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Ruler Protagonist

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In most works, the protagonist either answers to or is rebelling against The Powers That Be. But for this kind of protagonist, s/he is The Powers That Be for at least part of the setting, if not all of it. This character is likely to overlap with the Big Good (or Big Bad, in case of a Villain Protagonist).

It should be noted that a character only counts if they are the de facto ruler and they either exercise their political power or it is relevant to the story in some other way (exercising military power alone does not count). If they are a figurehead or are the destined ruler but have not taken power yet or are exiled, they are not this trope. Even if they officially hold the ruling title, they are still not this trope if they are away from their nation and their political office is not relevant to the story.


For each example state how the protagonist's sovereignty is relevant to the story. (ex.: Are they conquering nations? Are exercising their political power in some way? Is someone trying to assassinate them?)

If the story focuses more on the government in general rather than one particular leader, see Government Procedural.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Legend of Galactic Heroes, Reinhard von Lohengramm becomes the de facto ruler of the Galactic Empire a quarter into the series and is The Emperor for the second half of the show, which he spends trying to subjugate the remnants of the enemy nation he conquered and fend off assassination attempts from a cult.

    Films — Animated 
  • In The Emperor's New Groove, the protagonist is the titular emperor Kuzco. The story begins because of a failed assassination attempt.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Movies about the American President.
    • The American President is a romance but also has the president making decisions on several pieces of legislation.
    • Air Force One has an airborne assassination attempt on the president.
    • Lincoln focuses on his political effort to make the Emancipation Proclamation.
    • Nixon about the fall-out of Watergate and Nixon looking back on his career.
    • W. about George W. Bush dealing with the War on Terror and his family's legacy.
  • Movies about the British Royalty.
    • King George VI is the protagonist of The King's Speech. The film tells the story how he deals with his own insecurity and speech impediment to take the responsibility of leading his nation in World War II.
    • The Queen is about Queen Elizabeth II and her relationship with Prime Minister Tony Blair.
    • Elizabeth and Elizabeth: The Golden Age star Queen Elizabeth I. The first movie tells the story how she rose to power, while the sequel tells the story of her war against Spain later during her reign.
  • In Dave, the President of the US falls into a coma, so a man named Dave is hired to impersonate him for ceremonial purposes, so that the government can keep the President's coma a secret. However, Dave starts Becoming the Mask, and begins making his own political decisions. He funds charities and exposes corruption, ultimately making him a better president than the real president, who was quite the Jerkass.
  • In Maleficent the titular main character is the inofficial ruler of her home, the mythical Moors, and crowns herself Queen with a throne and all, over the course of the story. Her fight against the human king is more of a war than a personal conflict.

  • The title character of Babar is the King of the Elephants. The first few books show how he tries to be The Good King and bring the benefits of civilization to the jungle, while later stories are about him raising his family.
  • In A Brother's Price, one of the main characters is Princess Ren, who takes an active role in governing the country, as the Queens are sharing power with the Princesses. The antagonists are conspirators against the crown.
  • In the Deryni works, Kelson Haldane becomes King of Gwynedd at 14, and as he ages, he goes from being a type of MacGuffin to one of the key POV members in an Ensemble Cast. This is particularly true in the trilogy called The Histories of King Kelson (which covers his later teens) and the sequel King Kelson's Bride (when he's in his early twenties). Throughout this period, Kelson has to take his dead father's throne, fight off invasion from a neighbouring country, deal with internal rebellion (including a hostile Church), learn to use his magic powers and, well, grow up into adulthood.
  • In Dune Messiah, Paul "Muad'Dib" Atreides is The Emperor of the entire galaxy, figurehead of his own religion but still the most powerful man politically. He faces attempts by coalition of different factions to either assassinate him or remove him from power.
  • The Goblin Emperor opens with the protagonist unexpectedly inheriting the throne after his father and brothers all die in an airship wreck, and now struggles to rule a nation without any prior preparation.
  • Daenerys Targaryen in A Song of Ice and Fire, who wants to rule Westeros, but in the mean time has conquered much of Essos and begins ruling it.

    Live Action TV 
  • In The Royals King Simon is the king of Great Britain. Following the death of his oldest son, Simon starts to question the monarchy's relevance to the well being of the British people. He spends most of the first season trying to decide whether abolishing the monarchy might be the best thing for the nation and for Simon's screwed up family.
  • Babylon 5 is set in what amounts to the Space United Nations, and the commanding officer of B5note  is also a military governor and sits on the Babylon 5 Advisory Council, equivalent to the UN Security Council, as Earth's delegate. Additionally, John Sheridan becomes President of the Interstellar Alliance. However, as Babylon 5 has an Ensemble Cast structure, the CO of B5 isn't the lead role of every episode.
  • The West Wing is a Government Procedural set in the White House, with the main protagonist being President Bartlett.
  • House of Cards (US) focuses on Frank Underwood who eventually became the President of the United States at the end of Season 2. The succeeding seasons show him trying to maintain his position while facing his adversaries and at one point, he nearly got assassinated.
  • The Tudors is about the reign of Henry VIII and his relationship with each of his six wives.
  • The Crown is about the reign and life of Elizabeth II. The first season shows her early struggle as the Queen right after her father's death and her relationship with her family such as her husband Prince Philip and her sister Princess Margaret.
  • Shaka Zulu: While the British function as a First-Person Peripheral Narrator, the rise and fall of Shaka Zulu is the centerpiece of the series.

    Mythology & Religion 

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Forgotten Realms board game Lords of Waterdeep casts the players as the competing rulers of the city-state of Waterdeep, a small cabal that operates primarily in secret (though Piergeiron the Paladinson is publicly known). Their job is to assign adventuring parties to quests.

  • Many of William Shakespeare's tragedies and all of his history plays have rulers as the protagonist.
    • The titular character in Macbeth, King of Scotland. The story centers on his usurpation of the throne.
    • The title character in King Lear attempts to divide his kingdom between his three daughters, with tragic results.
  • Oedipus is the King of Thebes in Oedipus Rex. The story begins when as king he attempts to find the reason behind the plague afflicting Thebes.
  • Creon is the King of Thebes in Antigone. He spends the story trying to decide whether to kill or pardon the titular character because by breaking his kingly law she upheld the law of the gods.

    Video Games 

    Web Original 
  • The eponymous Chairman of The Chairman's Ear. The government and the president (for the most part) are completely subservient to him, and the entirety of the first season happens in his office, with various ministers and other subordinates reporting to him.

    Western Animation 
  • Post Season 3 of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Twilight Sparkle becomes a princess. One season later, she also has a new domain and castle.
  • The protagonists of Shadow Raiders include King Cryos, Prince Pyrus, and Emperor Femur, the rulers of Planets Ice, Fire, and Bone respectively. Lord Mantle of Planet Rock refused to join their alliance at first, and tries to take control by force when he finally does, but after his death Jade, who was one of the heroes from the beginning, succeeds him.


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