The Underground Railroad

Royal is a freeborn black man who rescues Cora from Ridgeway. Royal has an optimistic personality, and is dedicated to the pursuit of freedom both for himself and all black people. He is attractive and captivating, and the narrator notes that may people are charmed by his “exotic” demeanor. He and Cora have a romantic affair, and Royal dreams of moving to Canada where they can start a family. He is fatally shot when Valentine farm is destroyed, and dies in Cora’s arms. However, even in his final moments as the massacre of Valentine residents takes place around him, he smiles at Cora and tells her to escape via the underground railroad, saying: “You can tell me where it goes.”
Get the entire The Underground Railroad LitChart as a printable PDF.
The underground railroad.pdf.medium

Royal Character Timeline in The Underground Railroad

The timeline below shows where the character Royal appears in The Underground Railroad. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 10: Indiana
Family, Heritage, and Home Theme Icon
Death and Freedom Theme Icon
Value, Ownership, and Commodification Theme Icon
History, Myth, and Fantasy Theme Icon
...Sometimes musicians perform, and tonight there is a poet who gives a reading. Someone called Royal appears by Cora’s side, distracting her from the poetry. Cora is disturbed by her feelings... (full context)
Death and Freedom Theme Icon
Value, Ownership, and Commodification Theme Icon
Brutality and Violation Theme Icon
Just as the dancing begins, Cora heads home, where Royal is waiting for her. He has a black eye but tells Cora it was just... (full context)
Family, Heritage, and Home Theme Icon
Endurance vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
Death and Freedom Theme Icon
Value, Ownership, and Commodification Theme Icon
History, Myth, and Fantasy Theme Icon
Back in Tennessee, after leaving Ridgeway and his crew behind, Royal had introduced himself to Cora; the other men were called Justin and Red. Royal apologetically... (full context)
Family, Heritage, and Home Theme Icon
Endurance vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
Death and Freedom Theme Icon
Value, Ownership, and Commodification Theme Icon
Brutality and Violation Theme Icon
Royal joined forces with Red after Red’s wife and child were lynched in North Carolina. Red... (full context)
Family, Heritage, and Home Theme Icon
Endurance vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
Death and Freedom Theme Icon
Value, Ownership, and Commodification Theme Icon
Brutality and Violation Theme Icon
History, Myth, and Fantasy Theme Icon
...custom of Valentine residents, which helped ensure the farm’s safety within the local community. When Royal showed Cora the railroad station, he explained that he wanted her to know it was... (full context)
Endurance vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
Death and Freedom Theme Icon
Brutality and Violation Theme Icon
History, Myth, and Fantasy Theme Icon
...in New Orleans. Ridgeway, meanwhile, is a laughingstock. Homer rescued him after the confrontation with Royal, and the two ran off together, their reputation in ruins. (full context)
Family, Heritage, and Home Theme Icon
Death and Freedom Theme Icon
Value, Ownership, and Commodification Theme Icon
History, Myth, and Fantasy Theme Icon
...two teams participate while joyful music plays in the background. The night before, Cora let Royal kiss her. She confesses that she’s been thinking about Terrance; she knows that the enslaved... (full context)
Family, Heritage, and Home Theme Icon
Death and Freedom Theme Icon
Brutality and Violation Theme Icon
History, Myth, and Fantasy Theme Icon
...what white people do. The day begins normally; Cora spends it reading the latest almanac Royal has given her. By this point, she has told Royal all about Randall, Ajarry, Mabel,... (full context)
Family, Heritage, and Home Theme Icon
Endurance vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
Death and Freedom Theme Icon
Brutality and Violation Theme Icon
History, Myth, and Fantasy Theme Icon
...pack up and move west, as Lander is expected to propose. That night, Cora and Royal sit in the front row, next to Mingo and his family. There are no white... (full context)
Family, Heritage, and Home Theme Icon
Endurance vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
Death and Freedom Theme Icon
Value, Ownership, and Commodification Theme Icon
Brutality and Violation Theme Icon
History, Myth, and Fantasy Theme Icon
...Mingo’s speech, his daughter has been whispering flirtatiously with Lander. As Lander stands to speak, Royal is excited. He wants the community to move to Canada, where he will finally be... (full context)
Family, Heritage, and Home Theme Icon
Death and Freedom Theme Icon
Brutality and Violation Theme Icon
History, Myth, and Fantasy Theme Icon
Suddenly, the atmosphere turns “prickly,” and Lander is shot in the chest. Royal immediately jumps up and runs to Lander, and is shot three times in the back.... (full context)
Chapter 12: The North
Endurance vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
Death and Freedom Theme Icon
Brutality and Violation Theme Icon
History, Myth, and Fantasy Theme Icon
...waking, decides to walk the rest of the way. She sleeps twice again, dreaming of Royal and waking up in tears. Eventually, she finds the tunnel’s opening and emerges into warmth.... (full context)