1. NomNomKing123
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    NomNomKing123 New Member

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    Adopted children becoming the heir to a kingdom?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by NomNomKing123, Feb 1, 2016.

    In a medieval fantasy novel (possibly series of novels) that i am writing, a major character and the king of a kingdom adopts/fosters a child. This king's wife dies before they could have any biological children, and I need to know if this adopted child could be the heir in historical context. In the end I really need this adopted child to be the heir and so she will become the queen, but i want to know if this happened historically and how often it happened.

    (The king in my story has nephews who could be his heirs, but I am planning on one being exiled and the other not being able to become king for other reasons.)

    I am planning on having the king be assassinated at the end of the book(s) but things may change. However, my plan is for the king to not have any biological children, and so I need the king's adopted daughter to become queen. I know historically daughters would not become the ruling monarch, but that is beside the point.

    Also, how often did medieval kings usually rule for? I know that lifespans were slightly shorter back then, but did kings retire or did they usually rule until they died of old age/assassination

    Thanks for any responses on the topic
     
  2. X Equestris
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    X Equestris Contributing Member Contributor

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    I can't recall any medieval examples, but at a few points in the Roman Empire, emperors chose capable men and adopted them, making them heirs. Really though, since this is a fantasy novel, you can make up succession laws for the kingdom. Maybe someone who is adopted is considered as legitimate as a true born heir, or maybe the monarch can designate a successor of his/her choosing without regard for blood.

    As for length of reign, I'd say there are too many factors to give a good average.

    You mention nephews. Is their father (or perhaps mother, if the king had a sister) still alive?
     
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  3. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't see why you need historical justification. You're already breaking pretty much the number one rule of heirarchy by making a female the ruling monarch. And you're writing a fantasy. If you're going to break one historic rule, I don't see why you shouldn't break another. :p Do whatever you want.
     
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2016
  4. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    To my knowledge, most Kings ruled until death. That may have been largely due to shorter lifespans (affected by many things like health, war, and politics). Traditionally, adopted children were not in the running for heir because the idea was to maintain the royal gene pool. (Though they didn't know about genes, it was the logic behind the idea.) Even if one were exiled, if he were the only legitimate heir to the thrown, he could be called back. Although, from my studies, there is almost always an heir due to strategic royal marriages. This is how French, English, and German Monarchs came to hold so much power and territory at various points in history. It also lead to a lot of tension and war.

    Now, it seems like you've got your mind made up for what you would like to do with your fictional world, so it stands to reason that you can write your own laws of succession. You could even write that the current king has changed the laws so to protect his family's status in case he fails to produce a true heir. It seems to me like you're looking for confirmation. I would say tell the story as best you can. Unless you are writing about a specific kingdom in a specific point in time, I doubt there are really many restraints.
     
  5. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    Yeah, if it's your own world, I say do whatever you want with it. If you want to make it a society that'd accept an adopted child ascending to the throne, go for it. If you want it to be an issue and there are other relatives who'd be contending for the throne, do that; if you want it to just be a given that the adopted kid has that right, do that. It's your universe. As far as I'm aware adoption wasn't much of a thing back in the day, and as others mentioned matriarchs weren't typically a thing, so I don't see this being the one issue that'd challenge suspension of disbelief if that's your concern.
     
  6. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Kings rule for life. (I'm sure that there must be exceptions, but that's always been my understanding.) And the short lifespan in the medieval era was in large part due to infant mortality; someone who reaches adulthood could lead a normal lifespan, especially someone in a pampered situation like a king.

    Historically, it wouldn't be usual for an adopted child to rule. Would the king perhaps go to the trouble to pretend that this woman was his biological child?
     
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  7. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    1/ As has been mentioned, the Roman Empire quite happily adopted children who went on to inherit the adoptive father's position, insofar as it was heritable.

    2/ After the death of Edward the Confessor in 1066, the Witenagemot elected Harold as king, although Edgar the Aetheling was still alive (and living abroad, where his father had fled upon the death of Edmund) and the "legitimate" heir, being a grandson of King Edmund Ironside (Edward the Confessor's half-brother).

    Harold's claim to power rested largely upon a death-bed "gift" by Edward...together with the fact that he was the most powerful noble, and the most capable.

    3/ Women aren't ruling monarchs...

    Matilda was declared heir presumptive by her father Henry I, and ruled England for about 6 months in 1141.

    4/ Kings don't rule for life...

