The King of Hearts is Wonderland’s highest monarch, but when considered next to his Queen, who’s characterized as aggressive and hot-headed, the King’s indecisiveness and lack of authority make him come across as a bit pathetic in comparison. That said, the King does do his part in balancing out the Queen’s bloodlust, and making sure that she doesn’t execute all their subjects. When Alice first meets the royal procession, she offends the Queen, who orders her execution. The King helps Alice avoid this fate by pointing out that she’s only a child, and the Queen quickly turns her rage on the gardeners instead. The King also secretly pardons all the croquet players that the Queen has sentenced to death during the match, quietly dismissing the executioner and setting the players free. So while the King does have enough sense to oppose his wife’s penchant for unreasonable executions, he has to negate her orders without her knowledge. Not only does he escape her wrath this way, but he also knows that the Queen soon forgets who she’s sentenced and for what reason, quickly moving on to her next victim. By the time the King pardons the sentenced subject, the Queen has already forgotten that she’d ordered their execution in the first place. In dealing with her hot temper, the King shows a fair deal of intelligence and diplomacy.

However, the King isn’t without his own character flaws and failures as a leader. He can be prone to sudden calls for execution, just like the Queen. When the Cheshire Cat refrains from kissing the King’s hand, the King is so offended by this slight that he immediately asks the Queen to punish the Cat. When the Queen orders the Cat’s execution, the King “eagerly” runs to find the executioner. If his ego is dealt a blow, or if his authority is questioned, the King turns to violence and unjust sentencing. Additionally, he lacks reason and fairness in his governing duties. For example, when he presides as judge over the Knave’s trial, the King immediately asks the jury to give their verdict before anyone has even given evidence, which is, of course, ridiculous. However, it doesn’t seem that the King is knowingly attempting to coerce the jury into giving a guilty verdict. Rather, it seems more likely that the King is simply incredibly ill-prepared to be a judge and has no idea what he’s doing. So, while he may not have the Queen’s incessant bloodlust, he’s still dangerous by way of incompetence. The trial also shows the King making up random rules in an attempt to take control of Alice and the court, exposing his willingness to use his authority to corrupt and manipulate the system.