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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.

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For each example state how the protagonist's sovereignty is relevant to the story. (ex.: Are they conquering nations? Are they 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.


Examples

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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 whole plot of the story kicks off with his former vizier Yzma turns him into a llama (in a failed attempt to poison him). H is forced to rely on Pacha, a peasant he planned to kick off his land, to return to normal in exchange for leaving his land alone. Kuzco undergoes Character Development and becomes a more capable ruler.
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    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.

    Literature 
  • 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.
  • The Interdependency books have Cardenia Wu-Patrick unexpectedly inheriting the throne after her brother dies in a race and her dying father names her, a bastard, his successor. She becomes Emperox Grayland II (the "x" is silent). She is one of several protagonists, though, all of whom are aristocrats in a Feudal Future.
  • Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne is centered around Prince Maric, who unexpectedly finds himself the deposed rightful ruler of Ferelden after his mother is assassinated by traitorous barons. Now, Ferelden is currently under occupation by the Orlesian Empire, but Maric is treated as the king by many in La Résistance. By the end of the book, he overthrows the occupants and is officially crowned.
    • In '’The Calling'', Maric is once again the protagonist, this time officially the king. He embarks on a trip in the Deep Roads with a group of Grey Wardens.
  • Several Warrior Cats books revolve around a Clan leader as the protagonist:
    • The Darkest Hour is when Firestar first becomes ThunderClan's leader. We see how leaders' nine lives work, and Firestar has to deal with decisions that affect the lives of his Clanmates and the whole forest.
    • In Firestar's Quest, Firestar has to decide whether it's the right thing to do to leave his Clan and possibly risk his life on a long journey to restore another, long-lost Clan. His experience in leading a Clan serves him well in bringing cats together and training their new leader.
    • In SkyClan's Destiny, Leafstar struggles with the possibility that her deputy might be trying to undermine her, as well as with the strictness of the Clans' warrior code; the book ends with her deciding that the law "The word of the Clan leader is the warrior code" means that rather than having to stick strictly to all the rules of the code, she has the right to be flexible and change the code for what works for her own Clan. SkyClan and the Stranger shows the result of this, with Leafstar balancing her responsibilities as leader with raising a litter of kits.
    • Bramblestar's Storm features the newly promoted Bramblestar, who wonders whether he can fill the pawsteps of his mentor/predecessor Firestar by doing things his own way.
    • Cloudstar's Journey is from the point of view of the leader of SkyClan at the time of their exile. It deals with the hard part of leadership: what it's like to lead others through a hopeless time, when it seems like there's nothing you can do to protect those who rely on you.
    • Pinestar's Choice: Most of the novella takes place during Pinestar's leadership of ThunderClan. The leadership is weighing on him, especially when one of his decisions leads to a Clanmate's death, and by the end of the novella he has to decide whether to Abdicate the Throne and leave his Clan to become a kittypet.

    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.

    Theatre 
  • 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. Over time, her role of princess comes with greater responsabilities and development, becoming the Princess of Friendship. She comes to gain her own palace and growing respect. She even gets a student of her own, which expands to more students over time. The final season has Celestia and Luna announce their plans to retire and the series finale sees Twilight and her friends, including Spike, ruling over Equestria. Good job, ladies and Spike.
  • 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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