Follow TV Tropes


Royal Favorite

Go To

Back in the days when monarchs held power that wasn't symbolic, it sometimes happened that they had an intimate (platonic or romantic) acquaintance, who, regardless of their actual position in society, ended up enjoying a great deal of power almost equal to that of the monarch. These people were known as "favorites".

This kind of thing is pretty sure to be a source of court drama, intrigue, and conspiracy; a lot of people would just love to be that close to the most powerful person in the country, or they don't like the large sway that the favorite holds over the monarch. If the monarch winds up dying, then a world of hurt will be waiting for the favorite.

As for the favorite, they can run the gamut from Honest Advisor who wants the best for king and country, to an Evil Chancellor trying to run the country to their liking, or even some layabout who cares nothing about politics and just enjoys the cushy position, with the monarch keeping them around because they're fun and a welcome distraction from the stressful job of ruling. The Mistress or Hot Consort can also be a favorite.

Compare Number Two, The Confidant and The Consigliere. A part of a Standard Royal Court or Decadent Court.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Rebuild World: While it's a Cyberpunk setting, the environment of the slums, where Slum Lords reign in the absence of law and order, see this being discussed. Sheryl was living as the favorite of the lord Sebia while he waited for her charms to grow with age. After Akira kills Sebia in self-defense, Sheryl comes to Akira, and he helps her on condition that she take over Sebia's former gang and territory. Conflicting messages from both Akira and Sheryl cause a lot of characters to debate which one of the two in a (Fake Relationship) is calling the shots, which naturally would make the other The Favorite.
  • The Rising of the Shield Hero: Out of the four heroes, the Spear Hero Motoyasu finds himself getting the most favor from the king of Melromarc. This is because his daughter, the Princess Malty/Myne, is on his team. This is shown by how, after the first monster invasion, he gets a heftier monetary reward than the other three, and nearly being made the lord of a town (the protagonist Naofumi, who's detested by the king and Malty, prevented that one for the villagers' sake).
  • The Rose of Versailles has three:
    • Madame du Barry is a favorite and mistress of King Louis XV. His daughter-in-law Marie Antoinette gets along poorly with her, and is humiliated when she has to treat her with the same respect as everybody else at court.
    • Oscar de Jarjayes, the main character, becomes this when Louis XV dies and thus Marie Antoniette becomes queen, quickly becoming a colonel but never using her favor if not in ways that would help her better serve the Crown and France. She serves as a confidant for her woes and tries to keep her on the path of good rule, but has to contend with Marie Antoinette's other favorite.
    • Said other favorite is Yolande de Polastron, countess de Polignac, who also serves as Marie Antoinette's confidant but gives her bad advice that eventually leads to The French Revolution. One of the ways Marie Antoinette's favor manifests is with Yolande's husband being "promoted" from count to duke, making her a duchess.

    Fan Works 
  • Dungeon Keeper Ami: In the first chapter, when the first Horned Reaper sees Sailor Mercury's short skirt, it leads to his guess that she's "some lord's pampered plaything".
  • A Moth to a Flame: King Andrias is particularly fond of Marcy, holding her in higher regard than anyone else in his court. He heavily implies to Lady Olivia that he considers her to be the only one he can trust, even going so far as to introduce her directly to The Core and explain their intentions.

    Film — Animated 
  • The Lion King (1994): In a lighter take on this trope, Timon and Pumbaa are Simba's close friends who saved his life when he was a cub. They follow him when he returns to the Pride Lands and in the sequel it is shown that they enjoy a privileged position, getting to live on Pride Rock without any danger of being eaten by the other lions and having few duties to speak of (Simba often tells them to watch over Kiara, but their incompetence at it never results in any punishment).

