- The princess in question is even more likely than usual to be subject to Arranged Marriage and Altar Diplomacy. Good luck being allowed to Marry for Love when your choice will determine the future ruler of the kingdom.
- Ambitious people will Compete for the Maiden's Hand, possibly through an Engagement Challenge (or by winning a Standard Hero Reward, since the princess who is usually included may come packaged with a ticket to inherit).
- The more villainous suitors may tell the princess that Now You Must Marry Me, like it or not. This can work even if the villain has already taken over the kingdom, because The Usurper may gain legitimacy by marrying the previous king's heir.
- Alternatively, a villain may simply want a princess dead so that her potential nuptials can't cause a Passed-Over Inheritance or turn someone into a Returning Rightful King.
- If the marriage greatly changes the financial situation of one of the parties, things like Nobility Marries Money and Rags to Royalty may be in play. Money, not the throne, might be someone's main motive—people may see a princess as a Meal Ticket, or an Impoverished Patrician may trade on lineage to achieve success as a Gold Digger.
- Princesses who don't know that they're princesses can still be subject to this, so when people get a Really Royalty Reveal, it may coincide with learning that someone wants them married/dead because of this trope.
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- Because Tendo Soun from Rumiko Takahashi's Ranma ½ has only three daughters and no sons, there is a danger that his fine dojo will become nothing more than a legacy holding to his sons-in-law. This is his principal reason for advocating the courtship of his youngest daughter Akane to his old friend's son, Saotome Ranma: Ranma is an accomplished martial artist who would have a keen interest in keeping a thriving dojo.
Film - Animated
- In Disney's Aladdin, this the plan of Jafar, the Evil Chancellor. By using his magic on the Sultan, he plans to secure a marriage to Princess Jasmine, the sultan's daughter, and gain the throne through his marriage to her. It doesn't seem that he intends for his new wife to live long after his ascension.
Iago: You marry the princess, all right? [...] Then you become the sultan! [...] And then, we drop papa-in-law and the little woman off a cliff.
- In Shrek, Lord Farquaad wanted to marry Princess Fiona solely because it would make him a king. When he discovers about Fiona's curse, he plans to keep her locked away and never be seen again. Unfortunately for him, his reign doesn't last too long before he becomes dragon food.
- In The Swan Princess, Rothbart's motive for cursing Odette is blackmailing her into marrying him. He Handwaves the question of why he doesn't just take over the kingdom with magic, saying that if he's the legitimate king he won't have to spend his life defending the position. (Because nobody will object to an exiled criminal suddenly marrying the recently-orphaned princess?)
- Odette and Derek's whole betrothal is basically a double version of this, as their parents want to combine their two kingdoms.
Film - Live Action
- Terry Gilliam's film version of Jabberwocky has Dennis given this as his Standard Hero Reward, although he doesn't actually want it. He has an Unrequited Love for his peasant neighbour Griselda, who is generally unpleasant to him.
- In Maleficent, Stephan becomes king by marrying the former king's daughter. She doesn't rule and barely even has a presence in the story.
- In Curse of the Golden Flower the Emperor is heavily implied to be this. He was a brilliant and recently widowed general who appeared to marry the previous emperor's only daughter, the now Empress. But he had to get rid of his beloved first wife to do so.
- In Sean Russell's The Initiate Brother, Nishima is not only the most visible heir to the previous imperial dynasty, she's the ward of a powerful lord who is not on good terms with the current one. As such, she's an obvious focus for discontent, and the general assumption is that whoever marries her will be put forward as a challenger to the Emperor with her lineage as an excuse. By the end of the story, however, Nishima has actually become Empress in her own right, unmarried.
- The Children of the Black Sun trilogy features confusion between a culture where this can happen and one where it can't. Mira is the daughter of a clan chief, and a Mesentreian noble thinks that bargaining with the clan to marry her is the same thing as securing eventual rulership for himself. Ricalani clans don't actually work like that, and all he'd get out of the marriage is Mira herself, but unfortunately for Mira, her clan is quite happy to take advantage of his misunderstanding and strike a deal.
- A Song of Ice and Fire:
- Ramsay Snow has used marriage twice to acquire (or legitimise his acquisition) of power. One of theses instances utilizes trickery — he claims to be married to Arya Stark, strengthening his position in the lands the Starks used to rule, but in fact, the girl in question is not Arya Stark at all, but is actually Jeyne Poole posing as Arya.
- Lord Tywin's desire for Tyrion to go through with a marriage to another member of the Stark family, Sansa, has a similar rationale. Robb Stark goes so far as to disinherit Sansa to stop her marriage being used as an excuse for House Lannister to rule the North.
- Ironically, this trope once applied to the Lannisters themselves. When an old Lannister king died without male heirs, his son-in-law took the Lannister surname and was crowned as the first King of the Rock (the old royal title of the Lannisters before the Conquest) of Andal descent.
- There is also the tale of the Lannister's mythical progenitor Lann the Clever, who originally took the Rock from the Casterlys (now only remembered for the name Casterly Rock). While folklore attributes the feat to many elaborate scams, they all boil down to "impregnating and marrying the last Lord's daughter."
