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Foreign Ruling Class

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Captain Kevin Darling: I'm as English as Queen Victoria!
Captain Edmund Blackadder: So your father's German, you're half-German and you married a German?
A typical scene in a Fire Nation colony established on Earth Kingdom land, with rulers and subjects Color-Coded for Your Convenience

A Foreign Ruling Class is a ruling class whose culture, language and/or religion are different from those of the populations they rule. Simply put, it is the other end of Ethnic Menial Labor. Different from a military occupation since this situation lasts in peacetime too.

This situation can rise as a result of the conquest of a population by another; a protagonist might be moved to overthrow this oppression. Another cause might be the acculturation of the local ruling class by another culture, perceived as more prestigious.

This can be a characteristic of the society in which the story takes place, and can explain conflicts between the rulers and the ruled.

Over time, this class can go native, or their local subjects can assimilate into their masters' culture.

Compare Evil Colonialist, Tribe of Priests, Master Race, Blue Blood. Contrast Servant Race, Slave Race.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • The premise behind Code Geass is an Alternate History where the British empire abandoned England in order to reestablish itself in North America after quelling the American uprising. They went on to take over most of the world, including Japan. The main story takes place in Japan, while the native citizens are still ruled over the Britanian Empire, with the local culture (allegedly) surpressed. Most members of the Royal Britanian Family appropriately look and act the part, though — fancy European inspired outfits, powdered wigs, etc.

    Comic Books 
  • In The Authority, Sliding Albion is part of an alternate reality in which an alien race called the Blue conquered Italy prior to its formal unification, intermarried with the various ruling families, and then used the resulting mix of political, military, and technological might to take over the rest of the world. Consequently, Albion has a twofold foreign ruling class, as they are taking orders from Italians who are in turn taking orders from the Blue.
  • The Walking Dead: Rick's group is seen as this when they start taking over leadership positions in Alexandria. Some welcome them being in charge as they are far more competent in the roles due to their experiences before arriving. Others resent them as outsiders showing up, taking control, and telling them what to do. This comes to a head when Rick becomes the leader of Alexandria and a conspiracy to oust them is formed. It doesn't get far before being discovered. After hearing their concerns, Rick then forms a larger council to rule Alexandria with more of the earlier residents on it, including a few of the conspirators.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • Discussed in Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse. As in real life, there is a fair amount of resentment towards the Soviet Union's mostly Russian ruling class from natives of the other SSRs. This is compounded in the series by ethnic Russians being evacuated to Alaska with the Government in Exile, while conscripts from the other republics are stuck fighting to hold the Kamchatka Peninsula against the Alien Invasion.
  • Ivanhoe features Norman lords oppressing Saxon peasants.
  • The Draka features a society where a small elite of Citizens of British Loyalist, Icelandic and Dixie stock, rules over an underclass of African native Serfs. Later this overclass turns into another species.
  • Kris Longknife: Planets in the Greenfeld Confederacy/Empire (One Nation Under Copyright with aspirations to feudal monarchy) tend to have a mostly white Germanic-descended ruling class and a browner general populace. It's mentioned in Audacious that Kris's browner Wardhavenites (she has mixed European and Native American ancestry and her primary Love Interest is Latino) can blend in on Greenfeld worlds better than the Greenfeld military forces they're working with.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • House Targaryen. They were originally a noble family of Valyria, who fled to Dragonstone before the Doom of Valyria and went on to conquer all of Westeros using three dragons, unifying the Seven Kingdoms under their rule. They ruled for around three centuries and brought with them some Valyrian customs, such as the Valyrian language, dragons, Valyrian steel and a habit of marrying brother to sister to keep their bloodlines pure. Incest is outlawed throughout Westeros and generally considered a huge taboo, but the Targaryens were the exception. They were eventually ousted around thirteen years before the start of the series during Robert's Rebellion and the few survivors fled in exile to Essos, vowing to one day reclaim the throne.
    • One of those survivors, Daenerys Targaryen, later conquers Slaver's Bay in Essos in order to eradicate slavery there; she decides to rule as queen to ensure the slave masters don't reclaim power and to keep the peace until the new order stabilizes itself. Although she is welcomed with open arms by the freed slaves and a few other citizens, others chafe at being ruled by a foreigner, especially one who generally holds many aspects of their Ghiscari culture (such as slavery and the fighting pits) in contempt. Daenerys struggles to keep both factions happy and ward off attacks by an insurgent group known as the Sons of the Harpy, while not compromising too much on her own values.
  • Don A. Stuart's "Cloak Of Aesir": The alien Sarns conquered Earth thousands of years ago and effectively turned humanity into a Slave Race.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: In between The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian, Narnia is conquered by pirate-descended Telmarines from a mysterious land in the West, who force the local Talking Animals and supernatural entities into hiding. Prince Caspian himself is a Telmarine Defector from Decadence who sides with the native Narnians, but his descendants remain Narnian kings for the rest of the world's lifespan.
  • The Tripods: Earth is conquered by alien invaders who order all humans to be implanted with Hypno Trinket "caps" that force them to remain loyal. The series focuses on La Résistance, the last few un-capped people trying to free the world from a vastly more powerful enemy.
  • The Man in the High Castle features two examples on one continent: America is split between the Japanese-controlled West Coast, the Nazi-occupied East Coast, and the Neutral Zone along the Rocky Mountains. In both occupied areas, Japanese and Germans call the shots. Naturally, most all of the administration is done by sympathetic or indoctrinated Americans, but the attitudes held by German and Japanese in their mutual colonies is just that: like the imperialist colonizers of the past two centuries, who regard the "natives" as lower class (often subhuman, in the Nazis' case).
  • A Study in Emerald is a crossover between Sherlock Holmes and the Cthulhu Mythos, where Europe's Blue Blood (well, Green) are the Lovecraftian monsters that overthrew Earth in centuries past, as well as their hybrid descendants.
    Narrator: She was called Victoria, because she had beaten us in battle, seven hundred years before, and she was called Gloriana, because she was glorious, and she was called the Queen, because the human mouth was not shaped to say her true name.
  • Born a Crime: Deconstructed by Robert, Trevor’s dad, who points out the absurdity of moving to a foreign land while prejudiced against the native population.
    "‘Africa is full of black people,’ he would say. ‘So why would you come to Africa if you hate black people? If you hate black people, why did you come into their house?’ To him it was insane."