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Alice in Wonderland (2010), Alice grows to become nine feet tall after eating the "Eat Me" cake, and thanks to this, she manages to ingratiate herself (under an assumed name of Um) with the Red Queen, who states she is her "new favorite". Free to explore the Queen's palace, Alice finds the Vorpal Sword and cures and befriends the Bandersnatch.
  • Farewell, My Queen: It depicts the relationship between Marie Antoinette and her favorite Gabrielle de Polignac. Marie Antoinette is implied to be in love with her, but Gabrielle doesn't return her interest by half and takes her position for granted. Even so, Marie Antoinette has her personal reader (the POV character who has feelings of her own for the queen) pose as Gabrielle's double so her favorite can safely flee.
  • The Favourite: Loosely based on Queen Anne of England's relationships with two of her favorites, Sarah Churchill and Abigail Masham. Sarah starts the movie as the queen's favorite Lady-In-Waiting and she enjoys a lot of political power because of it, especially as Anne is uninterested in ruling and not really cut out for it, so she delegates most of the work to Sarah. Then Sarah's cousin Abigail comes into the picture and the two start fighting over the queen's favor, with Abigail ultimately winning and Sarah being sent into exile.
  • Played With in How Czar Peter the Great Married Off His Moor (inspired by Pushkin's unfinished novel The Moor of Peter the Great). Ibrahim, Peter the Great's godson, is powerful and influential and aware of it, but he rarely exploits it. In fact, Peter's titular scheme to get him married to Natalya, a boyar's daughter, embarrasses Ibrahim as he sees she doesn't love him. By the film's end, she does.
    Ibrahim: (to his romantic rival) Had I only wanted it, Natalya would be mine, and you'd open the bedroom door for us.
  • In Ophelia, the title character is depicted as Queen Gertrude's favorite Lady-In-Waiting; she has raised her as a lady since she was a child and is a mother figure to her, as Ophelia's mother is long dead and Gertrude never had any children but Hamlet, who has left for university. Gertrude confides in Ophelia in some private matters, such as having her read medieval erotic literature to her and sending her to a so-called witch for herbal tonics. The other ladies are bitterly jealous of Ophelia, especially as she's not even nobleborn. However, she eventually falls out of favor due to Gertrude's mistaken belief that Ophelia is poisoning Hamlet against her and her new husband Claudius, leaving Ophelia in an extremely vulnerable position at court.
  • In A Royal Affair (which is based on true historical events) Johann Struensee becomes the favorite to both King Christian and Queen Caroline, the rulers of Denmark. Christian invites him to court because he finds him interesting and amusing, and he becomes one of his closest advisors; Struensee eventually ends up basically running the country. Caroline is initially uncertain, but over time they become close over their shared values and interests, to the point they fall in love and begin a secret affair. Unfortunately for Struensee, the Privy Council don't take kindly to a liberal outsider having so much influence and carrying on a relationship with the queen, and it ends extremely badly for him.

