This month our theme is power, and who has more power than the royals themselves? All good monarchs know the cost of power and what it takes to hold onto it. From historical fiction, children’s to fantasy – there are so many examples of great kings and queens in literature. Some are brave and noble, some are cruel and immoral and others are just badass! Here are just four of my favourite fictional kings and queens…
Henry VIII (Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel)
‘A feeling of power… a power that drives right through the bone, like the shiver you sense in the shaft of an axe.’
Based on the dramatic reign of King Henry VIII Mantel chronicles Henry’s quest for a male heir through a fresh perspective – Thomas Cromwell’s. Henry VIII was a king possessed by his own power, never taking no for an answer. When the Catholic Church refuses to allow him to divorce his first wife, Henry breaks from Rome and establishes the Church of England. A king known for being stubborn, Henry had no problem turning an entire country on its head to get what he wanted.
Queen of Hearts (Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll)
‘Off with her head!’
Carroll himself once described the Queen of Hearts as being ‘a sort of embodiment of ungovernable passion – a blind and aimless Fury’. An authoritarian ruler with a penchant for decapitation, the Queen is the key to figuring out the meaning of Wonderland. Despite the Queen’s effort to intimidate Alice, Alice ultimately realises that the Queen is ‘nothing but a pack of cards!’ and that all the power she wields is illusory.
Macbeth (Macbeth by William Shakespeare)
‘All hail, Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter!’
Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies. At the beginning of the play three witches prophesise that Macbeth will be the next king of Scotland. Macbeth becomes obsessed with this idea, but it is clear that Lady Macbeth is the one with the ambition to be queen. Easily influenced, Macbeth commits regicide in an effort to become king. Ironically, after that Macbeth seems powerless – a slave to the witches prophesies. Which begs the question, if not the king then who really holds the power in Shakespeare’s Macbeth?
Daenerys Targaryen (A Song of Fire and Ice Series by George R.R. Martin)
‘She is the widow of a Dothraki khal, a mother of dragons and sacker of cities, Aegon the Conqueror with teats.’
Daenerys Targaryen AKA Khaleesi AKA ‘Mother of Dragons’ is the underdog when we first meet her in A Game of Thrones. Originally, it was her brother, Viserys, who was to be king. The power hungry Viserys forces Daenerys to marry a war lord, Khal Drogo in return for an army of dothraki soldiers with which he intends to take back his kingdom. A few spoilers later and Daenerys begins her journey to claim her rightful place as queen of Westeros and the Seven Kingdoms. Freeing slaves and defying expectations along the way!
Words by Síofra Clancy
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