Royal We

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KNOW YOU that it is Our will and pleasure that the Victoria Cross for Australia be the highest decoration for according recognition to persons who, in the presence of the enemy, perform acts of the most conspicuous gallantry, or daring or pre-eminent acts of valour or self-sacrifice or display extreme devotion to duty:
AND WE DO ordain that the award of the Victoria Cross shall be governed by the Regulations set out in the Schedule.
IN WITNESS whereof We have caused these Our Letters to be made Patent.

ELIZABETH THE SECOND, by the Grace of God Queen of Australia and Her Other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth

When royalty speak on behalf of their office (at least in Western systems) they tend to use the Royal We or Pluralis Maiestatis. This was most famously used by Queen "We are not amused" Victoria, who believed herself to be the avatar for the British Empire. This happens in fiction as well. A good way to show when the monarch in question has had enough and demands obedience is to have them switch to this form of address. Another way is to use this comedically, have a monarch use this in informal contexts or have people confuse the majestic plural for the regular one. ("Where are the rest of them?")

The origin of this tradition is the idea that the monarch in question is speaking for the nation, although it was also used by religious officials in times gone by. (Although using that phrase when discussing your breakfast can be a bit strange.) Sometimes other characters will reinforce this by referring to the monarch by the name of their country; in Hamlet, for example, Claudius and the dead king are both referred to as Denmark, and another king is only ever called Norway.

Also, some European languages use the plural to address other people formally. Even English does this, in a way—originally, "you" was only used as a plural objective; the nominative was "ye" and the singular equivalents were (nominative) "thou" and (objective) "thee". However, using "you" as a formal term for a single person, even as subject, became so commonplace that it replaced "ye" and "thou" entirely. Yes, "you" was MORE formal than "thou", regardless of how it sounds to the modern ear.

Of course, if the royal in question is a Hive Queen, it all makes a lot more sense. Finally, note that no matter how many times she refers to herself as "We", the Queen of England does not like being addressed as "Y'all".

Examples of Royal We include:

Anime & Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Rurichiyo speaks like this in the Amagai filler arc of Bleach. Keigo once wonders why she's talking this way. Despite being lower in rank than Byakuya, she speaks as though she's higher in rank than him. This is lampshaded by Ichigo and Rukia when Ichigo complains about the way she speaks and Rukia observes not even her brother speaks like that.
  • Shi Ryuuki's "yo" is sometimes translated this way in Saiunkoku Monogatari.
  • Jack Atlas, being the (former) king of the riding duel, speaks this way in the original Japanese version of Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's.
  • The Anti-Spiral in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann never refers to himself in the singular, because he's speaking on behalf of his species. In fact, it's thought that he is his entire species in a merged consciousness, if so, it makes even more sense.
  • Luna talks like this all the time in My Bride Is a Mermaid, and it's easy to see why. She's a famous and hugely popular Idol Singer and the daughter of one of the most economically (and physically) powerful (mer)men in all of Japan (and Japan's seas). The only time she ever refers to herself in first person is when Nagasumi teaches her a lesson in humility.
  • Hotohori talks like this in Fushigi Yuugi. He starts doing it less and less as he begins to interact with the other Seishi as friends.


Comics[edit | hide]

  • There was a New Yorker cartoon that showed a king answering the phone with "Yes this is we" (I'm sure they've done other Royal We jokes as well)
  • Referred to in a FoxTrot comic where after Thanksgiving Roger is going through the fridge commenting "Boy we really polished off that turkey, eh? And that stuffing, we really did a number on that! Oh no, did we eat all the pumpkin pie?", etc, to which Andy replies "You're using the royal we, I assume"
  • Pab Sungenis uses it a lot in his picture-collage strip The New Adventures Of Queen Victoria, naturally.
  • Lucifer speaks this way in the first volume of The Sandman and in his initial appearance in A Season of Mists. He stops once he abdicates from the throne of Hell, and stays that way for the rest of the comic as well as in his spin-off.


Films -- Live-Action[edit | hide]

  • M. Bison in the Street Fighter movie. "We have decided to grant her a private audience."
  • Referenced in The Big Lebowski, when The Dude talked to the title character. Although, this is more because of a slip of the tongue (he was to deliver ransom money alone) and him trying and barely able to backpedal over his mistake.