  • The Accursed Kings:
    • The book takes the idea that king Edward II was homosexual and runs with it, to the point where in order to get his wife Isabelle of France pregnant, he needed his favorite Hugh Despenser to get him worked up. It's stated the reason she had Hugh hanged, drawn, and quartered was resentment for years of him abusing his power, confiscating her belongings, and stealing her husband away from her.
    • The platonic version happens with Villain Protagonist Robert d'Artois, who manages to ingratiate himself to multiple French kings until he's more or less the king's equal (this is less him being a power-hungry schemer and more said kings being fundamentally Unfit for Greatness and all too happy to flee their responsibilities). But for all that, he can never get his damned county of Artois (the entire reason he tries to make himself the favorite in the first place) back from his aunt (who's just as determined to hang onto it as he is to get it back). In the end he ends up in exile and finds himself at the court of Edward III of England, encouraging him to claim the French crown in what will become the Hundred Years' War.
  • In the third book of The Adventures Of Petrushka by Margarita Fadeyeva and Anatoly Smirnov, a king named Indifferent takes a fancy to peasant girl Butterfly and decides to foster her at the palace. Butterfly quickly learns to use her new power, helping the oppressed people and stealthily playing pranks on the 0% Approval Rating king. Then it turns out it was, in fact, Petrushka in disguise. He took Butterfly's place to spare her from dealing with Indifferent.
  • In A Childrens Book by Boris Akunin, Lastik becomes the favorite and close confidant of Yurka (Historical Domain Character False Dmitry I): they initially bond because each of them is a time-traveler, Lastik from the 2000s and Yurka from the 1960s. Lastik enjoys a great deal of power at court, but it backfires terribly when Yurka is overthrown and Lastik has to escape to another time.
  • Lord Orthallen in Heralds of Valdemar is the close personal friend of Queen Selenay and her daughter Elspeth (who calls him Lord Uncle in unguarded moments). The fact that he's not trying to parlay his relationship with them into material gain tips the savvy characters off that he's the Evil Chancellor: as the Weaponsmaster puts it, a man not taking his reward openly is looking for a reward in secret. Sure enough, he's eventually unmasked and executed for treason.
  • In His Dark Materials, Iofur Raknisson is so enamoured with Mrs Coulter he even planned to rename his capital by her name. She helped him to get the throne and he accepted to imprison Lord Asriel for her.
  • Labyrinths of Echo: King Gurig VIII has several favorites who constantly compete for his affections, including Rogro Zhiil, editor-in-chief of one of Echo's two largest newspapers and the owner of the other, ensuring that the media always portrays the King in the shiniest of lights.
  • The Lady Grace Mysteries: Lady Grace Cavendish is Queen Elizabeth I's favorite maid-of-honornote  and goddaughter. Elizabeth took in Grace after her mother - a lady-in-waiting the queen was fond of - died drinking poison meant for Elizabeth. She secretly appoints Grace as her private investigator ("Lady Pursuivant") after she solves a murder mystery at court. As such, she tends to allow Grace more leeway than other ladies but she does ask that Grace keep her investigations discreet and isn't best pleased if she finds out Grace has been putting herself in danger.
  • In Legend of the Galactic Heroes, Annerose von Musel was Emperor Friedrich IV's favored concubine. The main thing she used this for was to get accelerated promotion for her brother Reinhard. For much of the early novels, much of the high nobility regarded Admiral Reinhard von Lohengramm as nothing but a young upstart who never would have gotten anywhere had it not been for who his sister was sleeping with, even after he indisputably proved himself in battle.
  • In one of the Nested Story poems in My Grandfather Heroes And I by James Krüss, a shepherd, through flattery and quick thinking, rises to become the favorite of the tyrannical king. It's all a ploy to expose the king's treacherous nature and overthrow him.
  • In The Moor Of Peter The Great by Alexander Pushkin, Ibrahim Hannibal is Tsar Peter's godson, protege, and favorite. He does use his position and the Tsar's money to lead a life of careless luxury in Paris for quite a while, but he never outright abuses his power.
