Thursday, March 25, 2010

More Than Just a Jaw? (The Habsburgs)

As I promised last week after my poll, this week is dedicated to the "Illustrious House of Habsburg", as it was known back in the day. The house of Habsburg was quite possibly the most important and influential house of the Early Modern era. At their height, their domains encompassed officially and titularly most of the known, and even unknown, world. Yet with every great dynasty, there are secrets...

First things first, the house of Habsburg is extinct. There are no surviving male-line members of the family, although the Grand Dukes of Baden may or may not descend from an ancient collateral line. In an odd twist in dynastic politics, though, the War of the Austrian Succession of the 1740s established that the descent of Maria Theresa, Queen of Bohemia & Hungary, would continue under the name Habsburg or Habsburg-Lorraine. The family was dead but the name continues to the present in numerous branches of the Habsburg-Lorraine family. This practice was very common in the nobility of the Early Modern era. Men who married the heiresses of important families would often either drop their own surname or hyphenate theirs with that of their wife to establish the connection to the more important dynastic titles. A great example of this is the family of Winston Churchill, which is actually Spencer-Churchill. When the Churchill Duke of Marborough's descent died out in the mid-1700s, the spouse of the heiress, a Spencer, decided to hyphenate the name. Thus Winston Churchill should actually have been Winston Spencer, same family as Princess Diana Spencer, had this merger not occurred. But I digress.

The other assumption that HAS to be addressed and is the topic of this post is the infamous Habsburg Jaw. When people think about the Habsburgs, their first thought is often to either the inbreeding or the jaw. Neither really has a thing to do with the family as a political entity, but it is the most well-known aspect of the Habsburgs. Like most families in Europe, the Habsburgs have married many first and second cousins. This practice became excessively common following the division of the family in 1556. Where most royal families will alternate their marriage choices and choose first cousins from different branches of the family, the Austrian and Spanish Habsburg branches married each other often, including two uncle-niece marriages. Some will argue that even this was common, but the frequency and repetitiveness of the inbreeding was not common. The Habsburg Jaw, despite many years of scientific research and analysis, is mostly a debunked myth now. The jaw isn't the myth, but the thought that it was a Habsburg-related phenomena. Tradition blamed Cymburgis of Mascovia, the wife of Duke Ernest the Iron of Austria, for introducing the genetic anomaly into the bloodline. Yet analysis of earlier Habsburg ancestors, as well as unrelated individuals whose descendants would later marry into the family, has suggested that the trait was already present in the Habsburg blood and would only be strengthened through numerous outside and inbred marriages.

I know, that's not the news you want to hear, but it's true! Hundreds of people distantly or not even descended from the Habsburgs have the jaw. And it was mostly gone from the European bloodlines by the 1800s. Well, at least visually. The trait is still present and numerous European royals have been diagnosed with various jaw-related problems, but overall the visual problem of the jaw is gone. Additionally, it took more than just a jaw to create Charles II of Spain. His family tree rings around wreaths in numerous parts and his traits include diseases completely separate from jaw problems. The jaw may be quite obvious in the Habsburg line from 1450 until 1800, but it wasn't something the Habsburgs were ever famous for during their lifetime.

So what, then, is so special about the Habsburgs? I stand by my earlier statement that they are one of the most important dynasties of European history. There are numerous important and famous Habsburgs in history, but only a few really need further analysis. The rest just inherited or followed in their predecessors' footsteps. The first important Habsburg was Rudolf I who was elected Holy Roman Emperor in 1273 after two decades of civil infighting between potential claimants to the Holy Roman Imperial throne. The position gave him the power to conquer Austria which was currently in the midst of a civil war between rival claimants to the extinct House of Babenberg. Prior to that time, the Counts of Habsburg ruled a small principality in modern-day Switzerland that they soon after lost to rival factions.

