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I'm writing a story that involves the death of a king. The king was married, and had granted his spouse the crown matrimonial, allowing them to rule jointly. (I'm pretty sure this is how this works, but correct me if I'm wrong. Either way, it's fantasy, and it would make sense with the characters if it worked this way.)

The king also had a child. At the time of the king's death, the child was underage, but there is historical precedent in the country for an underage person acceding to the throne without a regent.

Who would be the new ruler--the king's spouse, who had been ruling alongside the king quite successfully for years? Or his child, who would accede without question were it not for the spouse? Would the king's wishes matter at all in this, or would they be ignored after his death?

I wasn't able to find any historical precedent for an issue like this-- in fact, I wasn't able to find a real-life example of the crown matrimonial being granted at all. Demanded, sure, but not granted. I'm sure some of y'all know more about succession than I do--is there anything that causes you to believe that it might turn out one way or the other?

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    $\begingroup$ When the succession is the least bit unclear, the result is commonly a civil war. The result in any particular case would depend on the character of those involved, what support they held among nobles, foreign powers, the Church, etc. Thus, the exact consequences are up to you as the author - anything from a peaceful succession of either party to a brutal civil war lasting for centuries. $\endgroup$ – andejons Sep 20 '18 at 5:35
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    $\begingroup$ @andejons - if the child is hers there probably wouldn't be a civil war until at least he or she reaches majority. If the relationship is good, chances are that there won't be a civil war after either. $\endgroup$ – Display name Sep 20 '18 at 7:21
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    $\begingroup$ @kingledion: No queen had ever been a co-ruler? Ferdinand and Isabella? William and Mary? Even their coins carried the legend Guilelmus et Maria Dei Gratia... But you are right in that only the querent knows what "crown matrimonial" means in their fictional country. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Sep 20 '18 at 11:28
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    $\begingroup$ Each and every country and dynasty has its own rules of succession. The French rules never applied in England, or else Elisabeth I would have never been Queen. The English rules never applied in France. The Rurikid Russian rules were not the same as the Romanov Russian rules. And so on. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Sep 20 '18 at 11:32
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    $\begingroup$ @kingledion: Exceptional circumstances, yes. But then the OP did not say that this was the custom. They actually did not say anything about how the situation came to be, why it was accepted, whether it was exceptional or the norm, and so on. I was sorely tempted to VTC as unclear, but then I decided to just let it be. Anyway, the OP may be interested in the matrimonial arrangement described in David Weber's Safehold series. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Sep 20 '18 at 11:52
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Similar situations have happened many times in many places.

The king can change any rules he wants during his lifetime because/if he can enforce them. He can designate a donkey as his successor or co-ruler.

But if there is any disagreement, the next chap who has the power and inclination to enforce his will will get his way.

In terms of your question there have been many Queens who have taken over after their husbands death and ruled successfully. So if the Queen had the support and that sort of personality, she could retain power. There have also been plenty of Queen dowagers who basically excercised full power behind their figurehead child.

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The rules of succession would be whatever the rules of succession are.

There are no universal rules, your country would simply follow its own law. If this law allows something like a crown matrimonial, it would most likely also state how exactly it works. Of course, depending on whether this is written, church-approved and long-accepted law or "some guideline that this one cleric remembers once being mentioned", the estates, court factions, parliament, government or any other party will have the corresponding leverage to back their preferred candidate.

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Queens did usurp power from their minor children

No Queen on this list was ever 'declared' equal co-ruler with her husband, but there are some of examples of Queens as de-facto reigning monarchs while they children were minors.

Irene is the best example, having basically lead a coup against her own son. When he turned ~19, she did not give up the regency, and when he was ~26 she sent him into exile. She herself was deposed 5 years later.

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  • $\begingroup$ William and Mary were co-regents of the the UK, though she predeceased him so it was never tested whether she should be queen alone, but she would have been the 4th ruling queen so not exactly groundbreaking. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Sep 21 '18 at 7:40
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The "Crown Matrimonial" was a title and function of king given to the husband of a queen regnant, and the new king would reign and/or rule jure uxoris, by right of wife. A king would not grant the "crown matrimonial" to his wife, who would be merely a queen consort.

There are many cases of a queen regnant and her husband ruling as co monarchs. They were often decreed to be legally equal in power and authority, but the actual power and authority of each would depend on personalities and the attitudes of others. So in the cases of joint married monarchs the actual power varied from 100 percent for the female to 100 percent for the male and anywhere in between.

If a king died leaving one or more minor children and if the children were not barred from the throne for some reasons, like being girls in a country where only boys could inherit the throne, then the heir, usually the oldest son, would inherit the throne. The boy king would either be declared to be of age or have a single regent or a regency council.

If the kings widow was the mother of the boy king she would have a big chance to become the sole regent or chief regent for the boy king. If she was the stepmother of the boy king the popular trope about wicked stepparents would tend to limit her chances.

If there were co monarchs and one of them died, either the survivor would remain as the sole monarch or the heir of the deceased monarch would automatically become become the successor of the deceased co monarchs.

If, for example, the normal succession rule was from father to son, and two co monarchs were brothers and one of them died, his son and heir would automatically become co monarch in his place.

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