark Queen ruling the Unseelie court. Centuries before the series started, the two found a way to transfer the fae and other supernatural creatures to earth allowing them physical form there.
  • Poison has Lord Aelthar who rules the realm of Phaerie and the Phaeries that inhabit it. Aelthar plans to eventually war with humanity and to do so runs a scheme which involves kidnapping children from the human realm to be used as a way to create half human-Phaerie hybrids which would be used to usurp the position of creator, the Heirophant. The Heirophant position can only be taken by someone with at least some human blood within them.
  • A Practical Guide to Evil has the Summer and the Winter Court of Fae, each with a ruling monarch and attending nobles. They are constantly in conflict, but not because one side is evil and the other one good (although Summer is more direct, while Winter is more underhanded) - instead, they both follow the same Blue-and-Orange Morality that says that the next season (Spring/Autumn) comes as soon as the conflict between Summer and Winter (usually through war) is resolved.
  • Secret Histories features the court of the elves. Once ruled by Queen Mab, she was overthrown by Titania and Oberon who cast her into hell and took over. Upon escaping from hell, she creates a civil war between the elves in order to reclaim her lost position as well as get revenge for her banishment.
  • In The Shadowhunter Chronicles there are two faerie courts: Seelie and Unseelie. The Seelie Court is led by the Seelie Queen, and projects benevolence and beauty despite being deceptive. She figures into the plot of the books, where she is capable of helping the heroes but they are often reluctant to do so because of her manipulative nature. Arawn, the Unseelie King leads the Unseelie Court, which have a reputation for being the nastier of the two courts. At the end of The Dark Artifices series Arawn's son Kieran becomes the new Unseelie king after murdering his father.
  • Thomas The Rhymer: The title character is brought to the Land of Faerie by the Faerie Queen, and the two have an ambiguously romantic relationship. Overall she seems nice, though she also does the whole "tithe to Hell" thing, and warns Thomas to leave before he becomes the sacrifice.
  • In War for the Oaks, both the Seelie and Unseelie Courts are ruled by their own respective Queens of the Fairies.
  • Pale has a variety of Fae characters, and describe the Courts as a combination of seasonal and Bright/Dark. Spring is for Noble Fae (Bright being Royal Gentry, Dark being Modern Richesse). Summer is for Mythical Fae (Bright being the Heroes, Dark being the Monsters they fight). Fall is for Transformative Fae (Bright being transforming yourself, Dark transforming others). Winter is neither Bright nor Dark, and entry to that Court signals the end of a particular Fae's story. All of which are fundamentally artificial, held together or torn apart by glamour and consensus alone. Looking closely at the Fae characters of Pact shows that they don't state which Court they're from, even in contexts where it would come up (Padraig, for example, never states if he's of Bright Spring, nor does Letita ever proclaim her loyalties to High Summer).

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Lost Girl, the Ash rules the Light Fae, and the Morrigan rules the Dark; both in a very feudal manner. Also, Trick, the bartender, was once a ruler, and is still referred to as The Blood King by some.
  • The Magicians (2016): The Faerie Queen appears in season two, and proves to be both helpful and a hindrance to Eliot and Margo. She manipulates things so that the faerie can invade Fillory, but ultimately proves to have the best interests of her people at heart.

  • Heather Alexander's "Faerie Queen" is about a woman who battles with a faerie queen who wants to steal her fiancé.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • Celtic Mythology:
    • The line between gods and fairies is blurry and possibly nonexistent, and much of later fairy legend is based on the Irish gods, known as the Tuatha De Danann. Supposedly, they ruled Ireland before the Milesians (modern day Irish people) showed up, and several notable kings are listed, most notably the Dagda and Lugh.
    • In later legends, Irish fairies vary by region. In the west, the fairy king is named Finvarra, who had a wife named Nuala or Oona (Oonagh, etc.). Said to live in the hill of Knockmaa, Finvarra was a nice guy overall, helping humans with crops and related issues, though he did have an unfortunate tendency to magically seduce mortal women. Sometimes he is said to have a rivalry with an unnamed fairy king of Munster. That said, the people of Munster instead identify two fairy queens: Aibell in the north and Cliodhna in the south.
  • Arthurian Legend: Morgan le Fay actually had this role in the early stories, identified as the benevolent queen of Avalon. This gets muddied in the later legends, where she's now the evil human sister of Arthur.
  • In Iranian folklore the Pari (a race of usually friendly nymphs) are usually said to have a Shah of their own. Sometimes as the king of all Pari everywhere, sometimes as the ruler of a small Hidden Elf Village type community.
  • There's a Kurdish fairytale about the "Shamaran", the Queen of a race of Snake People. She and her subjects are mostly benevolent, and she's said to be a wise and fair ruler but she's imprisoned by a group of human invaders. She's killed, but gets the last laugh and the ending implies her human lover (who survived the Secret Test of Character) goes back to rule in her stead.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Changeling: The Lost:
    • Changelings (humans transformed by the Land of Faerie) organize into Courts that pass control around a pre-defined cycle of monarchs, the most common being the Courts of the Four Seasons. Court membership grants various supernatural perks, and the larger ones have a variety of formal ranks.
    • Inverted with the True Fae— they grant themselves grandiose titles, but are so solipsistically self-centered that they can't see other people as people, never mind rulers. The Changeling Courts' voluntary exchange of power confuses the Fae so much that they willfully ignore their existence, which is precisely what the Changelings want.
  • Dungeons & Dragons has long featured Fey as a distinct category of creatures based primarily on a mixture of nature-aspected monsters from Greco-Roman and European mythos. Proper faerie courts have been alluded to, but not really discussed in detail for most of its history.
    • In the BECMI system, associated with the setting of Mystara, all Fey ultimately owed their loyalty to a singular Faerie Court ruled over by analogues of Oberon and Titania, based on Shakespeare's interpretation of the characters.
    • In the other settings based around the Advanced D&D system, it was eventually developed that there are two Faerie Courts; the Seelie Court, which is a traveling cavalcade of fey racial gods presided over by Oberon and Titania that roams the Neutral Good to Chaotic Neutral planes of the Great Wheel, and the Unseelie Court, a court of evil fey presided over by the goddess known only as the Queen of Air and Darkness. This lore was developed mostly in conjunction with the Forgotten Realms and Planescape settings. This lore was passed on to 3rd edition, which is when the Land of Faerie was introduced as its own, optional plane... although, ironically, the same sourcebook that created it made no mention of either Faerie Court.
    • In 4th edition, with the new default setting and core cosmology, fey were given a significant promotion in cosmic importance. This led to the Land of Faerie (called the Feywild) being a core plane in the new cosmology, and the creation of a Faerie Court to rule over it. The World Axis version is known in-universe as "The Court of Stars", and is made up of multiple different fey factions loosely organized around a smattering of different fey demigods called "Archfey". These factions consist of the Summer Feynote , Winter Feynote , Green Feynote , Sea Feynote , Gloaming Feynote  and Unseelie Feynote , with hints that there could be more factions as well if the Dungeon Master feels like it. These factions are not absolutes, and it's emphasized that individual fey may not only not fit the stereotypes associated with their faction, but may hold membership in multiple factions. Part of the prominence of the new archfey is that they can serve as potential patrons to the Warlock player class.
    • The 4e model is officially carried over into 5th edition, but its prominence was heavily downplayed compared to the previous edition. The primary indication that it remains is the existence of the Feywild in the Dungeon Master's Guide and the Archfey's continued existence as a Warlock patron.
  • In Shadowrun the elven nations of Tir na nOg (formerly Ireland) and Tir Tairngire (mostly Oregon) tried for this with their Council of Stewards and Council of Princes respectively, but democratic reforms and unrest among the non-elven population kind of hijacked that plan.

