The royal we, the Victorian we or in Latin pluralis majestatis is the way a person, usually a ruler, may use a plural personal pronoun to refer to him or herself. Kings and queens are most famous for the usage, and the royal we suggests that the king or queen is something more than a singular person. A common explanation is that a ruler speaks as an individual and a representative of his or her people.
Using a royal we is also known by the distinct word nosism, and it has been both lauded and criticized. Many reject the use of nosism for those not entitled to the phrase when it makes sense. Royalty as representative of a people is definitely plural, but then so are pregnant women, and as Mark Twain suggests, “people with tapeworms.” Such critics of nosism might have rejected it in writing or when a subordinate speaks as representative of those he or she truly didn’t represent. Furthermore, clearly a monarch isn’t truly representing the people when he or she announces, “We shall have our bath now.”
This is why, in addition to speaking as a representative, the royal we indicates an individual is somehow more important than most other individuals. It can be called the singular of intensity. This is how it is interpreted when the royal we occurs in the Qu’ran. Though scholars have debated the point, most conclude that when the words of Allah refer to Allah as “we” they simply mean Allah is all and loftiest, or most high. They do not suggest a plurality of Gods, something the Islamic religion avoids and protests against. In Islam there is “no God but Allah,” and Allah alone is entitled to be “we” because his stature alone is worthy of worship.
Along with the royal we, you will find its compliment in plural pronouns. These include our, ours, and us. When a monarch is spoken of in third person, however, he or she is usually not referred to as they, or them. The form “your majesty, is more common than our majesty, unless the speaker is representing more than one speaker.
It should be noted that the plural is seldom used in present day. Even in the Victorian Period, Queen Victoria’s use in the sentence “We are not amused,” is contested as not a true plural of majesty. She was speaking of a group of women who were also not amused when she supposedly made this utterance.
You will see a number of period films where the use of the royal we is very constant. Queen Elizabeth I certainly used it, as did many Russian rulers and French rulers. Some suggest it has fallen into disuse because monarchies are simply not invested with as much power as was previously the case. Though they may be rulers, parliaments tend to make most decisions regarding a country, and people can elect members of parliament.
There is also some suggestion that the fall of the French monarchy during the French Revolution may have stopped other monarchs, who feared similar revolutions, from using the royal we. To use it to suggest loftiness over the people might inflame those who were most oppressed in a monarchic system. Thus the plural of majesty or intensity fell out of use in great part, and the places you are most likely to encounter it now is in films, teleplays or books that represent a certain distant period of time.