Deadly Decadent Court

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"A complex web of intrigue, in which death comes as poison, or a dagger in the night. That kind of murder is like a fine wine."

Corkus, Berserk Abridged

The history of the Deadly Decadent Court is proud and completely true, you can certainly believe everything this article says at face value without bothering to check the Pot Holes.

It is a monarch's court where the powerful, yet humble nobles gather to make decisions for the common good. Unlike the Standard Royal Court where the "royals" spend their time idly, the Deadly Decadent Court is quite serious about its work; taking no pleasure in ensuring decadence is outside of the judicial courts, hence the name.

They stem from esteemed houses with an ancient and deserving history who work together in their effort to best serve their beloved king, his gentle consort, and beautiful country—doing whatever is needed to quell threats to it, however wearisome it is. They're all like brothers and sisters, though they must resolve occasional conflicts. Their work is made all the easier since they never lie, much less betray each other. (There is an occasional odd-ball though. Plus some who sulk in their ramshackle country homes—but they're old fogeys.)

Of course, a certain sense of decorum, beauty, elegance, and style is expected of all newcomers who want to uphold this proud tradition, and if one isn't able to, they know it's their duty to discreetly but clearly explain customs to them. After all, even their casual conversation is often about matters of import, and they must consider their children's future. They do expect manners, though their artless dignity is often hard to imitate. And their piety is unquestionable.

But it's not all just work here. With their exquisite taste, the court is quite charming. An occasional Masquerade Ball, feast, or other festivity help them relax after a hard day of fulfilling their duty to their loyal citizens is done.

The Fair Folk, when they aren't out tormenting us norms, are like this.

One type of Standard Royal Court. Sometimes only portions of a court are like this, such as when the decadence congregates about an evil chancellor or prince.

Examples of Deadly Decadent Court include:

Anime and Manga

  • In Berserk, it seems like all the major nobles in Midland are out to get Griffith, who ends up as the target of two assassination plots by the jealous nobility. Griffith, however, is no slouch himself, and all of the nobles who take part in the assassinations end up dead.
  • In The Bride of the Water God, both the Emperor's Court and the Court of the Water Kingdom are filled with intrigue and characters at cross-purposes. Of course, many of the characters are in both courts...
  • In Vinland Saga, the court of King Sweyn Forkbeard is said to be so opulent it is populated with beautiful slave women taken from every corner of the world, filled with conniving politicians, and the arena of many a bloody duel to the death.
  • In Legend of Galactic Heroes, bombs, poisons, abductions, gunfire and suicides are not unheard of in Imperial politics.
  • Ooku is set in the Shogun's harem, which develops into a place of backstabbing maneuvers.
  • In Code Geass, the Britannian Royal Court comes off as this, given the scheming nobles and The Social Darwinist Emperor. The Chinese court has this as well, with the scheming Eunuchs being the Chinese counterpart to the Britannian nobles.

Comic Books

  • The Russian noble houses in Nikolai Dante especially the ruling Makarovs and the Romanovs.
  • Most, if not all incarnations of the Hellfire Club in the X-Men Comics. While they are not technically royality, they try their best to invoke this.


  • Louis XVI's court as portrayed in the French movie Ridicule exemplifies this trope, showcasing how nobles' political power and status was highly dependent on their wit. One victim of a mocking jest saw his request to the King rejected, got ostracised and ended up killing himself as a result.
  • Spoofed (among many other tropes) in The Court Jester.
  • Speaking of our good friend Louix XVI, this is played for laughs in History of the World Part I. "It's good to be the king!"


  • A Song of Ice and Fire has the deadliest court in modern American fantasy. In a Crapsack World where seven powers duke it out to gain control of the realm, Magnificent Bastards, Smug Snakes and Byronic Heroes trade gambits like they're in a pillow fight. And God Save Us From the Queen...
  • The nobles from the Bitterbynde books. The heroine, being a borderline Mary Sue, makes a few faux pas and has to run away when her pretense gets discovered—but of course till then she's been the most graceful and beautiful of women at court as well as a thousand times purer than these cruel, superficial twits.
  • The royal court from the Chronicles of Amber, basically a Big Screwed-Up Family and their lackeys. So much backstabbery your brain will give up and go Xanatose.
  • The nobles from the first novel of The Final Empire when their society is still intact. They indulge their extravagances while the rest of the population is nearly starving and there's the extra fun of some of them secretly being Mistborn which means powerful sorcerers and born assassins.
  • In one of the first three The Wheel of Time books, Rand al'Thor comes into a big city with such a court. At least the intrigue bit is definitely fitting - everyone tries to pull him to their side by sending him invitations. Rand tries to avoid this by burning all the invitations... which they, of course, take as a cunning political move. Ultimately, his actions indirectly lead to the assassination of the king and the entire country falling into a civil war.
    • The Seanchan also seem to operate under these rules. Tuon, the Empress's daughter and heir, notes that her position was attained partly by eliminating the competition, permanently. She also forgives Beslan's acts of treachery during a crisis because he was unaware of the crisis. Her tone suggests that if it were not during a crisis, there would be little to forgive.
      • Seanchan nobles routinely make assassination plans for anyone they deal with, even if they don't really intend to go through with them. Tuon finds it incredible that she and her new husband Mat won't have to scheme against each other.
  • Gormenghast.
  • The court of Governor and Sole Autocrat Barholm Clerett in The General, where intrigue is an artform, treachery a given AND on top of everything else the Governor is borderline insane. As the saying goes, 'A simpleton from the Governor's Court could give lessons in intrigue to [any other royal court on the planet, save possibly the Colony's]."
  • The goblin court in John Barnes's One for the Morning Glory. Explicitly described as a parody of King Boniface's.
  • The high council of Menzoberranzan. Usually, the backstabbing comes from a lower-ranking House that wants to be on the high council, but frankly the entire city is afflicted with a pernicious case of Chronic Backstabbing Disorder.
  • David Eddings is very fond of this trope: it shows up in the Imperial Courts of both The Malloreon and The Tamuli, and the main characters are very enthusiastic participants: in The Malloreon, they foment discord to the point that they engineer a civil war inside the walls of the palace as cover for their escape, while in The Tamuli they help the figurehead emperor overthrow his own government and seize control by throwing a party, getting the assorted aristocrats drunk, and imprisoning the lot of them.
    • The civil war doesn't work out quite as planned, since a plague breaks out in the city, trapping them in the midst of war.
  • In the furry fantasy novel Fangs Of Kaath, the royal court of Osra is a den of decadence and coldblooded political calculation that could consider genocide as well as accommodation as solutions with equal ease. While the heroes, Prince Raschid and his love Sandhri are the first to note it's a fun place for a party with food and sexy serving girls (who are openly eager to hop into bed when asked) galore when it is in a peaceful mood, they are otherwise repelled by its venal side and it suffers a Karmic Death at being nearly totally destroyed in the climactic battle in the end with nearly the entire villainous Royal family dead except for the straight arrow heroes who find themselves unquestionably on top and in charge of things to run their way.
  • The Imperial Court of Golgotha, homeworld of The Empire, in Deathstalker series by Simon R. Green is this writ large IN SPACE.
    • His Forest Kingdom Series and Hawk and Fisher books also feature a wide variety of these. Special mention has to go to the court in Blood and Honour, where they recklessly dally with eldritch abominations.
  • In William King's Warhammer 40,000 Space Wolf novel Wolfblade, Ragnor is warned in advance that Terra is this.
  • In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 novel Faith & Fire, the Battle Sisters find the aristocrats like this: hopelessly languid, using fans that could double as weapons if they were capable of fighting, and so heavily perfumed that one Sister says they obviously used a crop duster.
    • The crop duster comment was actually because a particular set of noblewomen insulted Hospitaller Verity because she was the smallest and plainest person for kilometres around.
  • The Japanese Imperial Court in the Tale of Genji - and Real Life - was an epitome of this trope. If its members weren't plotting against each other they were having illicit sex with somebody else's wife or mistress.
    • The Heian Court started out much more benign—see literature like the Man'youshuu for examples of what Japan was (supposedly) like about two hundred years prior to the Genji. The Genji is set in Heian Japan, about a century before it fell apart and was replaced by the Kamakura bakufu, which in turn led to the Muramachi period.
  • The entire first "book" in Dune is practically one long convoluted case of court intrigue. The Emperor, who was secretly in league with the Baron, was trying to off the Duke by giving him a deathtrap "promotion" to take control of a flailing production operation that he surely had no hope of turning around, while the Illuminati-like women's convent neared its ultimate goal and began pulling the political strings in new and dangerous directions, all ending in the collapse of the Corrno Imperium and another Jihad.
    • Special Mention to House Harkonnen, who are revoltingly decadent and incredibly dangerous - the Baron is a fat, revolting, gluttonous, implied paedarest, as well as being a sadist, his nephews are 'just' maniacal sadists, torture is something of an after-dinner entertainment ( a passage shows Harkonnen workers cleaning up the remains of one of these in one of Brian Herbert's books, a favourite pastime of Caligula), and the whole affair generally resembles Ancient Rome at its worst (gladiatorial arenas, paedophilia and all.) The aesthetic is pretty bizarre, with sweeping robes and gold combined with stinking oil and huge pollution, smoke and filth - the Harkonnen are clothed and live in finery, but completely filthy both morally and physically.
  • In Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files novels, the White Court. It helps that those involved are all White Court vampires that make Xanatos Gambits a way of life; at one point Lara says something to the effect that no one will respect her if she attempts to seize power by straightforward means. The Raiths are a bit dysfunctional, to say the least.
  • In Edgar Rice Burroughs's The Gods of Mars, the court of Issus.

The First Born do no work. The men fight--that is a sacred privilege and duty; to fight and die for Issus. The women do nothing, absolutely nothing. Slaves wash them, slaves dress them, slaves feed them. There are some, even, who have slaves that talk for them, and I saw one who sat during the rites with closed eyes while a slave narrated to her the events that were transpiring within the arena.

  • All four fey courts in Wicked Lovely have elements of this, but the worst would have to be the dark court, and the winter court.
  • The court of Herod Antipas, under the pen of romantic writers (e.g. in Oscar Wilde's play Salome). King Herod is depicted as an incestuous womaniser; Queen Herodias a murderous schemer. The princess Salome, of course, has a famously pathological infatuation with John the Baptist.
  • The royal court of Terre d'Ange, in Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Legacy series. Everyone sleeps around, there is much scheming and backstabbing, and there are Masquerade Balls.
  • In Robert E. Howard's "The Devil in Iron" what Octavia is willing to flee from even when she's frightened of Conan the Barbarian.
  • In Sano Ichiro, the entire court, save Sano himself is caught up in a web of political scheming and sexual depravity right under the hilariously stupid shogun's nose.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Kull story "The Shadow Kingdom",

Strange to him were the intrigues of court and palace, army and people. All was like a masquerade, where men and women hid their real thoughts with a smooth mask.

Regimol: “A quite delightful planet it was. They weren't without their political intrigue, of course, and their class structure wasn't fair by Federation standards. Still it reminded me a lot of Romulus, if you could turn the Romulans into a peaceful, insular people”.
Captain Picard: “Their overseer was recently murdered.”
Regimol: “See, reminds me of Romulus”.

  • The Egyptian: The palace has a higher child mortality rate than the poor quarter of the capital city.
  • Maledicte by Lane Robins stars a god-touched murderer dropped into a shark tank of limp-wristed sociopaths. In other words, a Deadly Decadent Court.
  • Lord Iron from "The Cambist and Lord Iron" is a member of such a court.
  • The emperor's court in Chronicles of Magravandias is famous for its rare imported pleasures and exotic slaves. And the death and disappearance of inconvenient people.
  • The French court in La Reine Margot certainly falls into this as you're almost guaranteed to die the second you're not useful to the Valois, or specifically to Catherine.
  • In Jack Vance's Planet of Adventure: the Yao people of the Kingdom of Cath. Adam Reith rescues Ylin Ylan, the Flower of Cath, from barbarians, which ends up complicating his life more than it should.
  • The court of the Eastern Emperor in Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar series is a classic example of this. The nobles all live in ridiculous luxury, at one point the Emperor directly lampshades that the Empire must be undergoing an economic crisis 'because the Court nobles have visibly less time and effort to spend on ostentatious grooming displays' (which would not be happening so long as they had any solvency left at all), and the backstabbing is prominent to the point that the Imperial Guard has to be mind-controlled to prevent subversion, the Emperor doesn't even bother making sure that his cabinet ministers are given a briefing on classified matters because anybody at this level of government who doesn't have a spy system capable of finding out such things on their own is too incompetent to survive, the heir apparent to the throne is openly known to be a retired assassin and nobody cares (indeed, its considered a quite respectable entry on his resume), and your average group of Imperial Advisors can't get through a simple staff meeting without either bribes or blackmail flying every which way across the table.
    • At one point a defecting Imperial Governor is cursed by High Priest Solaris of Karse to never be able to tell a lie again. From Solaris' POV, she was inflicting a significant but not overly awful punishment against the killer of her trusted advisor as well as ensuring the trustworthiness of a doubtful ally. From Governor Tremane's point of view, he was being cursed to be incapable of functioning in society at all. The revelation that its actually possible to survive non-Imperial politics without having to constantly deceive and misdirect virtually everyone you meet actually hurt his head to contemplate.

Live Action TV

  • The court in The Tudors might be even more corrupt than its real-life counterpart, and that's not easy to do...
  • Queen Elizabeth's court in Blackadder II tends towards this trope. She beheads someone if she's bored. Or if they don't tell her that her nose looks pretty.
  • The Centaurum (the Imperial Court Senate of the Centauri Empire Republic) on Babylon 5 are a textbook example of this trope. See the quotes page.
  • The court of Gilboa is a polished, modern-day beaurocracy where the king wears suits and rules from a conference table. That doesn't make any difference to the murderous, treacherous and utterly corrupt proceedings that go on behind closed doors, though...
  • Mark Antony's and Cleopatra's Court in Rome is so decadent it turns former Magnificent Bastard Mark Antony into a fat whiny crybaby.
  • The non-renegade Time Lords in Doctor Who often got depicted like this, especially in Robert Holmes TV stories and the Darker and Edgier spin-offs. Now that they're officially dead the Doctor likes to imply that they were dedicated and unselfish defenders of the universe. At least, until it became a question of "us or the rest of the universe", and they settled on "us."
    • Expanded Universe tells us just how much the Doctor's lying-even before the Time War there was a specialized branch of Time Lord bureaucracy specifically to act as a Deadly Decadent Court, the Celestial Intervention Agency. At first, they were nothing more than a darkly intrusive Internal Affairs sort of organization. When the Time War came, they started taking measures to enforce Time Lord dominance across the timelines. They succeeded.
  • The Masterpiece Theater series I, Claudius, starring Derek Jacobi and numerous other high-profile British actors. This series, based on a series of novels, recounts the life of Claudius, the awkward fool who would be emperor... and the drama, treachery, and intrigue that happened in the royal household. It's even more intense when you consider that it is based on historical events. But then, truth is stranger than fiction.
  • King's Landing in Game of Thrones. Don't trust anyone, and watch what they're putting in your wine...
  • Washington D.C. in NCIS


  • In King Crimson 's debut album, In the Court of the Crimson King, most of the lyrics (For songs like 21st century Schizoid Man, Epitaph, and the title track) described a corrupt, falling-apart world of medieval/futuristic kingdoms. The lyrics were written by Peter Sinfield.


