In my story, I'm trying make an emperor temporarily leave his country to go to an important (far away) place, and spend a year there. My story has magic in it, thus long distance communication will be possible (though no one would be able to contact their emperor after he had left). Moving from place to place quickly, must also not be a problem. The travel speed will almost be equal to our world's flights. Only very few (and really powerful) wizards will have the power and the ability to disappear and appear somewhere else instantly, almost at the speed of light.

There won't be any means by which the emperor or the people in the empire will be able to contact him while he is gone. Considering how unstable the monarch system was, and how quickly people try to seize power at the first opportunity they get, what will my emperor have to do to ensure that his power is safely returned to him when he comes back? The emperor was 12 years old and has a completely committed and loyal teacher who was unusually empathetic and idealistic- He was also very intelligent. His teacher was his primary adviser who took care of both him and his country (more like a real father). His father had fought a formidable enemy (as the defending side) and actually won the war. But was later assassinated by the same emperor who tried to conquer his country. The 12 year old boy was the only remaining descendant of the royal family; his siblings were murdered long before he was born, at a very young age. Thus he gained power and ruled with the aid of his teacher.

Both the emperor (the 12 year old boy) and the teacher will have to leave the country and go to a far away place where they cannot be contacted. What political situation must exist in the empire, and what steps should the teacher have taken to ensure that the power will be safely returned back to the 12 year old boy once he returns? Is it even possible, considering a real world situation?

This is the first time I'm attempting to write a novel, and I seriously want to understand about what ensures the stability of an empire? Is it possible for a king to have his power safely returned to him after a year, assuming he has no trusted subjects left behind?

Note 1: The people will be publicly intimated that he will be leaving the country, and will not return for a year. He would make a public announcement that he would leave, but no one will know where he and his teacher were going.

Note 2: His teacher was a powerful and an influential wizard. He was more like a father to the boy. The boy was safe as long as he was under his protection.

The answers to this question might seem a bit depressing, and it might seem odd for someone trying to write a fantasy magical story going into the depths of politics. This is because, my story is going to elaborate war and politics and the pain that comes with it, along with showing how a few determined young children were able to save the lives of innocent citizens. Generally, stories symbolize being a prince or a King or being born as their descendant to be a honor. My story is going to change that view. I'm going to portray the emperor's title, the ministers, the generals and other council members as nothing but ruthless and selfish people acting for the sake of power- thus projecting them as uncool people. It is a big lie that "happily ever after" exists if you are a king, or a prince or a princes (or anyone, as a matter of fact. Someday, everyone must die! But it's worse for the Kings!). In reality, these people's life is not a fantasy, it's a complete tragedy. An ordinary peasant would live a better life (if he knows how to live it).

  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Jun 26, 2018 at 20:25

11 Answers 11


It all comes down to: Cui bono

To ensure the kings safe return to power comes down to a simple question: Who benefits from his return to power? - If a group of aristocrats will hold the power while the king is gone, they will want to keep it (everyone in power will fight to keep it). The king will have to arrange affairs so that the most powerful people in the empire benefit from his return more than they would benefit from his death.

Ways in which aristocrats and wealthy individuals at court could benefit from his return:

  • Stability: A single king provides more stability than a bunch of people fighting over the crown. If the common folk is peaceful the nation prospers and the wealthy benefit. If the chance of unrest/civil war in case of the kings death is high, most aristocrats will prefer the return of the king
  • Influence over the ruler: If the aristocrats in power believe the king can be easily influenced and bought, they will like him on the throne. They can persuade him to make all the hard choices and will have someone to blame on the throne - a nice puppet. If the boy king can convince them, that he will be open to all ideas of the aristocrats and act in their favor after his return, they will want him to return
  • Access to certain resources: If the king can secure his access to certain resources until his return, he will bring riches with him. The king could bury a ton of gold at a secret location before he leaves. He could secure a deal with an allied nation tied to his person - like mining rights, but only if he returns. He could work with a big bank and put a good amount of wealth of the crown into an account under his name, which will only be available to the crown and aristocrats when he returns.
  • Religious support: The king could use the locally dominant church in his favor and provide them with benefits in exchange for their blessing. They could preach that he is the only divine ruler and only his return will bring prosperity - and his death will be a sign for evil among the ruling aristocrats.
  • Promises of marriage: The best way to make allies was to marry. If he can find a big allied country and give them the prospect of marriage to one of their princesses, this could secure a bond beneficial for both countries. These future allies could also send diplomats to his court, who would watch over affairs in his country to secure his safe return and eventual marriage.
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    $\begingroup$ Not only a promise of marriage but also promise of children who would actually inherit the throne. A powerful local baron would be better than a foreign country though. $\endgroup$
    – Sulthan
    Commented Jun 22, 2018 at 14:15
  • $\begingroup$ As always, monarchical rule usually comes down to "bigger army diplomacy", and therefore whatever connections you need to establish (through whatever means) in order to acquire that bigger army. $\endgroup$
    – Tal
    Commented Jun 22, 2018 at 17:12
  • $\begingroup$ @Tal yes, and wars are also seen as nothing more than an investment which would pay-off later (with a bigger army). The kings were the CEOs + major share holders of the past. Only difference between CEOs who are major share holders and Kings is, a King's investment usually involves killing people whereas a CEOs investment usually involves killing or acquiring (colonizing) companies. $\endgroup$
    – Sreram
    Commented Jun 22, 2018 at 18:34
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    $\begingroup$ @Sreram unless you are a CEO of big pharma $\endgroup$
    – Falco
    Commented Apr 22, 2021 at 7:17

A 12 year old boy may well be a reigning emperor, but he most likely is not a ruling emperor: until he comes of age the country is governed by a Regent or a Council of Regency.

As a consequence, nobody is very much concerned with the specific whereabouts of the child. All the Regent or Regents must say is that the child is at an imperial retreat studying to become a better emperor for his subjects.

Whether when he comes of age he will also assume imperial power or not, and indeed whether he will actually ever come of age, depends on the story. There are many examples of child monarchs who, tragically, never became adults, or, less tragically, never assumed power.

  • Luminous examples of child monarchs who made it:

    • Henry IV became emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in 1056, at age 3. During his minority the government was assumed by Archbishop Anno II of Cologne. Henry IV was a rather imperious child; he assumed power at age 13 and held it for almost 40 years. (He was an even more imperious adult; it is enough to mention that he holds the uncontested world record of excommunications: he was excommunicated five times by three different Popes.)

    • Louis XIV of France became king in 1643, at age 5. Until he came of age (in 1651, at 13 years of age, as was the custom) the country was governed by his mother, Queen Anne of Austria ("Anne of Austria" was her name; she was Queen of France) as Queen Regent, helped by Cardinal Mazarin as chief minister.

      Momentuous events happened while Louis XIV was a minor; for example, Queen Anne and Mazarin successfully negotiated the Peace of Westphalia. However, the exact specific location of king Louis during this time is known only for certain select moments; he was a child, studying, and he was not expected to participate in events of state.

    • Queen Christina of Sweden became queen in 1632, at age 6. During her minority the country was governed by a Council of Regency led by chancellor Axel Oxenstierna. She was declared of age in 1644, at age 18, as was the custom, and assumed power as Queen Regnant.

    • There is a very long list of medieval child rulers on Wikipedia.

  • Dark examples of child monarchs who did not make it:

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    $\begingroup$ Great answer! May I suggest CGP Grey's excellent Youtube video on "Rules for Rulers": youtu.be/rStL7niR7gs for more? $\endgroup$
    – Mark Olson
    Commented Jun 21, 2018 at 20:48
  • $\begingroup$ @MarkOlson I have seen that video before. Yes, that's what is bothering me a lot. I don't know a lot of history. But the thought that many young emperors actually made it, seems counterintuitive! And amazing! I'm going to read about how they didn't get killed. $\endgroup$
    – Sreram
    Commented Jun 21, 2018 at 20:51
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    $\begingroup$ @Sreram: In a civilized (= well established, stable) country, the interest of the ruling classes is to avoid making waves and rocking the boat. Sure, there are always dubious elements who want power and will stop at nothing; but in a stable country the "deep state" strongly favors stability and rule of law. Moreover, most people are actually honorable persons, who won't commit treason for trifling reasons. It is actually expected, most of the times, that once a person swore fealty they will remain loyal. Of course, the adventures of those who don't stay loyal make for interesting stories... $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Jun 21, 2018 at 21:01
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP Note, however, that history doesn't show many civilized countries where there was a ruling emperor. Creating a stable "deep state" requires sharing power much more widely than most autocracies ever manage. $\endgroup$
    – Mark Olson
    Commented Jun 21, 2018 at 21:08
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    $\begingroup$ @MarkOlson: The century of the Five Good (Roman) Emperors? China? The Eastern Roman Empire? Even Russia, at times? And if we relax a little and also consider "kings", then England? France? Spain? "Autocracy" is mostly in the head of the autocrat; in reality, if they are successful autocrats, they rule in the manner of a modern CEO -- they make high-level policy decisions and leave the actual implementation to their sitting army of bureaucrats. Even the modern U.S.A. could be considered an example of stable, elective, term-limited autocracy. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Jun 21, 2018 at 21:10