    Aethelred the Unready went into exile in 1013 when defeated by Sweyn Forkbeard, and returned 1014 upon Sweyn's death. He himself died 2 years later.

    Stephen seized the throne of England in 1135, basing his right on being grandson of William I, and despite Henry's naming Matilda as heir-presumptive. He was deposed in 1141 by Matilda, who reigned for about 6 months before Stephen reclaimed the throne, and then ruled until his death in 1154, while Matilda lived until 1167.

    Louis VIII of France ruled from 1216-1217 (gained by right of conquest) but withdrew in 1217 and returned to France, where he lived until 1226.

    Henry VI ruled from 1422-1424 (at the age of 1!) and again in 1461, before dying in 1471.

    Edward IV, who seized the throne from Henry VI, ruled until 1470, when Henry seized the crown back.

    5/ Kings led a normal lifespan, or longer due to their pampered lifestyle...

    Age at death of Kings of England from the conquest to the Tudors. I've included Henry the Young King because a) he ruled jointly with his father, to illustrate that "appointment" was done, and b) because he, too, would have led the pampered life of a king.

    William I 59
    William II 42
    Henry I 67
    Stephen 58
    Matilda 65
    Henry II 56
    Henry the Young King 28
    Richard I 41
    John 49
    Louis 39
    Henry III 65
    Edward I 68
    Edward II 43
    Edward III 64
    Richard II 33
    Henry IV 45
    Henry V 36
    Henry VI 49
    Edward IV 40
    Edward V 12
    Richard III 32
    Average 47

    NOBODY made three-score and ten years...and Richard was a particularly unlucky name to give your heir!
     
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2016
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  8. storystitcher
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    storystitcher Member

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    An adopted child would not be heir by default, the king would have to declare the child his heir in his will/testament (not sure which term is right here). That heir's future rule might not be very stable with two other possible claimants hanging about (even if they are in exile).

    Some kings abdicated (I'm fairly sure Charles V of Spain did), but most ruled until they died/were kicked off the throne.

    Depends what you mean by a 'normal' lifespan. Without modern medicine I doubt many people would have lived beyond 60-70 years. A pampered lifestyle could led to a shorter, rather than longer, life. The nobility ate vast quantities of meat and very few vegetables (which they considered peasant food). The doctors/physicians of the nobility often did more harm than good. For example Henry VIII's third wife, Jane Seymour, died after giving birth of an infection which could have been prevented if only she'd been attended by a regular midwife rather than the inexperienced royal doctors. That's an Early Modern rather than Medieval example, but you see my point.

    Obviously since this is fantasy you can twist the facts whichever way you want, but in my opinion if you want to get that medieval 'feel' to your world, its important to do a little research first.
     
  9. Greenwood
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    Greenwood Active Member

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    Even in medieval history there were many variants to the line of succession, although none of them included adopted sons. Of course, if the adopted child was to come from some part of the family which would give him a place in the line of succession, this rule of excluding adoption would not count. Inheritance was always granted to blood, and was not meritocratic as was quite common practice in the Roman Empire.

    Some held a system of primogeniture, in which the eldest son of the late monarch would inherit the throne. Eldest sons went before younger sons, but younger sons went before all daughters.

    Under Salic law, as was practiced in the Frankish Kingdom, agnetic succession was practice, which basically ment that the kingdom would be divided between all male heirs having a claim to the throne. During the Merovingian and Karolingian dynasties, this often happened, leading to civil wars, dividing and reunification of the Frankish Realms, and in the end, to the formation of France (West-Francia) Germany (East-Francia) and the long-gone Lotharingen (Middle-Francia). The respective states later went over to primogeniture.

    As said, none of the medieval kingdoms had adopted children as heirs to the throne. If you don't want to deviate from this period and customs, your succession is not possible, unless, as storystitcher said, the king had it written in his will that the adopted son was to be elevated into the royal family. This would almost certainly lead to civil war. Since this is fantasy after all, one way I can think of how you can do this is to somehow include meritocracy into your world, perhaps as a last resort when primogeniture fails the succession. This way, since the king's nephews are not illegible, your adopted son may be crowned through this practice. Just a thought though.
     
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2016
  10. Iogairn
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    Iogairn New Member

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    I could be wrong but I believe Richard II adopted Henry IV as his heir, though admittedly it was forced and Henry was his cousin. Also, women could rule as monarchs (Matilda of Normandy, Isabella of Castile, Mary and Elizabeth Tudor etc) but only if there were no possible close male heirs (though I understand that there are different laws in different countries). As has been mentioned, Charled V Hapsburg abdicated, leaving the Holy Roman Empire to his brother Ferdinand and Spain to his son Philip.
     
