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Kings that desired peace for idealistic reasons?

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Netardapope, Dec 26, 2015.

  1. Netardapope

    Netardapope Sage

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    So you often hear of the archetype of the king or noble whom wishes to prevent war just because they think it's wrong. The benevolent king if you will. And while I do understand that this is probably a role assumed only in entertainment rather than reality, I was hoping to see if anyone had any real life examples specifically in non-contemporary times.

    I'd like to know if there where kings who genuinely Valored the human life of both their people and foreigners. And if an example cannot be found, I'd appreciate the closest example you can find.

    The trend I see in literature and entertainment in general is that they think and overly cynical setting is most realistic. When in my personal opinion I think a realistic setting is a mix of the idealistic and cynical. So any information you can bring is welcome [emoji1]



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  2. MineOwnKing

    MineOwnKing Maester

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    Hmm,

    Interesting question.

    I think Henry the VIII and Thomas Wolsey attempted to bring peace to Europe but it failed. However their motivations were for glory.

    I think that Peter the Great is one of the most interesting leaders in history. His high intelligence and hands on determination to bring the Russian Empire into a modern age were remarkable.

    He actually died from saving one of his subjects. I know Peter is a little off topic, but maybe you could learn something from his history that would help your writing.
     
  3. Codey Amprim

    Codey Amprim Staff Article Team

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    I am curious to this myself. My current project has such a king in it, but I am struggling with his character because I don't think my audience will find his motives and actions authentic... Mostly because of everyone expecting a king to be more ruthless and cynical, like you said.

    One thing you've got to keep in mind is that a king must be stalwart with whatever his will is, even if it is keeping the peace. A king cannot be a king if his command is weak.

    I'm using that alone to cement him into the work, and as a trigger to set in motion many plot lines. It's hard to create one that seems convincing though, unless he's got a few tricks up his sleeve.
     
  4. MineOwnKing

    MineOwnKing Maester

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    My wife and I just recently watched the movie The Girl King.

    It is the biography of Queen Christina of Sweden.

    I loved this movie and it is so relevant to modern gender/sexuality issues.

    The conflict between self-discovery and duty is made clear. I think her personal life is telling of any King's responsibilities.

    So awesome.
     
  5. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    I don't expect kings to be cynical, but I do expect them to be the leader of their people. That's their historical origin and their reason to exist. Therefore, kings lead their troops in battle. Therefore, the notion of a pacifist king seems an intrusion of modern notions into a pre-modern environment. It would be like having a king who believed in the equality of all people.

    BTW, the idea that kings are cynical and power-hungry by nature is also a modern notion.
     
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  6. Netardapope

    Netardapope Sage

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    It's a bit strange to me to be honest. You here all this talk of personality types existing throughout human existence that you'd believe that every role a human has undertaken would have people who are idealistic, cynical, etc. But it seems weird to think of kings who were simply idealistic in a positive way. Perhaps it's more a matter of modern values than personality?

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  7. MineOwnKing

    MineOwnKing Maester

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    No separation of church and state.

    Kings were spoon fed to believe they held divine right. That's a game changer.
     
  8. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

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    Emperor Hirohito was supposedly against Japan going to war during World War II. Obviously, he was vetoed by the empire's military leaders.
    Pedro II of Brazil was also supposedly very anti-war though while he reigned Brazil was involved in three wars, all of which they won.

    I imagine that anytime an absolute monarchy isn't at war, it's because the king doesn't want to be at war.

    "Realism" is pretty literally the spot in between idealism and cynicism.
    Personally, I shoot for realism by having idealist characters in a cynical world (or vice-versa).
     
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2015
  9. Netardapope

    Netardapope Sage

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    What you said about absolute monarchies is true but in that case it's more a matter of the king not wanting or seeing a need to go to war than the king having a desire to not take life

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  10. Devouring Wolf

    Devouring Wolf Troubadour

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    This is an interesting point. I'm sure idealistic kings could exist (although I don't know of any historical examples sorry), but if they let their idealism get in the way of ruling effectively, they probably wouldn't find themselves king for very long. Even absolute monarchies aren't truly absolute a king can't just do whatever he wants, he needs the lords at least to support him so an idealistic king would probably end up either having to do things against his ideals to keep the kingdom running and everyone happy, end up a puppet king for his more pragmatic advisers, or anger enough people that he meets an untimely end.

    As to the specific question, it seems highly unlikely to me that any king would value all people (both his own of every social class and foreigners) equally. A king's existence is based on the idea that your blood gives you more value than other people. You rule because of who your parents were and its taken as a divine right. As royalty your life already has more value than other people's. I'm sure you can find exceptionally merciful and tolerant rulers, just as there are some infamously tyrannical, but I think having a functioning monarchy undermines the idea of all people having value.

    So to paraphrase everything I just wrote, yes, I do think its just an example of modern sensibilities being injected into fantasy and not something you'll find much of a historical bases for.
     