Did you ever research what happened when real kings or emperors left their realms for months or years?

King Sigurd I Magnusson "The Crusader" of Norway (reigned 1103-1130) went on crusade from 1107 to 1110, which put his half brothers and co kings Olaf Magnusson and Eystein I in charge of the country while he was away.

King Richard I the Lionheart was king of England from 1189-1199, but spent little time in England - perhaps only 6 months - during his reign, spending most of his reign in the Duchy of Aquitaine in France where messages to and from England should have usually taken weeks. And Richard also went on the Third Crusade from 1190 to 1194, being imprisoned part of the time.

Conrad III, King of the Romans from 1138 to 1152, went on the Second Crusade from 1147-1150, having his ten-year-old son Henry Berenger elected co-King of the Romans to reign in his absence, with Abbot Wibald and Heinrich von Weisenbach as his tutors.

Constans II (real name Heraclius Constantine) ruled the eastern Roman Empire from 641-668. He left his oldest son and co-emperor Constantine IV in charge at Constantinople about 660 and traveled to Italy, become the first emperor in 2 centuries to visit Rome. In 668 he was assassinated in Syracuse, allegedly with a bucket.

Constantine IV (born c.652) led an expedition to Sicily to cruse the revolt and avenge his father, leaving his younger brothers in charge until he got back.

Andronicus IV Palaiologos was born in 1348 and made co-emperor by his father John V in 1352. In 1369 John sailed to Italy, leaving Andronicus in charge at Constantinople and his younger brother Manuel in charge of Thessalonica. John became stuck at Venice, unable to repay his debts to Venice or even buy passage home, and Andronicus rejected all proposed methods to pay for John's release. Manuel sailed to Venice to arrange John's release and John returned to Constantinople in 1371.

Andronicus lead an unsuccessful rebellion against John in 1373, and was blinded in one eye. Manuel was promoted to co-emperor. In 1376 Andronicos escaped from prison, and deposed John IV and Manuel II. He made his son John VII co-emperor in 1377. But Andronicos IV and John VI were deposed in 1379 and John V and Manuel II regained power.

Andronicus IV's son John VII was born in 1370, made co-emperor in 1377, and deposed in 1379 with his father. John VII might have been blinded or partially blinded in 1373 or 1379. Andronicus IV died in 1385, and John VII seized power in 14 April 1390 but was deposed again in September.

John V died in 1391, making Manuel II the senior emperor. Sultan Bayezeid I besieged Constantinople from 1394 to 1402. The King of Hungary organized an anti-Ottoman crusade which was defeated at Nicepolis in 1396. Manuel left John VII in charge at Constantinople in 1399 and traveled to ask for military help at the western courts (including England). Tamerlane defeated the Ottomans at the battle of Ankara in 1402, and John VII was able to negotiate a favorable treaty with the Ottomans. He turned over power to Manuel when Manuel returned to Constantinople and ruled in Thessalonica until he died in 1408.

Mansa Musa I of Mali (reigned c. 1312-1337) is said to have been the richest man ever. He made a pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324-1325, in a caravan of thousands of persons, and they spent so much gold that the economy in various places was ruined. Musa appointed his son and heir, Mansa Megha Keita, as regent in his absence. And this was of course merely the most spectacular of many long pilgrimages made by Muslim rulers.

King Kalakaua of Hawaii, who reigned from 1874-1891, was the first monarch to take a trip around the world, for business and pleasure, in 1881.

Peter I the Great of Russia (reigned 1682-1725) made a Grand Embassy to visit European courts in 1697-1698.

