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Notice

I asked why this question was too broad on WorldBuilding Meta, and JBH was kind enough to explain at length. There isn't anything in particular with my question, so much as the question doesn't belong here.

The question I'm asking is a story question. Not a world question. To paraphrase part of their response, WorldBuilding SE is about building worlds, but once they're built, the story elements and circumstances are up to you/me the writer.

Since this question has too many votes and answers to just summarily delete, I ask that it be closed as off-topic, as it is such, and remain as an example of a question which is a good question on the wrong site.

The Situation

I am the teenage monarch of a small, reasonably wealthy country, or at least we were. Nowadays the country's economy is in the trash. To be fair the rest of the world is hurting too, but we're even worse off than most. I blame those incompetent nobles who were left in charge as regents until I come of age. Even then I'm pretty sure I'll end up as a puppet, no one lets go of power.

Ordinarily there isn't much I could do without a little bit of luck and a lot of beheadings, which I would prefer to avoid, they don't go well with my image. Luckily, the time I live in is far from ordinary. It's the mid 20th century and one of our southern neighbors is raising a ruckus, invading everyone around them. This is making the stuffed shirts very uncomfortable, but I see a chance.

Some additional information:

  • My sister and I are very well liked due to our parents being good and gracious monarchs who ruled in a time of prosperity
  • My country is very spread out, with a largely agrarian economy, but I see it as ripe for industrial revolution

Some Considerations

  • If invaded my country will surely fall within days, we don't have the resources or the willpower for any real resistance
  • I could negotiate to hand over the country without violence, but then we'd just be an occupied nation and even worse off than before
  • If I did hand over the country, I'm likely to lose the faith of the people and be seen as weak by both sides

How can I make use of the instability and panic caused by the threat of invasion to gain a position of actual power in my government? (Ideally one which doesn't immediately get removed by said invasion)

To clarify a point of apparent confusion. The goal here is not to be a "good" monarch or for my nation and people to prosper. These may happen as side effects of my coming into power, but are not the primary mission.

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  • $\begingroup$ This appears to be a very broad question. I'm guessing somewhat because I can't find an actual question (the title appears to be an incomplete question). As you review this issue, please remember that Stack Exchange sites are very good at answering specific questions and very bad at discussions or questions that require considerable input (e.g., "too broad"). Do you have a specific question to ask? Please see the help center for more information. $\endgroup$ Apr 27 '18 at 5:19
  • $\begingroup$ I second @JBH. Please rework the question AND the title. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Apr 27 '18 at 5:32
  • $\begingroup$ Is it Denmark ? Or Norway? $\endgroup$
    – Vincent
    Apr 27 '18 at 5:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Vincent It's Norway, but with some slight modifications for a fictional universe. Nice catch $\endgroup$
    – Devon M
    Apr 27 '18 at 8:20
  • $\begingroup$ ...asking for a friend. $\endgroup$
    – T.E.D.
    Apr 27 '18 at 15:18
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  • So, as you pointed out, you could try to ally with the troublemaker. Ask the King of Romania how that turned out. Do you (in your youthful impetuosity and lack of strategic experience) think the troublemaker will win? Do you think they will allow you more power than the regents?
  • You could wait for the expected invasion and put yourself at the head of the popular resistance. A high-risk gambit, the resistance might fail and even if it doesn't, the counterinsurgency sweeps might get you.
  • You could bug out after a few historic speeches and then lend legitimacy to the government in exile. When the troublemaker is overthrown, you will be part of the victorious alliance.
  • You could try to become a valued neutral whose continued existence benefits both sides. To paraphrase a novel, "In Switzerland, there are German spies, American spies, and Swiss bankers who want their money." The critical military situation may be played into the restoration of the monarchy.

I like the last option best. The young king should start using his honorary colonelcy of the Guards Cavalry Regiment, presuming he has such a rank. (If not, get it.) Visit the barracks, show interest in the pay, food, and equipment for the troopers. Live with the soldiers in the field during exercises, going hungry and muddy with them. Don't forget the non-guards, non-cavalry regiments, either.

The princess should join (or start) an ambulance corps. Care for the troops, care for the troops' wives, spend a substantial amount of the crown funds on charity for these deserving, patriotic recipients. Bully other socialites to do the same.

As the international situation heats up, the king puts himself at the head of the "viewing with alarm" faction and then unilaterally orders a mobilization, bypassing the regent. He holds patriotic speeches. Hopefully, the regents will find it difficult to undercut their figurehead in this darkest hour. Especially if the king is surrounded by loyal troops and it is the worst time for them to start a civil war -- that would be an unpatriotic stab in the back for the gallant defenders.

