Vocalist Martin Courtney told Relix the story of the song:
"That main riff in the song as something that I played a lot with Jackson, our drummer, during soundchecks. I would start playing it and then he would come in with the beat. He would do that thing where it turns around, goes into the offbeat and then everything would fall apart because we would get confused at that point.
Anyhow, after we learned all the demos, I started just going through the voice memos on my phone. I had a recording of us playing this little riff and I was like, 'Let's turn this into a song.'"
The song was released as the first single from In Mind. Bassist Alex Bleeker said: "'Darling' always felt to me like it would be the lead track from the moment that it came together. It felt best suited to share first because, while the chord progression was Martin's, the structure and the way the song was put together felt like a group, collaborative effort almost like the feel of the song was something we discovered together."
16-tear-old Lorde wrote the lyrics to "Royals" at home in just half an hour. She was inspired by the "ridiculous, unrelatable, unattainable opulence" that runs through such albums as Kanye West and Jay-Z's Watch the Throne and Lana Del Rey's Born To Die.