And those are the first examples of monarchs making long trips abroad that I can think of.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ But in how many cases did they resume power easily? When did the regents have trouble holding on to power (for the ruler)? $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 21, 2018 at 22:25
  • $\begingroup$ @M.A.Golding I'm usually bad when it comes to history. That's why I didn't find it easy to do my research (I learned the word regent after asking this question). Thanks for the examples you have given! I looked-up most of them, but it always seems to be a struggle to regain their position. And their regent mostly involved own brothers or sons. If not, it was a bit difficult for them to reclaim power. $\endgroup$
    – Sreram
    Commented Jun 21, 2018 at 23:08
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Sreram Of course there is no reason why a 12-year-old boy can't have a trusted younger brother - who of course would be rather young to be a regent. Suppose your boy emperor inherited the throne from his maternal grandfather. Thus he would be likely to have his mother and/or father living, and if they are both dead maybe his father's father or his mother's mother is still alive. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 22, 2018 at 1:29

Despite what we say about lineages and laws and claims to the throne, at the end of the day what separates a crazy hobo claiming to be the king from the actual king is that people for one reason or another respect the actual king's authority. You are the king if people think you are the king.

If you can't leave a loyal subject behind to serve as a substitute king, usually called a regent, then my advice would be to not go. Someone has to be running the show back home. But if you must leave, then the best hope is that the people of your Kingdom want you on the throne. This isn't hard to imagine in your kingdom's situation. They were just attacked, and their previous leader killed. This will foster nationalism and sympathy for the dynasty, and a desire to show the enemy that the country, including its royalty, is strong. Particularly the assassination of the previous leader could foster a strong desire to put his son on the throne just so people don't feel like their royal line was broken by outside forces. Don't underestimate spite and group fervor after an attack. Think about the response to the 9/11 attacks.

Consider the case of Aragorn in Tolkien's works. He is the heir of the throne of Gondor, but no true heir has held the throne for many generations. He didn't even grow up in Gondor. Yet the people are elated to see him come and take the throne because they feel pride and loyalty for the Numenorian bloodline and the rulers of the previous age.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ "You are the king, if people think you are the king". That makes a lot of sense! Still, aren't people easily manipulatable? letting a rumor spread might slowly degrade the emperor's image among the people (though, a good system might keep such rumors in check). I was thinking of something like a "temporary democratic system", which functions with specific rules until the emperor returns. I do understand that leaving the country and disappearing for a year is a dangerous move. But the boy and his teacher will have no choice in this case. $\endgroup$
    – Sreram
    Commented Jun 21, 2018 at 19:38
  • $\begingroup$ If the 12 year old boy and his teacher had no other choice, they would even be willing to give-up the emperor's tile to go to where ever they had to go. But I want to avoid this situation in the story as far as possible. More like a solid (and strong) system, that disallows any kind of coup to happen. $\endgroup$
    – Sreram
    Commented Jun 21, 2018 at 19:44
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You can't setup a democracy while you rush out the door. Very implausible. You seem to be hesitant to let the boy have any allies stay behind. Why is that? Is there not anyone, if not a loyal follower even just a neutral administrator he could appoint to hold his place for a year? That's the solid and strong system that has worked in the real world. $\endgroup$
    – Jared K
    Commented Jun 21, 2018 at 20:03
  • $\begingroup$ The reason is because, allies remain allies as long as they are directly benefited by being allies. The moment they lose their reason to be the boy's ally, things tend to become unpredictable. And dividing the power among multiple people may sound like a good option, but it actually never works. Because, in a group, there will always be at-lest one person who is slightly more dominant than the rest. If they have a country in their hand, even "slightly more dominant" will be huge and would quickly escalate into an unfair dominance. $\endgroup$
    – Sreram
    Commented Jun 21, 2018 at 21:25
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    $\begingroup$ "allies remain allies as long as they are directly benefited by being allies" This is not always the case! Allies often remain allies when it doesn't immediately benefit them. Sometimes they are banking on future benefits. If you betray the true heir, you've got a limited claim to the throne, you probably lose public opinion, you've got to murder a 12 year old and any people still loyal to him. If you do your duty and yield when he returns, you get to be a trusted adviser for the rest of his reign, having influence without accountability, and eventually retire peacefully. $\endgroup$
    – Jared K
    Commented Jun 21, 2018 at 21:59

Is it possible for a king to have his power safely returned to him after a year, assuming he has no trusted subjects left behind?

No. Not really.

You need a trusted regent to run things or someone will fill the power vacuum.

