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I am aware of this question, but I think my situation is somewhat different. In the low-fantasy setting I'm working on, the king is a vampire in a world in which vampirism is punished by death. But it is still appealing because vampires do not age. Vampires have a strong desire to drink human blood, and once they start, they usually cannot stop without killing their victim. It's not a biological necessity, but they suffer ever-increasing withdrawal symptoms if they cannot drink enough blood often enough. Like a reverse hang-over; it gets worse if they don't drink. The only supernatural advantage vampires have is their immortality. There are no exceptional abilities inherent in vampirism, though immortality allows one a lot of time to become extremely skilled and knowledgeable in many fields. There is no illusion magic he could learn to hide his appearance or immortality.

So it seems the king has two main risks to worry about. First is getting a steady, safe supply of blood. Second is avoiding suspicion; people are going to find it odd after a few decades when they notice their king doesn't age. The commoners are easy to fool, they never meet the king anyways. But the highest magistrates are another story. He can't simply avoid them, it's a feudal society and he has to delegate authority or he'd simply be overwhelmed. There just isn't enough time in the day for one person, even an immortal, to do everything. These magistrates are mortal nobles from the most powerful families, dukes and counts mostly.

So how does he maintain his secret with these risks in mind?

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    $\begingroup$ The ex-king is the major shareholder of the only listed kingdom in the land, he never show up in board meetings except when one of the director went overboard and must be demoted to blood donor. $\endgroup$ – user6760 Dec 4 '19 at 1:35
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    $\begingroup$ @Zaibis because "immortal" is being used in the same way that it is so very often used in this context, to mean limited immortality whereby the immortal ius subject to neither ageing nor having a finite lifespan but may still be killed through violence and perhaps illness. The use of "immortal" when qualified with "punished by death" clearly shows that it is being used in the limited immortality sense. Surely you've come across this before? Fiction is replete with examples, and pedantry is unhelpful. $\endgroup$ – Starfish Prime Dec 4 '19 at 11:29
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    $\begingroup$ @starfish Neither is an accusatory tone... No I havent encountered this before. I am not a native speaker and taking my dictionary at hand immortal translates into a word that means pretty much "can not die by any means". So calling my question pedantic is fmpov as calling someone pedantic asking the same for a recipe without sugar with the onl permitted ingredient being sugar. Anyways, thanks for clarifying... $\endgroup$ – Zaibis Dec 4 '19 at 11:36
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    $\begingroup$ If giving blood to a vampire makes one a vampire, won’t all those folks have to be executed promptly? And if vampirism is common enough for there to be a law against it, won’t some of the fugitives have suspicions, and motive to expose the king? $\endgroup$ – WGroleau Dec 4 '19 at 16:30
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    $\begingroup$ Damn you! It should be possible to disable WorldBuilding questions in the Hot Network Questions panel. You're searching for solutions to an urgent work problem on StackOverflow, your eye catches something like "How does an immortal vampire king hide his vampirism and immortality?", and there goes your work day :D $\endgroup$ – Szczepan Hołyszewski Dec 5 '19 at 15:23

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The idea of the king is immortal, the appearance of the king is unchanging. Because that's the mythos of the king.

Replace the crown with a mask

The mask is the king and the king is the mask. The king is forbidden to publicly remove the mask.

If the king seems elderly or infirm, it is the solemn duty of a senior member of the court to challenge the king. The challenger is given a set of robes identical to the king and the challenger's mask. This is a Thunderdome grade challenge, two enter, one leaves. The body is disposed of within the Thunderdome. The one who leaves is wearing the mask of the king and is henceforth the king. It is forbidden to acknowledge which of the people who entered is the one who leaves. If the king takes too long to emerge from the Thunderdome, another may enter to check on them, however only one may leave and that one is the king.

The king is continuous, the king is immortal.

Such a system is begging for an actual immortal of some sort to subvert it, especially a vampire as it has a steady blood supply from the challenge.

