"How Should My Royalty/Nobility Behave?"
How To Answer This For Yourself!

"How should my royalty/nobility behave?" is a question that some writers struggle with. They've seen royalty depicted enough in fiction or in documentaries to know that they had very particular ways of behaving, but they also don't know the full extent of it. So, they might find themselves at a loss when trying to actually write royalty and nobility themselves.

The good news is that if you're writing fantasy or science fiction, the answer boils down to "whatever you want." There's no one single way that nobility and royalty did things, so there doesn't have to be one single way they do things in fiction. Whether the court has elaborate rules and customs, or whether it mostly sticks to few basics like "don't spit on the floor," and "don't mouth off to your king" is entirely up to you to decide.

"Okay, so how do I decide?" you might be wondering. "How do I narrow this down when there are so many options?" The answer's the same as for most issues like this - with a little thought and logic. Here's what to think about when trying to work out how your royal or noble courts behave.

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What are their values and beliefs?

The dominant values and beliefs of the upper class will have a strong influence. Once you decide what their overall cultural climate is like, you can start extrapolating some ideas of how things might go. Here are a few aspects you might consider:

If you find yourself having a hard time trying to decide what their values ought to be, you can take a look at Tips To Create Fictional Philosophies & Value Systems.

Who has the most power and influence in the court?

Now, stop and ask yourself who all has the most power and influence in the royal court. Obviously this is going to include the reigning monarch, but it can also include the monarch's close friends, associates, and family members.

Ask yourself about what kind of personality and temperament the monarch has. Are we looking at someone who enjoys a lot of pomp and pageantry, or is this someone who has a more pragmatic, down-to-earth attitude? Does this person enjoy formal ritual, or is this seen more as unnecessary fuss? What does this person consider to be appropriate and acceptable in terms of fashion and behavior? What does this person consider inappropriate or disrespectful? How does this person believe that people of unequal rank should relate to and treat each other?

Now consider who all has influence over the monarch. What are they all like? What kinds of personalities do they have? How do they think things ought to be done? How much are they willing or able to convince the monarch of this?

While you're working this out, don't forget that their ages should be taken into account, too. Someone old enough to be a great-grandparent probably isn't going to have the same ideals and notions as a young twenty-something, and vice-versa. Young people often want to change things to suit their own ideals, but older ones often have things just the way they like them already, and see any further change as pointless, or even reckless.

What kind of image do they want to cultivate?

How do they want to appear to their subjects? Are we looking at people who want to come off as fierce and stern and thus keep people too afraid to disobey them? Or are we maybe looking at people who want to create a warm, caring image to encourage people to trust and love them? Do they want to appear traditional? Forward-thinking? Peaceful?

Of course, the image they want to send to people doesn't necessarily have to line up with their action behaviors (how many people act like all they want is peace while bucking for war every chance they get?), but it'll still have an impact on what they do and how they conduct things. For example, if they're concerned with looking like they care about the poor, they might avoid wearing ostentatious garb or breaking out the golden dinner plates. If they want to seem fierce and strong, their fashion and rituals might have a militaristic appearance. If they want to seem peaceful and intellectual, they might eschew militaristic aesthetics in favor of something softer and more refined-looking.

Essentially, you need to ask yourself two questions here: how do they want the public to see them, and what can they do to try to look that way?

What can they afford?

With all the extravagance that royalty and nobility often surround themselves with, one might suppose that they have bottomless pockets. However, this is rarely the case. Financing the military will take up a good chunk of their budget, as will building and maintaining fortified structures (EG, castles, military bases, and the like). They'll probably also want to have their own transport for shuttling themselves and those who work for them to other places, whether by land, sea, air, or some other fantastic means. They might hold lavish parties to get together and mingle with other royals and nobles, whether for fun or to try to foster goodwill. In addition, they might be financing exploration voyages, education, public services, religious institutions, and any number of other things.

Essentially, it's a lot easier than one might imagine for a government to run short on money, since running a country is always a costly operation. If a country is in bad financial condition, they may wish to forgo things like having too many expensive lavish parties, insisting that everyone in the court wears a particularly expensive type of clothing, or having scads of servants they don't actually need.

Of course, this isn't to say all royals and nobles are going to have good financial sense - they just aren't. It's perfectly plausible and likely for some of them to go on holding lavish celebrations while the common folk are dying of starvation, or somesuch. Still, it's good to consider their financial state, and ask yourself how it might impact what they're doing.

Also check out:

Things To Know When Creating & Developing Fictional Governments
On Writing & Roleplaying Characters Who Are Good Leader Material
Tips To Write Better Royalty, Nobility, & Other Upper-Class & Important Characters
On Designing & Writing Oppressive Governments In Your Fiction

Tips To Create Richer & More Realistic Fantasy & Science Fiction Cultures & Civilizations
Creating & Writing Fantasy Armies - Things To Keep In Mind & Consider
Country & Culture-Development Questions
Designing Fictional Fashion: Figuring Out What Your SF Characters Wear

Points To Remember When Worldbuilding
Things Your Fantasy Or Science Fiction Story Needs
Things You Need To Do In Your Science Fiction Or Fantasy Story

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