Second option--the emperor doesn't actually have real power for the most part and things are already run by parliament.

Any "temporary" system of governance will become permanent UNLESS someone or a group of trusted someones are steering things, and even then...

Third option-- whoever takes over botches it, and the kingdom welcomes the boy emperor back with open arms. Or there's a drought, and it starts to rain the minute the emperor returns.

Option Four-- give a good reason for him being gone, and hope for his return. You're talking about manipulation of the system in a bad way, but it can also be done for good (or at least the good of your emperor). Perhaps a spy/disinformation system that is interested in keeping the monarchy in power for their own reasons, even if they aren't especially trustworthy...one of those things where either way, these people win--if he doesn't return they continue on as they have been, and if he does, they may have his gratitude. A spy cadre may want the country to hold together, and given his sudden leaving, might do all they can to promote stability--perhaps many of them are merchants, and anything else would be bad for business. All you really have to have is powerful, influential people interested in preserving the status quo, whatever their reasons might be.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ This sounds like a really nice idea! Merchants and other influential people will do anything to keep their money flowing in! Thus, if not being loyal to the true king in someway makes them lose their money and reputation, then they will have no choice but to accept the emperor when he returns... Furthermore, they must be cautioned that a different country has its eyes on their country, trying to seize the next available opportunity to conquer. Causing any changes that let's the power get divide will be the last thing they will want! As it could also mean "no more money" for them. $\endgroup$
    – Sreram
    Commented Jun 21, 2018 at 20:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Sreram They could say that he is away for schooling and safety given that his father was assassinated. There will HAVE to be a ruling regent in the meantime that has all the power of the emperor. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 21, 2018 at 21:26

Divine Mandate

Religion is the perfect reason for people to still follow something/someone they can't directly see or benefit from. I think this really works for all levels of society down to ensure people will accept the king's return.

  • Nobles: Just ensure that their right to nobility is also tied to the same divine source as the king. Thus, they can't challenge the king's right to rule without at the same time undermining their own legitimacy.

  • Merchants: Covered pretty well in other answers. This class generally follows the money, and for most industries and people the money lies in stability. Any short term profits from war or betrayal probably aren't worth the risk of death, the wrath of the public, etc.

  • Commoners: These people are, has also been pointed out, truly the ones who choose the king. As long as they have a true religious belief that heaven/the gods/the Force wants the king to rule,they will support his reign. They also add the threat of religious riots if anyone does try to take power.

Real-life examples: Obviously there are no real-life examples of any system that prevented rebellion or usurpers forever. But there are still good sources to look to for the combination of religion and leadership:

  • $\begingroup$ Nice! creating a cast system and using religion! This is the best way to ensure control! No doubt! It is more like merging the church, the cast system and the power of the monarch. But I'll just go for the "divine right to rule, as proclaimed by the Gods" + the power of the monarch part. And creating a complicated system that divides the power among many members of the council, who would apparently be "the highest servants of the royal family as assigned by the Gods". $\endgroup$
    – Sreram
    Commented Jun 21, 2018 at 22:46
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, for sure doesn't need to be a rigid caste system, those were just examples of why religion would be compelling at multiple levels. $\endgroup$
    – Cain
    Commented Jun 22, 2018 at 4:16
  • $\begingroup$ There is in fact a real life example, Iran. Look up Twelver Shia beliefs, in particular the occultation of the Mahdi. $\endgroup$
    – Kai
    Commented Jun 22, 2018 at 6:29

This is actually a plot point of a good many indian epics.

  • The Ramayana has a 12 year exile as a request made by the hero's step mother to his father, since she wants to see her son king. This... backfires

  • The heros of the Mahabharata spend time in exile, including one year incognito as a result of losing a bet.

There's also a tradition of kings going incognito to learn what's happening in their land without interference.

Here though, I might suggest a few more modern influences

  • Vor Game has the emperor of his land find out a dark family secret, run away... and end up imprisoned as a vagrant

  • While everyone knew where he was, the idea of an emperor in exile, or one in waiting has happened historically - Napoleon II spent a good chunk of his life in austria. A popular emperor with powerful enemies might do well incognito

So in a practical sense. You really need three elements.

  • A reason to leave. Maybe the young emperor wants to see the world. Or maybe there was a republican revolution or an invasion. Or its simply tradition.