    Live-Action TV 
  • Belgian TV thriller Salamander uses this motif to make a point about Belgian society and government. While the "good guys" fighting to get to the heart of the quasi-governmental conspiracy that threatens to rip Belgium apart are all Flemish, the highly placed people at the heart of the scandal are all French-speaking Belgians. When the conspirators are seen, they speak French together: the only time they use Flemish is to instruct employees and servants. The implication is clear (Salamander was made by Flemish TV, so this might not be an objective point): Flemish is the language of the serfs and peasants, French is that of a ruling class who do not have the best interests of the Belgian people at heart.
  • Also applies to the TV adaptation Game of Thrones. In fact, in Season 7, Randyll Tarly says he'd rather be ruled by Cersei Lannister than Daenerys Targaryen, because at least Cersei was born and raised in Westeros, rather than a "foreign invader; one with no ties to this land" (although Daenerys was technically born on Dragonstone and forced to flee as an infant). Also in the series, Daenerys ends up becoming ruler of all the Dothraki, which they accept pretty readily because they believe in Asskicking Equals Authority; Daenerys killed all the other khals (Dothraki lords), leaving her few rivals and has a sizable army and three dragons at her back, so she is quite easily the strongest among them. She incorporates their warriors in her conquest of Westeros, which in Randyll's opinion is just another point against her.
  • The Man in the High Castle: Both puppet states established in the former US are dominated by their foreign overlords. In both cases, simply proving you're one of the ruling class is enough to get cops to leave you alone for most transgressions.
    • The Americans in the Pacific Coast States are essentially second-class citizens, compared to the Japanese that seem more directly in control of the government. In fact, the Japanese are contemptuous towards even Japanese-Americans who settled there before the war, basically considering them traitors to the homeland. Due to this, we see at least one Japanese-American is part of the Resistance.
    • The Germans are initially less hands on, with (depressingly) plenty of Americans willing to work with them, but by Season 3, the Greater German Reich is actively and spectacularly obliterating American history and replacing it with a "pure Aryan future".
  • Discussed in Blackadder Goes Forth: Charged with ferreting out a suspected German mole (actually, it's George sending letters to his German uncle, because George is an idiot), Captain Blackadder grills Captain Darling for his own amusement and and brings up the fact that the British royal family is German-descended, like most of Europe's remaining monarchs at the time.
  • The Magicians deconstructs this. For some reason, Fillorian laws only allow Earth natives to become rulers of Fillory,note  so naturally the plucky twenty-something protagonists wind up being crowned kings and queens of the magical realm. However, they are thoroughly unfamiliar with the geography and customs of the country and tend to cause more harm than good with their flaws and less-than-stellar decision making.

