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In Its Hour of Need

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"The children cannot go without me, and I will not go without the King, and the King will never leave his country."

The capital is about to be overwhelmed and the leader is fighting in the battle. His duty to land, life, or people dictates that he must organize the resistance or go abroad to find allies, but he won't budge until this battle has been won. The war has not only come to the homefront it's come all the way to the very heart of the nation and for these leaders to abandon it now would mean to sacrifice everything they had been fighting for.

Sometimes even the most Reasonable Authority Figure puts Honor Before Reason. Sometimes, he can be convinced to leave. Sometimes, force is needed; sometimes, he dies in the ruins of the castle, making a Last Stand, usually with his personal guard. When he does leave, he is often the last one to do so.

Note that you really have to get killed to pull this one off properly. Captivity ruins a lot of the effect, especially if you are used against your own forces.

He may have his heir sent off, by force if needed. Can lead to A Child Shall Lead La Résistance or the Rightful King Returns.

Compare The Men First; the military commander may refuse to leave troops behind, but will go with them if they can be gotten out.

If the king is supposed to return In Its Hour Of Need (but is otherwise dead or canned), that's the King in the Mountain. If your allies are supposed to come help your nation in its hour of need, that's Gondor Calls for Aid.

See also Stand Your Ground. Going Down with the Ship is a Sister Trope that applies to ship captains.


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  • Worldwar: War of Equals: Pope Benedict XVI refuses to evacuate the Vatican, despite constant bombings by the Race, in order to keep human (not just Catholic, but human) morale alive during the war.

     Films - Live Action 

  • Marie Antoinette (2006): Towards the end of the movie, as the Revolution starts to cause real trouble, King Louis refuses to leave Versailles and be a "runaway king". When an advisor begs him to at least send the queen and children away, she declares that their place is with her husband. They regret it when an angry mob comes to abduct them.


  • In Sandy Mitchell's Ciaphas Cain note  novel Cain's Last Stand, Cain goes to rescue the governor when Varan's attack is about to overthrow the capital, and persuades him that it is his duty, it will tell the people that he is organizing resistance elsewhere. Alas, the governor is seriously wounded and can not be removed. Worse, Varan can take over his mind and have him broadcast on his side.
  • In John Barnes's One for the Morning Glory, Prince Amatus has to be carried out of the ruined capital by force. And his father King Boniface stays and dies.
  • In Lloyd Alexander's The High King, Math the High King stays in the attacked city and dies.
  • In World War Z, Queen Elizabeth II follows her father's example (referenced below) and stays in Windsor Castle "for the duration" of the titular Zombie Apocalypse. She also lets any and all citizens into the Royal estates who are willing to help with the defense.
  • In Ben Counter's Warhammer 40,000 novel Hellforged, Queen Dyrmida's attitude.
  • Turgon, King of Gondolin in The Silmarillion, remains in his city as it falls to the forces of Morgoth, while his son-in-law Tuor and daughter Idril lead the remnants of his people to "safety".
  • In Jerry Pournelle's Prince of Sparta, upheld in that King Alexander leads the final charge of his palace guard vs. the revolutionary Helots. Subverted in that he was a sick old man with an entirely healthy son, who was at that point safely ensconced in the planet's military command center and running the war.
  • In Tom Clancy's The Bear and the Dragon, President Jack Ryan is given the chance to leave Washington when the Chinese launch a Pyrrhic nuclear strike (the one missile left after a commando raid takes out the others). He instead elects to stay aboard a nearby naval vessel that he had earlier ordered placed nearby with a special battery of SAMs possibly capable of intercepting an ICBM, knowing that if it fails he'll die along with the city. His Secret Service detail is not amused.
  • In John Hemry's The Lost Fleet novel Invincible, Geary reflects on how Syndicate Worlds Planetary CEO Gwen Iceni remains on her world when it is threatened with attack, despite ample opportunity to evacuate. Having little to go by to judge her character, he takes it as evidence she's not all bad. The spin-off series set during and after Iceni's coup d'état against the Syndicate Worlds shows he's mostly right.
  • In Jasper Fforde's The Last Dragonslayer, the Duke of Brecon is convinced his duchy will have a Last Stand after the last dragon dies. He personally intends to die with the soldiers.
  • In David Weber's Heirs of Empire, the heroes discover there may be a conspiracy to blow up the planet Birhat, their seat of government. The emperor gets his wife to go "vacation" on Earth—though he only gets away with it because she's pregnant—but flatly refuses to go anywhere himself. Even when they locate the planetcracker bomb, determine that it's armed, and start the evacuation, his military officers have to threaten to physically drag him onto a ship before he'll leave.

     Live Action TV  

  • The West Wing:
    • In an episode, when it looks like there might be a terrorist attack on the White House, President Bartlet rejects the idea of going to the bunker, saying that when he got out he wouldn't be able to give orders to any of the people who weren't in the bunker and he likes doing that. Leo points out that the Secret Service can take him by force, if it comes to that; Bartlet responds that they better bring more than a couple of guys.
    • There's also the early episode "The Crackpots and These Women," where Josh finds out that as the deputy chief of staff, he's one of the only people who would be protected by the NSC in the event of a nuclear attack. He's very distressed by this and in the end decides to give up the privilege, because he'd feel guilty working with his friends every day knowing that if nuclear war broke out, he'd be safe and they'd be left to fend for themselves. There are any number of smaller examples with this show, but few of them deal with the actual possibility of death.
    • A more definite example is the president of Kundu, who is told while in the U.S. asking for AIDS money that there's been a coup in his absence, flies home anyway and is immediately shot at the airport.
  • After the constant invasions and disasters that have plagued Britain on Christmas in the Whoniverse, the only people that seem to be staying in London during the Doctor Who episode "Voyage of the Damned" are the Queen and Wilfred Mott (who'd turn out to be very important later on).
  • In The Borgias, Pope Alexander VI stays in the Vatican as the French are about to arrive, despite all advice from his cardinals and the fact that they're all leaving. This does not work out as well for the cardinals as for the Pope, because he's able to convince the French king to go through Rome without attacking, then humiliates the cardinals for deserting Rome.
  • Subverted in Merlin (2008) at the end of series four, when Morgana attacks and overwhelms Camelot. Knowing that King Arthur won't leave his kingdom under any circumstances, Merlin casts a spell on him to remove his free will and reduce him to a "simpleton" that complacently lets himself be carried away. One can't help but think that the writers didn't really think through the implications of this one...
  • In Stargate SG-1, President Henry Hayes is advised to flee to the Alpha Site once Anubis starts curb stomping the U.S. military. He decides instead to remain in the White House and give a speech to the world about the invasion. He even remains in the Oval Office instead of going to the bunker beneath the building. Of course, that's merely pragmatism since the Goa'uld ships' weapons are nuclear grade and a few dozen feet of ground wouldn't make much of a difference if one fired on Washington.

     Web Comics  

     Real Life  

  • George Washington was famous for riding around at the front of the lines during battles in The American Revolution. His overwhelmingly positive reputation among the soldiers helped cement the decision to make him the first President... and helped stave off riots when those hungry soldiers marched on the capital to demand their overdue pay.
  • A few decades later, James Madison stayed in Washington, D.C. until the last possible moment (and personally commanded an artillery battery) during the British attack on the city in the War of 1812. Madison—and the rest of the garrison—eventually did flee, but not a moment before the situation became hopeless.
  • And Thomas Jefferson likewise refused to leave Richmond as Governor of Virginia until British commander Banastre Tarleton was almost upon the city.
  • Josef Stalin did not leave Moscow when it was besieged by Nazis. He was right; the city did not fall, but if he ran away, the defenders would be demoralized and the city lost. He even ordered that the annual parade commemorating the Revolution in Red Square take place to give the people hope. George Orwell, as a consequence, had a scene in Animal Farm where everyone was frightened by an explosion, ducking in fear, and decided to ensure that Napoleon had been there and stood firm because with all his faults, Stalin's courage could not be impugned.

