A Game of Thrones- Succession.

Zardnaar

Hero
D&D has usually been set in a pseudo ye olde medieval world with magic and Dragons. Who the rightful monarch is is also an old trope with stories like the Sword in the Stone through to A Game of Thrones. Due to Hollywood and popular fantasy people also have a lot of misconceptions about what a monarch can and can't do as their power was often constrained by the law, social mores, the church or more likely other nobles. Generally monarchs have a lot less power than a modern dictator with only a few being absolute monarchs in places like Russia, Louis the Sun King (I am the state) and in countries like Saudi Arabia. Another misconception is if you marry the King or Queen you become a king or queen, strictly speaking a Queen rules under her own power, while Elizabeth II and Victoria's husbands were not the King of England.

So who gets the throne? This has varied by time and place, each kingdom or even family would have their own laws on the succession. This thread will look at some of the more common forms of succession, and this can be worked into your campaign if a PC is a lost scion or pretender to a throne or perhaps has the right back ground.

Prmiogeniture

This is a fancy word that basically means a relative by blood ascends to the throne on the monarchs death or abdication. A monarch in ill health/incapcitated generally has a regent often the heir. There are various type of primogeniture.

Absolute Primogeniture
Under this succession law the Monarchs oldest child ascends the throne regardless of gender. This is a modern concept and generally limited to the few Monarchies in western Europe that are liberal democracies since 1980. The UK royal family has recently adopted this, s side effect of such a law is that it will entrench a dynasty on a throne even more than the normal succession laws do. House Targeryan in Game of Thrones at least in the books uses this method, so Jon being the Crown Prince (son of Rhaegar) out ranks Dany who is the daughter of the previous king. This is why George and Charlotte are ahead of Harry in the UK royal succession.

Agnatic Primogeniture
This basically means only males can inherit the throne. There are various types of this law. The Imperial House of Japan uses this law.

Salic Law
Salic Law is a type of only males can inherit the throne based on seniority. For example if a King dies without issue the throne might pass to his brother or oldest family dynast. This means they might go back several generation to find a heir. A variation of Salic law let the sons of women inherit but not the women themselves. While unfair in modern terms it was introduced to prevent sons on foreign thrones trying to claim the throne in this case in France with Edawrd III of England claiming the French throne via his mother,. This contributed to the 100 years war.

Semi Salic Law

A more pragmatic version of Salic law where women can claim the throne but only in the event of the extinction of the male lines.

Male Preference Primogeniture

This used to be the succession law for the UK. Women are allowed to inherit if there are no males. This is how the UK/England had Queen Victoria, and Elizabeth I and II. A female has a weaker claim than her younger brother for example but a stronger claim than her uncles, cousins etc.

Elective Monarchy.

Exactly as it sounds, the monarch is elected but unlike a Democracy the electors are usually nobles. Who gets to vote is important as in Poland for example any noble could vote while in the Holy Roman Empire only the electors could vote and by default the Hapsburgs won in the later years. While not really a traditional monarch any more the Pope is another example as the electors are the cardinals of the catholic church.


Matrilineal Primogeniture

This means the throne will pass to a women. It is rare in the real world limited to a few cultures in Africa and Asia generally. In D&D the Drow are such an example but in effect its the early Ottoman succession (to the strongest female). Not sure what it would be called if males can inherit if the female line is extinct.

Female Preference Primogeniture

Not a real system as far as I can tell but I added it for purposes of completion. The throne passes to the eldest female, but a male can inherit if there are no females.

This is not a 100% comprehensive list. Elective monarchies for example resemble hereditary ones (House of Saud Saudi Arabia) or primogeniture might have elections on occasion. The laws/traditions also did get violated along with things like invasion. Bastards generally did not inherit a throne (I can't think of an example), but one did seize a throne (William the Conqueror). From the 14th/15th century Primogeniture became the norm in some form although wars were fought to prevent it in some cases (War of Spanish Succession). Thrones could be united in a persoanl union, although sometimes the union was broken due to different succession laws/wars/extinction of a line or a new throne was created (Spain via PU between Castille and Aragon).
 
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LuisCarlos17f

Explorer
You must remember the custom of the firstborn as heir is in the Christian kingdoms. In the Roman empire hadn't to be always. In the last pages of "the Crusades through Arab Eyes" by Amin Alouf told Muslim polygamy avoided the firstborn was the heir, and after each caliph, sheikh or emir's death, a new civil war for the succession to the throne started. Later I read in internet to avoid this Ottoman sultan Mehmet II the conqueror created a new law and when the new heir got the crown, the rest of candidates would be executed. Now try to imagine when Mehmed III sat in the throne and all their brothers were killed. The oldest male was only 11 years old. Also sisters were executed, two babies born after his father's death and two concubines could be pregnant.
 

Zardnaar

Hero
Yeah Ottoman succession was a blood bath. Roman two. Primogeniture starts to look good.