  • A reason to return, and a story. Maybe people are looking for him. Maybe the revolution has failed or the invaders are being beaten back. Maybe his country needs a symbol

  • and some way for folks to know its him. Unless its a fake and... that's a whole nother story.


This should compliment Cain's answer, there is in fact an example of a society which fits somewhat what you described, and that is Iran.

Since the Iranian Revolution (overthrowing the Shah) Iran has become the Islamic Republic of Iran. The leadership of the revolution and of the government are Twelver Shia Muslim. They await the return of the Last Imam, aka Imam Mehdi, who is believed to have entered into occultation somewhere around a thousand years ago (most Imami/Twelver Shia believe he is literally still alive to this day). Note that an Imam is a spiritual leader. Twelver Shia believe there are twelve Divinely appointed Imams descended from the prophet Muhammad, known as "Ahl-ul-Bayt" the family of the prophet. The reasons are myriad and detailed, but I'm going to sketch an outline of some important point in Islamic history which underpin Shia beliefs without going into the nitty gritty details of why they believe everything they do (there are numerous quotes, Hadith, stories, and even Quran passages which they cite).

Shia are followers of Imam Ali, who is the nephew and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad. All descendents of the Prophet, referred to as Seyed (patrilinial descendents) or Mirza (matrilinial descendents), trace their lineage back to him through his daughter Fatima, whose husband was Ali. Ali was the second person (after the Prophet's first wife Khadija, who he was monogamous with for over 20 years until her death, many people are unaware) to accept Islam and his Prophethood, and was one of his strongest proponents and defenders and his closest confidant (there is a Hadith, a saying of the prophet, "I am the city of knowledge and Ali is its gate"). Ali was the fourth Calipha (ruler) after the death of Muhammad (Shia call the first three, Abu Bakr, Omar, and Othmann, the "usurpers", while Sunnis call all four the "rightly guided", this is a major source of the split between the two branches). Importantly, the Shia believe that the prophet declared that Ali was supposed to be his successor, while Sunnis dispute this, saying he purposely did not choose a successor. "Shi'a" is short for "Shiat Ali", the followers of Ali.

Ali and Fatima had two sons, Hassan and his younger brother Hussein. Fatima died shortly after the Prophet passed (there is speculation and division over how she died, Shia believe that it was the result of the actions of the "usurpers", particularly Omar. Before she died she requested that Ali not disclose where she was burried, which is highly unusual, and to this day her resting place is not known).

When Ali assumed the mantle of Caliph, a number of terrible situations befell him. One of the Prophet's wives, Aisha, inspired a civil war against him, which he won. Then Muawiya, who was the governor of modern Syria, refused to pledge allegiance and declared himself the Caliph, resulting in another civil war. After a truce was called, Ali was assassinated while he was praying, struck with a poisoned sword.

Hassan, the grandson of the prophet and eldest son of Ali, was a scholar, not a warrior, and instead of leading a war against Muawiya to claim the Caliphate, he deferred to Muawiya to avoid the spilling of more Muslim blood, believing it would only cause more strife and bloodshed. Hassan died some years later (Shia believe he was poisoned).

After Hassan died there was a call for his younger brother Hussein to claim the Caliphate. Muawiya had passed away and had founded the first Muslim dynasty, installing his son Yazid as the new Caliph. Yazid was known to be a very cruel man, and Hussein led a large number of hundreds to thousands of supporters to Kufa to confront Yazid and claim his right as the prophet's grandson to restore Islam to its roots ("to restore the Ummah of my grandfather"). Yazid meanwhile gathered an army and intimidated the people to drop their support of Hussein. Known for his cruelty, he successfully scared people into submission. Most of Hussein's entourage abandoned him. But he continued with fewer than a hundred men, women, and children at his side. On the plains of Karbala, not far from his destination, he was confronted and encircled by Yazid's army. They prevented him from getting water from the river for many days, but he did not yield (please look up the story of Hussein's half brother Abbas for a very sad story regarding this). Hussein brought his baby son to beg Yazid's men for water, and they shot his son with an arrow After many days, the men in Hussein's camp went out one at a time in single combat against Yazid's men, most of them being killed by arrows. It was a massacre. Yazid had the bodies desecrated, the heads severed and put on spikes. This moment, the battle of Karbala, is the single most important story for Shia and solidifies their faith in the leadership of the family of the prophet (the Ahl-ul-Bayt) as spiritual guides, role models, and saint-like figures. It is their "passion of the Christ" essentially.