  • At the start of Reflections of Eterna, Roque Alva, Duke of Kenalloa, is in a strange position of being both the top general of Talig and rumored to sleep with Queen Catherine — with her husband, the extremely weak King Ferdinand Ollar, either turning a blind eye or even actively encouraging their trysts, depending on who you ask, while also delegating large chunks of sovereign power to Alva. In reality, though, while Roque and Catherine do love each other, neither acts on their feelings — not least because the well-being of Talig magically depends on Catherine's children being legitimate descendants of Francis Ollar. Also, Alva's military credentials are entirely based on merit, while Ferdinand's trust is backed by Alva's Blood Oath of loyalty (though neither of the two fully understands the significance of this ancient magic).
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Taena Merryweather ingratiates herself with Queen Regent Cersei in order to bolster House Merryweather's power and influence. While Cersei is aware of her true intentions, she regularly sleeps with Taena and confides in her about a very personal fear regarding a prophecy that predicted all her children would die.
    • The traveling singer Marillion becomes one to Lysa Arryn. Since she is the Lady of the Eyrie, nobody dares cross Marillion in fear that he will influence Lysa, and Marillion fully takes advantage of this clout by singing songs mocking knights and lords and coercing servant girls into having sex with him. Karma hits him in a major way when Lysa Arryn is thrown out the Moon Door, with Marillion getting framed for it, tortured into insanity and eventually executed without anybody speaking on his behalf, as he had become so hated.
    • Queen Daenerys Targaryen takes a shine to sellsword captain Daario Naharis, eventually taking him as a lover. Pretty much all of Dany’s advisors dislike Daario (Ser Jorah Mormont in particular), but teenage Dany is infatuated with him (while privately acknowledging he's not king material). When Daario is taken hostage while Dany is lost in the Dothraki Sea, no one really considers getting him back safely a priority.
    • Ser Jorah Mormont is a member of Daenerys' Queensguard, sworn to protect her, but he's also one of her closest advisors and friends. She often relies on him for advice and Jorah is close enough to her that he can transcend the usual boundaries between a knight and monarch, sometimes to the point of inappropriateness as Dany herself notes. Jorah is in love with Dany, but she herself views him more like an older brother or father figure. Nevertheless, he is devoted to her. Even when he falls out of favor and gets banished after Dany learns he originally came into her service to spy on her, he's still determined to return to her side.
    • Ser Davos Seaworth is viewed as a jumped-up smuggler King Stannis is oddly fond of. He's the Honest Advisor version, who Stannis elevates because he values his wisdom over that of his short-sighed and greedy noble supporters.
  • The Sorcerer's Daughter: Odile comes to Odette's court and quickly becomes her favorite lady-in-waiting and most trusted friend, to the point that at any events, she is announced as "Her Grace, Lady Odile" right after the Princess Regnant herself, despite having no formal title. It shocks the courtiers at first, but as Odile is a genuinely kind, friendly, and accomplished girl, she soon manages to win over most of them.
  • The Sunne in Splendour: Edward IV's Decadent Court is filled with men vying to be one of his favorites. Will Hastings is his best friend. Anthony Woodville is his brother-in-law. Thomas Grey is his stepson. They all have a good time together, when they aren't scheming against each other. Meanwhile, Richard, Duke of Gloucester is Edward's baby brother and they are close, but Richard prefers the role of Honest Advisor and doesn't suck up to his brother.
  • Water Margin: Gao Qiu, the Big Bad, started his life as a ne'er-do-well second son who wasted his time in hedonistic pursuits. He becomes a favorite of Prince Duan by impressing him with his football skills and, despite a lack of qualifications, is promoted to Grand Marshal when Duan becomes Emperor Huizong. From then on, Gao Qiu becomes a corrupt official who takes advantage of his power to take revenge on anyone who slighted him and incriminates innocent civilians.
  • The Wheel of Time: Queen Morgase's rule suffers tremendously when she takes Lord Gaebril as a lover, advisor, and eventual de facto co-ruler, costing her most of her allies and public support for the monarchy. Subverted with The Reveal that he is actually Rahvin the Forsaken, who mind-controlled his way into her good graces to destroy her nation from within.
  • Zadig: Zadig starts out and ends up in this position repeatedly. Unfortunately, since he's also the Only Sane Man he inevitably gets chased out by the envious incompetents who feel their cushy position has been usurped (including, at one point, by all the doctors who'd been unsuccessfully treating an obese patient when Zadig had him do some physical exercise).

