Amber politics are a complex interplay of forces, between the royal family, the nobility, the merchants, and the Golden Circle. This article focuses primarily upon the power of the throne.
- The throne is occupied by Bleys, who holds it as Regent in Oberon's name, but its power is much diminished since Oberon's rule.
- The bureaucracy runs the kingdom on a day to day basis, allowing it to function much as it always has.
- The noble Houses conduct their affairs in a way that largely ignores the turmoil over the throne.
- The Golden Circle shadows are using the opportunity to try to push off Amber's influence.
- The longer the squabble over the throne goes on, the less people look to the throne for leadership.
He who holds the Crown and Scepter rules Amber. Or so it was in the days of Oberon. In the succession of regents and kings who have sat the throne since Oberon's disappearance, the power of the throne has been greatly weakened by the failure of any one individual to strongly hold the crown.
Oberon, the Interregnum, and Eric
Oberon ran a relatively stable kingdom — indeed, sufficiently so that he could periodically take long journeys into shadow, leaving sufficient instructions that matters could be handled in each absence. Oberon usually was adept at managing the delicate balancing act between the various factions of the nobility, the merchants and tradesmen, and the practical needs of the common people, as well as the assorted potentates of the Golden Circle of nearby shadows. He also kept his children reasonably well in hand, playing them off one another, keeping them busy in Amber or pushing them out into shadow. A significant amount of Oberon's power was personal; there was always the sense that if you did not fall in line, Oberon would personally come and burn whatever it was that you held dear to the ground.
All of this gradually fell apart when Oberon disappeared seven years ago. In the three years of Interregnum prior to Eric crowning himself King, the factions grew more and more ornery and bold. Eric's triumph was managing to gather sufficient support, particularly from the nobility, to successfully take the throne. Eric's rule has been contentious, as the factions have jockeyed for position under the new order; the only stabilizing element has, ironically, been the shared threat of the Black Road.
From Sign of the Unicorn, Julian's conversation with Random, at a time point equivalent to the beginning of Nine Princes in Amber:
"Dad has been gone for an unusually long time. No one knows where."
"He's done that before."
"But not without leaving instructions and making delegations. He always provided them in the past."
"True," I said. "But how long is long?"
"Well over a year. You weren't aware of this at all?"
"I knew that he was gone. Gerard mentioned it some time back."
"Then add more time to that."
"I get the idea. How have you been operating?"
"That is the problem. We have simply been dealing with affairs as they arise. Gerard and Caine had been running the navy anyway, on Dad's orders. Without him, they have been making all their own decisions. I took charge of the patrols in Arden again. There is no central authority though, to arbitrate, to make policy decisions, to speak for all of Amber."
"So we need a regent. We can cut cards for it, I suppose."
"It is not that simple. We think Dad is dead."
"Dead? Why? How?"
"We have tried to raise him on his Trump. We have been trying every day for over half a year now. Nothing."
"Someone has to occupy the throne," he said… "Eric seems the best choice. Actually, he has been acting in that capacity for months now. It simply becomes a matter of formalizing it."
The Royal Family
The royal family of Amber is known to be powerful, but not invincible. What keeps Amber secure, in the end, is the recognition that the royal family is able to discover other worlds, and, unlike any others, to lead armies home. This apparently unlimited supply of troops has thus far secured Amber's place at the center of things.
Oberon generally expected his children to serve the interests of the kingdom if they were at home for any extended period of time, although certainly most of them made frequent and sometimes lengthy sojourns into shadow. It was they who laid down the major shadowpaths that connect Amber to the Golden Circle of nearby shadows, and who served as the Regents of the shadows Amber conquered, and who led the armies and navies that led to those conquests.
At the same time, Oberon carefully circumscribed the power of his children. The major posts in the Court of Amber are not held by royalty, nor are the permanent military commands, though he often placed his sons in charge of a campaign or fleet on a temporary basis. Similarly, none of his children has actively held a Regency over the long term, although in some cases one might have remained a Regent in name while another served as the administrator in residence.