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In the age of beheadings you must behead.

The reason you're going to end up as a puppet is exactly this reluctance to use the power you have to gain more. Nobody is going to go quietly when absolute power is at stake.

Your regents won't let go of power, behead them. One at a time. Turn them against each other if you can. Find evidence of one of them being corrupt, or even better traitorous, get consensus from the others that he must be beheaded. Then pick them off one at a time with evidence, real or otherwise, of collusion or corruption.

This can all be done fairly quickly, as soon as they start dying you can begin working on your military. Anyone who stands against you can be accused of being unpatriotic and banished from court, or treachery and beheaded.

A wise prince knows when it's time to wield the axe.

It is better to be loved rather than feared, or feared rather than loved? It might perhaps be answered that we should wish to be both: but since love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved. - The Prince, Niccolò Machiavelli

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    $\begingroup$ ooooohhhh Machiavelli! +1 $\endgroup$
    – Paul TIKI
    Apr 27 '18 at 15:12
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    $\begingroup$ When in doubt, behead a Count. $\endgroup$
    – Will M.
    Apr 27 '18 at 18:44
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Ordinarily there isn't much I could do without a little bit of luck and a lot of beheadings, which I would prefer to avoid, they don't go well with my image.

Hogwash and balderdash.

Use the media to paint those nobles as evil and traitorous to the country. That'll put the populace on your side, and they'll be glad you beheaded the rotten bastards.

Then read up on how the British Crown acted in WW2. If you don't have your own Churchill, become your country's Churchill. If you've got a sister, and she's part of your faction, put her in the Princess Elizabeth role.

(Yes, this is very similar to some of the points in the @o.m. answer.)

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  • $\begingroup$ In his situation, I'm pretty sure the nobles would control the media too... $\endgroup$
    – nzaman
    Apr 27 '18 at 7:31
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This is really three related questions:

  1. How to properly support and cooperate with our Royal Regency Council?

  2. How to gain a stable and mutually beneficial relationship with our southern friends?

  3. How to assure that our country has stable and competent leadership under these taxing times?

one, How to properly support and cooperate with our Royal Regency Council?

At theses taxing times the country needs stability and continuity. It needs a government it knows and can trust. Because of this you and the regency council need to start working together as soon and as intimately as possible. The members of regency council are after all chosen for their experience and dependability, who else could teach a young monarch how to do his work well enough to assure a smooth transition that does not give foreign powers a chance to interfere with our politics? And who could be a better candidate for being a minister in the future Royal Government than those of the Regency Council already proven to work well with their King?

Basically, if you flatter them, promise future positions in the government, and use their fear of "foreign power interference" to keep them meek, you'll probably be able to insert yourself into the decision making process of the regency council. And gather future allies instead of detached heads while doing it too.

two, How to gain a stable and mutually beneficial relationship with our southern friends?

You cannot stop your neighbour from conquering you and you do not have anything to offer them they cannot simply take. Except friendship. They can force you to be their allies in a war, they cannot force you to be their friends in peace.

You have to make the value of your friendship larger than the value of conquering or subjugating you. Then offer that friendship, not an alliance, you do not want to be entangled in their wars and problems, just a friendship, freely and without strings attached.

They have no shortage of conquest and an acute shortage of actual friends not allied to them, so finding some value should not be that hard.

The most important part is to understand that countries do not actually exist, they are just collections of people who have agreed to pretend the country really exists. Normally this can be ignored and it is considered polite to pretend the emperor is clothed in luxurious robes instead of prancing around naked.

But in a case such as this there getting leverage on the actual country is almost impossible, there is high value in accepting that getting leverage on the actual people making the decision about whether to invade you is what actually matters in addition to being much easier to do. We usually ignore this but personal interests have higher priority in decision making than national interests even if you are a leader of the nation in question. Good leaders will try to compensate for this but politicians are not generally very good at it beyond superficial level.

So go and talk with them. Learn them and how they think. And most importantly get them used to talking to you and being listened to. Be polite, respectful and attentive. Leave ass kissing to people who want to be allied with them. You want them to think that any opinion you choose to give them is based on an intelligent person who cares about them honestly thinking about it and giving it straight.