Jump ahead two centuries to the 1478 birth of Philip the Fair. Philip's mother, Mary, was heiress of the Burgundian Inheritance, a huge territory of land that stretched from the Low Countries in the north to the borders of Savoy and Provence in the south. It had once been its own kingdom called the Kingdom of Burgundy and then the Kingdom of Arles. But the territory was never unified. It was composed of dozens of small countries, duchies, and other administrative units that had slowly been inherited through mostly marriage into the Burgundian Inheritance. Mary was the heir of that territory and married the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I of Habsburg. Their son, Philip the Fair, then married the heiress of Spain, Juana (oft called the Mad), daughter of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile of Columbus fame. Thus, Philip from his parents inherited the entirety of the Habsburg and Burgundian lands, and from his wife became co-sovereign of Spanish Empire, which after 1493 included everything in the New World. Then in one moment it was all gone. Philip the Fair died before his father leaving both inheritances to his son, Carlos, who became known as Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Charles, primarily through marriage, became ruler of nearly half of Europe. His claims stretched from Spain, Burgundy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Holy Roman Empire, Austria, Bohemia & Hungary (which his brother ruled), Naples, Sicily, England (which his son ruled with Mary I from 1553 to 1558), Croatia, and many smaller principalities. He certainly used regents and confidants wherever possible but at least in name, he ruled it all.

Charles smartly split the empire prior to his death leaving the Austrian lands to his brother, Maximilian II, and the Spanish, Italian and Burgundian lands to his son, Philip II. While Max and his descendants fought the Turks, the Prussians, and others for the next two hundred years, Phil fought the English and Portuguese. Well, actually he conquered the Portuguese. The Spanish Habsburgs expanded the Habsburg empire once more in 1580 when the contested throne of Portugal was claimed by Phil. That meant that the other half of the world, Asia and Africa, was now controlled by the Habsburgs, at least in name. Little else can be said about either branch of the Habsburgs after this point. Inbreeding became extremely common, especially in the Spanish line, leaving Spain without a ruler in 1701. William of Orange in England and Louis XIV in France both tried to avoid the war, but when the Spanish heir died only a year before Charles II, and Charles named Louis' grandson heir, things went to crap. The war was fought for over a decade and ended with Louis' grandson, Philip V, inheriting Spain and the Italian possessions, and the Austrian Habsburgs inheriting the Low Countries. Now only the Austrian branch of the family was left, but things didn't last long.

In 1740, despite attempts to secure the succession, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI died leaving the entire Austrian inheritance to his daughter Maria Theresa. The problem was that Maria had a cousin who was the daughter of a previous emperor, and that cousin thought she should rule. Also, Prussia didn't really agree with letting a woman inherit Austria. This lead to another long war fought over eight years called the War of the Austrian Succession. It ended slightly better than the previous war since Charles VI actually left heirs, unlike Charles II of Spain. But Austria still lost a bunch of land. Luckily for them, they retained the majority of the Habsburg possessions and these continued to be inherited by Maria's descendants, the house of Habsburg-Lorraine.

Thus the Habsburgs are a complex family with many nuances, and they truly helped solidify the European states from separate entities to solid states. Spain was a combination of ancient Reconquista counties and kingdoms but with Charles V, they finally became one single country. The Low Countries, for a short while, were united under one person and even after the Dutch Revolt of 1578, the remaining Spanish (later Austrian) Netherlands formed the backbone of the Kingdom of Belgium created in 1830. With the addition of Bohemia and Hungary, the Habsburgs created a large multinational state in the east that would remain an important power until World War I when it was finally dissolved. But even then, the states of Czechia, Hungary, and Austria all owe their current shapes to their Habsburg monarchs.

The Habsburgs may be misunderstood and much has been said and made of them, but they were a powerful and influential family that ruled much of Europe for a short while in the 15- and 1600s. Their legacy can be viewed on any map of Europe even today. Through dynastic marriage and political warfare, the Habsburgs proved that they could rise above their genetic deformities and become the first truly world leaders.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Napoleon: The Great Pretender (The Bonapartes)

It is no small wonder why Napoleon Bonaparte, First Consul and Emperor of the French, is so famous in world history. He has been compared to Julius Caesar, to Alexander the Great, and to many other famous monarchs. Yet the Bonapartes are rather unique in world history. They did something bold and decisive, messed up completely, and then did it again. Napoleon is if nothing else a very powerful example of nationalism trumping tradition, yet he surrounded himself with the trappings of tradition and ceremony. Simply stated, Napoleon Bonaparte was the greatest usurper and pretender Europe has ever experienced.

In an odd twist on monarchical history, most people know that the Bonapartes were not royalty. Rather they were minor nobility from Corsica, a Franco-Italian island off the coast of Italy. Two Bonapartes were important in the French Revolution. The third son of Carlo Buonaparte and Letizia Ramolino, Lucien worked with Robespierre and was imprisoned for his radical Jacobin ideologies. He was elected president to the Council of Five Hundred. the lower house of the legislature in the time of the Directory, in the later years of the French Revolution. He used his position to aide another member of his family, his elder brother Napoleon.