    Mythology and Folklore 
  • In the Russian Primary Chronicle (also known as the Chronicle of Nestor or The Tale of Bygone Years), a medieval Rusan chronicle from the 1110s, the Slavic tribes of what is now northwestern Russia are dissatisfied with the fact that there is constant warfare among them, and therefore invite three princes of a "Varangian" (i.e. Scandinavian) tribe called the Rus to rule over them. The princes, who are three brothers called Rurik, Sineus, and Truvor, cross the Baltic with "all the Rus" and set themselves up as rulers of the Slavic cities, with Rurik residing in Novgorod as supreme ruler. Until the Mongol Conquest, the royalty of the Kievan Rus' traced their descent to Rurik.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Tau Empire has annexed several planets inhabited by other species, including humans, who are usually treated well though still ruled by Tau Ethereals.
    • While the Imperium of Man tend to be portrayed as Absolute Xenophobes some writers mention minor Xeno races who are just enslaved by the Imperium.
  • Ironclaw:
    • The Kingdom of Calebria is ruled by the foxes of House Rinaldi, de jure, after they vassalized the island's other kingdoms of boars, horses, and wolves. Though at the time of the game the Rinaldi's actual power is waning and their vassals are getting ambitious.
    • The otters of the Anatolian Empire replaced the cobra Pharaoh of the Delta with a Sultan of their own species, but heavy resistance from Deltan crown loyalists has convinced them to co-opt existing power structures in their later conquests.
  • Traveller: Humanity's first two interstellar Imperiums were fairly straightforward examples, ruled by Vilani and Solomani respectively. The Third Imperium's nobility however, come from many different human and non-human cultures assimilated by the Imperium.
  • Extremely common in Battletech, where planets often shift hands multiple times during a single period of wartime. And this is before we even get into the subject of the Clans, who conquered a good fifth of the Inner Sphere and replaced the native Feudal Overlords with their own administration.
    • The main emphasis on this trope belonged to Draconis Combine. In contrast to the relatively secular and multicultural facade by maintained by the Successor States despite their cultural mainstream (Anglo-American based Federated Suns, Germanic Lyran Commonwealth, and Chinese-Russian Capellan Confederation), Draconis Combine's demographics tend to have Japanese-dominated nobility being outnumbered by non-Japanese who made up the large majority of commoners with the former pursuing Japanization policies with a few compromises towards religious tolerance (such as Azami's Islam and Rasalhague's Christianity).

    Video Games 
  • Can happens in Stellaris as a result of the main species having Full Citizenship and xenos being classified as Residents or Slaves.
  • Simulated in Crusader Kings II, which makes a distinction between a province's culture and religion, and that of the character holding the title (who will spawn courtiers, minor nobles, of his own culture). The province will tend to shift to match that of its ruler over time, or the ruler can change cultures to that of their capital province, but in the meantime there's a small increase in revolt risk. Additionally, some cultures, such as English and Russian, are programmed to be created by having a province of one culture be controlled by a ruler of a different culture.
  • Gehn from Riven is a dictator who forces the people of Riven to worship him as a God and learn his language, D'ni, or else they get fed to a whale-shark hybrid called a wahrk.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • After the death of Reman Cyrodiil III, the last in the Reman dynasty, at the end of the 1st Era, his Akavari advisor, Versidue-Shaie, took over the Empire. Following his death, his son Savirien-Chorak, would continue to rule. The Akavari Potentates were members of the Tsaesci race, supposedly Snake People right down to having scales and serpentine lower bodies (though other accounts state they were men little different than those from Tamriel with some East Asian features). Ultimately Savirien-Chorak and his heirs would die under mysterious circumstances, leading to the 400+ year Interregnum before Tiber Septim's rise to power.
    • The Septim dynasty, ruling family of the Third Tamriellic Empire during the first four games in the main series and a Vestigial Empire by the fifth, actively took steps to Downplay this trope in order to better pacify the provinces under their control. While their empire expanded to include all of Tamriel, they had a habit of appointing Puppet Rulers in the provinces drawn from Imperial loyalists of the native races. One prominent example is Queen Barenziah of Morrowind. At the onset of Tiber Septim's invasion of Morrowind, his forces sacked the major, capital-potential Morrowind city of Ebonheartnote  and killed all but the young Barenziah of her noble Dunmeri family (or possibly Barenziah was saved from some other disaster that befell Ebonheart. Sources disagree on whether Tiber ever actually invaded Morrowind or if things didn't progress beyond skirmishes and armies massing before Vivec brokered the Armistice that brought Morrowind into the Empire but extended Dunmeri autonomy). Convinced by his Dunmeri General Symmachus to spare her as a useful pawn, she would be later appointed as the Imperial-supporting Queen of Morrowind in order to make the Dunmer more supportive of the Empire. (Barenziah is considered a very successful Queen who would outlive Tiber Septim by centuries, but the ultimate result of Imperial rule in Morrowind is very mixed.) Another prominent example are the Nords of Skyrim. Dating back to the Pact of Chieftains (which was agreed to following a Succession Crisis where the last in Ysgramor's line died without an heir), the Jarls of Skyrim hold a "Moot" where a new High King of Skyrim is elected whenever the previous one dies. The High King is subservient to the Empire, with Skyrim having been one of the founding nations of the Septim Empire. (Of course, Ulfric Stormloak in the eponymous game seeks to change that...)