The Dude: We dropped off the damn money--
Mr. Lebowski: We?!
(beat)
The Dude: I! The Royal We! You know, the editorial...

  • The Last Emperor
  • In the Cinderella film musical The Slipper and the Rose, as part of his song "Why can't I be two people?", the Prince argues that since it is natural for royals to use the plural, he should have the right to be more than one person.
  • Used in Casanova by the non-royal (but equally well-known) Casanova when he's with his manservant Lupo. Amusingly, Lupo uses it, as well.

Lupo: Where have you been? We were worried about us.

  • In The Ten Commandments, Seti I uses both forms in one line, when addressing the King of Ethiopia and his sister: "Our son has dealt wisely with you, Ethiopia."
  • Played straight and averted in the Soviet comedy Ivan Vasilievich, where Ivan the Terrible ends up in modern-day (when the movie came out) Moscow. While he mostly speaks normally, he does, occasionally, use the royal "We", such as in the scene where he's interrogated by the cops. When asked for his last name, he replies "We are Rurikids" (i.e. of the Rurik dynasty).


Literature[edit | hide]

  • In the Sven Hassel books, Gregor Martin always describes his unnamed General Ripper whom he served as a batman via the Royal We (e.g. "my general and our monocle") right up to the moment the general commits suicide "And then we shot ourselves!" after which he's described normally.
  • Given that several of the main characters are or become royalty, this shows up occasionally in The Chronicles of Narnia. It's fairly low-key and easy to miss when it does, though, and someone unfamiliar with the trope (as many children might be expected to be) could easily take it as nothing more than a leader speaking for his immediate associates, and the story loses nothing with this interpretation.
    • "We are the Empress Jadis," though, spells it out pretty clearly.
  • Used very occasionally by Emperor Gregor Vorbarra in the Vorkosigan Saga and usually only when he's making a point of speaking officially. In this case it's particularly obvious, because the plural pronouns are capitalized.
  • Tenel Ka uses this on very rare occasion in the Star Wars Expanded Universe—it works specifically because she is generally informal (especially with the Jedi).
    • Runt calls himself "we", and in Wraith Squadron he's specifically asked if it's a royal "we". It's plural.
  • A more literal use of the plural pronoun is seen in A Madness of Angels. The narrator switches between singular and plural pronouns frequently, sometimes in the middle of a sentence and even during dialogue. This is because he's sharing his body with the blue electric angels. The choice of pronouns indicates which part of their collective personality is talking.
  • King John uses it sporadically in the Lord Darcy stories. Typically if he's giving a briefing, he doesn't use it; in one case, transitioning between its use and its non-use is noted as a change from briefing to a more normal sovereign-to-subject talk. In other words when King John calls himself 'I' instead of 'We' one is free to interrupt with questions and otherwise treat him - temporarily - like a regular person rather than one's dread sovereign.
  • Used by the Dark Queen in Saga by Conor Kostick.
  • The Bible has God mention something interesting about Adam and Eve after they had sinned. "They have become as one of us. Knowing the difference between good and evil." Many Biblical scholars have debated what this means, one interpretation is that God being a Trinity is referring collectively to His God-hood of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Another interpretation is that God is referring to the angels of heaven. Either way some sort of heavenly hierarchy is being talked to.
  • In Niven and Pournelle's version of Dante's Inferno, Henry VIII refers to himself as "England".
  • Used fairly often in Safehold, unsurprisingly as a Ruling Couple are main characters, and one or or the other of them makes a speech in this mode once or twice a book on average, and other royalty show up as well and are sometimes seen making such speeches.


Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • The wife of the late Centari Emperor in Babylon 5 speaks in plural, but because she is traditionally assumed to be speaking for her dead husband.
  • Silas from Kings; in this case it is intended in the religious sense, not the "avatar of the nation" sense, as Silas was literally chosen by God.
  • A clever use in Robin Hood: To make the point that the Robin Hood legend wasn't just about him, Robin had the gang reciting "We are Robin Hood!" When they go to the Holy Land and meet King Richard, he asks them to represent him when they get back to England. "You are Richard. And we are Robin Hood."
  • In Yes Minister, Humphrey invokes this to rub in that the Minister has made a bad decision because he wanted to sound important. The Minister has been assigned an awful role, one which Humphrey would have advised him against taking, but he jumped at it because the holder would be described as a "supremo". When he decides that he doesn't want it anymore:

Minister: Clearly, the title Transport Supremo is one that is not worth having. We must endeavor to change the Prime Minister's mind.
Sir Humphrey: Do you mean "we" plural or do Supremos now use the royal pronoun?