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    $\begingroup$ Wouldn't it be a problem if the king did have to constantly fight uppity challengers? He might be a skilled fighter, but he's not supernaturally good-- odds would dictate that he'd eventually be killed by someone. $\endgroup$ – Dugan Dec 4 '19 at 16:01
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    $\begingroup$ @Dugan it's a bit of cheap trickery really, anyone senior enough in that sort of court is liable to not be far off dead themselves and hence not likely to be much of a threat $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Dec 4 '19 at 16:45
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    $\begingroup$ The king is a vampire, so challengers are very likely to become meals. But also, the king is the king, and can arrange that if an "unworthy" challenger appears, that challenger will be killed by his supporters before the king actually enters the Thunderdome. If he relegates a number of his supporters to the outer darkness whenever he "loses" the challenge, his supporters will be happy to do their part to postpone the king's "demise" for as long as he permits them to! $\endgroup$ – nigel222 Dec 5 '19 at 15:24
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    $\begingroup$ I think my comment leads to the conclusion that the only "worthy" challenger is ... another (unrelated) vampire. It's "Highlander" in a different setting. "There can be only one". $\endgroup$ – nigel222 Dec 5 '19 at 15:31
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    $\begingroup$ It shouldn't be difficult to rig the Thunderdome arena to have some hidden trap or other trick that only the true king would know, allowing him to always easily win. $\endgroup$ – Hactar Dec 5 '19 at 20:38
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Every Decade or So He Poses As His "Son"

Every twenty to thirty years an old man "retires" from the public life, passing power to his heard-of, but rarely seen "son". The king does a good enough job at acting and dressing the part, and keeps his court at a sufficient distance that the amazing resemblance is dismissed as "strong Romanian genes".

There really is an old "king" and "queen" who retire. The actors playing the role of retired king and queen accept the sumptuous lifestyle the role provides, with the conditions that they don't give up the game. Portraits of the king in his "later" years are discouraged (or maybe family portraits are circulated with each "new" monarch). An actor betraying his role will be dismissed as having developed dementia.

There is a problem with the staff. Nobility, even in the present, have an ever present house staff : they dress the noble, bathe him (in some cultures), transcribe his conversations, read and dictate his mail, read books to him, prepare and serve his food, cook, clean, manage the financial affairs of the house, and manage the affairs of the extended holdings. In fact, the schedule of the staff - to a small degree - bind what the noble can and can't do.

A staff this intimate will pick out an impostor in an instant, and it would raise questions (and be difficult) to get on with no staff at all.

Instead, the "new" king brings in his own staff : all new hires. The former sovereign's home has it's own staff, who welcome the unfamiliar retiring king now moving into their care. It could be said that this is tradition to give the "new" king a clean slate to work with (and counters arguments of preserving tradition, with arguments of preserving this tradition). The retired staff will be provided an ample pension to live out the remainder of their lives, provided they continue to behave with decorum and confidentiality.

There are many children really raised in the household. They may actually be one of the queen's children, or a quietly adopted orphan. As is tradition, the plethora of children are in the care of individual nannies and tutors, and even close siblings barely see one another until adulthood. The children always attend a representative selection of the world's finest private schools.

The "heir" is, purportedly, one of these children. Maybe he was the little kid who looked so much like papa. Because even close family barely knew the non-existent heir, it's easy to explain a lack of recollection, because there is no troublesome heir to have to handle. Tutors are paid well to recall the boy - if anyone should ask. These arrangements having been made for in advance.

Prisons are Nearby, Have Private Cells

In many aristocracies, there is a national prison either on the estate grounds of the king (Emperor Justinian), or very close by - within a few minutes walk. It is also not uncommon for tunnels to exist connecting buildings : such as the royal home and the prison. It would not be hard to imagine such tunnels (maybe several) exist in this kingdom allowing private entrance and exit from the prison.

What makes this prison unusual is how many 1-room/1-prisoner individual cells there are. The cells have thick solid doors, no windows, and are generally separated from each other by an unusual amount of distance. Line of sight is broken up by few narrow hallways, instead a bunch of poorly laid out, curving, labyrinth of halls with thick sound-soaking walls filling the gap.

It's certainly not uncommon for someone in antiquity to get a scratch and die from infection only a few days later. The inventor of sterile practices, Ignaz Semmelweis, suffered exactly such a thing in as modern a time as the 1850s. And mortality rates as high as 20% due to infection were also standard.

If a solitary vampire were prowling the deepest floors of this prison every night, and a single prisoner died every night, it would not raise suspicion. In fact, the guards and staff might think the lower floors harbor some kind of infection and intentionally start sending the worst of the worst into the "pit" to meet their end.