  11. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    Depending on the time period, being peaceful has a great deal to do with economics. I had this conversation with a friend of mine who is big on economics, as well as history, a few years ago. Sadly, the smart stuff was his, not mine, so this could be kind of tad off, LOL. But, a really really rough horrible and brief paraphrase of the conversation...

    If things are well, economies seek to expand. If you aren't expanding, you are in decline, basically speaking. In the ancient world, economies did not expand as in our modern production/consumption environment. So, in some respects, if a king is peaceful, and his population is expanding, the economy will need to expand with them. In the ancient world, economic expansion eventually requires territorial expansion, and unless you happen to be living next to an open plain, this means you need to take your neighbors treasure, whether that is land or gold or whatever. So, Peaceful King of A runs headlong into economic forces that push toward taking the neighbor's wealth (war) to expand his own economy, which is probably necessary to keep the peace inside his own borders. And of course, the Queen of B if also expanding, will be eyeing the King of A's treasure in order to expand her economy and keep the peace in her borders...

    And another interesting point, if Emperor of C comes into power a peaceful bloke, but with a failing declining economy, there weren't too many ways to boost an economy back then, so again, taking your neighbor's treasure comes into play, because a dying economy also breeds violence, as evidenced even today.

    I guess the moral to the story is: Peace has more requirements than simply the will to seek it. Wanting peace is easy, living it? Not so much. That makes for a very small number of peaceful rulers.
     
  12. TheKillerBs

    TheKillerBs Inkling

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    On the other hand, war is expensive. You have to feed and pay a lot of people, and losses make for a significant dent on your workforce. War was not a panacea for economic problems.
     
  13. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror

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    According to the post of Demesnedenoir then war is indeed a panacea for the economy...if you win it. Sure its expensive but that's like all other investments that you invest with money in something which you think will earn you profit down the road. Therefor I can totally see that if a king, or other leader, feels as if they have a good chance - or see no other option - that they can use a war to boost their economy. I can certainly see its a more attractive choice than to take the risk with a war than just lie down and die in the gutter.
     
  14. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    Economics does not mean coin in my usage, to be clear, but it can be part of the equation.

    Yes war is expensive (under certain conditions, more modern, more expensive) and voila! it propagates more war, particularly in periods where debt becomes an issue. It could be a war against the debt holders, even. Every time period has different issues. Before standing armies, wars could be fought on the cheap, so to speak. War is not a cure for economic problems, but it is an effective expansion of the economy (or the economy's potential) so long as you are winning. And of course, wars are also fought to protect your current economics of survival.

    Its far more complicated than presented, but it comes down to a basic formula that even fits a lot of true Western stories: Cowboys want range for their cattle, farmers/sheep herders want land for their crops or sheep, when those two economic (and economics is vital to survival) forces butt heads, range war often ensues. Water rights? Oh hell yeah, war. Water is economics. This tracks as far back as caveman "economics".

    The Trojan Wars, fought over a woman or a strategic choke position that controlled trade?
     
  15. TheKillerBs

    TheKillerBs Inkling

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    I'm not denying that war can help boost an economy. The issue is that it can also ruin an economy. Even a war that you win can can bring famine if it goes on long enough. That's because a significant chunk of your workforce is consuming food rather than producing it. This is especially true if you don't have a standing army, or a particularly big standing army. By the way, if your society is organised enough that you have a king, chances are you'll have a standing army of some size. The first standing armies in Sumer and Egypt came along at about the 2500-2000 BC range if memory serves.
     
  16. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Idealism is itself rather a modern notion.

    I'd argue that medieval European kings (the ones I know best) were indeed idealist according to their own lights. The best example that comes to mind is Louis IX of France, later sainted, but a good many kings believed profoundly that they held a sacred duty to take care of their people and their kingdom, and that they would one day stand before the throne of God and be held to account.

    This does *not* mean they felt they had to be "nice" or "peaceful" or other modern ideals. I would put two values paramount for medieval kings: to render justice and to preserve the kingdom. That meant, among other things, to make no new laws, a notion we would find puzzling. Even wars of aggression were usually couched in terms of recovering something that had once belonged to the crown (or the family).

    I can think of kings whose behavior was appalling (e.g., Clovis), but one supposes even then actions were justified on one ground or another. Perhaps a different and more profitable question would be to ask if there were any medieval kings that conformed to a *medieval* ideal of kingship. I can think of a number of those: Frederick I Hohenstaufen, Otto III, maybe Henry the Fowler, all of Germany. In England, Henry V comes to mind but probably only because he died young. I already mentioned Louis IX for France. Jadwiga in Poland. Matthias Corvinus in Hungary. None of these were without flaws, but they were each much admired by contemporaries.
     
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  17. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

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    Hi,

    I think peace for idealistic reasons is unlikely in most cases save where a king or queen is religiously motivated and the taking of life would be a sin. However there are plenty of reasons for wanting peace that aren't idealistic but rather practical.