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • The Fire Nation outposts/colonies on the Earth Kingdom continent in Avatar: The Last Airbender are mostly this trope, with Fire Nation citizens forming the ruling class and Earth Kingdom citizens mostly working as laborers. Partially averted with the older colonies, as there have been numerous intermarriages between Fire and Earth residents (most notably, the Fire Nation mayor of Yu Dao has an Earth Kingdom wife, and their daughter is an earthbender who is loyal to the Fire Nation).
  • The Legend of Korra:
    • By the time of the sequel, the capital of the former Fire Nation colonies (now called the United Republic) has a ruling council with representatives from each of the four nations (two from both the north and South Water tribes and one from the rather severely depleted Air Nomads). When Avatar Korra arrives in Republic City at the start of the series the council is now composed entirely of benders which has widened the gulf between them and non-benders (flashbacks show that Sokka was the Southern Tribe's representative in the past), making them kind of "foreign" to their non-bender constituents, something which the Equalists use as part of their rhetoric to bring down the current system. By season two, the council has been abolished and a resident non-bender was elected as president.
    • During the same time period the Water Tribes are ruled by the Northern Tribe's chief Unalaq, who isn't thrilled with what he perceives as the spiritual laxness of the Southern Tribe, his decision to effectively put the Southern Tribe under martial law after Korra unlocks the southern spirit portal increases the tensions between the two tribes. Which may have been Unalaq's intention, as his patron Vaatu feeds on negative emotions. At the end of season two the tribes decide to formally separated and Korra's father Tonraq is named as Chief of the Southern Water Tribe, who used to be Crown Prince of the Northern Tribe before he was banished, but has married in to the tribe and adapted so much that he doesn't really count for this.