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    $\begingroup$ The "son" can also be played by a (young) actor, or even simply by a descendant of the king with a strong resemblance. You'll just want him "out to the border, it forges the character" for the last few years, so people forget what he looks like. Then swap the "aged" (make-up) king with the old actor, and starts a parade for the return of the prodigal son -- the actual "son" disappearing at some point. $\endgroup$ – Matthieu M. Dec 4 '19 at 13:34
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    $\begingroup$ Funny how the old king has died the day after he abdicated for the last five generations... $\endgroup$ – Mad Physicist Dec 4 '19 at 17:30
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    $\begingroup$ @MadPhysicist Not really, the court Astrologist just has a 100% accuracy rate. $\endgroup$ – Aron Dec 5 '19 at 2:04
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    $\begingroup$ @MatthieuM. The disappearing son can be re-used as the elderly king when it's time to swap again. $\endgroup$ – Josh Dec 5 '19 at 10:50
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    $\begingroup$ I think, an elected successor works better than a son, as it might raise suspicion if you never saw the son together with his father. In contrast, the search for a worthy to-be-elected successor might only start when the king “got old” and reveal someone not being present in the public before. Just look at how some never-heard-of guy may become the new pope after a non-public election… $\endgroup$ – Holger Dec 5 '19 at 11:20
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A few options I can think of:

He uses a dynasty of puppets

If the vampire king is ruling publicly, he'll be caught after a few decades when it becomes obvious that he isn't aging. He needs some figurehead to rule for him. He offers another noble family a bargain: they get to become the royals and live lives of idle luxury, so long as they

  1. Only give edicts and pass laws that he approves, and
  2. Never reveal the secret of who truly wields power.

If you need a way for him to effectively bring about this state of affairs, the noble family could be his own descendants (if he can have children as a vampire) or he could adopt a child to claim as his own heir.

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As @Frauke points out, this situation is unstable as soon as any members of the royal family decide they want to actually rule. This is difficult to overcome, but not impossible. The trick the vampire king has to pull off is to make himself indispensable to their position. He could approach this in a number of ways, and might combine some of the below:

  • Place himself at the head of a masked priestly class whose purpose is to uphold the divine right of the royal family, and without whose support the royals should be considered illegitimate and overthrown.
  • Get them addicted to a drug he controls the supply of and for which withdrawal is fatal. He could also prevent them from knowing what the drug is, making it more difficult to find a way to subvert him.
  • Force them to sign private contracts acknowledging that he is a vampire and that they support his power to control them, and placing these with some highly paid and trusted servant with instructions to reveal them if he dies. This would make it difficult to retain power in the event of his death (the king collaborated with a vampire to gain power??). Of course, it also introduces another person who might discover the plot.

He changes his face

If your setting has magic that allows for it, he could also change his appearance periodically. This would still require that he has a dynasty as justification, but instead of ever permitting them to know his secret or actually take the throne, he fakes his own death, kills the next person in line, and then assumes the throne as his own heir.

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You've updated your question with

There is no illusion magic he could learn to hide his appearance or immortality.

In this case, the only way he could do the above is if he can control the appearance of his descendants in some way. He might select a child to adopt on the basis of their resemblance to him (@James McLellan's excellent answer expands on non-magical versions of this) or, as @Mahab suggests, use masks to hide his true appearance.

He changes the law

If he's an absolute monarch, he could simply change the law to permit himself to publicly be a vampire and rule forever. If he's not, he can still change the law, but needs to be more careful in how he goes about it; if he rushes things, the Parliament or other body might realize what he's up to and put a stop to it before he can complete his plans. In either case, he should probably start by breaking down cultural institutions and norms that paint vampirism as evil, gradually normalizing it before revealing himself to be a vampire. This could either be by aggressive control of religious/political/media leaders, or by providing ethical alternatives to forcible blood drinking such as blood banks (if you've got a higher-tech world) or voluntary blood donation. Perhaps make sacrificing yourself to preserve the life of the king a noble act? (The people don't need to know that blood-drinking is unnecessary).

Luckily, he's got time for this. As people become less and less suspicious of vampires, they'll also become less suspicious of a king who doesn't seem to age. If he can achieve this cultural transformation within about 50 years, he'll probably be okay.