Lucien intentionally undermined the government of the Directory to enable his brother to overthrow the directors. Apparently, at sword point on during the 18 Brumaire coup, Lucien told his brother to uphold the principles of liberté, égalité, fraternité. The next Lucien arranged for Napoleon's election as First Consul of a new government called the Consulate.

Napoleon is the main topic of interest, though, for without him, none of the latter history of the Bonapartes would have been possible. Napoleon became a general in the French Republic after his successful tactics won the Siege of Toulon in Italy. In 1797 Napoleon conquered northern Italy from Austria, conquered Venice for the first time in 1,100 years, and negotiated the annexation of the Austrian Netherlands to France. Napoleon was a hero of France and exploited that fame to the utmost. Napoleon then went to Malta, which he conquered from the Knights Hospitaller, and then Egypt, where he wished to break vital links between Britain and India. The fighting in the Middle East was harsh and Napoleon lost most of his fleet to the British, but in France the French Revolutionary Wars were going worse and the Directory was extremely unpopular. Bonaparte was the perfect person to take the reins of government.

Napoleon became First Consul of the new Consulate in 1799. For the next two years Napoleon succeeded in reversing the loses it had incurred while Napoleon was away. Two years of peace from 1801-1803 did little to ease Europe or Napoleon and war broke out once again. Then, after multiple assassination attempts and uncovered plots, Napoleon decided that the return of a hereditary monarchy was essential for proper respect both within and outside of France. On 2 December 1804 at Notre Dame, the young general crowned himself Napoleon I Bonaparte, Emperor of the French. The following year he was crowned King of Italy and began to implement his grand plan for Europe: the creation of a new European dynasticism.

Europe in 1804 was still a rather vast network of states and microstates, especially in parts of German and Italy. Napoleon sought the unthinkable: to rewrite the boundaries of Europe. It was not an easy or successful process, especially since he allowed virtually all of the dispossessed monarchs to survive in exile or captivity. He did, however, take their thrones and give them to his siblings like party favors at a birthday:
  • France was the first throne claimed by the Bonapartes, through coup and usurpation, despite the fact that the French had a Republic dating to 1792 and a hereditary monarchy with surviving heirs before that: Louis Stanislas, brother to the beheaded Louis XVI was alive and well, hiding in various parts of Eastern Europe.
  • The Crown of Lombardy (Italy) was claimed in 1805 thereby depriving the Holy Roman Emperor, Francis II, of his hereditary (albeit rarely recognized) title as King of Italy.
  • Perhaps explaining the strange English-language usage of the name Holland to represent the whole of the Dutch Netherlands, Napoleon took most of the Austrian Netherlands (Belgium) and merged it with the Dutch Republic (The Netherlands) to form the Kingdom of Holland. This deprived both Francis II, as ruler of the Austrian Netherlands, and William V, Stadholder of the Dutch Republic, of their hereditary lands and titles. Instead, Napoleon installed his younger brother, Louis, as king in 1806. Most of this region had already been conquered by France in the years prior but Napoleon wished to establish firmer control of the region.
  • Naples, a country that encompassed most of southern Italy, was next on the list of Bonaparte claims. The king, Ferdinand IV, made some poor choices leaving him without a throne in 1806. That year, the French armies conquered the last remnants of Naples and Napoleon installed first his bother, Joseph, and then his brother-in-law, Joachim, as kings of Naples. Meanwhile, Ferdinand had fled to Sicily where he brooded and plotted to no avail for the next five years.
  • Westphalia was a country all of its own design. Napoleon wanted more control over the small principalities on the French border so in 1807 created this small kingdom to do so. He installed his eldest brother, Jerome, as king and the capital became Kassel, a part of the dissolved landgraviate of Hesse-Kassel. Many small princelings lost land in this move by Napoleon, including the king of Britain, George III, whose hereditary duchy of Brunswick-Luneburg formed the core unit of Westphalia.
  • In 1808, Spain was added to the list of Napoleonic possessions. Joseph, the former king of Naples, was installed as king of Spain despite the fact that the former king, Ferdinand VII, was still alive. Spain was quite upset about becoming a French possession and fought against its rulers for the entire length of the Napoleonic Wars.
  • Finally, the small Grand Duchy of Tuscany was carved out of the new Kingdom of Italy for Napoleon's sister, Elisa, in 1809. A Habsburg prince, Ferdinand III, was the legitimate ruler of the duchy. It mattered little, for of all Napoleon's creations, this lasted the shortest.