Great princes' favourites their fair leaves spread
But as the marigold at the sun's eye,
And in themselves their pride lies buried,
For at a frown they in their glory die.

Tabletop Games

  • Pick an Elysium (or court) with Fae or Vampires in any The World of Darkness game, and this is what they're like. Granted, you'll have biker lords and harlot duchesses along with your typical "proper" lords though, oddly on an equal footing.
    • Mage caucuses and consilii can veer into this as well.
    • The article picture from Weregeek features a perfectly typical Elysium. Medieval decor, biker vampires, Victorian vampires, and Bela Lugosi ripoffs.
  • The Seelie and Unseelie Courts of Dungeons & Dragons are the epitome of what happens when the Deadly Decadent Court is run by The Fair Folk. The Unseelie Court is noted as downright lethal runless you are very, very carefully prepared.
  • The Various Courts of Raksha in Exalted are like the above, and everyone's a Reality Warper to boot. The Realm's various social organizations come close to this as The Empress valued competition among her underlings and descendants. Heaven is a cross of this and the Corrupt Corporate Executive as its a deadly decadent bureaucracy.
    • Pretty much all Exalted types have charms that can encourage or discourage this type of behavior. Abyssals take the cake, however, as they possess a Socialize charm that causes any social group they use it on to devolve into infighting and backstabbing. In other words, they can create' a Deadly Decadent Court at will.
  • Ars Magica covenants are prone to becoming like this when they fall into their Winter phase, with larger, more powerful covenants and Domus Magni being major antagonists because of it. Coeris, the House Tremere home covenant (yes, that Tremere) is especially ripe for it because of their extremely competitive and cutthroat political policies and general impenetrability by anyone who can't beat them at Certamen.
  • The Dark Eldar in in Warhammer 40,000 fit this trope to a t. The Dark City basically started out as a composition of trade hubs and private realms of noble houses that were outside the jurisdiction of the rulers of the old Eldar empire. It was there the spread of decadence that would eventually lead to the Fall of Eldar started, and many of those same noble houses continue to exist 10 000 years later (although many have reinvented themselves as Kabals), still continuing the behavior that lead to the Fall.
    • The Imperium has more than fair share of its own gilded viper nests.
      • Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay goes into details, often on the places nastier than most. In the Calixis sector, Hive Sibellus (the capitol of the sector capitol world) is a rather cut-throat place, seeing how there are lots of big wigs vying for attention of the Sector Governor; Malfi (capitol world of a subsector, a very corrupt place, that produced one of the most dangerous heretical sects around, but still grumbling about the capitol being assigned to Scintilla) has a tradition of vendetta and the best assassination devices in the sector come from that world. And what provincial nobles are up to, nobody knows until they do something particularly horrible and/or stupid. Per "You know you're playing Dark Heresy when..." thread on FFG forums:

18) in your adventure, there is a choice between attending a dinner party or fighting a horde of vengeful Orks.
19) In this adventure, the party chooses to fight the orks, figuring they have a higher change of survival.
20) Said party figured absolutely correctly.

  • The courts of Warhammer Fantasy's Dark Elves are essentially based on control, cruelty and the dominion of the powerful to exercise utter obedience in those underneath them. The Hanil Khar is an annual pledge of allegiance to the ruler of a city that regularly features the cold-blooded torture of any who dare to bring insufficient tribute, with outright execution common to those who really fail to produce. Keep in mind, this is their awards ceremony here. Another indicator of the murderous nature of Druchii court life is the rigid etiquette of social space that evolved because the Dark Elves are so damn paranoid about being straight-up assassinated. Very tellingly, it is measured in sword-lengths. Lowborn Dark Elves may not approach a lord closer than three sword-lengths without being summoned, retainers may remain within two lengths, and lieutenants, trusted retainers and lower-ranking highborn may approach to a single sword-length. Within a sword-length is the most intimate space, and is reserved for lovers, playthings and, very characteristic of the Druchii, mortal enemies. You have to really think about the parties that these guys attended that forced this sort of system to be adopted.
  • Uncle Louis is pretty much "Deadly Decadent Court: the Tabletop Game". All players are nobles competing for the favor of Louis XVI. Also, they all plan to have him deposed and replaced with a puppet of their choice. For one, if they fail to do so before turn limit, they all lose - the peasants are going to revolt and chop off everybody’s head.


