(I love Audrey Hepburn, such elegance.)
If royalty rules over the plot of your story, than this will most likely be helpful to you. Just a note: Royal families are complex, some are murderous(cue the dramatic effect) and decadent. This’ll help you create a complex entity.
1. Royal Families.
This can get complicated so I suggest you to make a list of the royals in your story. Write the dates, months, years. Who is whose mother? How did she get into reign? Keep writing it until it feels expansive enough.
2. A history or background.
Now that you have your family tree, it is time to create a family background. How did the family come into power? Are there any mad monarchs and saints in the family history?
The background history of royalty helps keep the story grounded which can also explain the motives behind the story.
Questions to ask:
Not my questions.
1) What type of monarchy is it? Is it absolute, symbolic, or constitutional? Said in another way, how much power does the monarch have, and how much do the people have?
2) Who is considered the head of the monarchy? Is it defined by gender (eg. is a queen always below a king, unless she is unmarried), or something else?
3) How is the heir chosen? Is it always the eldest child, or is it decided by the people, or by some form of contest? If it’s chosen by the public, what kind of heir do they prefer? If it’s a contest, what is it like? How is it conducted, and when? What are the consequences for the children who do not get chosen?
4) Where do the monarchy live? Is it a castle, a fortress, a palace, or somewhere else? Do they have any holiday homes? Do they change places of residence according to the seasons? Does their home double as a place of government work, or is that a separate building?
5) How long has this monarchy been around for? Why was it created in the first place – what need did the people have, or who decided they wanted to rule, and set themselves up as king/queen? Did they draw inspiration from other nations with monarchies, and wanted to have their own, or did they create the first one and were copied by others?
6) Do they have a symbol or crest? Are there animals on it, plants, or a place? What does this signify to others, and what does it mean to the monarchy? Do they have a motto which they try to live by?
7) Who directly serves the monarch and their family? Do they have close advisers, ladies-in-waiting, or valets? Who works for the royal family, but never comes close to them? What is their perception of royalty?
8) What type of clothes do the monarch and their family wear? Are they expected to set the latest fashions, and wear affluent clothing, or be simple and efficient with their clothing? Is there any significant jewelry that shows they are royal, such as a signature ring?
9) What accessory shows they are the monarch? Is it a crown, a necklace, a cloak, or something else? What materials is it made out of?
10) How complex is their family line? Is every monarch supposed to come from royal or noble blood, or is it acceptable to have commoner blood in them as well? Has anyone in the monarch’s family married a commoner, or had a child with them? Were there repercussions from this, or none at all?
11) Is the monarch considered partially divine, chosen by a god or another person? How highly are they elevated in society and class ranking?
12) What kind of education are royalty provided with? Are they taught by a private tutor, in a private school, or at a public one? Do they learn subjects more focusing on government and ruling, or are they taught the same as every other non-royal child? Does the type of education differ depending on whether the royal child is the heir or not?
13) What are considered acceptable sports for royalty to participate in? Archery, hunting, sword-fighting, or team games? Is it considered improper to mingle with non-royal people in this way?
14) What is the public’s impression of the monarchy and their family? How has this differed over time, or between generations? What is the monarchy’s impression of the public?
15) Who is considered the worst monarch, and the best? What expectations of society, and the monarch’s actions, fuel these opinions?
16) What kind of relationships do they have with other monarchies? Are there ever marriages between them, or are they always enemies?
17) Does the monarch have the power to declare a war? Do they have their own army, or do they rely on the armies of nobles that are loyal to them?
18) Has there ever been any attempt to overthrow the monarchy, and put in place a new ruler, or change the form of government? Did the monarchy survive? Or did it topple, then come back later? How and why did it return?
19) How involved does the public like to be in the royals’ lives? Are they constantly swarmed by press or the source of gossip?
20) What does the daily life of the monarch look like? How much paperwork is involved? Do they sit on trials, conduct public hearings, meet with foreign leaders and diplomats, or do they live a life of idle luxury? Or something in-between?
Royals can be volatile. Volatile. If you want the throne, you will kill to get the throne. Royal families have the tendency of infighting. Brothers may turn against each other to dispatch for the throne. Cousins fight for supremacy. Royal families will almost always devour themselves. Like the Houses of York and Lancaster did, leaving the House of Tudor to swoop in and get the crown.
- In most cases, the boys of a royal family are slaughtered as in the Plantagenets of England with the Princes in the Tower. The Plantagenet princesses were married to Tudor bannermen or sent to a nunnery. In some bad cases, everyone dies.
- The Russian/Bolshevik Revolution murdered the entire royal family: the Tsar, the Tsarina, the four grand duchesses and the tsarevitch, leaving only a couple of cousins living abroad.