    Live-Action TV 
  • Blackadder: The second Blackadder is a courtier to Elizabeth I, and spends most of his time trying to earn her favor, which can be difficult as she's more than a little Ax-Crazy. Baldrick is also Blackadder's favorite, as his most trusted henchman.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Warhammer, Nagash, King (also eventual destroyer) of Nehekhara and creator of Necromancy had a trusted Lieutenant named Arkhan the Black who faithfully served his master and Nagash comes to see as his most reliable ally. As an apprentice to Nagash, Arkhan was a gifted sorcerer himself and would carry out any posthumous tasks, most notably attempts to bring back Nagash.

  • William Shakespeare:
    • Henry IV: Falstaff starts as an inseparable companion of the young Prince Hal. However after Hal becomes King Henry V, he rejects Falstaff when he tries to fall back into his favor again, due to Falstaff's disreputable lifestyle.
    • Henry VIII: Cardinal Wolsey is Henry VIII's favorite, something most of the nobles despise. Wolsey is portrayed as a bit of a machiavellian character who tries to run Henry's kingdom behind his back, even plotting to get him married to the king of France's daughter without his knowing in order to secure a treaty. He tries to sabotage both Henry's marriage to Katherine and turn him away from Anne Boleyn and his constant machinations eventually lead to his fall from the king's grace.

    Video Games 
  • Radiant Historia: Queen Protea promoted Selvan and Dias to their high-ranking positions because she thinks they're handsome. She believes she can trust them, and while Selvan and Dias are not incompetent, neither are they loyal to Protea and they plot to dispose of her to carry on their plans.