  • Lexx: Upon settling into her role, Pope Genevieve I only refers to herself in the majestic plural.
  • Nudge used it in Hey, Dad..!, when he became convinced that he was long-lost royalty.

Nudge: I'm doing the Royal "We" here.
Martin: Well, don't do it on the carpet!

  • Used for comedic effect in the Blackadder Christmas special.

Queen Victoria: We are Queen Victoria.
Baldrick: What, all three of you?

  • Some of the Tok'ra in Stargate SG-1 use this, as the symbiote shares the body of the host.

Any Tok'ra: We are not Goa'uld! (flashes eyes, which doesn't help matters)

    • Played straight with the Goa'uld Hathor, who uses it in the royal sense. An interesting One-Liner by O'Neill before killing Hathor.

Hathor: We will destroy you for this!
Jack O'Neill: We would just like you to go away!

  • Used in the Shining Time Station finale "Queen for a Day." Some crooks uncoupled the Queen's private car from an American railtour and left her stranded in the countryside - leaving the locals baffled as to where the other people are whom this poor old lady keeps mentioning.
  • When Alexander VI becomes pope in The Borgias he lampshades the fact he'll now be using the royal "we". For the rest of the series he's consistent: acting as pope, he always uses "we". When privately conniving, it's "I". When he wants to have the last word with people he's privately conniving with, he switches to "we" again.
  • Spoofed in Angel with a case of Demonic Possession.

Angel: He kept saying "we." This morning is was "we have to go." Now, "we're thirsty..."
Cordelia: Okay, so he's pretentious.


Music[edit | hide]

  • The Silversun Pickups' song The Royal We could be said to be about threats of war from the perspective of the ruler of a nation.


Pro Wrestling[edit | hide]

  • TNA's Matt "The Blueprint" Morgan tends to use the Royal We most of the time.


Theater[edit | hide]

  • Shows up, of course, in any Shakespeare play about royalty, like Hamlet or Henry V.
    • In Hamlet, Claudius uses it even when referring to himself personally: he calls Gertrude "our sometime sister, now our Queen". Of course Gertrude is also the nation's Queen, but was never its sister(-in-law).


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Katamari Damacy: The King of All Cosmos speaks like this.
    • Which is weird, because the King has no cabinet or anything to speak of. Just the queen and the tons of cousins. The cousins really don't count.
  • The Pharaoh Sammun-Mak ("Sammun-Mak is handsome, Sammun-Mak is cute!") from Season Three of Telltale Games' Sam And Max abuses this trope.
    • Sybil also does in the last episode of the first season as the Queen of Canada.
  • The Baronet in Quest for Glory I talks like this when he thanks you for breaking the enchantment that turned him into a bear and returning him to normal. He's portrayed as being rather pompous.
  • Wiseman from Baten Kaitos: Origins speaks like this.

Wiseman: Our people are obviously happy. Are we wrong?
Thoran: You think the people of Rasalas were happy?
Wiseman: They ARE happy. They may not understand it now, but the day will come when they thank us.

    • It might be entirely possible, however, that he could be referring to the magnus contained within him.
  • Fou-Lu uses the Royal We in the English localization of Breath of Fire IV.
  • The queen bee in Super Mario Galaxy.
    • Also, Princess Lipid from Bowser's Inside Story.
  • The Cloud of Darkness in Final Fantasy III DS.
    • She's like this in Dissidia Final Fantasy, too. Her character profile claims this is because her two tentacles have minds of their own, so she is quite literally speaking for multiple entities.
  • Zeromus (but not Zemus) in the Game Boy Advance version of Final Fantasy IV.
  • Maximillian of Valkyria Chronicles speaks like this - most of the time, anyway. Occasionally, he speaks without it.
  • The mysterious swordswoman Athena uses this in Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon. I smell a WMG coming on...
  • Dormin from Shadow of the Colossus uses this a lot, although, to be fair, Dormin is compromised of a male and female entity, so this trope is used quite appropriately. However, as the game goes on, the masculine side of Dormin eventually eclipses the feminine side. It is speculated that this may be because the feminine portion of Dormin is harboring Mono's body, per the deal Dormin upheld with Wander. Further speculation even goes into Ico, but you probably don't care.
  • Vivaldi (the Queen of Hearts) from Heart no Kuni no Alice uses this the whole time.
  • The King of Canalot talks this way in the DS version of Dragon Quest IV, using capitalization of the first person plural, of course.
  • We are Venom!