Video Games

  • In Final Fantasy Tactics, the royal court of Ivalice, inspired in part by the War of the Roses, who manipulate, backstab, frame each other, and ally themselves with the Legions of Hell (wittingly or not) to achieve succession and absolute rule.
  • The Iron Council of Magnagora in Lusternia. They're monstrous even by the standards of a city twisted by The Corruption and populated by racist mutants: backstabbing, murder and cannibalism are all actively encouraged means of advancement, and their Physical God chief advisor is the resident manipulative chessmaster.
  • The court of Orlais in Dragon Age is, according the Leliana's stories, totally this trope. The Orlesian aristocracy is perpetually involved in "The Game", constantly vying for increased influence in the court through pretty much any means possible.
    • And it's not just Orlais, the Dwarves of Orzammar do very similar. Hell, just in the Dwarf Noble beginning Bhelen tells you that Trian wants to kill you, as you are more likely to inherit the throne than him, trying to coax you into wanting Trian dead first. Later, Bhelen sets up false witnesses to party with you, eliminating your alibi, while HE kills Trian while framing you, essentially removing both of his competitors to the throne by having the supposed killer of Trian, the PC, exiled/left for dead. Not to mention the smear campaigns by both Bhelen and Harrowmont during the quest to get themselves elected as king. However, if elected King, Bhelen will eventually dissolve the Noble class for this trope and rule as a benevolent dictator.
    • Don't forget that if you play a noble dwarf PC, five minutes into the game you can order someone assassinated. And Gorim, your second, treats it as an everyday occurence. And if you do choose to have him killed, the assassination happens within the hour. Apparently, the noble dwarves of Orzammar have an express assassination service.

Gorim: That fool doesn't know how weak his house is, or how low he sits in it. Shall I have him killed?

      • Being fair, your character is in the royal family and can thus be presumed to have access to the very best assassins. More run-of-the-mill nobles would probably have had to wait for tomorrow morning's assassin delivery.
    • This is so common in Zevran's home country, Antiva, that assassin's guild the Crows of Antiva practically run the place from behind the scenes. Nobles can hire Crows for assassination without anyone batting an eye.
  • The Interactive Fiction game Varicella plops you in the middle of such a court; the first time you play through you'll spend a while exploring then run out of time and get killed. The next time you'll solve a few more puzzles, until in the end you know exactly how to make every move count.
  • The Italian Nobles in Assassin's Creed II are all about killing one another in order to advance their own goals (especially in the case of the Templars). Truth in Television actually.
  • The Aristocrat Club in Rule of Rose consists of a bunch of orphaned children playing rich and powerful nobility, complete with constant intrigue and rivalries, accompanied by complex rituals which often involve torture and/or hazing of one another, as well as cruelty against animals.
  • In Crusader Kings 2, your court is filled with people conspiring against you, and vice versa. Evil Plots are a core game mechanic.
  • Most aristocrats depicted or mentioned in Darkest Dungeon are depraved, cruel hedonists, with two notable examples:
    • The Ancestor had pretty much a court of his own, composed entirely of sycophants who would revel in the worst acts of debauchery. Standing out in particular are the sadistic Baron who would torture servants or sometimes other members of the court for his - and a few others' - amusement, the gluttonous Vicount who would gorge himself with exotic food even if it had already rotten, and of course the Countess who would infect them all (with the Ancestor's unwitting help) with the Crimson Curse, turning them into insectoid monstrosities with a craving for human blood. Now called the Crimson Court, these aristocrats are even more repulsive in their debauchery than they were as humans, the Baron making a big spectacle out of his torture sessions and the Vicount resorting to cannibalism to satisfy his gluttony.
    • The tyrant the Jester used to work for had a court of sadistic backstabbers who would regularly torture, humiliate and even attempt to assassinate the Jester for their amusement. He slaughtered them all when he could no longer take it and still keeps an exceptionally grim view of the upper class and suicidal tendencies. Even the horrors of the Estate are nothing to him after what he went through as a court jester.