  • William Shakespeare gives us two examples of this, and as you can see from this page, both have been very influential in later works:
    • In A Midsummer Night's Dream, where the fairies and their shenanigans make up a large part of the plot, the royal couple are named Oberon and Titania. They're currently in a spat over custody of a certain changeling boy, but reconcile by the end of the play. It's worth noting that Oberon came from older legends, though Titania seems to be Shakespeare's creation.
    • In Romeo and Juliet, Mercutio has a long speech about Queen Mab, a fairy who goes around giving people dreams. It has little to do with the actual plot, bordering on a Big-Lipped Alligator Moment, but almost immediately other writers started using "Mab" as a name for fairy queens.

    Video Games 
  • Awakening: One of the characters introduced in the first game is the Fairy Queen. She and many members of her court act as guides and protectors for Princess Sophia.
  • Folklore: The Faery Lord has all the makings of this trope, with his regal clothing and his towering over the other fae that he leads. However, the reason they look so stereotypical is because Faeries in the world of Folklore are really just representations of what humans think faeries should look like, with all these thoughts pooling in a place known as the Netherworld (a reflection of people's idea of an afterlife). The Faery realm comes from an age of myth, when people most believed in a happy afterlife
  • Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards has the unnamed "Fairy Queen" as the ruler of the fairies in Ripple Star. She later gets possessed by the main villain and you have to collect all Plot Coupons to free her.
  • The Legend of Zelda: There are numerous Great Fairies in the series, who contrast normal fairies, which are tiny Winged Humanoids, by being gigantic, flirtatious humanoids, who may or may not have wings. Their relationship with and authority over normal fairies is not clear. Fairy "Queens" show up in a few games, most notably Wind Waker where she initially appears as an alien figure with four arms, but this is actually a puppet controlled by a childlike figure with mystical coloration.
  • Remnant II: Losom is split between two worlds, the Dran world and the Fae world, with the Fae being ruled by the One True King and a Council below him. By the time of the game, the One True King has been incapacitated by an usurper, and the court has started fighting among themselves, which has in turn caused havoc in the Dran's world, which now resembles Yharnam. One mission has the player encounter a trio of Fae nobles, one of whom assisted the Usurper. The player can either reveal the Imposter, earning them the Ornate Blade as a gift from the other two, or fight all three, earning the Fae Protector Signet. Note that the traitor can change on each playthrough. Also, funnily enough, the Dran actually appear to be elves.

  • Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures turns Queen Mab into a godlike ditz (or at least that's her role in the mortal worlds) who actually abdicated a while ago. Apparently the Fae don't take royalty that seriously, and they usually pass off the monarchy after a millennium or so.
  • In Oglaf the Xoan Ambassador is a elf-like man with many fair folk traits (capriciousness, unreal beauty, tendency to kidnap people) who represents the royal court of his country.
  • Tales of the Questor: The Wild Hunt arc centers around an Unseleighe princeling extorting a king's ransom from a small duchy for fun. Or so it seems until Quentyn throws a Spanner in the Works and it turns out that he's just a minor courtier trying to gain status by restoring one of the court's former hunting grounds.

    Web Original 
  • Neopets has a character known as the Fyora the Faerie Queen, ruler of Faerieland and all other Faeries. She lives in a gigantic castle, runs a shop of expensive and rare items, and occasionally appears to give players a challenging quest for a great reward.

    Western Animation