- In some cases the family is exiled. This is the best case scenario as they can try come back at some point. An example of this is Bonny Prince Charlie and his father.
(taken from tumblr.)
5. Vox Populi
How are your royals perceived? How do the subjects react towards the royals? Do they love them? Do they hate them? Like movie reviews, royals get mixed reviews based on their decisions and actions. Over taxation, it can change the people’s opinions and hate the royals.
Not all royals have titles. The further away from the throne you find yourself, less likely if your name going to appear in the history books. That was kind of rude so let me rephrase. Prince William’s kids get the title. Prince George’s children and grandchildren will get the titles prince and princess but only the children of Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis will get it but not their grandchildren.
The life of a princess is fantasized all over the world, some can only dream of living in a palace and jumping on a king sized bed. However, the most privileged princesses face the life of a regimented routine.
- A mediaeval/renaissance princess would likely rise very early to attend a prayer service. She would have her ladies dress her and she may even take a walk before breakfast. A mediaeval/renaissance princess would have lessons very early in the morning covering a wide range of subjects from religion to dancing.
- An 18th Century Princess would have risen later and had less regimental routine but a more public one. The etiquette of Versailles had this ridiculous routine of the court crowding about the Dauphine (wife of the heir) and watching her ladies prepare her for the day. They would watch her get dressed (only ladies may view this), eat her breakfast and get her makeup and hair done.
- More modern princesses (19th century) would have woken earlier than the previous century but not as early as the renaissance princesses. They would bathe, dress and go to prayers before sitting down for a morning of lessons.
- The mediaeval/renaissance princess would spend the afternoon with more enjoyable pursuits. She would do charity works, embroider, read and walk with her ladies.
- The 18th Century Princess would spend their afternoons doing something entertaining. They would play cards, gossip, sew, walk in the gardens and visit other female relatives.
- The 19th century princess would likely spend the afternoon having tea, playing lawn games, riding, going for carriage rides and other artistic pursuits. Queen Victoria’s daughter Princess Louise was an avid sculptor and loved her work even if nobody else approved.
Though we think the nights of a princess were filled with magick they would be also very quiet. Older princesses would be allowed to attend court gatherings, entertainments and balls where young princesses, under fourteen or so, would likely be sent to bed early. A princess at Versailles would be subjected to an evening with a public dinner before thousands, games of cards, gossip and dancing that could last well past midnight. A 19th century princess would have a more refined night. A quiet night would entail an ever of piano playing, reading, salons and tea parties. If there was a ball, she would attend it and go to bed when told to.
Dinner, food, etiquettes.
Fantasy Guide to Feasts, Food and Drink
Picture yourself at a banquet held at the local Lord’s castle. The music is playing, the people are chatting and rustling about in their best clothes. You sit at a table and what sits before you? Not chicken nuggets, my friend.
Food is always one of the staples of any world you build. You can get a feel of class, society and morality just by looking at the spread before you on the table.
Most peasants lived off the land, rearing flocks, tilling fields and tending orchards. If they lived near the sea, lakes, rivers or streams, they would fish. But since they lived on land owned by churches or lords, they would only be allowed a portion of what they grew. In cities, the peasants would buy food from one another at the market.
- Peasants would make bread out of rye grain, that would make the bread very dark. In some communities they would make sourdough, which involves using a piece of dough you made the day before to make that day’s bread.
- Eggs were a source of food that was easy to come by as farmers kept chickens on hand.
- Cheese and butter would be sold and used in the farm.
- Jam would also be made as it was easy to preserve and sell.
- Peasants would not eat much meat. Chickens made money by laying eggs, pigs could be fattened and sold for profit and cows and goats would be used for milk. By killing any of these animals for food they would loose a portion of money. Poaching (hunting on private land owned by the lord) would come with severe penalties.
- Pottage and stew were a favourite of peasants as they could throw any vegetables or bit of meat or fish in a pot to cook for a few hours. It wasn’t a difficult dish to make and often inexpensive.
- Pies, pasties and pastries would be a favourite at inns and taverns in towns and cities most containing gravy, meat and vegetables.
- With most villages and farms set close to forests, many peasants could find berries at the edge of fields. Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries would have all grown wild.
Nobility and Royalty could always afford better food than the poor. However it might be a patch more unhealthy than the poor’s fare. Nobility and Royalty weren’t fans of vegetables.
- The rich would eat a lot of meat, much of which they would hunt down themselves on their own land. Deer, wild boar, rabbits, turkey and other wild creatures would all be on the table.
