This discussion is part of the optional monthly discussions for the Royal Challenge hosted by She’s Got Books on Her Mind.
So, what makes a royal? If we’re going to be all literal, I would have to say that birth is what makes a royal. Royalty and royal blood is inherited in certain families and nothing can change that reality.
However, if we are going to talk about what makes a good royal, then I can list some traits. Let’s keep this in the literary realms and so I will endeavor to find a character for each trait I select.
A good royal would display the trait of compassion. Compassion is important in a royal so that they can truly care about their people. When a royal looses compassion, they become a tyrant, thinking only of themselves. Compassion prevents a royal from becoming self-centered and egotistical.
A character that I would say portrays compassion would be King Zachary from Green Rider series. King Zachary was chosen by his father to be king over his older brother, Prince Amilton. Where Amilton was greedy and self-centered, thinking only of his own power, Zachary was always thinking of others. He truly cares about each and every one of his subjects. This can be seen through the audiences he hold weekly where anyone in the kingdom can bring any concern to him personally.
Another character trait I feel a good royal should posses is mercy. While justice is also an important trait, I feel that mercy trumps in this case. Mercy is a word with many definitions but I just want to focus on one:
1. Compassionate or kindly forbearance shown toward
an offender, an enemy, or other person in one’s power
Mercy, in this instance, would be when a good royal would understand the circumstances leading toward an action and so lessen the punishment. For example, if a child stole a loaf of bread and the punishment is to lose a hand, a just person would mete out the punishment. A merciful person would see that the child acted from necessity to keep from starving. A merciful person would acknowledge that cutting off a hand would just make the child more likely to steal again. The merciful person may change the punishment and maybe even provide some training so the child would not need to steal again in the future.
I think mercy such as this is very necessary in a good royal and goes hand in hand with compassion. A character I would say portrays mercy would be the Duchessa of Bellezza from City of Masks. In the book, Arianna and Lucien are discovered in the city on the Forbidden Day. The Duchessa understands Lucien’s reasons for being there and so arranges for his punishment to be lessened. Sure, the Duchessa had other motives as well, but she still acted out of mercy, at least in this instance.
I believe that a good royal should also show the trait of self-sacrifice, or giving of self before others. A good royal would understand that they are in a position of authority in order to take care of and protect their people. I feel that a good royal should be willing to make sacrifices for the good of their people.
I think that self-sacrifice, in this sense, can be seen in King Jonathan from Tamora Pierce’s Tortall books. Jonathan isn’t a ruler removed from his people. He knows them in ways I can’t say here without spoiling some of the books. Jonathan is willing to make sacrifices. He will fight alongside the regular soldier in times of war and lets people talk to him like an equal.
I feel that these three traits (compassion, mercy, and self-sacrifice) are traits important in a good royal. They all go together. If one is compassionate, they should be inclined towards mercy. If one is inclined toward mercy, one should be willing to make sacrifices for others.
What are the traits that you say a good royal should have? I’d love for you to share!