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The phenomenon in fiction (primarily in high fantasy) of commoners being allowed improbably free access to the royal family.

In Real Life, access to royal families is usually tightly controlled, and in most cases commoners are not allowed to have extended interaction with royals outside of formal events. Not in fantasy, though. In fantasy, Farmer Joe can go into the royal palace and give King Richard their secret handshake and a slap on the ass and say "What's Up, King Dude?" Royals Who Actually Do Something tend to do this more than others, since they're already active anyway and "actually doing something" more often than not entails working common folks.

The reason for this trope is likely the fact that, in ancient times, rulers of small clans and chiefdoms were often referred to as "kings." Later on, such as in the Renaissance, these stories were modified to better fit then-modern times (i.e. with bigger kingdoms and more powerful kings)... but they forgot to edit the part about the farmer visiting his "king."

Royal security did, however, remain rather porous; common peasants were certainly not allowed in the palace, but just about anyone who could afford a nice set of clothes and some bribes could enter freely, especially during the eras of feudalism where local lords held more practical power than the king did. It was in early days of colonialism that royals grew tremendously in power and thus allowed few of common blood into their courts. (The fact that easy access to concealed firearms suddenly made political assassinations depressingly easier certainly didn't help things.)

In fiction, however, it's rather common for anyone -- nobles, farmers, merchants, bribers, and military chaps alike -- to be able to waltz into the palace with few or no repercussions.

Compare Swiss Cheese Security, where supervillains do a rather poor job of securing their lairs; they often overlap in the case of Evil Overlords.

Examples of What's Up, King Dude? include:


Anime and Manga

  • Spider Riders: The citizens of Arachna do this all the time with Prince Lumen.
  • Sort of inverted with the Princess (and later, Queen) Henrietta de Tristain in Zero no Tsukaima, who despite being depicted as alternatively pressured, sheltered and/or cloistered by the royal court seems to be able to slip out of the palace incognito for a brief chat with her lower class friends with remarkable ease.
  • In One Piece Princess Vivi was shown in a flashback to be a Tomboy, who played with other kids all the time. It is noted how unusual it is for commoners and royalty to be able to freely associate in that manner.
    • To a lesser extent is Queen Otohime of Fishman Island's Ryugu Kingdom, who would daily make public addresses in the middle of town when she could just as easily do so from the palace. It's noted as a part of both her own nature and those of her abilities (a form of clairvoyance called Haki) that she prefers to be among her people.
  • Hotohori in Fushigi Yuugi and later his son Boushin, actually relishes this due to loneliness although his advisors discourage it.

Film

  • This is the case to the U.S. president on Gabriel Over the White House, leading to a Narmtastic scene where the Mafia does a drive-by shooting at the White House footsteps.

Literature

  • Played straight in Robert Aspirin's Myth Adventures series with Roderick.
  • Discworld usually doesn't play this straight, but Lord Vetinari's guards are under orders to accept any and all bribes, and he generally doesn't object to any commoner with both enough courage and a good enough reason to walk right up to his desk. Given that he cultivates a reputation as a tyrant (a very benevolent and competent one, nonetheless) anyone who gets that far is probably worth listening to for a minute.
    • It helps immensely that he's known to be an alumnus of the Assassin's Guild, but no one can quite remember exactly what his focus was. And no one wants to be the one to find out by trying anything funny.
    • The situation in Lancre is ... complex. Basically, royal security consists of Shawn Ogg, who is more likely to obey his mam than his monarch. Verence wants to be a man of the people in any case, but the Lancrastians believe the king should be holed up in the palace eating, quaffing and exercising his droit de seigneur, and are mistrustful of one who wants to listen to them.
  • In Thomas Malory's magnum opus Le Morte Darthur, a poor cowherd seems to just walk up to King Arthur and asks a favor of him. In fact, alot of quests and tales begin with some stranger just waltzing in to say/do something.
  • Fflewddur Fflam in the Prydain Chronicles was king of a country so small you could walk across the whole thing in a single day. Children would often play games and sports in his throne room because of ease of access, and they knew that he was far more likely to join in their games then shoo them out of the castle.
  • Deconstructed in Septimus Heap, since the lack of guarding results in Princess Jenna being kidnapped.

Live Action TV

  • In the Doctor Who episode "Monster of Peladon", it seems anyone, including miners, can walk into the throne room and talk to the queen whenever they want to talk to her about something.
  • Various people have startling amounts of access to Kai Winn on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, especially considering that she is essentially the Bajoran Pope. Major Kira, who granted is the second-in-command to the Emissary on the most strategic installation in the quadrant, still seems to get away with a lot in terms of informal meetings in which she can get very lippy indeed. Then there's Jake and Nog in "In the Cards," and, more grimly, "Anjohl Tennan" (read 'Gul Dukat') in the closing arc.
  • The short-lived comedy That's My Bush parodied the George W. Bush presidency as a standard Rom Com, which included giving George a next door neighbor who drops in Once an Episode. Made doubly ridiculous by the fact that the real White House is completely fenced in, with no residential buildings on its immediate vicinity.

Theater

  • In the musical Pippin, commoners are allowed to stand in lines and give the king their requests for change in the kingdom. Never mind the fact that in 11th-century Europe (where this is set) anyone who did that would be promptly beheaded or worse.