As everyone also knows, Napoleon didn't really succeed in the end. After a disastrous attack on Russia in 1813, his empire began to crumble. Portions of it fell every year for the next two years until Napoleon was forced out of France, returned triumphantly, and then forced out of the hemisphere to while away his last decade on the remote British island of St. Helena. His siblings were treated much better than he was, but many of them fled also: to relatively unaffected areas of Europe, to America, or elsewhere. To all contemporary thought, the Bonaparte upstart was a short-lived attempt at European domination that ended with a return to a rough status quo. All Bonaparte possessions returned to their proper families in 1815, with only some exceptions. The Holy Roman Empire had fallen after 1000 years of existence, but the new Austrian Empire stood strongly in its place. Italy and Germany became slightly more composed from their earlier states, but they still had many years of unification ahead of them. Europe was at peace and the Bonapartes were done. Or were they?

After a restoration of the French monarchy in 1815, a dynastic-shift in 1830's July Revolution, and a Second Republic in 1848, 1852 marked a return of an old friend. Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, the nephew of the great conqueror, succeeded in a coup against the republic and proclaimed himself Napoleon III, Emperor of the French! That's right, technically Napoleon I's son, Napoleon II, was proclaimed emperor for about a week after Napoleon was exiled to Alba in 1814. Yeah, no one really noticed. Anyway, Napoleon III would actually rule longer than his famous uncle, until 1870 to be precise, but that was because he was much less inspiring and expansionist. While Napoleon I was never content until the world was French, Napoleon III just wanted to help out the little guys. Napoleon helped Britain in the Crimean War, helped the Italians achieve independence from Austria and Sicily, attempted to reintroduce a monarchy to Mexico, considered recognizing the Confederate States of America, and halted Prussia's conquest of Germany for a short while.

In the end, Napoleon III was considered a failure in relation to his uncle, but his legacy cemented the royal-status of the Bonapartes into history. Despite the fact that the first Bonapartes had no royal blood in them, at least none very recent, they went to dominate European politics for more than 30 years in the 1800s. Through marriage, the Bonapartes did eventually gain some royal blood, which helps make them seem more royal today than they ever did in 1804. The current heir, Jean-Christophe Napoleon, is indeed the son of a Bourbon mother, a member of the royal family of France, Spain and Naples. Thus the Great Pretender, Napoleon Bonaparte, managed to find ways to make his family a true European dynasty, despite their short-lived reigns. Napoleon even today seems to be an example of monarchical triumph rather than pretension and usurpation, and the Bonapartes are considered one of the foremost non-ruling dynasties in Europe today with a loyal following of people seeking their return rather than an upstart family with little to their name.

Dynasties are important, and Napoleon knew that through his marriages and even his politics, but any person with enough charisma and a large enough following can found an empire. Napoleon and the Bonapartes grasped onto the nationalist spirit of the day to rise about the norms of dynastic law to create their own law. While this may cause problems for the dynastologist, it proves that not every family follows the proper rules of conduct. Napoleon, he was the biggest cheater of them all.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Dynasties of the Gods (Greek Pantheon)

That's right, gods can have dynasties too. In fact, pretty much every god historically (or should I say mythologically) has had dynasties. Don't believe me? Oh, you will when I'm done.

Let's start with the most well known of all historic gods. That's right, I'm talkin' about Zeus! Thought I was gonna say the Judea-Christian god, didn't you? Zeus is quite possibly the most famous god of legend and song and there are many good reasons for that. However, when it comes to dynastology, Zeus, his siblings and family, and his ancestors encompass one of the most complex and contradictory genealogies ever fabricated. I say fabricated because it was created; no Greco-Roman gods ever existed, although some may have been based on real people. Yet despite that lack of existence, the Greco-Roman gods are probably one of the best known royal families out there even today.

