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A high medieval kingdom is ruled by a king. The king is fairly cunning and intelligent, has exactly two magical gifts:

  1. He ages very, very slowly
  2. He has physical prowess well, well beyond that of a normal man.

These mean that it's nearly impossible to kill him (poisons don't phase him, stabbing him is near impossible, and simply throwing soldiers at him would require him to be considerably outnumbered, so it would not be a stealthy affair), so he knows he's fairly safe on a personal level.

The king, however, has a bad habit of taking long (decade long) trips away from his kingdom. He knows during this time he leaves his kingdom ripe for the taking of particularly ambitious noblemen, advisors, and the ilk, and if any such man did take charge, the king would not be able to face down the entire kingdom's army to regain power... nor does he want to have to go through such efforts.

How can the king structure the government so he has reasonable security that when he returns to his kingdom he's still king? What variation of a monarchy would support this?

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  • $\begingroup$ does the King know beforehand how long the trip will be, or does it just last as long as the fancy takes him? $\endgroup$ – EveryBitHelps Oct 11 '16 at 21:37
  • $\begingroup$ @EveryBitHelps It's more of a "fancy takes him" deal. $\endgroup$ – Ranger Oct 11 '16 at 21:38
  • $\begingroup$ Does the King have children with the same abilities? If so they will be the main problem. $\endgroup$ – Stig Hemmer Oct 12 '16 at 10:18
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure there's an answer to this question that will work 100% of the time. Any mechanism he sets up can be subverted somehow. Even a democracy with him as the figurehead won't survive someone deciding to pass a law that the figurehead position should go away. $\endgroup$ – Green Oct 12 '16 at 18:11
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    $\begingroup$ "You have to defend what you want to maintain." If he's not there to defend it, I'm not sure what mechanism there could be that would ensure his kingship when he comes back. $\endgroup$ – Green Oct 12 '16 at 18:15
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He’s a folk hero, star of legend and lore, and people love him as a cultural icon.

When he comes back to town, he’s treated as a rock star. The prime minister puts up with him and everyone lets him play figurehead for a while.

Meanwhile, he uses his celebrety to talk to the people and influence things along the lines he has in mind.

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  • $\begingroup$ Excellent idea, respect breads loyalty and loyalty, well it affords such opportunities. I feel as though there are characters of a similar nature in the Malloreon. Kings, or high ranking officials who take off to save land and what not, leaving others in charge in their stay. $\endgroup$ – Firelight Jun 13 '17 at 18:53
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Setup a monarchial democracy like the UK

There are a lot of decisions that need to be made in a monarchy...which requires a king to be present. If the king is absent, those decisions still need to be made, and if not filled in a procedural, non-violent way, someone, somewhere will fill that void. So, setup a form of government where he maintains the hereditary title of King but is only tangentially involved in making decisions.

Since the common people will be making the decisions for themselves and the power vacuum of king-like decision making is filled by elected representatives, there's nothing to be gained form usurping the throne other than a name. If the king does it right, he'll always be able to come back and claim the throne.

The king's ongoing role will become one of vision-giver. "I have a dream that this country can...." Since he's not around to oversee its implementation, he just comes back every so often to check and see how things are going. If the performance is subpar, he can offer guidance.

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    $\begingroup$ This one reduces the monarch to a mostly ceremonial figure with little practical power (outside of perhaps a few exceptional cases), but that's actually what makes it so effective. Nobody is going to really bother trying to usurp the British royal family now: sure, there's a lot of symbolic importance there, but not much in the way of concrete political power in terms of the role itself. A newcomer trying to take up the role simply wouldn't have any serious influence with the system; if they want power, they'd be better off trying to get themselves elected. $\endgroup$ – Palarran Oct 12 '16 at 0:55
  • $\begingroup$ This has the flaw that (in the UK system, at least) the monarch cannot be absent from the law-making process, as their legal assent (given by signing each parliamentary bill) is required to bring new laws into effect. $\endgroup$ – FacticiusVir Oct 12 '16 at 13:23
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First he needs an administrator that he can trust, preferably someone that doesn't have a claim to the throne. He must be respected enough that people will obey him (at least until the king returns) but not respected enough that they will follow him if he makes himself king.

Second divine right, kings have been using this method to stay in power for centuries. This king actual has evidence of how special he is (his magical powers). He must get his people not only to believe that he is the king, but that he should and must be king. This will insure that he always has at least some support from the people if he needs to retake his kingdom.

Three he needs to take a powerful army with him when he goes on his trips. This army will not only protect him from harm while his is gone, but it we also be ready to help him retake his kingdom if necessary.

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This king is not the governor of his kingdom. I recommend that king to delegate the management of its kingdom to a Favorite as some kings did in the 16th and 17th century.

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The First Law trilogy by Joe Abercrombie has a similar situation (spoiler alert). In essence the wizard Bayaz rules the entire kingdom and always has (he created it hundred of years ago). He accomplishes it by appointing figurehead kings, and ensuring that the real power is always held by a trusted adviser. Then he rules from afar by sending instructions to his lackey, ensuring he always retains power for when he returns.

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