Succession to the throne

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The succession to the throne , or devolution in legal terms , describes the assumption of the rights and duties of a ruler , symbolized by the throne , by a successor whose legitimation is based on inheritance , blood or designation by the predecessor or by election .


Facsimile of the succession certificate from 1706 for Electress Sophie in the
main state archive in Hanover

Frequently, the succession to the throne was determined in the house laws of the dynasty . In most of the well-known advanced civilizations , the line of succession passed through the paternal line , but there are also isolated matrilineal lineages of ruling houses. In patriarchal succession to the throne, the first-born son is always the successor to the first-married woman, unless otherwise regulated. Today, in the West the succession of the first-born child, including the daughters, usual, and in the first place - not as long as the monarch as far back as the Office in its sole discretion passes - always the testamentary wishes of the monarch himself decisively. The succession over the firstborn is called the primogenitur system ( Latin primo genitur , 'firstborn'), whereby all descendants of the firstborn are also in the line of succession before the secondborn of the lineage (the secundogeniture ) - this is how these expressions denote the entire generation line. The title of the prince indicates a high-ranking succession to the throne, when a line expires, the line of succession passes to the secondary generation - or the elders of the same line - and to the husband of the highest-ranking daughter (princess) when an entire house expires .

A person who has a claim to a throne is referred to as a pretender to the throne ; heir to the throne refers to the successor expressly recognized by the monarch (or other political system), i.e. the designated pretender , in the broader sense also to the other aspirants to the throne following legitimation ( succession to the throne in the real sense: official ranking of the pretenders). An illegitimate pretender is called a usurper .
In the past,
wars of succession often occurred in the case of unclear succession or other disputes . Examples of this are in particular the civil war that lasted around 20 years in England from 1135 to 1154 after the death of Henry I, whose only legitimate son had previously died and was therefore unable to succeed, the English Wars of the Roses between the Houses of York and Lancaster (1455– 1485), the War of Devolution (1667–1668), in which France took advantage of the forced assignment of the Spanish Netherlands to the Habsburgs in Spain, the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714) around the legacy of the Austrian House of Habsburgs - secured by numerous incestuous connections the Spanish line, which Ludwig XIV did not recognize, the War of the Austrian Succession (1741–1748), which was triggered by the precedence of the first-born child under the Habsburg house law (the Prussian King Friedrich II recognized the succession Maria Theresias not to). In the Ottoman Empire, on the other hand, the intention was to leave the succession to the throne under the pretenders unclear and to regulate the succession to the throne in an internal power struggle: The pretender, who - as the only one - survived, was the new monarch, which should keep the bloodline strong. There was also no precedence here according to the status of the mother.

The genealogical concept of devolution is somewhat broader than the succession at the throne in the actual sense, and also includes the transfer of titles, such as nobility and titular offices without regency , in general: This is how the office of the German King in the Holy Roman Empire went in In the Middle Ages still an electoral office, in modern times hereditary to the son, and stood for the role of designated heir to the throne as Roman Emperor , an office that was always mediated by the elections by the electors. Titles of de facto extinct titles or titles that were lost in larger states without an enthronement ceremony were passed on, so that numerous titles accumulated among the rulers of modern times in Europe, which in personal union with the succession of the highest office passed to the heir to the throne. The highest hereditary reign of the Habsburgs (at the time when they usually also assumed the Roman-German imperial office) was always King of Bohemia, the Holy Hungarian royal dignity had to be confirmed by a coronation ceremony by the Imperial Council, Archduke of Austria - as Titular claim of the Habsburg ancestral lands - was in modern times a title of all princes and princesses without enthronement, which was awarded at birth to secure the succession to the throne. The King of England also inherited the offices of head of state of the Commonwealth Realm without a formal throne.

Regulations for succession to the throne in individual monarchies

See also


  • Schmidt, Ulrich: Election of a king and succession to the throne in the 12th century (= research on the history of the emperors and the popes in the Middle Ages. Supplements to JF Böhmer, Regesta Imperii 7), Cologne, Vienna 1987.
  • Eduard Hlawitschka : Election and succession to the throne in the Frankish-Carolingian period , Darmstadt 1975.
  • Mitteis, Heinrich: The German election for a king. Their legal basis up to the Golden Bull , 2nd expanded edition, Brünn a. a. 1944.