If I had a king who sits the throne by right of conquest. He has no natural born sons, but he does have a living father and a living younger brother. This is obviously throwing a wrench in my story because the father is important. My king is going to meet an untimely end. Who would be his proper heir in a patrilineal system? His brother or father?

  • $\begingroup$ The father was never the sovereign, so neither has any claim. It depends on which of them took the biggest role in the establishment of the monarchy in the first place. it just makes it clear that the monarchy wasn't effectively established in the first place. $\endgroup$ Jan 9, 2023 at 2:09
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ There are different patrilineal rules of inheritance when it comes to resolving edge cases like this. Have you considered having the plot dictate who has the better claim, and writing the rules to suit that? $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Jan 9, 2023 at 2:51
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The word patrilineal does not mean what you think it means. It has nothing to do with inheritance, and everything to do with how people reckon descent. In particular, the rules of inheritance in England, the rules in France, and the rules in Russia would have been very different, although the English, the French, and the Russian societies are all patrilineal. For example, you may have heard of Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth I, daughters of King Henry VIII of England. (Not to mention that the king could, you know, leave a last will and testament.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jan 9, 2023 at 6:24
  • $\begingroup$ @sphennings: I agree wholeheartedly with your comment. But, please, there is no such thing as a patrilineal rule of inheritance. Patrilinearity refers strictly and only to how people reckon descent. For example, the Russian society has always been very patrilineal, to the point that the names people always include the name of the father, hence those funny three-part Russian names of the characters in Russian novels, e.g. Anna Arkadyevna Karenina and Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin. And yet, Russia has had several empresses who ruled in their own right; and those were not short reigns. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jan 9, 2023 at 6:40
  • $\begingroup$ VTC because you're asking the wrong kind of Q for our Stack. Per the help center, we help you build worlds (we'll help you design the legal structure of your civilization), we do not help you write stories (you choose who inherits based on the needs of your story, that's too subjective to meet Stack Exchange's expectations). See also narrative necessity. BTW, if your inheritance were truly patrilineal, the Q wouldn't exist. The father would be the monarch the whole time. If a law exists that prohibits that, it answers your Q. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jan 9, 2023 at 16:32

2 Answers 2


Depends on the laws

There are legal systems in which inheritance can not go to the older generation, but not many. Typically inheritance would go to the father, then to the brother.

Because your character is king, he can probably decree who will be king after him in events of his death without heirs.

Given that he seized the throne himself, the laws may not matter. It may matter whether the father or the brother has the most support among the warriors.


From here:


"Precedence went initially to a dead person's issue descendants, in preference to collaterals such as siblings or aunts. Within the same generation of descendants, men were favoured over women, but only the eldest male inherited."

So it seems the Order is:

Descendents > Brothers/Sisters > Father/Mother > Uncles/Aunts > Grandfather/Grandmother

However - in a right of conquest system, the Father would be well within his rights to challenge his son to Combat to determine the winner.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ That may be, or at least may have been, the case in England. But the question does not say that the story takes place in England. France had different rules, Russia even more different rules, and don't even think of Arabia. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jan 9, 2023 at 6:19
  • $\begingroup$ To be fair though, we are on an English speaking forum - and the author didn't specify. $\endgroup$ Jan 9, 2023 at 6:25
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, we are on an English speaking site. So what? We cannot apply the modern rules, because they differ greatly among the English-speaking states. And anyway, the past is a foreign country. Moreover, the rules which applied in feudal post-conquest England were introduced by the conquerors, who were Frenchified French-speaking Northmen; the original pre-conquest Anglo-Saxons had very different rules. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jan 9, 2023 at 6:33
  • $\begingroup$ That's why the source I included went back to the 1200s. Post Norman Conquest and definitely Medieval. $\endgroup$ Jan 9, 2023 at 7:02

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .