A formal and ritualized decree is a common device in fiction, used to add a sense of grandeur to otherwise simple proceedings. These often begin with a reference to the person(s) promulgating the decree, and might even spell out all the titles they hold. What follows is usually either a generally applicable instruction or a list of demands. In either case, the decree has the force of law.
As the name of this trope suggests, such decrees are usually made by or in the name of a sovereign ruler. Rulers may utter their decrees personally (particularly when the decision is a reaction to a specific incident or discussion in their presence), often with a noticeable alteration of their voice. Alternatively, they may have it read out by someone specifically charged with the task.
In some cases, a decree of this legally-binding sort is issued by a group of people, such as a regency council that governs in the name of a child or an incapacitated ruler. Other groups issuing such decrees include town councils of free cities and religious authorities of The Church (especially of the fantastic variety).
Can overlap with Balcony Speech.
- In Dance in the Vampire Bund, Mina Tepes, queen of the vampires, uses this to kill a lesser vampire.
- In Disney's Cinderella, the Duke gives one of these to start the search for Cinderella using the glass slipper. This means that the Prince will have to marry someone soon.
- Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town: Burgermeister Meisterburger makes a decree that outlaws Toymakers and toys in a Ruritania-like town. Because he's a jerkass (and in charge for some reason, which is strange given that he focuses all his attention on his rather silly rule rather than actually handling the affairs of his town).
- The Wizard of Oz (1939). The Wizard gives instructions to the people of the Emerald City just before he takes off in his balloon.
Wizard: And I hereby decree that until what time, if any, that I return, the Scarecrow, by virtue of his highly superior brains, shall rule in my stead, assisted by the Tin Man, by virtue of his magnificent heart, and the Lion, by virtue of his courage! Obey them as you would me!
- Gullivers Travels features it in the first part.
- In Nosferatu (1922), the town council decrees people are forbidden from transporting plague victims to the hospital to avoid spreading the disease. Since it's a silent film, a town crier is shown banging a drum, and the proclamation is shown on a Title Card.
- In David Eddings' The Elenium series, Sir Sparhawk presents a document to the Royal Council:
Sparhawk: It has the queen's signature on it and her personal seal.[The document is later handed to Primate Annias.][The primate took the parchment in both hands as if he would tear it in two.]"What's the penalty for destroying a royal decree, my Lord of Lenda?" Sparhawk asked mildly.Earl of Lenda: Death.
- Kelson dictated terms to the Mearan Pretender in The King's Justice in one of these. Dhugal (who was related to her by marriage) entered Laas and read the decree to her and her advisors. He was frequently interrupted by questions from Caitrin and Judhael about the fates of their kin in the Mearan army.
- In the Book of Esther, King Ahasuerus drunkenly requests that his wife, Queen Vashti, come to his party wearing her crown to show off her beauty.note She refused the request, and he got mad. His advisors raised concerns that the women of the Persian Empire would rebel against their husbands and upset the social order, so they pressured him to divorce her and write a decree stating that the man is the head of the household. He complies, and sends his wife away. A few days later, he feels bad, but since there was no taking back a royal decree in the Persian Empire, there was nothing he could do. The advisors then take beautiful young virgins from all over the empire for him to choose as his next queen.
- In the Book of Daniel, King Darius' advisors try to get rid of Daniel by manipulating the king into issuing a decree that anyone who worships a god or man other than Darius must be thrown into the lions' den. As expected, Daniel is caught praying to the Hebrew God, and since Persian decrees are unalterable, there is nothing Darius can do about it. Fortunately, God prevents the lions from eating Daniel, and Darius has the advisors thrown in, instead.
- Dungeons & Dragons:
- An early one shows up in Basic D&D adventure X3 Curse of Xanathon. In the Back Story the Duke of Rhoona has issued several bizarre decrees, such as ordering that all taxes be paid in beer and that riders must face backwards on their horses. During the adventure the PCs witness the formal announcement of three decrees: (a) a declaration of war between Rhoona and the dwarven nation of Rockhome (b) combustible substances (e.g. lamp oil, candles and torches) cannot be burned at night and (c) all meat in the town can only be eaten by horses.
- In Traveller, the Emperor reserves the option to issue an Imperial Warrant which overrides normal law and custom and proclaims that the holder be treated as if he was the emperor within the parameters written on the warrant. Usually this is for special missions especially those that might require jackbooting a lot of Obstructive Bureaucrat s. For instance, during the Fifth Frontier War, the Archduke Norris used an Imperial Warrant to engage in a mass firing of incompetent admirals in the Imperial navy.
- The page quote comes the Warhammer 40,000 game Dawn of War 2: Retribution, when a nameless Inquisitor invokes Exterminatus.
- Played for laughs in the Jade's Story chapter of Tales of Fandom 2, in which Emperor Peony wants to go out into the city to investigate a possible coup being plotted against him, but Jade and Guy (quite reasonably) won't let him. The solution? Imperial Decree declaring that Jade and Guy are to accompany him into the city, which is met with exasperated obedience. (Anise too, but technically Peony doesn't have authority over her, so she was just tagging along for fun.)
- Just before the closing credits of the Australian cartoon series Arthur! and the Square Knights of the Round Table, Arthur issues a royal decree that the audience tune in next time the drawbridge is down. ("...Prithee?")
- On The Penguins of Madagascar, King Julien issues a decree that anyone who touches the royal feet will be banished from the kindgom forever. None of the other animals take it seriously, except for poor Mort, to whom the decree was issued for in the first place. After much hijinks and a near-death experience, Julien "undecrees" the decree.