Seriously, think about this. I mean, who in the western world hasn't heard of Zeus/Jupiter, Hera/Juno, Poseidon/Neptune, Aphrodite/Venus, Athena/Minerva, Apollo, Artemis/Diana, Ares/Mars, Hephaestus/Vulcan, Hermes/Mercury, or Hades/Pluto? THEY'RE OUR PLANETS for crying out loud! Wait, you may say, that's not all of our planets. How about Earth, Saturn, and Uranus? That would be a very intelligent thing to ask and I tell you right now that our planet-namers knew their Greek history well. While all the previously mentioned gods were Zeus' siblings or children, the remaining three planets are their ancestors. Let me continue this wonderful little dynastological moment below:

Zeus, also known as Jupiter, was the King of the Gods — as in the chief dynast immortal — except he was born once to...

Cronos, known to the Romans as Saturn, the King of the Titans (pre-Zeus gods) — who was the chief dynast before Zeus and after his father...

Uranus, who was the primordial god of the Sky, who wed...

Gaia, Mother Earth herself, and the daughter of Chaos, from whence all things came to be.

Thus Zeus is the last king of a long and ancient monarchy of Greco-Roman gods who span to the very beginning of time. Gaia and Uranus both had lots of other gods and demigods and not-so-gods, as did Cronos, and Zeus, thus establishing cadet branches. Are these really important since they were all fictional? Yes, because virtually every Greco-Roman family in Antiquity established descent from one of these individuals. They did this to establish precedence, status, power, a claim to titles or wealth...pretty much the same reason people like to be related to anyone famous today. Back in Greco-Roman times, being related to a god was considered a very important and normal thing. For example, the family of Julius Caesar could trace its ancestry back to the founding of the Roman Republic in the 500s BCE, and they claimed to trace it farther to Venus herself.

This pattern of tracing ancestry wasn't restricted to the Greco-Romans, though. Once we get into the early Middle Ages, the so-called Dark Ages, the Germans took over northern Europe with its own myths. Their ancestor was a sketchy character named Odin, or Woden, of Wednesday fame, who was many things to different peoples. But the gist of it was that Odin was the ancestor of all the Germans. Apparently, if you go back enough, to around 400 CE, you'd find him. That's according to the Anglo-Saxons at least. The Scandinavians had other ideas about him.

Anyway, Odin wasn't alone in his dynasty. He had a wife, Frigg (Friday), many children such as Tyr (Tuesday) and Thor (Thursday), and relatives such as Sól (Sunday) and Máni (Monday). Indeed, Saturday is the only day that doesn't directly relate to a German god; it relates to the Greco-Roman Titan Saturn instead. As noted earlier, Odin was the claimed ancestor of all the Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian kings during the Migration Period (300 - 700 CE) and many other Germanic tribes also claimed some link to Odin or his kin. As with the Greco-Roman gods, kinship to a German god meant that power, authority, respect, and wealth were assured for those deriving their descent from one of them.

So, we've established that the Greeks, Romans and Germans all attempted to derive their descents from mythical god dynasties. But surely the Christians were better than those pagan primitives, right? Um, no. Christians are as guilty as anyone...

Virtually every westerner has either read or heard the story of Adam and Eve. They're humanity's ancestors, after all. It's no surprise then that Christians since the very beginning have attempted to trace their ancestries to YHWH, or the Judeo-Christian God. True, it's not exactly in vogue in these enlightened days but I guarantee you there are people out there that don't only believe they are descended from Adam and Eve, they think they know the actual genealogy. Let me just say: you don't.

Since God created Adam and Eve, technically Judeo-Christians cannot be descended from God directly. Thus Adam and Eve are the earliest possible humans from whom people can descend. SO pretty much every High Medieval monarchy fabricated a genealogy showing their descent from Adam and Eve. The oddest thing is, they often did this while retaining other German and Greco-Roman gods in their ancestries. That's because when the Christians began making up these genealogies, it didn't really matter how they were descended from Adam and Eve, just that they were. In fact, the late Anglo-Saxons made Odin into a 100% breathing human to have him descend from Adam and Eve too. Quite silly, really.

Noah's Ark is another famous Biblical story directly connected to Adam and Eve. The logic is that if you are descended from Adam and Eve, it has to go through Noah and his three sons since the whole world was destroyed except for them (and their unnamed wives, concubines, and anyone else not mentioned being saved). Thus you get the first division of the world into dynasties: Shem became the Semites or Asians, Ham became the Hamites or Africans, and Japheth became the Japhethites or Europeans. Pretty much all traditional European ancestries trace back from fictional members of Japheth's family. For example, apparently Japheth had a granddaughter named Europa. The fact that this wasn't included in the Biblical book of Chronicles is rather suspicious. This may also explain some of the antagonism of Europeans against Jews and Muslims over time because the church used this ancient fictional rivalry as impetus to war and bigotry. Shem saw his father naked, thereby shaming his entire family including his descendants, which includes the Jews and the Arabs. The Catholic Church, then, used this to theologically justify the inquisition against the Jews and the Crusades against the Muslims.

But I digress. The importance of the descents from gods is very important to ancient societies and, while it faded as enlightened ideals overthrew traditional concepts of divine descent, the idea continued through the Renaissance and into our modern times. James I of England wrote a treatise on the Divine Right of kings which brought the ideas fabricated in these ancient fictional descents into a context that could still be used even to the present. And it is partially because of this Divine Right concept that the people rebelled against monarchs in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, because the people felt that divine descent did not imply a right to rule.

What irony that monarchic egotism destroyed the majority of the world's monarchies.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Pretentious Fools (Types of Pretenders)

When dealing with complex and often archaic succession laws, the inevitable always happens. Indeed, virtually every monarchy in history has had at least one common problem among them. That's right, I'm talking about pretenders. What are pretenders? you may ask yourself. Quite simply put, a pretender is someone who wants to rule a state for any wide variety of reasons, but can't. But, as with most dynastological concepts, things are not always as simple as they seem.

Pretenders are actually a sub-category of monarchic pretension. Throughout all time, there has always been the person who feels they should rule when someone, or some other entity, else is ruling. My favorite example of this is Disney's The Lion King. Scar, the king's brother, kills the king and exiles the heir apparent, thereby claiming the kingdom for himself. Simba, the exiled heir, is therefore the pretender to the throne because he is the legal heir of the last king. Scar is the usurper who legitimately holds power but did not legitimately earn the power. The Lion King, therefore, is a story of a succession crisis.

Aladdin is also a story about a succession crisis. The last male of his dynasty, the Sultan, has but one lone daughter, Jasmine, through whom to pass on the throne. Jasmine will never be a ruling queen, the succession situation in that country demands a male monarch, thus her husband will become the next sultan upon the current Sultan's death. The problem, of course, is that Jafar usurps the throne immediately upon "marrying" Jasmine, leaving the old Sultan an enslaved pretender. Yet another Disney movie about a succession crisis (also see Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, the Sword in the Stone, the Black Cauldron, etc.).

The common theme throughout all these films is the concept of pretension and usurpation. One person has the throne, another person wants it, and they do whatever is necessary to take it and try to legitimize it. This has happened throughout history and it isn't always as clean-cut as at the cinema. There are many different forms of pretension and they need to be examined:
  • Pretender — The most common form of pretension is the pretender. A pretender can be pretty much anyone, although it usually is a disinherited heir. There are literally dozens of reasons why a pretender can appear, and anyone can be a pretender. All you need to do is so you are the monarch of someplace that already has a monarch, and get some important people to back your claim. if the public likes you enough, they may just overthrow the old monarch and make you official. Usually, though, you will die a miserable end.

    The best known example of a pretender is James III of England & Scotland. In 1688, the Glorious Revolution overthrew James II from the throne, and placed instead his daughter and her husband, Mary II and William III. James II wasn't dead, mind you, and he had a son. They fled to France and over the next hundred years continued to claim the English & Scottish thrones for the Jacobites (the followers of James) despite the fact that some other people were given the throne by the people of Great Britain.

    Another famous case are the Carlists of Spain, who claimed that a brother should inherit before a daughter (they also had strong political opinions). The Carlists claimed the throne for nearly a hundred years before one of their own became king as Juan Carlos I (the current king of Spain). Even so, there are still groups of Carlists who name one of his cousins the pretender, more due to politics than senior descent.
  • Titular Monarch — A phenomena of especially the 1900s was the concept of titular monarchs, instead of pretenders. There is in fact a big difference between a pretender and a titular monarch that is often overlooked. While anyone can be a pretender, the main feature is that someone else has claimed the title, thereby forcing the pretension. To be a titular monarch, you need to have the entire monarchy ripped out from beneath your feet. Only non-existent monarchies can have a titular monarch. Therefore, most titular monarchs legitimately descend and would be the legitimate heir of a previous monarch that once held the title in fact, not just in name.