    A contented population less likely to want to revolt leaving the king's rule safe. A country prospering under years of peace. A country that has just emerged from the horrors of war where there would be resistence. A country to0 militarily weak to risk waging war and simply wanting to rebuild its strength. Even an egotistic king who wants to see progress - grand monuments of himself / historiocity etc. You don't build huge monuments during wars - you build them after! (Assuming you won of course). And of course the more noble reason of a duty of care - consider kings as paternalistic. They may consider the plebs as not their equals but still feel an obligation to look after them - because you know, the poor fools can't look after themselves!

    Cheers, Greg.
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2015
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  18. Nagash

    Nagash Sage

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    It is necessary to understand that peace as a concept was not valued in the old world as it is today, in our modern world. Peace really became a part of political idealism after the Great War of 1914-1918, people having witnessed how horrible armed conflicts had become with the technology brought to men by modern times (see Chaplin's movie). By the end of this four year conflict which ravaged Europe, war as a fantasized concept mutated as it was understood that trench wars - wars of attrition, where people were horribly mutilated, shattered by the ever-so popular grenades, gazed by chemicals or bombed from the air - had murdered the concept of the glorious war, the noble war... In the early 19th century, and perhaps until the end of the Napoleonic Wars, popular imagination was still holding on to a romantic conception of war - rooted in ancient myths, such as the Trojan War, where Achilles is the figure of the warrior of old - which had many "good and noble sides" to it. That is not to say that war wasn't atrocious before the 20th century - frankly, while war has changed in appearance, it remains the same brutal, violence-driven way of forwarding one's interests - but that popular thinking came at a breaking point with the late 19th/early 20th century. After the 2nd Boer War (less noticeable but still relevant, since prisoners camp were particularly horrible) and WWI depicted war as a gaping whole swallowing not hundreds of thousands of lives, but millions !

    TL;DR : War became a slaughter, with no hope for glory nor salvation amid the bombs. Peace, therefore became immensely more valued, and politicians began to brand it as a rallying flag; before the war of 1914-1918, only the socialists were opposed to the idea of a european conflict... After the trauma, nobody could even think about risking another one, which, unfortunately, threw the continent into another bloodshed in 1939. Having been annihilated by the first half of its 20th century, Europe became very attached to peace, and to this very day most people fear war and cannot imagine throwing themselves into a armed conflict. But it hasn't always been this way.

    In ancient times, war was a common situation and clans/tribes/cities/empires were often warring with each other on a regularized basis. Raiding was a seasonal practice in 10th century Scandinavia (Viking Age), that while not technically a war, had all of its violent aspects. War itself was a practical way of forwarding political, economical, religious interests and what not, and therefore it was employed very commonly albeit in different fashions from one culture to another. Kings understood the prime importance of war, not only as a way to crushing one's foes, but also to protect oneself from them - si vis pacem, para bellum: if you want peace, prepare for war. This saying is immensely important, since it tells us that peace and war were two things that could not be thought of separately, for one was always preparing the other. War must be prepared during peace-time, and peace can only be preserved by war. Moreover, the concept which was far more valued than peace in ancient times, was order - the perfect balance which the Roman Empire sought to implement in the eurasian landscape by waging war on all other than itself. Peace itself, didn't not mean the same thing; a peaceful King lacked vision, and dwelled in idleness, powerlessness... It made him a weak ruler, lacking the charisma and courage to live up the the heroic figures of the old tales. Heroism indeed, held a place of importance in this old world, for it was the center-piece of honor culture, and it was systematically forged at war...

    Peaceful kings - the idealistic ones - only exist in fantasy; Tolkien invented the reluctant King leading his people to war against evil, because his work was built upon his own resentment of the Great War he experienced. The noble, peaceful, fantasy King, goes to war because he has a sacred duty to fight chaos in the name of light and good. In reality however, where the preservation of the community and the hierarchy was the main goal, war was an acceptable tool that was glorified, mythicized and romanticized. That is not to say some kings did not seek for peace; a wise ruler knew how to recognize a reckless war and when to favor peace, as a way to rebuild his kingdom and harvest his crops. But no sane King - not matter how idealistic - could have come to the throne, saying, "From now on, there will be no war; for I believe peace if fair for all men under the sun". It would have been foolishness for a kingly leader to deny war; for war, then and forever, is a part of politics and diplomacy.

    Sorry for the long post.
     
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  19. DeathtoTrite

    DeathtoTrite Troubadour

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    Look at Skanderbeg of Albania, Stephen III of Moldova, and David IV of Georgia. To be fair, all of them were idealistic because their goals tended to be simply survival of their people, but they are all really interested examples of leaders of puny states that fended off vastly superior armies.

    Skanderbeg in particular has a compelling story; he was the son of an Albanian noble raised in the Ottoman court. He converted to Islam and was made a Janissary commander, but then later converted back to Christianity and rallied the tribes of Albania against the Ottomans, protecting the independence of tiny Albania for decades until his death. When he finally died from Malaria, Mehmet II declared Christendom had lost its sword and shield (Albania and the rest of the Balkans did fall in short order)
     
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