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I'm building a world for a novel I'm working on, which is a new experience for me. On a continent I have two former kingdom capitals that are inland roughly 150 miles from the coast. Both on major rivers. At the mouth of these rivers are two more cities. Given that they are sea ports and entries inland along the rivers I am supposing that they will be major commercial centers. I'm wondering if that is realistic or if the old kings would have moved their capitals to where the action is. Then I'm thinking of New York City vs Albany. Am I over thinking this? Any thoughts would be appreciated!

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    $\begingroup$ "Old" kingdoms tend to have their capital in one of the major cities of the country, because historically power grew from that city; Paris is France, London in England, Rome in Italy, Prague in Bohemia, Warsaw in Poland, Berlin in Prussia etc. The U.S.A. and other "new" countries such as Canada or Australia have their capitals in small(-ish) cities because when those countries were founded an explicit decision was taken to keep government out of major cities in an attempt to keep governent small and feeble. (It didn't work.) $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jan 7 '18 at 9:59
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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to worldbuilding! You should wait to accept an answer so you'll get more answers and people have time to answer. We have users across the globe so many of them aren't awake. Also, do go through the help center. It would help if you were more specific about time period as well--that makes a huge difference. $\endgroup$ – Erin Thursby Jan 7 '18 at 16:12
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding! Please don't write "Thank you for responding!" under every answer you receive. While it's nice that you want to thank people we have a slightly different principle here: Pay it forth! Upvote it if it's good (once you have the rep to do so), accept it (earliest after ~24 hours) and try to help others as best as you can. Comments are reserved for tips and asking for clarification. If you have a moment please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. Have fun! $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Jan 8 '18 at 9:00
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Trade vs. Agriculture

Say the old capital was placed in the middle of fertile farmlands. Yes, the merchants at the seaport are important, and getting more so year by year. But grain and turnips matter, too. The kings remember that they're one bad harvest away from a revolution and decide to keep an eye on the "heartland" of the realm. If they were to move, so would the noble landowners, leaving stewards to look after the manors.

Ceremonial Importance

For centuries the kings have been crowned in the inland cathedral, and they have resided in the inland palace. A couple of civil wars and dynastic struggles have been decided by who could hold the palace and the cathedral. The importance of the "heartland" has diminished over the centuries, but the people -- both commoners and nobles -- don't realize it. A king who does not reside in the palace for most of they year is suspect.

No Importance?

The seaports grew because of location and also because the merchants in that place had been granted privileges by the king. The king has promised to protect the merchants from greedy/stupid nobles who wouldn't know a reinvestment if it hit them squarely between the eyes, and the merchants have promised to pay a steady capital gains tax to the king's coffers. As part of the deal, the merchants have promised to stay clear from the political power games in the old capital.

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Don't forget that depending on where the action takes place, the king might actually decide to move his Government, and thus political capital, to another city (than the economical capital, for instance), i. e. away from the action. Real life examples for this are :

  • The French royalty moving out of Paris/Orleans in the course if the Hundred Years War ; Charles VII reigned in Bourges before being crowned, for example.
  • King Louis XIV deciding to move his court from Paris to Versailles so as to avoid being situated in one of Europe's (and hence the world's) most populated cities in case of an uprising, as well as a means to unite as many noblemen as possible under his control (which he successfully achieved) within his new domain.
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    $\begingroup$ There are a bazillion examples of this from real history. Whenever one person is in charge, their whims can overwhelm any other explanation. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Jan 8 '18 at 3:59
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Unsure if both, but at least one of the kings can pull off Peter the Great: just found a new capital because of:

  • wanting change,
  • waging reforms,
  • shifting the focus of the country in a different direction (towards West in this case),
  • having a military stronghold closeby
  • just because.

At least for Peter it turned out great.

A side note: commercial cities tend to fold down if their trade route importance is diminished, think Silk Road.

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Bigger army Diplomacy

My thought in seeing this is that if these arose from old kingdoms. Middle ages European kingdoms. Bigger army Diplomacy will prevail and to back up a bigger army you need a more coin, and holding the bigger commercial center along with a strangle hold on a possible rivals main economic source leads to really bad odds of the up river city winning any sort of rivalry in a real way.

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