    There is a great example for this one: the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama was the spiritual and temporal monarch of Tibet back in the 1950s and before. Tibet was never truly independent, but few empires pushed their will on them until the Chinese finally got around to it after the Cultural Revolution. When China invaded, the Dalai Lama fled and the theocratic state of Tibet became a Chinese province. Ever since that flight, the Dalai Lama has only been a titular monarch, although he remains a religious leader using his same title.

    A much broader example is the destruction of the Central European monarchies in 1918. In the final days of World War I, German spontaneously combusted into numerous republics overthrowing their eight-hundred year-old or more monarchies. When the Treaty of Paris and its tag-along treaties were signed, pretty much all the Central Powers monarchies were disassembled including Austria, the German Empire, and the Ottoman Empire. What was left was dozens of disenfranchised titular monarchs who even today roam Europe seeking prestige from their former titles.
  • Usurpers — As was mentioned at the beginning, usurpers are a type of monarch who claims the throne illegitimately from a legitimate monarch. While that leaves the legitimate monarch a pretender, it also makes the usurper a kind of pretender with power. Usurpers are actually not all that common in Europe. In most cases, the legitimate heir inherits the throne, despite the usual conception of things. Usurpers usually claim the throne when the heir is unclear. Still, while a usurper holds legitimate power, they must establish a dynasty for history to consider them a legitimate monarch and not a successful pretender.

    Take William the Conqueror for example. He conquered (a term almost always synonymous with usurpation) England from the Anglo-Saxons despite the fact that they had legitimate heirs (not Harold II Godwinsson, but Edmund II Ironside's children). Yet William was able to establish his hold, "convince" the important nobles of his legitimacy, and establish a dynasty of his own. That last part is important because without it, William's fate may have been the same as the earlier Danish kings of England who, after four kings, returned the kingdom to the Anglo-Saxons.

    Usurpers can also come in rather logical forms such as Catherine the Great of Russia. She was rather power-hungry and had married Peter III, the legitimate emperor of Russia. They had a son, Paul, who was the legitimate heir. But when Peter died of not-so-mysterious circumstances very soon after Paul's birth, Catherine decided that she didn't want to play regent for her infant son and instead claimed the throne for herself. She had no legitimate right to the throne, but ruled it anyway.
  • Claimant — Claimants are precisely what they sound like. They claim the throne and that is basically it. Generally, claimants have a legitimate right to the throne, usually by blood, but the laws of succession are unclear leaving doubt on who should legitimately be king. This is where Braveheart comes in.

    In 1290, Margaret, the so-called Maid of Norway and heiress to the throne of Scotland, died on her voyage from Norway to Britain. She was already a rather distant and abstract heir to the throne and not universally accepted. She would have been the first queen regnant in Britain had she survived the voyage. What happened instead prompted 16 years of almost continuous warfare with England. Fourteen different candidates proposed themselves as candidates to the throne of Scotland in 1290. Edward I of England, despite his rather distant claim, took the throne by force twice during this period. John Balliol, the senior-most descendant of the senior-most line of the last Scottish dynasty claimed the title successfully in 1292 but lost his throne again in 1296 when Edward and he disagreed. Enter William Wallace.

    Wallace considered Balliol a traitor, since he worked with Edward of England, and decided to take the Scottish independence movement on the offensive. Despite Hollywood's portrayal of Wallace and Robert the Bruce, the two didn't get along super well. Wallace thought Bruce was a traitor, just as he had thought of Balliol, only he liked Bruce's fighting spirit and vision. When Wallace was executed, Bruce took over the fight and eventually claimed the throne successfully from Edward of England and was crowned king in 1306. He claimed the throne through Tanistry (senior kin) and proximity of blood (closest blood relative of the last king).
Ah, another long post. Well, the message is clear. Pretension is a major factor in dynastic and monarchical politics. Its hayday is well past and Europe is now populated by more titular monarchs than reigning ones, but at least we aren't having succession wars ever two decades or so. Oh, did I forget to mention succession wars? See the Hundred Years War, the War of the Spanish Succession, the War of the Austrian Succession, and pretty much any other war that says "War of the [blank] Succession". Yeah, there are a lot of them, and they sometimes get consumed into larger wars. Pretension has played an important part in dynastic politics and will continue, in some degree or another, into the future.


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