    Real Life 
  • Diglossia is the case where two languages are used in a society and when one language is mainly used by upper classes and the other by lower ones.
  • After the conquest of Finland by Sweden, Finnish society was divided in four Estates (nobility, clergy, burghers, and peasants) and was dominated by Swedes, with a totally Swedish nobility, along with most of the burghers. Clergy tended to speak both Finnish and Swedish, since they could be sent to ministry to both populations. Lastly, Swedish was also widespread among peasants on the coast.
  • After Alexander the Great's conquests across Asia and the Middle East, Greek generals were named as satraps and governors. After his death, most of the local ruling classes were either Greeks or Hellenized. For example, the Ptolemaic Dynasty, to which belonged Cleopatra VII, was hellenized, and ruled Egypt through a class of Greek administrators and merchants.
  • In the Baltics lands conquered by The Teutonic Knights, the landowners were German while the peasantry was Baltic.
  • After the Cromwellian Settlement, which saw Catholics being deprived of their lands, Ireland was under the Ascendancy, with Englishmen members of the established Church of Ireland (the local Anglican denomination), owning much of the land, lording over Irish Catholics and Dissenters.
  • The Aryan Invasion Theory is a hypothesis postulating the Indian subcontinent, then mostly populated of Dravidians, was invaded by an Aryan peuplade, who set themselves as Brahmins, Ksatriyas and Vaishyas and set the locals to be Sudras.
    • Aryans also became an overclass of the Mitanni people in modern Syria, as evidenced by numerous loanwords in the Mitanni language that came from a language very closely related to Vedic Sanskrit, including recognizable names of gods like Indra. This strongly suggests that the Indo-Aryan languages had begun to take recognizable form long before appearing in India proper.
  • As a result of centuries of marriage alliances, the Netherlands became a part of the massive Habsburg Empire under Charles V, who was still liked partially because of his personal ties to the area (having been born in Ghent). However, after his abdication, the Low Countries passed on to his son Philip II and the Spanish Habsburg dynasty. The schism between the Spanish's absolutist-style rule and Catholicism and the Dutch's provincialist-style rule and Protestantism ran deep enough that the Spanish were largely expelled after an 80-year long civil war (they held on to the Southern Netherlands (now Belgium) to curb French expansionism).
  • Various examples from British history:
    • England and Wales were ruled by Romans from the first century to the fourth or fifth century.
    • For the first few centuries after the Romans left, large parts of Britain were ruled by barbarian invaders who eventually went native. Angles, Saxons, and Jutes from Germany ruled England, while Gaels from Ireland ruled Scotland.
    • Vikings ruled large chunks of Britain between the ninth and eleventh centuries. Meanwhile, similar situations arose overseas in parts of Francenote , Ireland, and the Kievan Rus'. The Norse elites in those countries ended up Going Native too.
    • In 1066 the Normans under William the Conqueror invaded and conquered England. They establishing a ruling class that conducted its affairs in French until The Late Middle Ages, by which point their descendants had long considered themselves English and linguistically diverged from the French dialects spoken in France. Speaking of language, French influenced English tremendously, and one peculiar example of this influence reflects the disparity between Norman elites and Anglo-Saxon commoners. The words cow, pig, and sheep are of Saxon origin, but the words beef, pork and mutton are of French origin. So the Anglo-Saxon word is used for livestock while the peasants raise it, and the French word is used for meat while the nobles and royals eat it.
    • And, of course, The British Empire was ruled this way — as you'd expect, given that it was the largest empire in history.
  • Happened several times in China:
    • The Yuan dynasty was of Mongol origin, founded by the grandson of Genghis Khan, Kublai Khan, and set up Mongol nobles to rule over China.
    • The Qing dynasty was Manchu, and the Manchu leadership actually started to oppress the Han populace until the noble class assimilated.
  • Speaking of the Mongols, they also ruled Russia, the Middle East, Korea, and the rest of the Asian Steppe. Some of their rulers adopted the religion and culture of their subjects, while other Mongols retained their culture up until the native population threw them out. Their descendants also conquered India as the Mughals.
  • European colonies in Asia, Africa, and the Americas were ruled by an overclass of European administrators, businessmen and planters. Sometimes a native chief was allowed to join this class.
  • Several of the ancient Egyptian dynasties were ruled by foreigners, including the 15th Dynasty (Hyksos), the 22nd and 23rd dynasties (Libyan), the 25th dynasty (Nubian), and the 27th and 31st dynasties (Persian). In fact, the 30th dynasty (which ended in 343 BCE) would mark the last time Egypt was ruled by an Egyptian until 1922.
  • From 1763 onwards up to relatively recently, with the British conquest of French possessions in North America, the history of Canada becomes this from the perspective of French-Canadians, to a degree that heavily depends on the political beliefs of those concerned. To make a long story short, most of Québec's political class, clergy and liberal professions (attorneys, doctors, etc...) have been French-Canadians, while the merchant elite were British/English-Canadians, and a Governor General chosen by the Crown held executive power. Within Québec this has changed since the late 60's and early 70's, with rich Anglophone merchants and factory owners in Montréal packing up and leaving for Toronto, leaving French-Canadians to fill in the gaps. At the federal level, French-Canadians are well-represented in many offices, making this a thing of the past—or at least very close to being one.
  • The Balkan countries have many cases of this, especially in their modern history, having their rulers installed by the Great Powers in the wake of national revivals and freeing themselves from the dominion of the Ottoman and Russian empires:
    • Romania was ruled by a branch of the House of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen from 1866 to 1947.
    • The Third Bulgarian state had Alexander of the House of Battenberg placed as Prince in 1878 and then replaced in 1887 by Ferdinand of the House of Sax-Coburg-Gotha, whose descendants ruled until 1946.
    • Greece was ruled by the House of Glücksburg from 1845 to 1973.
    • And of course, they were all ruled by the Ottoman Sultans for centuries beforehand.
  • After the Migration Period, the former Western Empire would be divided among Germanic tribes who were a minority compared to their Latin subjects: Franks in modern-day Northern France, Visigoths in Spain, Portugal and Southern France, Ostrogoths and then the Lombards in Italy, Anglo-Saxons in Britain. Save for Anglo-Saxons, all the above people's languages would be abandoned in favour of vulgar Latin (and the modern languages that would derive from it).
  • This also happened when Hordes from the East invaded and replaced local dynasties, consolidating a nation's leadership and assimilating into the culture in exchange for the throne:
    • The Bulgar Dulo clan and their successors ruled over a state of mixed Slavic, Vlach and Bulgar population until eventually they coalesced into one national identity.
    • The Cumans in the 11-13th century were notorious for this. It is suggested that dynasties in medieval Bulgaria, Serbia, Wallachia, Moldova and Hungary are of Cuman origin.


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