- Nobility and Royalty would be fond of fish as well. Lamprey eels was a delicacy only preserved for special occasions.
- They could afford salt which was important for preserving meat and fish. This would allow the castle/manor/palace to be stocked in times of winter or famine.
- They could also afford pepper and other spices, all of which could cost a fortune, to flavour their food.
- During a feast, they would eat off of platters made of precious metals but only if you were seated at the high table. Other less important guests would eat off a trencher, a piece of hollowed out stale bread.
- Sugar would be the height of dessert. The sugar would be shaped into fantastical formations to impress the noble guests. Tudor chefs would create edible sugar plates for Henry VIII to eat off of.
- Swans and peacocks would be served in their plumage. Swans would be more royal diners as in England the monarch owns all the swans. In Ireland, it is illegal to kill a swan mainly because they could be children trapped in swan-bodies. Long story.
At certain events, the noble/monarch might throw a party. Most parties would begin with a dinner.
- The high table would seat the family throwing the party and the honoured guests. All the food would come to them first to be distributed to their favourites. They would drink the best wine and have the finest bread.
- The rest of the hall would be seated together at trestle tables, eating off trenchers. They would be sent food by the thrower of the feast on account of their personal importance or social standing. The closer you were to the salt cellar, placed at the head of the table the more important you were. The further away you were, the lower your status.
- Servants called cupbearers would serve wine and drink and move about the hall to carry jugs of wine to water the guests.
- Dogs would often be found in the hall, to be fed scraps by the diners.
(taken from tumblr as well.)
No world or party is complete without the booze. Since much of the water in Mediaeval times was putrid or dirty, the classes would avoid it.
Beer : was both a favourite of peasants and the nobility. It would be brewed in castles or in taverns and inns, each site having a different recipe and taste. It would be stored in barrels. Beer was widely available across the world and could be brewed at home. So therefore it was inexpensive.
The two main types of beer would be:
- Ale: Ale in the middle ages referred to beer brewed without hops (a kind of flowering plant that gives beer its bitter taste). It is sweeter and would typically have a fruity aftertaste.
- Stout : is a darker beer sometimes brewed from roasted malt, coming in a sweet version and dry version, the most famous stout being Guinness.
Wine : Wine would be made on site of vineyards and stored in cellars of large houses or castles. They would be expensive as they would have to be imported from regions capable of growing vines.
Port : Port wine or fortified wine would be made with distilled grape spirits. It is a sweet red wine, and also would be expensive to import from the counties able to grow the correct vines.
Whiskey : is a spirit made from distilled fermented grain mash in a device called a still (which would always be made of copper). The age of whiskey is determined by the length of time it has been sitting in a cask from the time it is made to the time its put in bottles. Whiskey was a favourite drink in colder climates and could be made any where in the world.
Rum : Rum is made by fermenting and distilling sugarcane molasses/juice. It is aged in oak barrels and would have to be imported as it could only be made in lands able to grow sugarcane.
Poitín : (pronounced as pot-cheen) is made from cereals, grain, whey, sugar beet, molasses and potatoes. It is a Dangerous Drink ( honestly i still don’t know how I ended up in that field with a traffic cone and a Shetland pony ) and technically illegal. Country folk in Ireland used to brew it in secrets in stills hidden on their land.
- Estampie (Istampitta)
- Basse danse
- La volta
- Entrée grave
- taken from a website, (will link.)
The monarch(s) – Regardless of what titles you give them, this person or duo is the center of a royal court; she defines the rest of the court. If the monarch consists of two people they are most likely either married or siblings, sometimes both depending on the culture and age.
The monarch’s family – people related to the monarch by blood, adoption or marriage fall into this category, and these people might or might not have their own titles and additional positions, though not necessarily always officially. Consider how younger royal siblings might be sent places to be married off, and be expected to function as ambassadors without the pay, or the many hats that a dowager queen might wear in her “retirement.”
Ambassadors – these men and women come from other kingdoms but they’re vital to functioning on a wider scale. They communicate their lady’s desires, intents and goals, as well as bring her insider news from the courts where they are appointed. When things are going well, they command a lot of respect and power, but if their two countries are on the outs, their lives are almost certainly in danger. Keep in mind too that ambassadors are likely to have their own households, and there might be a junior ambassador in play as well.
Nobles – At any given time, a royal court is bound to be packed with the country’s gentry, there to doing things such as discuss business, introduce a child for courting, serve the crown for their appointed time or because they are so active in politics because they make their home wherever the Queen does. Unlike ambassadors who are primarily going to be focused on inter-country negotiations, noblemen and women will have their own agendas to further their families, and while you’d like to think that they’re all loyal to the crown and their country, sometimes their own ambitions might get in the way.