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    $\begingroup$ The problem with the puppet scenario is that, once the populace believe that the puppet family are the de facto rulers of the country, they'll ask themselves: "So why, exactly, do we need that creepy pale guy again?". They denounce him as a vampire, he's executed, they still get the life of luxury but without having to get approval for their decisions from anybody any more. $\endgroup$ – Frauke Dec 4 '19 at 9:40
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    $\begingroup$ @Frauke: as pirates used to say, "Two can keep a secret, if one of them be dead!". Or course, we're dealing with the undead here, so there may be different rules... $\endgroup$ – Bob Jarvis - Reinstate Monica Dec 4 '19 at 12:46
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    $\begingroup$ @BobJarvis-ReinstateMonica True, very true. They may find that, after killing the vampire, he was resurrected by pirates and now have to deal with an angry vampire zombie pirate. Take THAT, Twilight! $\endgroup$ – Frauke Dec 4 '19 at 12:53
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    $\begingroup$ Your last scenario is reminiscent of smbc-comics.com/comic/superior-intelligence $\endgroup$ – Eric Lippert Dec 4 '19 at 23:54
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First "people gonna find out". What people? Commoners don't even know the name of the current king (they are too busy being opressed by their immediate owner and trying not to get killed by influenza before they hit 25y old).

The nobles are nobles. You give them offer of wealth and not being turn into literall Bloody Mary and they will be more than happy to oblige.

If you don't want to disclose the fact at all just roll with regular, typical, native to almost all nobles - genetic impairment due to marying your cousins. The child is born, doctor say it's better to send the kid to better climate and for schooling, they come back only after the current king is "dying". And suprise, he have his father eyes.

Proof? The belowed, beatifull lineage of Habsburgs. They were so nicely vampiric and immortal that people didn't even think "wait, maybe it's just one guy?" but instead rolled with "ohhh, that must be the feature of all of them". And called it "Habsburg Jaw" instead "people don't die". Because you know you can't live forever so it must be something else. Oh well, they were of course accused of witchrafting but they were the kings. You just execute accusers.

Immortal one guy or many different people? You decide

Habsburgs montage

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    $\begingroup$ "beatifull lineage of Habsburgs." Please never say this phrase again. $\endgroup$ – Michael W. Dec 4 '19 at 21:35
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Your vampire king is a beneficent supporter of healthcare with an elected council.

Basically, your ruler has two problems;
1) Access to Blood
2) A ruling class that expects to be around him long term

Dealing with the blood issue first, your king takes a keen interest in the health of his subjects, meaning that he is patron of several of the hospitals in the capital. He gets regular tours, but also expects the run of the place so he can see the unedited truth of the state of health care in his kingdom. He wants to promote medical research, etc. and ensure that his subjects are going to get access to the best care possible, no matter how forlorn their chances are.

This means that he has a de facto warehouse of terminally ill people and others who are expected to die of natural causes on whom he can prey with little suspicion. So once every couple of weeks another old person or person with cancer dies - it's all part of the circle of life, etc. And in reality, the net benefit of his patronage is going to be high so if he wants to preside over last rites or something with some of the patients, all that really means is that he cares, right?

Right?

As for the magistrates et al, your king has a treat for his subjects - democracy!

Well, not real democracy as that would kind of defeat the purpose, but I'm thinking that he introduces a form of parliament that acts as his court and provides him with advisors, magistrates, administrators and the like, but instead of coming from the nobility, they are term-limited elected officials. The rationale behind this is that he needs renewal of ideas and a limit to the amount of corruption among the adminstrators of his government, and that it breaks the classist structures of society so that the individual on the street feels represented in his interests to the king and has a real say in the influence that is brought to bear on the king. The king is not obliged to follow any of that advice of course, but at least the common voices are heard.

The term limits would come in the form of epochs - say 10 years. After each block of 10 years, all positions are spilled and incumbents or former incumbents cannot stand again. Once every couple of epochs, the king is 'replaced' by his son, who has been mentioned in dispatches and no-one is any the wiser.

To that end, your king can rule for hundreds of years if he's careful, gradually building up the persona of the next generation and allowing for the steady abdication of himself to that new persona at regular intervals. The subjects get superior healthcare with a mortality rate from hospital treatment that never quite drops to zero, and the people are given an opportunity to participate in the machinery of government in a manner that is not determined by their ancestry. This would encourage good educational standards, and eventually you may well even get a society sufficiently enlightened that they repeal the death sentence on vampires.

That might not help your king of course as not being killed and being allowed to hold high office are two VERY different things, but ultimately a well educated, well cared for populace is ALSO your best defence should your status as an ex-human ever be revealed.