    Real Life 
  • Emperor Ai of Han was notorious for his favoritism towards his lover Dong Xian, which resulted in Dong being repeatedly promoted despite a lack of qualifications, eventually becoming supreme commander of the armed forces at only 22 years old.
  • In China, Heshen was a court official favored by the Qianlong Emperor, who proved so spectacularly corrupt that his personal fortune at his height was estimated as being equal to 15 years of the entire court's income.
  • A Chinese king of the Zhou dynasty is said to have favored one concubine who never laughed. One day the signal fires were lit to warn of an attack, and the concubine laughed to see the soldiers running around. Predictably, after the king raised several false alarms to get a reaction from his concubine, the soldiers stopped responding even during an actual rebellion that ended the king's reign.
  • Olivier Le Daim was one of the favourite advisers of Louis XI, often described as his âme damnée (literally, "Damned Soul"). He was of humble origins and started out as the king's barber and valet, but was made a noble and amassed such titles as comte de Meulant, gentleman-in-waiting, captain of Loches, and governor of Saint-Quentin. After the death of his benefactor, he was framed and executed by nobles he had ridiculed.
  • Concino Concini was the favourite of Marie of Médicis, who was the regent after the death of her husband Henri IV; he even ended up marshal without serving one day in any military. A big contributor to this was his wife, Leonora Dori, who was queen's best friend since childhood. Unfortunately, the son she was regent for eventually came of age and when his mother and her favourites didn't want to give up power, he staged a coup that resulted in Concini's death; his wife, meanwhile, was accused of witchcraft and executed.
    • Ironically, Louis XIII, the young king in question, had help from his own royal favourite - Charles d'Albret, duke de Luynes. The exact nature of their relationship is uncertain; he seems to be something of a father figure to the teenage king, though there were also rumors about them being lovers. He was one of the few royal favourites who never fell out of favor and died of natural causes. Later, Louis also took a liking to young Henri Coiffer de Ruzé, marquis de Cinq-Mars; again, rumors abound about his, eh, relationship to the king, not helped by the fact that he was reportedly quite handsome. His good looks certainly didn't help him when he was found guilty of conspiring with king's younger brother against Cardinal Richelieu and executed.
  • Françoise d'Aubigné aka Madame la Marquise de Maintenon, the most famous favorite and the second wife of Louis XIV, which he married in secret in 1683. The exact extent of her tremendous influence on the Sun King isn't yet fully known, but at the very least she made him take more religiously devoted decisions, which included apparently convincing him to revocate the Edict of Nantes (which meant the persecution of Protestants started again) in 1685 and throw his armies into the War of the Spanish Succession in 1701.
  • Rasputin became the favourite of Czar Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra after he cured a haemophilia crisis from Alexei by not giving him aspirin. Nicholas and Alexandra in general had a long history of relying on various mystics and "holy men" even before their son was born, though none of them lasted as long, or was as eccentric. This did earn Rasputin many enemies among the Imperial Russian court, which eventually lead to his famous death when World War I broke out.
  • Edward II had his close friend (and possibly lover) Piers Gaveston. Edward lavished Gaveston, a knight, with many gifts, and at one point wanted to give him the county of Ponthieu. This enraged Edward I, who sent Gaveston into exile to punish his son. The exile ended as soon as Edward I died and Edward II ascended to the throne, and Gaveston was fast granted an earldom and married off to Margaret de Clare to secure his position. Many nobles detested the extravagant attention Edward gave to Gaveston, so the king was forced to exile his favorite many times for his safety. Gaveston wound up assassinated by magnates after violating one of these exiles.
  • Edward IV was a Warrior King and The Casanova who liked to play hard with his favorites, including Will Hastings, Anthony Woodville, Thomas Grey and sometimes his little brother, the future Richard III.
  • James I had his share of these, most notably Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset, and George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham (also known from The Three Musketeers). The exact nature of these relationships is still hotly debated, and some historians argue that the king was bisexual. Duke of Buckingham was later "inherited" by his son Charles, most certainly as just a friend (Duke of Buckingham was much younger than James I).
  • Examples from Ottoman court:
    • One of the most famous examples not only in the history of the Ottoman Empire but in general was the fate of Ibrahim Pasha of Parga. Originally a slave on the court of prince Süleyman, he befriended his master and by the time prince became sultan Süleyman I (later known as The Magnificent), they were completely inseparable. In order to counter the power of old ottoman aristocracy, Süleyman named this man of relatively humble origins a Grand Vizier, something which said aristocracy didn't exactly appreciate; it didn't help that Ibrahim had a very "western" taste, was suspected of secretly still being a Christian, and also earned the enmity of Süleyman's great love and later wife Hürrem (also known in the West as Roxelana) - we still aren't sure why. Either way, it seemed like no one except Süleyman really wanted him around, and in the end he fell out of favor and was executed.
    • Ibrahim I is often called "The Mad", and while how much he earned this title is uncertain, he was at least very incompetent. He was infamous for his numerous favourites, on which he bestowed lavish gifts and incredible political influence, such as Cinci Hoca, a Rasputin-esque figure who allegedly helped him with his mental health problems, and Şeker Pare, wife of a pasha, who reportedly sought out women for his harem.
  • Russia in the turbulent 18th century is really onto itself in this regard. This is a non-exhaustive list:
    • Alexander Menshikov, the best friend of Peter the Great, became the actual ruler of the state after Peter's widow ascended the throne as Catherine I. She was succeeded by Peter's grandson, who was still a child by this point, and Menshikov was eventually ousted by other courtiers and sent to an exile in Siberia. He's remembered as incredibly corrupt, amassing great wealth by dubious means.
    • Ernst Biron, lover of empress Anna Ivanovna, was extremely influential, but generally disliked, which led to him trying to assert his rule with an iron fist. When Anna died, naming her baby grandnephew as heir, Biron tried to seize the regency, to the extreme aggravation of the tzar's actual mother, who ousted him in a coup and sent him to Siberia.
    • Catherine The Great had a long and sordid history with these. While she had many lovers, only three of them lasted long and gained actual power - Grigory Orlov, Grigory Potemkin, and Platon Zubov. Orlov was a young officer who helped her to the throne in the first place and was her partner for a decade before the empress got fed up with his demanding nature and ditched him for young, extremely inoffensive Alexander Vasilchikov. She quickly got bored of him and started the relationship with Potemkin, who actually turned out to be a very smart and competent statesman. Catherine and Potemkin made for a great team and ruled Russia together for years, even after they stopped being lovers, with Potemkin going so far as to find younger lovers for the aging empress. Platon Zubov was the only one she picked herself - probably in a fit of mid-life crisis, but he managed to diminish even Potemkin's influence, securing wealth and cushy jobs for himself and his family.
  • Queen Victoria's favourite after her husband's death was her personal attendant John Brown. The exact nature of their relationship is speculative as to whether they were friends or lovers.