Oberon's known grandchildren were treated similarly, left to positions of responsibility in the kingdom without placing them in positions where they might someday be easily able to usurp power.
When Oberon disappeared, several of his children made the effort to find him. He left no instructions, unlike his previous absences, and the business of the kingdom piled up to the point where someone had to deal with it. That was Eric, and his siblings generally either returned to Amber to assist, or carefully stayed away.
On a practical basis, Eric ruled as Regent (arguably, somebody had to), for many years even before taking the title. When he crowned himself king, it was acknowledged and accepted primarily because Eric held all the cards. His reign never got to face any true legal challenge, when he was struck by an arrow in the defense of Amber at the same battle Corwin returned to. What happened next is somewhat muddled, but Eric was definitely out of the picture (reportedly abducted from his quarters in the palace as he lay comatose), as Corwin took the title of regent not long thereafter.
Gathering power and building his own support, Corwin angered Benedict enough to remove him from the board and out into the Golden Circle. Observers felt that Benedict's departure allowed Corwin to cement enough power that he was able to eventually crown himself as king, further alienating Benedict and possibly other siblings (though none were so bold about it as Benedict). Corwin held the throne for a time, but after a number of strange disappearances, he simply vanished without formally abdicating, leaving the matter of what comes next up in the air.
The Question of Succession
The question of succession was more or less forced when Corwin was crowned. While this was unquestionably perceived as more legitimate than Eric's coronation while he occupied the throne, Corwin's disappearance have left people a little more willing to consider the both of a kind, at least in private. It has also left open the question as to the proper course of action from here. Does Amber need another king? A regent? To wait for Oberon's return? Or is it time for a new direction entirely?
With no guiding hand at the center, Brand eventually claimed the regency by the simple expediency of declaring it so, and not having it challenged. He gave way to Julian, who had himself crowned king, only to disappear some months later on an expedition into shadow, seeking the agent of the Black Road who called herself Dara. There was a coup attempt in Julian's absence, the eventual result of which was Benedict taking the throne for himself. When Julian was rescued, he and Benedict arrived at a seemingly more permanent accord, though it is thought that Julian would still like to reclaim the crown.
Even this, however, did not settle matters, as a few months later, Eric was rescued from shadow, returning to Amber and firmly asserting the legitimacy of his rule. While Benedict ratified those rulings that Eric made from his time as regent and king, he did not seem at all willing to cede the throne to his brother.
Benedict held the throne as King for the better part of a year, on a stable basis, despite evidence that his taking the throne disrupted past bindings that had been laid by his mother Cymnea while she was Queen.
Eventually, Corwin led a coup attempt, with Eric and Deirdre for allies. He succeeded in taking but not holding the palace; Caine swept in with troops gathered from the criminal elements. This was the beginning of the destabilization of Benedict's rule.
Next, Corwin and Deirdre conspired to tear open a new "Black Road", stretching from Corwin's edge-of-Chaos refuge of Banyan, to Tir-na Nog'th. Draining their own essence, they created a Silver Rift in the sky, which would allow them to rapidly move troops through shadow. Corwin used the threat of invasion to force Benedict to abdicate, but Benedict chose to abdicate to Bleys, rather than to Eric.
Under the terms of the abdication, Bleys would be Regent in Oberon's name, and not the King. The abdication document was essentially an accord that until proof could be found that Oberon was dead, the question of succession would not be permanently settled.
Bleys's regency has been stable. If his siblings are not entirely content, this has not had any effect on the day to day running of the kingdom.
The Sun Court and the Moon Court are the two dominant factions of courtiers in the royal court. They are controlled by Flora and Deirdre, respectively, and they have a strong historical rivalry.
The Sun Court is dedicated to culture and aristocratic tradition, while the Moon Court is dedicated to the baser pursuits (such as sports, gambling, drinking, and debauchery). While the Sun Court is theoretically dedicated to beauty and grace, it often expresses this through gossip and backbiting. The Moon Court favors entertainment and action, and tends to express this through bravado and sport.
The bureaucracy has worked quietly in the background through Oberon's often-absentee rule, and through the reigns of the various regents and kings since.
More to come.