Web Original

  • The City of Theatrica and its citizens. The society considers itself classless and entirely noble, relegating peasant status to all non-Theatricans (thereby keeping the elite/pleb contrast intact).
  • As the page quote says, the Elven court in Eight Bit Theater is all assholes. The Elven Designated Hero Thief isn't much better, though.

Real Life

  • A bit of a Truth in Television trope, since nations with absolute rulers and a wealthy aristocracy have tended to breed Deadly Decadent Courts like flies. Imperial Rome, Imperial China, the Byzantine Empire, and pre-Revolutionary France are the archetypal examples that most writers seem to crib from.
    • Non-royal "courts" often work too, such as the Soviet Union.
    • In Stalinist Soviet Union, the somewhat "puritanical" version of this trope was in effect. There was officially not supposed to be any decadence, luxuries or other stuff of the sort, but there were plenty of luxuries for Stalin and his close comrades, though how much they enjoyed them is a different matter. Stalin gave his mother a palace, for example, but she refused to make a use of it, sleeping in the servants' quarters and cooking her own meals. In post-Stalinist times, the decadence finally came to the town, though it was still discreet and subtle, never fully shown to outsiders.
    • Hell, Simon Sebag Montefiore called his excellent book on Stalin The Court of the Red Czar.
    • The Byzantine Empire was so infamous for this that another term for this trope is "Byzantine politics."
    • Even if it sounds strange, The Hittites. The royal court of Hattusa was truly a deadly place- full of relatives ready to betray the king at the first opportunity.
  • The court of Saudi Arabia approaches this, although exile, shaming, and reassignment to Antarctica are preferred to outright killing; after all, almost all members of the court are (half)-brothers or cousins (being descendants of King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud), and the public image of family unity must be maintained. However, by all accounts, the internal politics of the Al Saud are quite dangerous—particularly now that there's a Succession Crisis due in a decade or so that everyone can see coming from a mile away—and the decadence of the Saudi court is so legendary, it has a trope.
    • As of 2013 the succession crisis has been resolved with a minimum of bloodshed, most likely due to the fact that the ongoing Syrian and ISIS crises, and lack of overt US support, has made everyone in the Saudi royal family agree that this is not a good time to be scoring own-goals. Normal backstabbing service will presumably resume if and when the external situation stabilizes.
      • As of 2018 the succession crisis has been further resolved by the Crown Prince successfully solidifying his power base to the point that he could start a widespread crackdown against domestic corruption and intrigue, to the point where more than a few of his siblings and cousins have been arrested.
  • Probably apocryphal, but worth repeating. The astrologer at Louis XI's of France's court had (quite by accident) accurately foretold the death of someone close to the king. Louis decided to have the unfortunate astrologer executed, but had a last question: "When do you foresee your own death?" The astrologer replied: "That I cannot divine, but it will be three days before Your Majesty's death." After that, the (in real life) superstitious Louis gave the astrologer all possible protection.
  • Machiavelli himself strongly recommended that rulers avoid these, as aside from the obvious risks there's the fact that the high taxes required to support it tend to encourage rebellions.
  • Adolf Hitler's inner circle was full of people vying to outdo the other - they called it the Obersalzburg Kamarilla.
  • In his biography Champlain's Dream the author David Hackett Fischer comments that Samuel Champlain found tribal politics in New France and Lobbying in Paris similar because both Indian chiefs and courtiers were treacherous and murderous. which group the author was primarily trying to insult is not clear right away.