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The eleven year old son of the king and queen, prince Jeoffrey Boratheon, is destined to take the french iron throne after his father passes. One night, an old hag knocks on the castle door and begs to spend the night, to which the prince answers the door and refuses. However, this was a test, as the hag takes her true form as a beautiful witch. After murdering his parents, the witch declares that Jeoffrey has no love or kindness in his heart, and decides to punish him. She curses him with the form of a hideous beast, and transforms his household (servants, maids, staff, etc) into sentient objects that spontaneously burst into song at inopportune moments. The witch declares that this spell can only be broken by the true love of a woman, which must happen before his 21st birthday, or the spell would be made permanent. The witch believes that this would teach him a valuable lesson in decency and humility to prevent him from becoming a murderous psychopath.

It soon becomes apparent that finding true love is the least of Jeoffrey's problems, as the country still needs to be led. Taxes need to be collected, court needs to be held, land needs to be defended from barbarians, etc. On top of that, there are many who would seek to take advantage of the situation and overthrow Jeoffrey. The duties of a traditional monarchy must still be conducted. Being turned into a monster poses serious obstacles. If the people discover what has become of him, out come the torches and pitchforks.

This kingdom must still be led and controlled by the prince while keeping his situation a secret from the public, long enough for him to find true love. How can I make this happen?

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    $\begingroup$ A monarchy is a system of government, and by extension a country with such a system of government. The person at the top of a monarchy is a monarch. The "household and staff" around the monarch is usually called their court. A monarchy cannot be missing, as it is either abstract notion or, by extenstion, a country. The monarch themself, yes, they can be missing; in such a case the grandees of the land will select a new monarch, possibly after a civil war. A "hideous beast" won't be accepted as the lawful monarch of the country, as most countries required the monarch to be human. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Feb 19 at 13:02
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    $\begingroup$ Have the old dead king be a terrifying, unpredictable tyrant who had already slaughtered all the other ambitious nobles in the kingdom; all the minor houses are hiding their own similar lack-of-head-of-household secrets. Have it all happen during a coincidental years-long epidemic of The Blinding Pox to keep news spreading slow, visits limited, and neighboring kingdoms disinterested. Finally, have the Regent be big, tough, mean, disfigured...yet for-some-reason loyal and nursing their own secret that prevents him/her from simply usurping. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Feb 19 at 13:08
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    $\begingroup$ I don't know if I am more concerned about a kingdom allowing a prince to answer night knocks on the door or from the total lack of reference to the Beauty and the Beast. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Feb 19 at 13:46
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    $\begingroup$ Very loosely related: there was a conspiracy theory that Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a US Supreme Court Justice, secretly died during a recent surgery, and that it was kept hidden so her seat wouldn't be refilled. She's since made public appearances, but some research into how people believed it was being covered up might give you some interesting perspectives. $\endgroup$ – Lord Farquaad Feb 19 at 18:45
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    $\begingroup$ Beauty and the Thrones, interesting mashup $\endgroup$ – ggdx Feb 21 at 14:27

11 Answers 11

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Have a regency until the king is normal again

Whatever would have happened to Jeoffrey, there would be a regency. 11 years old is too young to be king, so in any cases, there would have been a regency untill his majority.

Choose a regent that represent the king for the diplomatic visits and such, and make him rule alongside a council.

When he finally found true love, declare him major, and the regency can come to an end.

Regency was quite common, and was a good way to avoid chaos (wich lot of people want to avoid), so unless it last longer than few years, it will be accepted.

Edit: Here is a good article to show how common regencies were. You can also see how old the king were during the end of their regency, and constat that majority age was not a constant. (thanks to aloisdg who link this wikipedia article) List of regents on Wikipedia

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    $\begingroup$ It should be noted that there is some risk here. Regents are effectively the King now, and historically have a er ... very tough time keeping their charges alive long enough to end the regency. $\endgroup$ – T.E.D. Feb 20 at 14:53
  • $\begingroup$ @T.E.D. sure, regency isn't cithout any risk. a good example is Charles VI's regency, as his uncles dispute themselves about the regency, but it's better than an open civil war $\endgroup$ – Kepotx Feb 20 at 15:01
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Building on the excellent answers involving regency and grief, there's also that old trope: a body double.

In that time period there are no photographs or TV. Only the palace staff would even know what the child-king looked like, and they're, well, in on it.

Find an orphan (or maybe even a cousin) from another kingdom who looks more or less like the king looked before his transformation. Teach him a few basics and let him make an appearance when necessary.

