Follow TV Tropes


Ruler Protagonist

Go To

"It's good to be the king."

In most works, the protagonist either answers to or is rebelling against The Powers That Be. But for this kind of protagonist, they are 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 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. Compare Royals Who Actually Do Something where a member of royalty actively takes part in the plot but may not be the protagonist.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Aoi Horus No Hitomi begins with the coronation of Hatshepsut and her half-brother Thutmose II. She later becomes the regent to her young nephew/stepson Thutmose III and a pharaoh in her own right when the boy moves to Memphis.
  • In Legend of the 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.
  • Overlord (2012): Ainz finds himself the ruler of a dungeon full of evil monsters, and tries to create a place where all sentient species can live together in peace. Unfortunately, he's a stupidly-overpowered lich, so his enemies are terrified of him, while the people working for him hate humans and see themselves as unworthy of his benevolence, so most of his initiatives fall flat.
  • Vlad Draculea follows the life of Vlad III, the young voivode of Wallachia who struggles for centralization against boyars controlling the politics and economy of the small country before he fights the Ottoman Empire.

  • Medici Chapels: The central figures of the chapels —and the reason they were built in the first place— are the Medici brothers, the co-rulers of the city-state of Florence. They are portrayed in regal apparel (Giuliano holds a Staff of Authority while Lorezon wears a detailed headpiece) and possess muscular bodies in order to elevate them from the commoners.

    Comic Books 

    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). He is forced to rely on Pacha, a peasant he planned to kick off his land, to return to normal in exchange for leaving Pacha's land alone. Kuzco undergoes extensive Character Development and becomes a more capable ruler.
  • Much of the time span of Frozen (2013) centers around Elsa's coronation as Queen of Arendelle. This continues three years later in Frozen II but at the end of the movie, Elsa abdicated the throne and leaves her sister Anna as the new Queen of Arendelle.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Louis, the Child King is about the early days of Louis XIV's rule as King of France when he was still a child.
  • Movies about American Presidents:
    • The American President is a romance but also has the president making decisions on several pieces of legislation.
    • 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 British monarchs and heads of state:
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • Darkest Hour: Winston Churchill grapples with the onset of World War II and intense opposition in Parliament during his first days as Prime Minister.
    • The Queen is about Queen Elizabeth II and her relationship with Prime Minister Tony Blair.
  • In Dave, the President of the US hires a man named Dave to stand in for him at a ceremonial function, so that the president can carry on with an extramarital affair. Except the President suffers a stroke and falls into a coma, and the president's corrupt staffers decide to have Dave continue pretending to be the president while they keep the the president's and their own corruption under wraps. Unfortunately for said staffers, Dave starts Becoming the Mask, and begins making political decisions of his own. He funds charities and exposes corruption, ultimately making him a better president than the real president.
  • In Maleficent the titular main character is the unofficial 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 Two Popes concerns the abdication of Pope Benedict XVI and the election of his successor Francis.
  • The War Lord is about a 11th century Norman war lord (played by Charlton Heston) who gets entrusted with lands that he must rule and defend on behalf of the Duke of Normandy.

  • A few entries of the Fighting Fantasy series have the player assuming the role of a king or noble, whose quest revolves around their attempts to prevent their kingdom from falling to the forces of evil. Notably the hero of Masks of Mayhem who is the Monarch of Arion, the Warrior Prince protagonist of Battleblade Warrior and the player of Night of the Necromancer who is the Lord of Valsinore trying to uncover the titular Necromancer from destroying his hometown.

  • 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.
  • The Saga of Darren Shan — Darren becomes a Vampire Prince half-way through the series. Unfortunately, this is mostly averted, as he leaves the vampire stronghold after only a few chapters of book 7, and goes out into a world full of humans who neither know nor care about his title. He does give orders to other vampires, and the books pull some comedy out of contrasting his time-skipped six years of royal life with his experience in book 8 when he's forced to attend a human high school. It's most relevant in how it sets up the Either/Or Prophecy - that he and the leader of the opposite side in the war, his childhood friend, must fight to the death, and the one that survives will go on to conquer the world as a standard Evil Overlord...
  • The Deryni series has a couple of these:
    • Javan Haldane is the protagonist of King Javan's Year, which tells the story of his time on the throne of Gwynedd and his semi-successful attempt to break the power of the council of lords who have made the king a figurehead.
    • Boy-king Kelson Haldane (he's not quite 14 when Deryni Rising starts) grows in importance throughout the "Chronicles of the Deryni" trilogy; by the third novel in the trilogy, High Deryni, he's arguably a co-protagonist with Alaric Morgan. Kelson becomes the sole protagonist in the trilogy called "The Histories of King Kelson" (which covers his later teens) and the stand-alone sequel novel 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.
    • Alaric Morgan, main protagonist of the "Chronicles of the Deryni", could also be considered an example. He's not a king, only a duke, but under the series' feudal political system, he holds near-royal authority over his duchy of Corwyn. As the highest-ranking openly-Deryni noble in Gwynedd, he also becomes a focus for anti-Deryni bigotry, which leads to a major rebellion that Kelson has to somehow put down.

  • 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.
  • I, Claudius and Claudius, The God by Robert Graves are centered around how Claudius became Emperor of Rome and what he did with that power.
  • 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.
  • A Practical Guide to Evil: Starting from book 3, Villain Protagonist Catherine wrestles the rulership of her native Callow out of the Empire's hand, first by sitting in the ruling council, then being crowned vice-queen, and finally Queen. From book 4 onwards, she rules the country, with all the challenges that entails: mending the war-torn south, balancing the factions in her court, developing a currency, and fighting back an invasion.
  • 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.
  • How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom: After being summoned to Elfrieden, Kazuya Souma quickly becomes this when King Albert decides to abdicate the throne in his favor, despite the initial protests of many nobles. While initially struggling, he eventually solves the kingdom's crisis and solidifies his rule.
  • The Twelve Kingdoms: Youko Nakajima turns out to be the rightful ruler of kingdom of Kei. After resolving the Succession Crisis, she is crowned as Queen Sekishi, and several chapters involve showing the struggle of a highschooler running a fantasy nation. Her reign is sometimes brought up in stories set in other kingdoms.

    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 longest reigning British monarch in history. 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.
  • The Young Pope and The New Pope follow the fictional Pope Pie XII.
  • Ohsama Sentai King-Ohger is set in the world of Tikyū, where the Sentai team the story follows are each the ruling monarch of their own kingdom and country.

    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 
  • Queen Lilie from Britsune Garden. She is the queen regnant of the United Kingdom, and she plays quite a huge role in the story.
  • 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.