Court Fool/Jester – We like to think of the court fool as someone who is, genuinely, a fool, but that’s often not the case. The Fool is a useful tool for the monarch because he distracts the court, and more often than not acts as a spy, passing along tidbits of overheard information or sightings–after all, who pays attention to the simpletons?
(Oh, dear Touchstone. It reminds me of you.)
Courtiers – Courtiers are different from nobles in that they are people whose talents or ambition have brought them to court seeking the next rung on their ladder, rather than people whose daily business has brought them to the Queen’s presence. They are here to make a name for themselves, and can almost always be counted on to act in their own best interests, unless motivated by an exceptional force. These types are often at court on their own dime.
Resident military commanders – Military commanders are not likely to be regular fixtures at court, as they’re needed with their forces. But the highest ranking among them are going to be in nearly constant contact with the monarch (or the monarch’s representative, as is sometimes the case) and that will often necessitate being physically present at court.
Guests – Whether from outside of the country, rich or poor, landed or not, the royal court is ALWAYS going to have guests, and a well-established court is going to have provisions for housing and caring for a large number of them. A person’s station and/or possible value to the crown might determine wherein a castle they are housed and how they are treated, but if you write in a few guests consider that their perspective could be useful in defining the court as a whole.
Semi-permanent guests – These guests are people who don’t necessarily belong at court, and while their stay might be lengthy, it is well established that it will not be permanent. Examples of these kinds of people might be businessmen appointed to oversee some long term prospects, or the children of foreign nobles who have been sent to another country to be educated.
The monarch’s favorites – These could be really good characters for you to develop in depth. They’re essentially wild cards, and as they are favorites of the Queen, they have the potential to be outlandish or scandalous, hated or misunderstood, but the love and blind eye from the Queen keeps them nearby… tethered.
Royal lords and ladies – It will be rare for any ruler to find themselves alone; their personal attendants live to see to their needs and are never going to be far from hand. These politically powerful positions are likely to be jostled over a great deal, especially if the monarch is young, and might overlap somewhat with the royal favorites. Sometimes these people are lifelong companions and sometimes they are placed strategically close to the monarch for certain goals but regardless of how they came to be there, they are likely to share in the fine things, wealth, power and danger that surrounds a royal.
Sponsored artists – Sponsored artists could easily be labeled courtiers, except that it wasn’t usually their idea to come to court, and they’re not there for their own ambition. If the wealthy of your world are at all inclined to supporting the arts – drawing, painting, writing, performance, design, etc – they’re likely going to want to show off their investments, so in this regard these artists are usually nothing more than accessories. Though being a court is always a good way to increase one’s sales.
Guards – Any court is likely to have several levels of protective personnel, all the way from those hired by the royal household to keep the general peace and take care of grunt work to personal, more elite bodyguards. This is another varied group that can include any number of peoples, skill level, objectives and professional capacity, but everybody who’s anybody is going to have one or two. Eunuchs might also fall into this category–those maimed men who have been conscripted in guarding typically women whose virtue is deemed vitally important.
Servants – Another highly varied group, but no less vital to the functioning of a royal castle and court. Servants might hold roles such as cooks, head cooks, librarians, messengers, laundresses, seamstresses, housekeeping, tasters, children’s nurses, ushers, grooms, heralds, and gardeners. If you world isn’t very progressive, some of these roles might also be filled with slaves or bonded servants.
Harem members – This again will depend largely on your story itself, but if the King or Queen is going to be flitting from bed to bed, there’s likely to be a group of bedmates hanging around for royal pleasure. Whether or not this group is well respected or received (or even publicly visible) is up to you.
To further break down a royal court, consider these positions, or court appointments. Depending on how you want to define it, these appointments might be considered part of the Queen’s household, meaning that these people’s chain of command is relatively short, and the expectations that are placed on them are some of the highest in the nation. Alternatively, they might also be considered to be part of the royal court “household” meaning that the people who are currently residing within the court have some (albeit usually limited) access to these people and their responsibilities.
Butler – chief manservant of a house
Chamberlain – an officer who manages the household of a monarch.
Chancellor – a senior state or legal official.
Constable – a peace keeping officer, usually with limited policing abilities.
Cupbearer – a person who serves wine.
Keeper of the Seals – the officer appointed to keep and authorize the use of the nation’s great seal, and possibly smaller ones as well.
Marshal – an officer of elevated military rank and/or civilian law enforcement.
Master of the Horse – an officer charged with the care of a monarch’s horses and sometimes royal hounds as well.
Private Secretary – an officer appointed to address personal concerns of a monarch, noble or public court figure.