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    $\begingroup$ I love the hospital idea. I would add that, if possible, it would add an indirect and better way to feed : by bloodletting a patient then rapidly brought to the king, there is no chance to kill the donor and the king wouldn't have to feed only on gravely ill victims. $\endgroup$ – Nahyn - support Monica Cellio Dec 4 '19 at 8:34
  • $\begingroup$ Their is one problem with the "when educated population": they have tendancies to revolt an try to rule, e. g. the french revolution, that was just the rich but not nobles peoples that take advantage of a bad situation to make a revolution and rule. Even now that france is a democracy, there is still peoples that want to revolt and rule. $\endgroup$ – Rorp Dec 5 '19 at 9:22
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Frame challenge from "in a world in which vampirism is punished by death":

Why should a feudal monarch care about that? Who can punish the king?

A feudal king is not just above the law, but he is the law. Henry VIII is a great example of this. When he wanted to do something which was explicitly illegal and immoral at the time (namely divorce), the only people who had any kind of power to oppose him were religious - so he changed the law for himself, and created laws which broke his opponents' power. If anyone spoke out, they became victims of judicial murder. The fate of Thomas Cromwell demonstrates how anyone in society could be executed without trial at the king's command, simply because the king chose to do so at that point in time.

The only realistic internal check on a feudal monarch is mass revolution. As usual, lords need to be kept sweet, and the peasants need to be not excessively oppressed. A monarch who can manage that has basically no internal enemies, and hence no real opposition. If the king is incompetent, of course he deserves to be deposed anyway. But a competent king (and a long-lived vampire should have longer to learn the lessons of statecraft) can avoid that happening.

Of course there may be external threats, from other countries who discover the king is a vampire. Henry VIII and Elizabeth both faced real existential threats to their country from the combined Catholic states of Europe. Again though, a competent king ensures his country is adequately defended. With no time pressure to "make his mark on history", a vampire will not feel the need to embark on expensive military campaigns abroad, which will make his country generally more prosperous and improve his popularity, and the money saved can be spent on defences instead.

And why only the king...?

If vampires are well enough established to have laws against them, there must be more of them around. A cluster of vampires could run things more efficiently. With a selection of natural abilities and aptitudes, they would appreciate that each brings something to the table, and that they are stronger together than separately.

One vampire becomes the nominal "king" for some period of time, and the others pose as his lords. Every so often, the king "dies" and is succeeded by one of the lords. The new king then appoints another lord - who looks surprisingly similar to the old "king". This would likely be enough to avert suspicion from opponents, or at least give enough plausible deniability that they could not act on any suspicions.

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    $\begingroup$ About that "new king then appoints another lord" bit, the old king could happily go on a sabbatical for a few decades until most of the non-vampires who'd remember him are dead or out of the picture, then come back and take up a posting. If there have to always be the same number of lords, then if the group is a little larger, it can have agents abroad in the lands as well, who form a pool of unknown faces to be dropped into the Lord/King rotation. $\endgroup$ – Ruadhan Dec 4 '19 at 13:19
  • $\begingroup$ @Ruadhan Yes, there are many variations possible. The cabal in power will likely have to be small though, because a larger group tends to end up with a hierarchy, and people who feel left out may become a threat to the others. I think it does need to be a group of friends who like and trust each other. $\endgroup$ – Graham Dec 4 '19 at 14:16
  • $\begingroup$ "Why should a feudal monarch care about that?" Exactly. Rules for thee, not for me. It's an open secret, everyone around the King knows (or at least suspects), but anyone trying to use it against him is executed. $\endgroup$ – Kevin Dec 4 '19 at 21:37
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Could your king hide behind some kind of mask whenever he is out in public?

This could easily be spun as some kind of cultural custom where the common people are not 'worthy' to gaze on the king. So they see him through a mask or veil. Perhaps there is a veil in front of the throne room? This would lead to a certain mysterious aura about him sure but most people would put it down to megalomania and not that hes a vampire.

A mask would mean he could still go around publicly without fear of being caught out, though he might have to use a stick - walk a bit slower, and hunch a little as he got older to keep the illusion going.

I dont see how he could keep it from absolutely everyone though, as there would be times when he would need to take it off and may need help with this. But surely a select few people he trusts could be a party to this information... and some who he has leverage over?