Basically, if there is a reason for them to invade you, you want to be told about it in a private discussion you are actually a participant of while you can still influence the decision. Not by tank divisions in the streets of your capital after the decision. Similarly being told about things you can do to help your friends in the south in private discussion has great value in making yourself valuable.

You need to make them want to talk to you and be friends with you. Your country is not important enough to make your objections matter, you have be a person whose opinions matter, if you want to influence whether they invade your country or not.

Find the people worth talking to and learn to express your thoughts in a way they listen to. The way something is expressed and by whom is lot more important than people think. The most important decision you want them to do is "Is this worth listening and thinking about?" and that is made before considering the facts.

You might want to bring them gifts so that they are happy to talk with you. Something thoughtful that cannot be seen as a bribe is best. A box of candy, some flowers, telling a story about something you know they are interested in, a chance to flirt with your pretty sister...

Something transient that puts them in a good receptive mood while they are talking with you and can then be forgotten apart from the general impression of a thoughtful person who is pleasant to meet.

For long term influence shared experiences and memories work better. Since you are the visitor, you want them to invite you. Getting those invitations is an useful metric of how good a job you are doing on the "friendship offensive".

Strategically the key points are to remember the objective, avoiding being conquered or subjugated, and to respond rapidly and effectively to any issues or opportunities in your relationship with the southern friends.

You must have good visibility to their decision making process. Make those personal connections and let official connections follow. It doesn't hurt to let people know that relations with the south are your primary concern. Make it clear upfront.

You must be in a position to respond instantly. Prudence is your friend. Try to predict what might happen and how you'd want to respond, in an unstable world both threats and opportunities will come. Avoid things that might cause problems later. Do not commit to anything that will restrict your options. Being a personal friend of their leader is great, being their formal ally is a chain dragging your country down.

You must make all decisions so they further your main goal. Everything is connected to everything else, if you for a moment imagine that some decision is not connected to protecting your country from invasion, then that decision will probably lead to increased chance of invasion later on. If nothing else the time you wasted on a decision anyone else could have made distracted you from achieving your goal. Just delegate everything else, okay?

three, How to assure that our country has stable and competent leadership under these taxing times?

The last goal is in some ways the easiest to achieve. If there is a real threat of invasion by far superior force and you are clearly and openly doing everything you can to prevent that, people will support you as long as you succeed. Happily, if you fail what people think no longer matters...

So the only thing you need to do in addition to the above is to talk to the people and tell them what you are doing and why. If your goal is keep the country safe from invasion that is what what people will evaluate you for. The situation gives you the ability yourself decide what people use to measure your success, which is something most politicians would kill for. So popular support should not be an issue.

Just remind the people of how strong and threatening our neighbours are regularly. Your friends in the south will probably be more than happy to publicly brag about how powerful they are and can help you a lot here.

This can be done indirectly. Modernizing the military, for example, is a nice opportunity to remind people how much better the weapons your neighbours have are. And how much more of them they have. And how much more experience their soldiers have using those weapons. And it is a nice opportunity for friendly cooperation with your friends in the south as well. Cooperation which happens because you personally have tirelessly worked to improve the relationship with them.

You should focus on that relationship and delegate everything else. This prevents any blame of failures elsewhere affecting you personally and allows you to use the inevitable failures to remove people you dislike and strengthen your position. Machiavelli has a famous example of how to do this. Be the one who fixes fails, not the one who commits them. Do not suppress the opposition, just let them fail and pounce.

You can game the system to increase the odds, as in Machiavelli, but even if you play fair counting on people to fail if given the opportunity is pretty much the safest bet you can make. And if by any chance somebody is too competent to fail, having a leading politician who does excessively good work is one of those "first world problems" you can usually live with.

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Democracy!

Let's be honest here, sure if you take power now your country will prosper under your rule (that is to say if you're as good at ruling as you say you are) but the chances are that after your death any number of incompetent or malicious Heirs or Nobles will take power and throw the nation back into ruins.

Replace the idea of nobles and ruling monarchs with a Constitutional Parliamentary System, and you're golden.

"But won't this mean that I'll have to give up my power?" you may be asking. Well, not entirely. Let's take a look at Britain for example. By following the same steps as they took to becoming a democracy, you can still have yourself loved by the populace as a figurehead, and also have a bit more say in policy than the average citizen.

If you wanted to, you could even run for Prime Minster yourself! The people will love you for volunteering your power to the people, and you might be able to use this to get yourself elected!