Web Comics[edit | hide]


Web Original[edit | hide]

  • The Administrator from Echo Chamber never refers to himself in the first person, though he does appear to speak for an entire wiki... so...possibly justified?
    • He also expects other tropers to refer to themselves in the third person.

Mr. Administrator: SILENCE! A troper just referred to himself in the first person...we must make an example of him.

BOFH: It's like the Royal 'we' but far more dangerous.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Elizabeth II speaks like this on Animaniacs, which leads Yakko, Wakko and Dot to believe she has Multiple Personality Disorder.
  • Oberon on Gargoyles uses this or his own name.
  • An episode of Timon and Pumbaa uses this when the title duo meet a rich pig who is being carried by several servants and introduces himself by saying "We are Mr. Pig," to which Pumbaa replies, "All of you?" Timon quickly points out that he was using the royal "we".
  • Princess Luna speaks like this in My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic - a holdover from 1000-year old royal etiquette.


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • One of the most well-known phrases using this is Queen Victoria's alleged line, "We are not amused." It's been speculated that either she didn't say it, or she was speaking on behalf of herself and all the other ladies at court, as this Straight Dope article suggests. This was referenced in her appearance on Doctor Who; the Doctor and Rose made a bet over whether or not she would say it. She didn't; she said "I am not amused!" The Doctor and Rose seemed to count it as the same thing, though.
    • A phrase which frequently pops up in Victoria's diaries is: "I was very much amused." Go figure...
  • It was also common for Russian Tsars and Emperors to use "we" when referring to themselves.
  • However, Margaret Thatcher definitely once said, "We are a grandmother."
  • King Hamad's we.
  • In a documentary about the Danish princes Joachim and Frederik, a journalist said that he felt the moment where one of them finally asked the journalist to use the plural "you" instead of the singular one was the moment said prince finally was ready to be a royal. (Because it correlated with a more responsible behavior, not just that alone, but still...)
    • It should be noted that in Danish, there is a big difference in formality between polite/plural "you" ("De", always capitalised when pluralised for this reason), which is slightly old-fashioned but merely a gesture to avoid seeming overly familiar, and referring to yourself as "we", which is about as Royal as Rex in your signature.
  • Mary I's initial response to the Lady Jane Grey being proclaimed Queen, when Henry VIII's will clearly stated that Mary was next in line after the recently-deceased Edward VI, was a diplomatic, yet commanding letter to the lords responsible that used the royal plural to underline the point.
  • In Dynastic China, there was a special first-person pronoun used only by the Emperor ("朕"/"zhen"), and he could not be addressed as "you" or by his given name.
  • United States Navy Admiral Hyman G. Rickover once told a subordinate who used the royal we: "Three groups are permitted that usage: royalty, pregnant women, and schizophrenics. Which one are you?"
  • Similarly, Mark Twain once said "three orders of men, by right, speak of themselves as "we". These are editors, royal personages, and people with tapeworms."
  • Hillary Clinton is quoted by James Stewart in "Blood Sport: The President and His Adversaries" as having responded to a question regarding subpoenaed documents, "I'm not going to have some reporters pawing through our papers. We are the president."
  • In various European languages, other august personages such as bishops and university rectors also use the royal "we." In fact, in Spanish, there's an entirely separate pronoun for it (nos, the origin of the modern first person plural nosotros).
  • It is common enough in legal writing that a letter from a firm of lawyers will use the pronoun "we," simply because the letter has gone through multiple hands (who all agree on its contents) or it is the considered opinion of the entirety of the lawyers who are working on that matter. It does look rather odd when only one of them signs it, however. It is *also* not a grammatical error when a lawyer switches from "I" to "we" in legal correspondence and vice versa...
  • As seen in the quote at the top of the page, Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom and fifteen other countries, including as mentioned in the quote, Australia, uses the Royal We in official documents. The quote is not fiction, it is (part of) the real order setting forth the awarding of the Victoria Cross (Australia).