Hussein's son, Muhammad al-Baqir, became the new Imam. There is debate as to how the lineage of the imams continues after this. Different branches of Shia have a different line of imams, such as the Ismaili or the Zaydi. Twelver or Imami Shiism is by far the largest branch however, and this is the branch followed by the leader of the Iranian Revolution, Grand Ayatollah Khomeini, and his successor Ayatollah Khamenei (an Ayatollah is someone who is a scholar of Islam who has devoted their life to studying it at the highest level, somewhat like Archbishops). Their lineage continues with Imam Jaffar Sadiq, who is an important figure in the development of Shia theology, and henceforth through a number of other imams descended from him.

The last Imam, the twelfth, starting from Imam Ali, followed by Hassan, Hussein, Muhammad al-Baqir, Jaffar Sadiq, etc. is considered to be the prophesized Imam, also known as "the Imam of our time". Although there is not a lot of hard evidence about his life, the usual story is that he assumed the Imamate as a child, and he was the theological leader of the Shia from a hidden place where his enemies could not find him (Shia have historically been a persecuted minority in many places and under many Caliphates), a period known as the lesser ovcultation. During this time, he "ruled" through four messengers, who were the only ones who knew where he was and who communicated on his behalf to his followers. At the end of this period, he ceased communication, known as the greater occultation. Shia believe he is still alive to this day and will return at the end of time along with Jesus to bring about what amounts to the equivalent of "God's kingdom of Earth" which most Christians I think believe in. Essentially he is supposed to return and bring justice to the earth as its ruler.

So yes, there is an example of a ruler who disappeared for a period of time but people still await his return, and in fact the entire nation of Iran (at the least the government) would be ready to turn power over to him as soon as he comes back. So with religion, if people believe he is the Divinely appointed ruler, it is possible.

  • $\begingroup$ Very interesting and thoughtful! It's nice to see an IRL example of the OP, and I personally find this fascinating! This could inspire a great story here.... $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Commented Feb 23, 2021 at 15:35

It isn't possible to guarantee it, or even make it likely that there won't be problems...

  1. Your opening line is

"His father had fought a formidable enemy (as the defending side) and actually won the war. But was later assassinated by the same emperor who tried to conquer his country"

This demonstrates that his family/kingdom has enemies, and powerful ones at that. It is very likely that they will attempt to manipulate the kingdom to take power.

  1. Religious mandate that some answers state is the solution

Realistically though, just doesn't work. An example is William the Conqueror; who was given blessing by the Pope (for money) to rule England, but had to take it by force. These ideas follow that the king is chosen by God, but people can always help God change his mind.

  1. You need an interim ruler

It is unlikely that an interim ruler would just give up their power. Even most trusted friends and advisers are corrupted by power.

  1. There is no record of his ability to rule

He's 12 years old, people don't know anything about him, if he can keep his word, or anything else. As such, promises made to nobles aren't going to be worth anything.

  1. You are announcing to the public that he is departing

This will generate a power vacuum immediately among the nobles. If he were leaving but doing it in secret then only the closest most trusted people would need know about his absence; which would make returning a non-issue.

The one thing you have that may sway things is magic; but it's a cop out. I would very much go with the line that he DID have problems (pick a magnitude), but the problems were overcome with the help of loyal subjects. This also will help give the reader an idea of what sort of King the boy plans to be as the very first thing he must do is deal with the non-loyal.


Have Teacher write a document explaining in detail who is to exert power, and how, while the young king is gone for a five year sabbatical. Make the document deliberately vague in key areas such that each self-interested group involved in power sharing arrangement will interpret it in different ways. Have it such that each group thinks they have a path to complete power if they only follow the document (according to their self-interested interpretation).

This way, they are each motivated to follow the rules because each of them thinks that this is a direct path to power that will happen with the voluntary cooperation of the silly others who don't see what they see in the document.

If the document has been thought out correctly, they will all still be scheming, maneuvering, and plotting when the king returns four years earlier than they were expecting.


instead of having one formidable enemy, have multiple and let them fight out who would take over after the young king leaves. when he comes back the enemies are so busy fighting each other that he is able to take over as the general population already lost interest in the war (they may have already lost interest before the young king left) and will follow the rightful king over those who continue fighting.


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