And let's be honest here, if the mid 20th century in your world is anything like ours then monarchies are dying out, and there are only 3 places it can go from here - Democracy, in which you hand over your power and try to get elected; Fascism, in which you seize power and force your citizens to fight your wars for you; or Communism, in which you and your entire royal family are purged in glorious revolution, Comrade!

And out of those three options, I think it's clear where you'd want to be headed.

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    $\begingroup$ This is a wrong answer to a wrong question, but it gets upvoted because everybody likes democracy. $\endgroup$
    – Headcrab
    Apr 27 '18 at 6:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Headcrab I'm not sure what you mean by a "wrong answer to a wrong question". But from what I think you're saying then you're implying you have a better answer? $\endgroup$ Apr 27 '18 at 6:14
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    $\begingroup$ He's correct, it's a good answer, but the question isn't "how do I make my country better" it's "how can I personally become more powerful in my nation". Democracy is great specifically because it removes power from a single, fallible individual $\endgroup$
    – Devon M
    Apr 27 '18 at 8:19
  • $\begingroup$ @ChuckFulminata yep, and this answer as presented actually advocates for fascism. Beheading the figureheads of opposition and not worrying much of your country besides holding power over it sounds like what the poster is looking for. $\endgroup$
    – Oxy
    Apr 27 '18 at 10:14
  • $\begingroup$ @ChuckFulminata Well in that case RonJohn's answer would be the best solution to your problems. (Just make sure you're the good kind of Dictator, haha!) $\endgroup$ Apr 27 '18 at 11:19
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So as I see it, your biggest problem is your lack of motivation to protect the kingdom (despite a love for the King). This seems at odds, but what you need is a good reason to get your people invested in the country. I know the N-word isn't thought to be well loved, but Nationalism is needed to over come that hurdle. A heavy propaganda campaign is needed to drum up support for your country. Luckily, you have rabble rouseres to the south. Saber Rattling will worry your population, and if you focus on it, you can use that rabble rousing to galvanize your people. And while this is your idea, you could let the people think it's their idea.

First, start up a bunch of "Citizen's organizations" that are "concerned" about the Southerns who could become an issue. Let them spread their influence around. At first the people not on the dole will ignore it. Those southerners are all bark and no bite. The "People opposed to Southern oppression" (POSO) will be an ignored but loud minority for sometime. How much is up to you but you'll need to to get to step two soon. Until then, as the King, you need to seem like you aren't all that concerned about the Southern Nation.

Step Two: One of two things is going to happen soon. Either a real tragedy is going to befall your country OR you're going to need to make one. Either way, it needs to be big and you need to secretly let POSO know that they need to act on it. Either way, you're going to need to let a number of your citizens get hurt... but it will be a small price to pay compared to those hurt if the invasion comes. This tragedy needs to be an attack on the Kingdom too... A bomb in the Town Square... a killing of civilians... an assassination of your beloved sister (what... you said you didn't want to be moral about this whole affair)... something that whether False Flagged or not, will be seen as an attack on the people and the kingdom at the same time. Whatever it is, you need to bide your time. A responsible and not guilty at all king would make sure the investigation is carried out so thoroughly that there is no doubt that the conclusion is what really happened. These take time. Time during which POSO will rant and rave about the King not doing anything to protect the people! We need to fight back damn it. We need to modernize our Military! We need to prepare for invasion! We need to defend our very way of life! We need to show those filthy southerners that we won't let them hurt us again!

Step Three: The investigation concludes with unmistakable evidence that the attack was committed by agents of the Southern Nation acting on orders from the highest levels of government. Because no matter who really did it, it was always the Southerners from the start. You have a "chat" with POSO leadership and determine the nation needs to prepare for a war. Incentivize those who don't have a good job to join the military and be a hero of the nation. Those who can't join can work in the new factories being built to crank out guns and tanks and planes and bombs to defend yourselves. You can now openly propagandize your nation's defense... You can even send your newest troops and toys to aide entertainment industries that promise they'll give a pro-Nationalist message to their work. Meanwhile, in pockets where sanity has been more stubborn than usual, get the more radical elements of POSO to stur up trouble. If anyone wises up to your plan, declare them traitors to the nation and have them taken away (you gotta use that new military for something, remember). Between these arrests, the dependence on government jobs, and private military contracts, the people will get industrious very fast and will be to afraid to upset the apple cart. Anyone with courage enough to do something will do it quietly and when they are discovered, declare them southern and throw them in jails. And what ever you do, make sure you point out at every opportunity that this plan is something those despicable southerners will do... and they attacked us unprovoked.

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