An 11 year old monarch would be expected to appear at official events (like the opening of the town fair or the wedding of some top nobles) and to sit at court to learn, but not to actually make decisions yet. Given that his parents were murdered, it would be wise of the court to keep him mostly out of sight the rest of the time.

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    $\begingroup$ Beauty and the Beast meets The Prisoner of Zenda ... $\endgroup$ – Jay Feb 19 at 18:32
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    $\begingroup$ or ... depending on the world: clones $\endgroup$ – graeme Feb 20 at 7:54
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    $\begingroup$ I'm sorry, this answer needs a bit more "Cyrano de Bergerac" -- the real prince, afraid that anyone will hate his true appearance, gets the body double to woo a lady (using the real prince's words). The lady herself is also using a consultant to determine what to do. The consultants fall in love with the actors, and the actors with the consultants, nobody realizes it, and everything becomes ridiculous. $\endgroup$ – Yakk Feb 20 at 19:40
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    $\begingroup$ Basically the plot of "Dave" - only it's a king instead of the US president. (And he's not 11, but whatever.) $\endgroup$ – Darrel Hoffman Feb 21 at 13:59
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    $\begingroup$ Kagemusha (影武者, Shadow Warrior) is the retelling of the legend that Shingen Takeda was actually killed during a siege, but a body double was used to fool the opposition for several years. $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Feb 22 at 19:25
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The Appeal

As the witch sought to leave, a brave young pushbrown blocked her way.

"Please, Lady Nimue," she pleaded, "If what you said is true, and you do this to teach our lord humility and kindness, pray consider this. What will happen to our land without her lord? At best, his vassals will do as they will. At worst, they will war with each other, trying to take the throne for themselves. So please, I ask you for a small reprieve. During the day... no, for just the afternoon, let the prince resume his true form, so that he may hold court and rule the kingdom."

The witch regarded the former chambermaid thoughtfully. Then her lips creased in a light smile.

"Very well," she agreed. Nimue gestured, and a wave of power passed over them, and settle into another part of the castle.

"In the western meeting room," she pronounced, "while the sun shines through the main window, the curse shall be eased. Any of you who enter the room during that time will regain your original forms. When you leave, or when the sun has fallen, your new shapes will be restored. And know that if you squander this reprieve, it will break. Use the room for any purpose but proper business, and the enchantment will be gone. And you will have to find another way to govern."

So saying, the enchantress vanished in a flurry of rose petals.

Magic must defeat magic

"Go," the prince growled, "Find me anyone. Any hedge magician, or alchemist, or illusionist. There must be another who can break this curse. Or at least find a way to disguise it."

So it was, after a few months search, that the wise old serving fork found the last true alchemist in the kingdom. And while his power and skill were not great enough to gainsay Nimue, lover and student of Merlin, he was able to brew a potion. It was slow to brew, and painful in effect. But it returned the prince to his rightful form for thirteen hours. But the potion itself was not without cost, if consumed more then once in a fortnight, it would tear the imbiber apart. Still, between the prince and his more trusted servants, they could try to keep the peace. It would have to be enough.

Spin Doctoring

"Good people," the cryer exclaimed, "Hear of our great woe. A powerful and arrogant witch set upon our beloved prince. She made sudden and terrible demands, and when our highness bravely refused her, she cursed not just the prince, but his entire court and castle. That curse has made it nigh impossible for the prince to keep court. So we beg of you, our people. Help to keep the kingdom alive, do your duties, and assist others. And if you hear tell of the witch Nimue, report it to the castle, immediately, that we might find her, and undo her magics."

The outcry was great, the people were united against a common foe. Though there were those who sought to take advantage, they were quickly found by the loyal. Or by the more shrewdly neutral. The crown was fractured, but the kingdom was stronger. After all, everything the bards reported was the truth. From a certain point of view.

Kingdom of Masks

Okay, no story blurb this time. But have the prince announce that none may see him, that he will hold court in an exquisite mask. And that all who come to call must also wear masks. Set the nobles against each other, seeing who can match the prince's elaborate and flawless disguise. Offer loaner visors to those who come to court without a mask.

After all, the prince should not judged by his appearance, nor do he wish to judge others that way.

(thanks to WBT for the addition)

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    $\begingroup$ +1 for answering in the form of story blurbs $\endgroup$ – automaton Feb 20 at 17:01
  • $\begingroup$ The last one should probably have some justification about how justice is supposed to be blind. $\endgroup$ – WBT Feb 21 at 20:19
  • $\begingroup$ @WBY Justice is not blind. She's cross-eyed. But 90s cartoon references aside, that's not a bad idea. $\endgroup$ – Xavon_Wrentaile Feb 21 at 23:05
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One of the privileges of royalty is that they can be very exclusive of whom they allow in to see them.