Sergeant at Arms – an officer of the governing body responsible for maintaining order and security.
Steward – an officer who manages the lands and maintains daily functions of those lands.
Master of Hunt – an officer charged with the organization of hunts, sometimes also the keeper of royal and/or hounds.
Master of Ceremony – the official host/organizer of staged events, sometimes the one to give speeches or present performers.
Master of Robe – the officer in charge of a monarch’s wardrobe, especially for important events such as coronations or annual celebrations.
Master of Coin/Head Coffer – the chief financial adviser charged with managing the crown’s money, advising the monarch and overseeing all region-affecting transactions.
Chaplemaster(s) and/or confessors – officers charged with keeping the morality of a court and nation, sometimes high ranking members of a predominate church.
Falconer – keeper of birds, both messenger and predatory
Pantler – the officer responsible for the pantry or food supplies
Standard-bearer – a usually honorary position responsible for carrying a flag, in and out of battle
(Guessed it? Yep, taken from tumblr.) Greetings
How a character greets another is always important. They can rank to informal to formal and can cover a range of ranks.
- The Handshake: Old reliable, a nice gesture that everyone loves. So unproblematic, makes everyone equal. is handed note Nevermind, it was a gesture to check for weapons.
- Hat touch/tip: Wen men wore hats, which they did throughout the middle ages I would I have you know to the fifties where the stopped wearing them along with suits much to women’s disgust, they often tipped them or touched them in greeting. Louis XIV was infamous for touching his hat to every woman he met, because damn that’s way better that sending a dick pic.
- Embrace: Yes a hug can be a be acceptable method of greeting for fantasy/ historical fictional characters. Embracing a person shows that you see the other person as an equal, while also probably checking the other person for hidden weapons. Allies would gave hugged one another to show how close they were.
The Middle Ages was all about respecting people and places. To communicate respect from let’s say a farmer to a lord, two people who probably wouldn’t speak to one another, all you would need to make a gesture and the lord would know.
- Tugging your forelocks: This is essentially somebody pulling on their hair, kind of like a salute. A soldier might do it for a commander, or a peasant to a lord. It is really a commoner gesture.
- Averting your gaze: Most cultures have a form of this. If you respect an authority figure, one might show it by turning your eyes downwards. Every rank would do this for a figure above them.
There are other gestures made by people in order to save their lives or beg a service from another person.
- Offering a glove: If a lady offers a glove to a man its a gesture of mercy and an ask for help. Anne of Brittany sent James IV her glove to ask for help im case her kingdom got invaded.
- Kneeling (on behalf of another): You can bend your knee for yourself either to show respect to an authority figure. But if you kneel in somebody else’s name, you could be begging for mercy for them. Ladies and queens often did such acts in public in order to spare a person from a cruel justice. They would remove their headdresses and beg for the lives of the person is question.
These gestures are for your enemies or that one guy who cut ahead of you in line or the Karen who asks for your manager because you told her kid to stop climbing that tree outside. (It’s been a long day for mom kids)
- The Fig: a thumb wedged in between two fingers. This basically means fuck off in some cultures but it is still used today in Latin American countries for warding off the evil eye.
- Thumb up: In Persia, it was the equivalent of the middle finger. This also might have been the gesture that starts that fight in Romeo & Juliet. Bite you thumb at ME sir?
- Devil horns: The favourite for rockers can actually mean two things. 1, the devil. 2, you’re spouse has been cheating on you, loser.
- Slapping a glove across someone’s face/ throwing a glove/gauntlet at somebody: Is an open challenge and insult to a character. If you throw a gauntlet before someone, it’s a challenge and you had best be prepared to throw down.
- Arm of Honour: this involves you extending your bent arm while keeping your forearm parallel to your enemy and grabbing your upper arm. It basically means shove it up your arse, an old favorite used in the Hundred Years War.
You might also be interested in:
On Writing & Roleplaying Characters Who Are Good Leader Material
Things To Know When Creating & Developing Fictional Governments
Tips & Ideas To Create More Believable Sword 'n Sorcery Worlds
Things Your Fantasy Or Science Fiction Story Needs
How To Write Powerful & Extraordinary Characters Without Being Obnoxious Or Boring
Tips To Create & Write Better Non-Protagonist Characters (NPCs)
Basic Tips To Write Better Chosen Ones
Tips & Ideas To Write More Believable Masquerades
Plotting, Conniving, & Manipulating - What It Isn’t, And What It Is
Spies: A Few Things Writers & Roleplayers Should Know About Them
Note: This is kind of a masterlist which will constantly be added to. I hope it’s helpful to you and your story!