Gavelkind was another one where each brother got a slice. This was used after Charlemagne the realm was divided into three. The one in the middle got gobbled up by the other two.

Alexander's the Great ascension and death also reveal the downsides of not having good succession laws.
 

Paul Farquhar

Adventurer
Another misconception is if you marry the King or Queen you become a king or queen, strictly speaking a Queen rules under her own power, while Elizabeth II and Victoria's husbands were not the King of England. ]
Misleading. If you marry a king, you become queen. And it used to be that marrying a queen made you king. That was the whole reason Elizabeth I never married. Christian teaching was that a husband was master over his wife. Hence, if she had married her husband would have become not just king but supreme ruler of England and Elizabeth would have been relegated to ornament.

Later, the rule was changed, so Victoria's husband had the title Prince Regent to signify that Victoria was the Head of state. However, by that time the monarchy had become almost completely symbolic, with the real power resting in parliament.

As for "one true king", Elizabeth's grandfather, Henry Tudor's (Henry VII) claim to the throne was based on a lie, and it was Mary (Queen of Scots) who had the legit claim. As it happened, Mary's son James succeeded Elizabeth, so you might argue that the "One True King" was restored - if not for long...
 
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Misleading. If you marry a king, you become queen. And it used to be that marrying a queen made you king. That was the whole reason Elizabeth I never married. Christian teaching was that a husband was master over his wife. Hence, if she had married her husband would have become not just king but supreme ruler of England and Elizabeth would have been relegated to ornament.

Later, the rule was changed, so Victoria's husband had the title Prince Regent to signify that Victoria was the Head of state. However, by that time the monarchy had become almost completely symbolic, with the real power resting in parliament.

As for "one true king", Elizabeth's grandfather, Henry Tudor's (Henry VII) claim to the throne was based on a lie, and it was Mary (Queen of Scots) who had the legit claim. As it happened, Mary's son James succeeded Elizabeth, so you might argue that the "One True King" was restored - if not for long...
Mary, Queen of Scots had her claim to the English throne from Henry VII (her grandmother was Henry VII's elder daughter). She claimed the throne due to Elizabeth's supposed illegitimacy and heresy (from the Catholic point of view), and since Elizabeth was the last of Henry VIII's children, the next in line in succession were the descendents of his sisters. She had no claim or decent from the previous Yorkist monarchs other than that from Henry VII's wife Elizabeth of York (which she held in common with all the others in the extended Tudor family).
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
This is not a 100% comprehensive list. Elective monarchies for example resemble hereditary ones (House of Saud Saudi Arabia)

Good starting list, but I'll quibble here. This is a really problematic area, as it's actually agnatic seniority mixed with, um, well, a lot of palace intrigue and the occasional coup (1964, at a minimum) due to the issues with agnatic seniority.

Of all the terrible systems for monarchy, Saudi Arabia's may be the worst.
 

Zardnaar

Hero
Good starting list, but I'll quibble here. This is a really problematic area, as it's actually agnatic seniority mixed with, um, well, a lot of palace intrigue and the occasional coup (1964, at a minimum) due to the issues with agnatic seniority.

Of all the terrible systems for monarchy, Saudi Arabia's may be the worst.
Yeah but as I said some places the succession laws on occasion get bent, are not clear or resemble other ones on occasion.
 

aco175

Explorer
Are you able to expand a bit on typical inheritance for middle class or even nobles that are not king. At the sake of thread creep. I'm interested in more than the typical will and the first son/child got the farm and the 2nd went to the military and the 3rd went into the church. I do not know how other society cultures may be different.
 

Zardnaar

Hero
Are you able to expand a bit on typical inheritance for middle class or even nobles that are not king. At the sake of thread creep. I'm interested in more than the typical will and the first son/child got the farm and the 2nd went to the military and the 3rd went into the church. I do not know how other society cultures may be different.
Basically the younger sons often did get a small inheritance or a stipend but the ideal would be to marry another families daughter and her father has no sons. This establishes a cadet branch and your children inherit her lands. Some cadet branches would replace the main branch or exceed it. Some Dukes wre also more popweful than the King at least in terms of wealth and army (Duke of Orealns/Louis VII IIRC).

Middle class families often like marrying up, that was social mobility. Otherwise it probably was not to drastically different from boy meets girl and ideally the parents consent. It was easier to do in places like England say vs Russia or Naples. You could also get promoted to the noble class usually by being rich or bribing your way into it (and via service). Some places the middle class became the upper classes and were not nobles as such (Venice, Hanseatic League) but in effect were and they were treated as nobility for all intents and purposes. Some nobles married down for political purposes.

As now though social connections mattered, you could also use things like personal connections so if your family served the Duke, King/Queen etc and they liked you personally you could hope to get ennobled, get career opportunities/connections, have your daughters marry junior nobility etc.
 

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