(Yup, it’s another Three Houses character post. This is slowly becoming a Fire Emblem blog, but I promise I’ll have some anime content too, eventually. Much of the research for this post comes from Fire Emblem Wiki.)
Even before Fire Emblem Three Houses came out, Claude Von Riegan was the game’s golden boy. Maybe it’s just because he’s upside down on the cover, maybe it’s because of his OP unique Wyvern class, or maybe people were just excited to finally play the first dark-skinned main character in the series. As the Duke of the Leicester Alliance and meme king of the Golden Deer house, Claude is a ton of fun to play with on his respective route. But what really made me fall in love with this character is how much he grows throughout the story, from a cheeky teenager into a kind, stalwart young man with a dream to change the world.
When you first meet Claude in the prologue, Byleth notes that he has as easy smile, but it doesn’t reach his eyes. Claude’s a schemer, with a more laid back personality than you’d expect for the future leader of a nation. He calls Byleth “Teach”, goofs on boomers like Hanneman and Seteth, and loves to plan fun “pranks” like poisoning the rival house leaders the night before a ceremonial battle. But for all his bluster, it’s hard to get a read on who Claude really is. He seldom trusts others, and openly questions institutions, like the Church of Seiros and the nobility, that most people in the game take for granted. He appears casual and carefree, but spends nearly every night pouring over dusty history books in the library. And though he is a brilliant tactician and a master with the bow, Claude is deeply cynical of war and the self-serving nature of those in power.
Claude is an outsider through and through, and one of his biggest secrets is his mixed heritage. He was born as Khalid, the son of a noblewoman from Fódlan and the king of the eastern land of Almyra. The two nations were bitter enemies, and Khalid’s royal upbringing was not enough to protect him from the prejudice of his own people. He ran away to Leicester, only to find that Almyrans there are hated just as intensely. Claude was forced to change his name and hide his ethnicity to fit in, but he still rose from his station to become Duke. Then, he began working on his dream: uniting Fódlan and bringing people of all races and creeds together.
Claude’s experiences may have made him distant and a bit jaded, but they haven’t dulled his charm or his ideals. The first half of the game sees him slowly come into his own as a leader, bringing the disparate people of Leicester together while investigating the many mysteries surrounding the Church. The other Golden Deer members often bicker, but they still fight together for their common humanity. My favorite supports with Claude is where he bonds with other outsiders: fellow “immigrants” Petra and Shamir, social misfits like Hilda and Marianne, and Byleth, who, as the player character, is detached from this world but still has a vested interest in protecting it. (And Lorenz, ‘cause shipping Best Boy and Worst Boy is funny.)
When Emperor Edelgard declares war on the Church, Claude sides with them to protect the oppressed. Even though he doesn’t believe in Fódlan’s goddess, he understands how religion can give people a shared identity and help them unite against a common enemy. But even as the war rages on for more than five years, Claude still believes in the power of peace and diplomacy. He tries in vain to shake Prince Dimitri out of his mad bloodlust, and even tries to appeal to Edelgard’s humanity to stop her offensive. If you play one of the routes where you fight against him, you can actually choose not to kill Claude, letting him ride off into the sunrise to continue his own journey for peace in his homeland. And if you do play his route, Claude enlists the help of both the Church and his Almyran war buddies, bringing the two antagonistic nations together to ensure peace and prosperity for future generations.
Regardless of the war’s outcome, Claude leaves Fódlan afterward to return to his homeland. It was never enough for him to fix just one nation’s systemic problems – Claude’s eyes are always gazing far beyond the horizon. That’s why I think, out of the three lords, he is the closest to ideal for a leader. Dimitri and Edelgard are amazing characters with their own reasons for fighting, but they’re too wrapped in their own problems to understand the long-term consequences of their actions. Claude looks beyond Fódlan’s walls and petty disputes, to make sure the world he wants to create will ultimately benefit everyone.
Fire Emblem Three Houses’ characters have many different ideas on religion, politics, and war, and the game never portrays any of them as being completely right or wrong. (Except Nemesis, who is evil because his name is freaking Nemesis.) But I really like Claude’s nuanced take on the world he lives in, and I think we should appreciate the perspectives of people like him in the real world too. So many people are treated like outsiders because of their race, class, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and many other things. But it’s those people who can often contribute the most to society, because they can understand issues from different angles and have empathy for the little guys. Claude may not be a perfect person, but his dream of seeing a world where no one is oppressed is one that is absolutely worth fighting for.