    Some historians have even pegged Stalin's decision to stay as the key turning point of World War II, the moment when any chance of a Nazi triumph ended. Had Moscow fallen, it's much more likely that the rest of the Soviet Union would have followed...and Japan might have seen it as enough of a sign of weakness that the advocates of the western strategy (war against the Soviets) might have won out against the advocates of the ultimately disastrous eastern strategy (war against America).
  • World War II examples:
    • King George VI was repeatedly urged, during the war, to leave Britain and seek the relative safety of another part of the British Empire, such as Canada. He refused. Queen Elizabeth was asked why they did not at least send the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret away, and she replied, "The children cannot go without me, and I will not go without the King, and the King will never leave his country." The royal family's determination to remain throughout the war earned them the lasting affection of their people.
    • Winston Churchill stayed in London on The Home Front. However, he was very concerned for the safety of King George VI as the king decided to stay in Buckingham Palace, and the best pilots of the Luftwaffe had maps telling them where to bomb it. He was actually very close to invoking his executive powers and having George forcibly taken from Buckingham Palace to the Cabinet War Rooms. Churchill had this turned against him later in the war. In the run up to D-Day he was giving Eisenhower heartburn by regularly stating that he intended to watch the landings from the fleet. Ike mentioned the problem to King George at a luncheon meeting and the King informed Churchill that he thought this was a magnificent idea and would join him with the fleet-the King had served in the Royal Navy before his coronation, after all. Churchill was appalled at the idea of needlessly putting the King in danger and sulkily backed down.
    • The Queen Mother, on the bombing of Buckingham Palace: "Finally. Now I can look the East End in the face."note 
    • Many monarchs of the countries overrun by the Nazis during World War II did leave their countries and were still remembered fondly for being symbols of resistance. Those who did stay behind have mixed reputations. King Leopold III of Belgium is not remembered too fondly, largely because his second marriage in the middle of the war was seen as a shock and subverting this trope. Despite later being deported by the Nazis after D-Day with his wife and children and considering everyone's eventual survival under threatening conditions a matter of luck; he had to abdicate with the Belgian public bitterly divided over his return. King Christian X of Denmark is fondly remembered, on the other hand, for helping to keep the country together under Nazi occupation.
      • Leopold III's father, King Albert I, also stayed in Belgium the last time the country was overrun by German forces, in World War I. He's remembered a bit more fondly than his son,note  as he took command of the army during what amounted to a fighting retreat, until the Belgian Army was driven back to a small strip of land between the Yser River and the North Sea. After leading the army in the Battle of the Yser in the fall of 1914 and halting the Germans, Albert spent the next four years at the Yser Front, where his wife, Queen Elisabeth, also worked as a nurse.
    • Danish king Christian X, being stuck in his Copenhagen palace for the entire war and under Nazi occupation, was actually the brother of Norwegian (Danish-born) king Haakon VII, who decided to leave Norway with his government in 1940, to become a lasting symbol of Norwegian resistance.
  • Alfred the Great, instead of leaving his kingdom, hid in a swamp until he could gather enough force to return and have an Awesome Moment of Crowning.
  • Martin Clemens, governor of Guadalcanal in World War II, when the Japanese first landed, stayed with the local natives to help organize La Résistance.
  • Being a King in Ancient Greece meant you were the first man on the battlefield, and the last man off: and Byzantine Emperors continued the tradition on the rare occasions that they were present on a battlefield. The last Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI died at the siege of Constantinople in 1453, refusing to the leave the besieged city. Plenty of people did get out of the siege, largely thanks to the excellent Byzantine navy.
    • Despite not being an actual King, the Persian governor of Caria (a culturally Greek state in Anatolia) Orontobates, also did this. When Alexander besieged the main city of Halicarnassus, Orontobates refused to leave with Memnon of Rhodes (who had been assisting him in the defense). He was killed in the ensuing melée (fortunately, before the fire set by Memnon's retreating forces reached him).
  • When the United States Capitol was besieged and then invaded by Donald Trump supporters on January 6 2021, interrupting the ceremonial counting of Electoral Votes and certification of Joe Biden's electoral victory, Vice President Mike Pence was ushered away by the Secret Service, first to his office, then to an underground parking garage where his armored limousine was waiting. Contrasting to earlier perceptions of his behavior, Pence refused to get in the car, despite the crowd upstairs chanting "Hang Mike Pence", claiming he would not give the rioters the satisfaction of seeing him running away.