As for the blood issue, what is the religion of his kingdom? Could there be a weekly/monthly sacrifice to appease the gods... the sacrifice is carried out by the head of the church (our vampire king) behind closed doors, as a sacred duty.

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    $\begingroup$ "This could easily be spun as some kind of cultural custom where the common people are not 'worthy' to gaze on the king" no need to - historically, there were nobles who wore masks in public because their face was disfigured. It could be through a would or a disease. $\endgroup$ – VLAZ Dec 4 '19 at 6:51
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    $\begingroup$ In the movie Kingdom of Heaven, king Baldwin of Jerusalem is shown using a mask to hide his leprosy. He was indeed historically a leper. $\endgroup$ – ANeves Dec 4 '19 at 12:57
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The king has genetically identical sons and daughters.

Each time the king has a child with one of his daughters, the DNA of the kings original wife from long ago is diluted. The result: his current children have almost the same DNA as the king. The king of this country often dies in battle, publicly and bloodily and is buried. Often the king is (apparently) too old to be fighting but it is a tradition in this country that their kings die in battle. Being a vampire, he is of course not dead. One of his sons becomes kings and shortly thereafter the king leaves his grave and takes the place of his son, with fresh styles and new hair, and continues on.

As regards drinking blood, the king sidesteps the loss of control by having blood brought to him. Certain medical patients with an excess of humors benefit from scarification and bleeding. To prevent vampires or witches from getting this blood, it is brought to the castle and safely disposed of in a central location. As it turns out this is the king.

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If vampires exist, then it's possible that religion does too.

The king could say that as king, he is head of the church, and as proof of that he has been granted especially long life by the gods (or possibly even claim to be a demi-god himself, which also has examples in history).

He would need to build up a sort of cult of personality like the Kim family in North Korea, in order to keep his immediate subordinates in line, while at the same time, keeping them happy (i.e. we're going to be well off as long as he's king, so why question it?)

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    $\begingroup$ "If vampires exist, then it's quite probable that religion does too." This seems like an odd leap to me.. Though I like your thought. Reigning monarchs being the head of the church have plenty of examples in the UK alone, let alone worldwide. $\endgroup$ – Ruadhan Dec 4 '19 at 14:27
  • $\begingroup$ My point is that the "super-natural" is not beyond the realms of possibility, so it's a possible answer that could fit into the author / OP's world, conditional, of course, on my assumption being correct. But I've edited the answer anyway. $\endgroup$ – colmde Dec 4 '19 at 14:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Ruadhan It's not a leap, it's discrete math! p -> q If p is False then the whole argument can be True! $\endgroup$ – Aventinus Dec 4 '19 at 17:16
  • $\begingroup$ Rephrased: If vampirism (a supernatural phenomenon) exists, then other supernatural phenomena may exist too, so exploit one of those to fix the problems with the vampirism. I'm just not sure where the data to assign "quite probable" as a value comes from. It's just as probable to me that in a world where vampirism exists, understanding of death is significantly better and religion in general simply isn't a thing. This theory also presupposes religion over spiritualism. That there are Gods (mythic or real) to assign authority with. It's definitely a leap of logic. $\endgroup$ – Ruadhan Dec 5 '19 at 8:41
  • $\begingroup$ Well, religion always exist, even in worlds where supernatural things don't (see our world). Why? Because the base principe of a religion is to link peoples (religio), and the "we are all creation of a superpowered guy that rule all of us" is actually quite good (and, see our world). So definitly, there is religion in this world. So yeah, the king can use it. $\endgroup$ – Rorp Dec 5 '19 at 9:30
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Blood supply is simple: Sometimes, irrefutably guilty criminals - convicted of the most heinous crimes, and condemned to lifetime imprisonment - die while in prison. That is, after all, why it is called lifetime imprisonment. Some of these prisoners just happen to be granted a private royal audience first.

How frequent this is would depend on how long the withdrawal symptoms take to build up - if feeding is only required quarterly, or annually, then I suspect the King would weave some narrative of ritual or tradition around it for the benefit of those courtiers "in the know" - arrange it for an equinox or solstice, and imply that it is necessary to "maintain the strength of the kingdom" or something.

Disguising himself will vary based on how old he appears - simplest would be if he has the appearance of a young man, mid-twenties to early thirties. He makes sure to always wear a mask for official duties - the ceremonial garb is what people think of as "the King", identity is shown through a signet ring used to seal documents - just like the royals of old, or the Pope.