  11. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    No, not actually. The average lifespan at the time would have been around 50 maybe a little less. And a king would be at risk for everything that plagues the underclass today. That is, he would almost certainty be overweight, and would have suffered from everything from hyper-tension to congestive heart problems.
    http://johnhawks.net/weblog/reviews/life_history/age-specific-mortality-lifespan-bad-science-2009.html
     
  12. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, I suppose I was responding to what I saw as the primary misunderstanding about life expectancy. It makes sense that correcting that primary misunderstanding would then leave the field open for secondary misunderstandings.

    My main point is that if it serves the purpose of the story, the king could certainly live to what we see as "old" without being implausible. If his whole family did, that becomes implausible again.
     
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  13. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, Edward II of England didn't exactly die in bed . . . Just sayin'. :supershock:
     
  14. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Quite a few of them didn't...like Richard III on Bosworth field...just another of the perks of their pampered lifestyle.

    Henry, the young king, for instance, died of dysentery (so, technically, in his bed!) whilst campaigning against the father who had appointed him joint king...
     
  15. terobi
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    terobi Contributing Member

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    This is absolutely up to you. If it's a fictional monarchy, then the rules can work exactly how you want them to, as long as you're consistent with it.

    Hell, you can even make a point of noting that the king has changed the law specifically to allow the adopted daughter to become his successor. Rules of succession can be changed, and indeed the British monarchy did just that a few years ago, changing the rules so that the eldest child rather than the eldest male takes priority.

    Or maybe adoption is something that is a regular and accepted part of the monarchy and aristocracy in this world; that might raise some interesting subplots. A similar system operates in modern Japan; businessmen regularly adopt promising young employees into their family so that they can take over the "family" business.

    I actually wrote a post all about orders of succession on my worldbuilding blog last year (I should probably start writing that again, I'd almost forgotten it existed).
     
  16. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    Yes, to all of this.
     
  17. Moth
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    If it's fantasy, it's entirely up to you. But you'll have to make sure it's internally logical to your fantasy world.

    Since the throne is passing from father to adopted son, it's obvious that it would be a family-inherited thing. What you have to decide is if the culture and history of that kingdom is bloodline-related or dynastic. If it's bloodline, then the closest blood relative would have the strongest claim to the throne (if not a son, an uncle or distant cousin. Male or female, again depending on your world). Dynastic is more lenient, it's less about blood-ties and more about the family name itself. If the king has no sons of his own and no-one he trusts in his close family to pass his title on to, he could select someone he believes would make a good ruler to adopt.

    Ultimately, it's all on you. History can inspire you, but don't forget that you're practically God in this universe you've created. The rules are yours to make, they've just got to be consistent and believable.
     
  18. Oscar Leigh
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    I have a epic fantasy story with an adopted heir. There are three reasons why it works in the context. The first is that the king is a pragmatist, so cares less about bloodlines and more about the fact that he has raised this child as his heir. He is exceptionally suited. The second is that he was a warlord before he became an established king, so he's a dictator. The third is that Apharael's family is from elsewhere, nobody's really seen them around, they're busy raiding people and they don't really count as true heirs because this line starts with him.
     
  19. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have a character who is adopted by King Vima Kadphises the (actual) king of Bactria (Afghanistan). However he is adopted as nephew to elevate his social status from commoner to royalty, so he can marry the king's daughter after he rescues her. He is, however, specifically precluded from succession. The Romans suggest this as his solution... the man is head of the palace guard, Ranissa has been in love with him since she was 14, and resists all her father's attempt to "maneuver her as his marriageable pawn on his royal chessboard." She is a bit of a strong-willed tomboy. Adoption was not unheard of in Bactria, but happened so seldom in the royal line the king had to research the law and tradition to determine how it worked.

    This of course was my opportunity to fantasize, as there is unfortunately very little in surviving literature from the Kushan empire! For a few chapters I could do pretty much what I wanted, as long as I kept the summer capital in Bagram and the winter capital in Purushapura (Peshawar).
     
  20. Domino355
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    Domino355 Contributing Member

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    From what is known about medival heirloom, it is possible that an adopted daughter would become heir, but I see it more like Edward the Confessor's death. He may appoint her, but she will have no easy time holding the throne and will probably have to fight for it (if you were looking for plot complication, then there it is
     

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