The official story will be:

Jeoffrey is in seclusion and mourning the death of his parents, his missing staff were executed for allowing his parents, the king and queen to be murdered.

Guards are posted and given orders that no one shall enter or leave without express written permission. The guards themselves will pick up proclamations that will be delivered to them through a rotating message slot. (think revolving door but for messages/packages.

The proclamations will be then handed to the tax collectors, judges, et cetera, all authenticated by the existence of the royal seal. Eventually, a few trusted advisors will be allowed to meet with Jeoffrey personally, but only one at a time, so that there can never be collaborating witnesses.

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    $\begingroup$ > The guards themselves will pick up proclamations that will be delivered to them through a rotating message slot. Such a thing exists and has use within some monasteries $\endgroup$ – eques Feb 19 at 15:45
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    $\begingroup$ Probably no need to have an elaborate story about what happened to the household staff. Just hire new staff and don't bring the subject up. If any one asks what happened to the old butler Charles, just tell the new staff to say that he retired, or quit. Or that they don't know. $\endgroup$ – Jay Feb 19 at 18:34
  • $\begingroup$ @Jay prob not, but it would keep curious people away, not wanting to risk his wrath $\endgroup$ – Richard U Feb 19 at 20:22
  • $\begingroup$ If you say the staff was killed, you'll have a hard time explaining how Charles has come back to the palace when the curse is broken (unless you effectively slaughter the servants when they reverse back to their human bodies) $\endgroup$ – Aserre Feb 21 at 16:48
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    $\begingroup$ @Aserre... he got better. $\endgroup$ – Richard U Feb 21 at 17:39
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Barons, Dukes and Counts, oh my!

If we're talking about monarchies, we're talking about feudalism, and if we're talking about feudalism, we're talking about layered bonds of liege and vassal.

If a select group of people can be informed about Jeoffrey's sudden monsterism, and I don't believe there isn't an answer that requires this in any case, then the path is straightforward: The Dukes, Counts royal, and Baronets are informed of the situation, and tasked with keeping business going as usual.

The notion that a king might meet with a peasant isn't absurd on the face of it; plenty of kings have held all sorts of audiences with all sorts of people, public and otherwise, but for a king to see no peasant whatsoever is also not absurd. An arrangement where the king only sees his court and his direct vassals is perfectly passable, at least for the relatively short timespan of 10 years that this involves.

In fact, the structures of a feudal society allows the king to keep taking petitions from his people, proxied through specially uplifted baronets or through his other vassals; and for him to keep answering petitions.

So TL;DR: The nested, hierarchical structure of feudal society makes a monarch in seclusion essentially a non-issue.

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    $\begingroup$ Weekend at Duke Bernie's! $\endgroup$ – Mason Wheeler Feb 19 at 21:14
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He's transformed into a hideous beast? Great! Now he looks seriously aggressive – almost like how warriors dress in horned helmets and furs and the like.

So slap some armour round him, and make it look like he's just wearing armour with lots of fur and horns. Make up some rumour about how the young prince defeated with his own hands, the hideous beast that slew his parents. Now he's got an awesome story, to secure his rule.

Why doesn't he ever take the armour off? Some think perhaps he wears it continually as he's compensating for being young. Some think he's sensible to wear armour the whole time as a young prince is considered by some to be a weak target for a power-hungry lord. Some think it's because the beast's fur he wears is a reminder of his dearly loved parents.

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So if by any chance you are referring to "The Beauty And The Beast", the story was set in the 18th century. By the end of it (1789-99) the French revolution started and people simply began to "rule themselves". The forest village in the original story was also quite isolated so an absence of their prince might have been interpreted as "they fled the country" or "they have been killed".

"Taxes need to be collected, court needs to be held, land needs to be defended from barbarians.." And this all could and would still be done by electing actual democratic leaders.

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    $\begingroup$ I think you are evading the actual challenge of the question. $\endgroup$ – Philipp Feb 19 at 21:23
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King went to a war

Of course it's not that simple and the war lasting 10 years will be at least troublesome, moreover there will be a need of really trusted people around the king to keep that cover (of course the king will remain in country).

There are historical cases, when it was difficult to find out if the king is alive or not (and the king actually died). One example can be Polish and Hungarian king Wladyslaw III of Varna. It took 3 years before the new king took reign after Wladyslaw's death because of problems in establishing if the king actually died or not. And that's despite sultan showing king's head.

Most people never see a king. It's even less probable if the king is on a war. So you can keep the secret easily. The only problem will be with those really close to the king and those who have to hide the fact of king's absence in the battlefields. On the other hand when Suleiman the Great died, his death was hidden from soldiers for few days to prevent morale from plummeting (they were in a middle of a siege - successful by the way). If the war opens to more than one front line, it's easy to claim the king is either on his route between the lines or on the other line. A double can help to keep it quiet among the soldiers.

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By conducting all business through musical dance numbers...

Music is akin to magic (or is it a form of innate magic? the magicians are still debating), and makes us see things which aren't strictly true. It may provide enough illusion to fool the eyes of the public.

And if anyone does get a good look, well, we all excuse some idiosyncrasies on the part of musicians, so it's probably just some flamboyant dress.

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..and as the witch left, she realized nothing has changed, as the chef's second daughter had a secret crush on the king. Just in case, the king ordered the witch to be hanged, and banned witchcraft in his kingdom. End of story.

Fair enough, let's say he found out who loved him, they got married, lived happily ever after. Whatever. If you're really into that stuff, I don't care.

Women tend to be attracted to power, money, confidence, and some similar attributes a king is good at. The king is young enough, and the girl is full of hormones at that age, having weird crushes is almost guaranteed. Just ask your female friends if around that age they had a crush on their maths teacher or the ginger kid next door or the milkman.

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  • $\begingroup$ Nice trick. But could you really call something "true love" already if the parties didn't know each other, or especially when one party didn't even know about it yet? I think that's a bit of a stretch. It seems like the challenge the witch gave the prince/Beast is to find someone who would love him without regard to his beastly appearance. Not to find someone who fancied him before when he was easy to be attracted to. You could still follow this plot, but I think it shouldn't work right away. He has to meet this girl and they must develop mutual affection. $\endgroup$ – XP84 Feb 21 at 21:22
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So, in a typical monarchy (including that of France), one of the non-negotiable public appearances you have to worry about is that the new king needs to be crowned. But you can't have a coronation with a monster. And a regent does not remove the need for a coronation: the king still needs to be crowned.

You can send out letters and town criers and so on, saying that the new king is not currently in the kingdom. This is going to sound a bit suspicious, given that he was here last week and said nothing about any holidays/crusades/whatever, but let's say the people are reasonably gullible.

You can instead say that he's injured and confined to his bed, or something, but this is actually rather risky. There was a surprising amount of public access to monarchs in the fantasy/fairytale era. In many cases the king's bedroom was one of the places he held court. The king's health is massively important to the kingdom (particularly to those positioning themselves for what happens if he dies), so it's not reasonable to expect them to take "sorry, can't say anything: HIPAA" for an answer.

Anyway, suppose you come up with a ruse and the accession is publically known and acclaimed without anybody expecting to see him with their own eyes. You now have a period of time probably measured in months, before the people start expecting and then demanding a coronation.

The big question then is, how secure is the king's control of the throne? If there is no challenger, or if the main challenger is somehow brought into the conspiracy as regent, then maybe you can ignore the popular demand for a coronation almost indefinitely. More likely, though, around the time that it becomes just completely implausible that the king can't come into the country to be crowned, somebody is going to make a point that there is no king in evidence, and therefore the situation is de facto vacant. So you get a rebellion.

For what it's worth, Richard I of England was absent for much of his reign. But before that he was crowned in Westminster Abbey, two months after his father's death. Then again his succession wasn't exactly the smoothest and he had good reason to make clear that he was here and was king. In modern times, Elizabeth II was not in the country on her accession, and was crowned over a year later. But there was never any question that she really existed. Given the circumstances of the succession, challengers are quite reasonably going to demand evidence the prince/king wasn't killed too. The next in line is definitely going to say this unless somehow persuaded not to.

Kings don't really need to do anything other than exist and be generally believed to exist. Other people can do all that finance/court/military stuff on the king's behalf, for as long as the people in the kingdom are prepared to believe there is no vacancy.

Realistically speaking, therefore, I think you somehow need to fake a coronation (using an imposter or magic or something). That should shut people up for a while. Then in some ways it's actually better that your 11 year-old king is allegedly elsewhere. If he's around, one of these rebellious factions could try to capture him as a means to seize the regency or force him to abdicate (this happened to Edward II). If he's officially absent, then at least it's a fair fight between his conspirators (and whatever he can achieve himself acting covertly within the realm) and the rest.

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