Video Games

  • World of Warcraft does this with literally every playable race leader. As long as you are of the same faction, you can just barge into the royal throne room and talk to the king/queen/president.
    • Possibly justified as each of these leaders is a match for an entire 40 man raid of top level PCs, while their guards are all much much weaker.
    • Also by the time your characters are strong enough to be a threat to said leader (Well, their Guards at least) they're already accomplished heroes known for their service to their respective factions and have likely done a quest or two that involves one of the leaders at some point or another.
  • Seems to be the case in the Super Mario Bros.. series. Okay, Mario and the like might be justified for having saved the kingdom a few hundred times, but apparently anyone even remotely affiliated with them can walk straight through the front door of the castle without opposition. Or how Bowser really, really ends up getting right next to Peach pretty dang often, at least in the RPGs, where he apparently just walks through the front door before Mario and Luigi have to defeat him practically next to the throne.
    • Well, it's not like anyone can stop Bowser except maybe the Bros.
  • The Last Remnant.
    • Not really. The main character has access to various nobility despite being a civilian, but his parents are famous scientists. It doesn't show ordinary commoners wandering into the throne room.
    • Its also basically stated outright that Athlum is the least important nation in existence, and the citizens look up to the marquis as a war hero rather than a ruler. An ambassador from another nation acts as if he owns the place--and he basically does.
  • Lino En Kuldes in Suikoden IV
    • Averted in Suikoden 5: the Queen is living in an insular bubble, and relies on her sister and a few select knights to maintain contact with the common people
  • Kings and Queens in Dragon Quest games are typically lazy about security. Sure they'll have guards stationed at various points in the castle, but you can pretty much walk up and talk to them without any trouble.
  • Common in the 2D-era Final Fantasy games, up to and including exploring the royal bedrooms. In the very first game, you even have to go and find the king on your own initiative (more or less).
  • Played with in the Dragon Age games. In the first game you are able to speak to Teyrn Loghain before the Battle of Ostagar, though the easiest way is for you to pick the Human Noble origin and tell the guard that the reason that Loghain should deign to speak to you is because you're the son of the only other teyrn in Ferelden, Bryce Cousland, who has been killed in a sneak attack on his castle. In the second game you are able to walk into the chambers of Kirkwall's ruler, the Viscount, without any sort of the normal "you can't just walk in and see the Viscount" thing.
  • Depending on the game, Lord British is a very accessible monarch.
    • Mostly justified for the player in that the main character is The Chosen One - and it was British that did the choosing. But it doesn't look like anyone else would have that much trouble getting to see him either - but he is usually surrounded by guards. Maybe they keep out the riff-raff.
  • In The Sims Medieval, villagers are frequently seen in the Throne Room interacting with the Monarch, Royal Advisor and visiting diplomats.
  • In Oblivion, the Counts and Countesses apparently have an open-door policy, allowing anyone who comes during visiting hours to wander in, armed to the teeth, and have a friendly chat. It makes the one Count in the game who generally refuses audiences with commoners to seem stand-offish by comparison. This is possibly justified later on in the game, when you're a hero renowned throughout Cyrodil, and have done each and every one of the Counts and Countesses at least one personal favor. But at the beginning of the game, when you're a total nobody (and an escaped convict at that), it doesn't make a lot of sense.
    • In Skyrim, jarls seem to have the same kind of open-door policy. The dragonborn can just walk in and ask if they have a job for him. In fact, it is usually harder to get into a town jarl resides in (1 dialogue with a guard) then to get into the jarl's palace.
      • Sometimes justified because some of the Jarls are hicks and their residences just larger-than-usual log cabins rather than palaces.
      • It's sort of played with in the beginning of Skyrim, as when you first go into Dragonsreach, Balgruuf's Housecarl stops you and demands to know your business, and you can't get past her until you tell her. This is just Whiterun however, and it's the only time it happens.
  • An inversion occurs in Shining Force. In one of the towns about halfway through the game, the item and weapon shops are connected to the castle. When you approach them, the King comes running up to stand behind the counter, and says something like "Just because I'm King, doesn't mean I can't make some money!"
  • Both averted and enforced in Runescape. Players can freely approach the king and queen of Misthalin, yet the king and crown prince of Asgarnia do not even appear as ingame characters. One of the two kings of Kandarin is likewise accessible, yet the throne room guards of Miscellania will only allow a 'hero' in to see the king. These are some examples, but there is a bit more as well.


Webcomics

  • The Darths and Droids webcomic both uses this straight and lampshades it with GM comments and notes after the comics.

Western Animation

  • Played with in Avatar: The Last Airbender. In the Northern Water Tribe in season one, the main gang is able to get a seat at the high table of the chief of the tribe, due to Sokka and Katara being members of the Southern Water Tribe (and the offspring of its chief, at that) and Aang being the Avatar. The second season is subverted, as the protagonists eventually have to sneak into a fancy party when they can't see the Earth King any other way (due to them being actively kept away from him by Ba Sing Se's secret police).
    • After their fancy party trick fails, they try Storming the Castle. It works, because they're able to (non-lethally) incapacitate the entire royal guard, being three of the biggest badass benders in the world (and Sokka).
    • Inverted when they visit Omashu in the first season -- they don't want to meet King Bumi, but he wants to meet them. So he makes it happen.

Real Life

  • Early U.S. presidents were fond of doing this, starting with Andrew Jackson, who often invited commoners to his parties, which were informal and wild and featured whiskey and roast beef instead of champagne and caviar. Grover Cleveland made sure the White House's phone number was in the phone book and answered all of the calls himself; interesting to note, he also answered his own doorbell.
    • "Schott's Miscellany" includes a description of Presidential meet-and-greets: everybody (from foreign aristocrats to poor folks) gathered in a waiting room, lined up. They would then file through the meeting chamber, shake hands with the President and maybe exchange a few words, and file out. To be clear, there was no vetting process, no verification of why one wanted to meet the President, or what one intended to say to him. One is almost surprised nobody DID get assassinated.
  • Charlemagne to a great extent. As well as dressing very much like a commoner, it is also said of him that he would happily dine with commoners and he held education in such high esteem that he would sometimes sit in a schoolroom along with the children learning there.
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