Next, the King is not married, he is "raised from the people" - adopt a young orphan boy (or several, to have spares in case of illness or accidents) who are raised (separately!) as the "future Batman king", and occasionally seen out-and-about at court. They are raised by servants, well educated, et cetera. As they get older, they are seen out in public less frequently - or, at least, only when wearing masks themselves.

When these "Princes" are of an age that the King can pass for one of them, the King "dies". The body given the funeral is actually one of the "Princes" - the same one who is declared the "new" King, and publicly takes up the mantle and garb. The other Princes are either elevated to nobility, or married into existing nobility - minus, of course, any who have course to suspect the scheme and instead "die of heartbreak, at the passing of their beloved Father"

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Blood Supply: This is relatively simple. The vampire king must have some accomplices. These people can be criminals or whatnot and their job is to make people disappear. I'm also guessing that the king has access to a (secret) dungeon to satisfy his needs and dispose of the bodies.

Longevity: Although I like all the answers so far I cannot help but notice that they are ephemeral. The king can extend his rule for decades (maybe a few centuries) but ultimately he cannot rule forever. The longer he plays this game the greater the chances of being discovered. So, if I were him I would try to come up with an ultimate, long-term plan. Maybe he's exporting money to a nearby kingdom so that he can fake his death and move there a new and rich citizen. Maybe his plan is to change the people's views on vampirism (amazing things can happen in 100 years), etc. However, he cannot "realistically" stay king forever.

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    $\begingroup$ Regarding the blood supply, I'd actually suggest criminals are the supply. Either prisoners have a tendency to go missing or end up dead in their cells, or the King carries out all his own executions, in private. King and condemned enter a room; King, body, and head leave, and no one need know about the bite marks along which the cut was made. $\endgroup$ – Kevin Dec 4 '19 at 21:41
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So there are a number of individual issues that have to be addressed, each one with its own set of plausible solutions.

1. Long-Term Goals

There is the question of ruling forever, but will this king want to? When you are basically ageless, the perspective of time most likely changes. So in say 300 or 400 years, will the king still want to rule? Can the feudal monarchies in your world survive that long and will he want to be a part of the political revolution that follows or at point will retiring filthy rich to an island be the goal of the day? That or sneaking out to avoid the revolution

It may not be part of the question directly, but the length of time he plans to rule combined with his personality will influence what kind of plans and preparation he will be willing to undertake to maintain his rule.

Is taking a few decades off and letting another house rule in order to travel to pursue knowledge part of his plans or will he want to be on that throne for as long as he is able to be?

2. Laws against Vampirism

In the low-fantasy setting I'm working on, the king is a vampire in a world in which vampirism is punished by death.

Who has made this law? The global religious order, the king (or a previous one), or a coalition of monarchs?

Depending on the monarchy style, then the king will have the power to arbitrarily change the laws to suit his needs. Of course there are the lower nobles that administrate his lands and might object to such a radical change of laws through revolution, or accusations of vampirism because of such a sudden and drastic change in laws. So slowly changing the laws are still the safer order of the day regardless of his effective power. Should the king's laws have to go through a parliment that has actual power, then it is trickier, but again the slower approach has a higher chance of success.

The end goal would be legalization of vampirism outright, but even arranging a change of laws so that vampirism is not outright illegal while a vampire provably killing somebody is punishable by death is a lot of breathing room because at that point, the law can't kill your for existing. At least not directly.

3. Blood Supply

Vampires have a strong desire to drink human blood, and once they start, they usually cannot stop without killing their victim. It's not a biological necessity, but they suffer ever-increasing withdrawal symptoms if they cannot drink enough blood often enough.

The key word here is "usually" -- it implies that with enough self-control, a vampire can end up not killing their victims. If the king understands his condition enough to know how often the desire needs to be fed, and how much blood can appease it, then he could theoretically keep it fed to a point where a few most trusted servants are fed upon nonlethally in their sleep. However, that would lead to people questioning things which could be a Bad Thing if he is caught or a retainer objects.

Another possiblity not previously mentioned is that the king moonlights as an executioner or acts as one under special circumstances. Death by exsangunation for feeding purposes followed by a swift beheading to hide the evidence deals with both condemned criminals as well as the king's hunger. The beheading also conveniently prevents the now dead body from rising and if chopped in the corrct place can hide the fact that there are/were fang marks on the body.

Naturally, the king's executions are done in private. The official reason is to keep certain criminals from gaining fame and popularity at the headsman's block as a martyr. An alternative reason is that the condemned do not deserve a public death. The real reason is of course to hide the blood feeding before the actual execution.

An interesting thought might be that the king is the last point of appeal with a lethal twist: The loser of the appeal has a date with the king's fangs in private for wasting his time. This will only be for people making the appeals -- it would have no bearing on items brought to the monarch directly.

As stated, a more modern king will have access to a blood bank for a rare (and heriditary) medical condition. While it not fresh from the vein, it is still human blood, and so long as he is not demanding the best of the best, there should be no problem using the most common blood or something equally plausible.

4. Avoiding Suspicion

[P]eople are going to find it odd after a few decades when they notice their king doesn't age. The commoners are easy to fool, they never meet the king anyways. But the highest magistrates are another story.

This is the larger problem and has been covered better by other people so I won't really touch this concern too deeply.

One thing I will observe is with enough time, your king will more likely want to be known as a sagacious ruler as opposed to a battlefield conquerer. He will have had the potentially extra decades to accumulate knowledge and wisdom. This is not to say that he will shy from war when needed, just that it will not be his primary method of consolidating power. Also, a war might even be a good time to plot faking his own death and being his own successor.

Makeup and hair dye will be the kings best friend in appearing older than he is. That and acting skills. As there are no special benefits to his immorality aside from the agelessness, then that should be sufficient.

If he has perfect recovery, as in he is immune (or highly resistant) to infections and other non-violent means of sickness or death, then extoling that as a divine blessing or gift could be the way to go.

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He is immortal because he is blessed by (the) God(s).

Why looking for a new solution when there's already one existing ? ;)

For his hunger he will declare that all the judgments in the country have to be done by him because he is the direct envoy of God. Then have the prisonners be locked in individual cells for interrogation and it's done.

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  • $\begingroup$ I don't see how this in any way hides his immortality. Sooner or later, people are going to figure it out. $\endgroup$ – F1Krazy Dec 5 '19 at 15:16
  • $\begingroup$ @F1Krazy in that case, there is no need to hide it, since they have been gifted by the gods it would be acceptable for people that their king doesn't age. $\endgroup$ – Julien Lachal Dec 6 '19 at 8:35
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I would argue that he doesn't need to hide his immortality, in fact, that would make people more readily willing to follow him, especially into battle. ("Wow! Our king just took twenty arrows to the chest and shrugged it off! Those guys are so screwed!") He could certainly argue that his Divine Right to Rule is self evident by the fact that God (or some other entity) has not yet saw fit to kill him.

As for concealing Vampirism, a permanent war would provide him with the opportunity to lead his troops into conquests, drinking the blood of his foes during daring night raids.

Also, which rules of Vampirism are we following? If this guy is like Dracula (from the book), then he can absolutely appear during the day (which most people would take to mean he is not a vampire), provided that he is back in his "box of dirt" from either dawn to noon or noon to dusk. Bram Stoker doesn't ever consider what would/does happen should a vampire fail to do this, (as Dracula tended to despise the day anyway) but you could. Even if anyone did discover he was a vampire, he could easily make them submit to his total control, like Renfield.

If this guy follows the Nosferatu (silent film) rules of vampirism, he still gets the Renfield-esque abilities to control people and certain animals. He just can't appear during the day. Perhaps he could explain it via his sleep schedule, (all the night raids tire the king out) or he busy dealing with "appointments."

I recommend looking up the vampire Barnabus Collins, from the soap (not the movie) Dark Shadows. He is able to successfully conceal his vampirism for many seasons, although he is found out by a witch.

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  • $\begingroup$ "The only supernatural advantage vampires have is their immortality. There are no exceptional abilities inherent in vampirism, though immortality allows one a lot of time to become extremely skilled and knowledgeable in many fields." You've got a decent answer in the first half, but the second half doesn't really seem to fit the question unfortunately. $\endgroup$ – John Montgomery Dec 4 '19 at 19:32
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Incorporate it into the religion

You're not just a king; you're a priest-king. Your dictates, at least those made in ceremonial court, are not just human law, but they are also divine law. Your unusual longevity is not against the law, because it is a gift from the diety, obeying a higher law, just as the orphans you consume are not innocent victims but exalted devotees, who will be richly rewarded in the afterlife.

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