- Alys Karstark runs away from home to Castle Black in order to prevent herself from being married to her Evil Uncle who wants to inherit her title and home, the Karhold, when her brother dies (an event which they don't intend to be very far off) and who she fears will murder her as soon as she gives him an heir. Alys agrees to marry the Magnar of Thenn in an alliance brokered by Jon Snow, which he does to save Alys from her Evil Uncle (who comes after her to carry her off against her will) and so she can retake her home, the Karhold. They form a new house — House Thenn.
- Generally in this verse, however, an in-law is not considered a "full" heir but receives the title of Lord Protector. This is a regential title that allows one to rule until a heir who is related by blood to the ruling house matures. There are two Lords Protector in the books, Petyr Baelish of the Vale and Ser Bronn of the Blackwater.
- The Bishop's Heir (one of the Deryni books) features a king who, troubled by rebellion in one of the territories he rules, tries to resolve it by marrying the heir of its former rulers (whether she wants it or not). It doesn't really go according to plan. Somewhat unusually for this kind of story, the person insisting on the marriage is the protagonist.
- The Riftwar Cycle has two cases where the marriage-causes-demotion variant is relevant:
- In the Empire Trilogy, Mara is the Unexpected Successor to the leadership of House Acoma, but for political and social reasons, it's expected that she will marry someone and transfer lordship to him. She chooses a well-connected but easy-to-manipulate husband, which works for a while, but his abusiveness and incompetence eventually prompts her to navigate him into a situation where he publicly loses honour and has to kill himself, reverting formal control back to her. She later has other romantic arrangements, but doesn't marry and keeps her position.
- In the Riftwar Saga, the relationship between Tomas and Queen Aglaranna of the elves is of worry to the latter's people, since they think he might try to make himself king through it. In the end, however, he just becomes her consort, and her child by a previous relationship remains heir.
- A Brother's Price contains a gender-flipped version, owing to the setting's Gender Rarity Value. Society is matriarchal, but a father with royal blood confers status, and the protagonist is kidnapped to be such.
- In King's Quest: The Floating Castle (part of the King's Quest franchise), a villain is keeping an underage princess prisoner in order to ensure he's the one to marry her when she's old enough.
- In Fiona McIntosh's Quickening trilogy, King Celimus tries to put the queen of a neighbouring kingdom in a position where she has little option but to marry him. Naturally, he's not intending to rule together with her.
- The Deverry books feature a case where, upon the death of a king, his three mutually antagonistic sons-in-law make bids for power. They stop short of proclaiming themselves kings, but do advance claims to be regent for the "rightful" king, their own respective sons (the old king's grandsons).
- Engagement Challenges in Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms work this way. Most of the winners are of royal blood themselves, but the King of Otraria (from The Fairy Godmother) was born common and elevated to crown prince when he married the princess.
- In The Queen's Thief series, the Queen of Attolia was a minor princess whose fiancé plotted to take the throne by killing her brother, the heir. Once that was done, the fiancé would seize power through her, except that he and his father discussed these plans around her openly, so she poisoned him at their wedding and took the throne herself. However, because Attolia is pretty sexist, the country remained unstable so long as her barons thought they could marry her and seize power themselves, forcing her to enact a brutal regime until she married Eugenides, who puts in enough kinging that she can maintain her rule without a problem.
- This is the plan in The Horse and His Boy. A Calormene prince wants to marry Queen Susan of Narnia so he'll be able to take over the country.
Live Action TV
- In the backstory of the Korean Drama Emperor Wang Guhn, King Hunnan had two daughters but no sons, so he looked for an appropriate suitor amongst his knights who would then become king of Silla (pre-Korea Korea). The one chosen actually prefers the younger daughter, but he marries the older daughter because that's the only way he'd become king.
Religion and Mythology
- Historically, The Prophet Muhammad had no living sons, but had at least one daughter, Fatima. Fatima was married to Ali, Muhammad's cousin, and according to Shiite Muslims, he was Muhammad's proper heir, followed by their sons (who were, of course, Muhammad's grandsons). Different branches continue to follow Ali's descendants, whether they're still around (Ismailis/"Seveners") or a Messianic Archetype believed to currently be in hiding. Averted by Sunni Muslims, who don't believe that leadership of the Muslim community has to be hereditary.
- In Greek mythology, Menelaus, prince of Mycenae, becomes king of Sparta through marriage to princess Helen after her stepfather and brothers die. Thus he also had a political motive for getting Helen back, since she was the justification for his own position.
- In King's Quest VI, the Evil Vizier has killed the king and queen and is trying to force their daughter to marry him. He doesn't care about the real princess, being willing to achieve his ends with a shapeshifting genie if required. In the end, the hero marries the princess instead.
- Dragon Age: Origins features Anora, the king's widow. It's a semi-Elective Monarchy, so marrying Anora doesn't automatically grant rulership, but it would provide a public relations bonus and a sense of continuity. It's possible for her to become co-monarch with her late husband's half-brother, joining their respective claims. Player characters who are noblemen can talk Anora into marriage themselves, but lacking royal blood, they only get to be Prince-Consort. (A third option just has Anora become queen regnant in her own right, without remarrying at all.)
- In The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords, the plan to take over the kingdom begins with kidnapping Princess Zelda for marriage purposes.
- In Valkyria Chronicles, Prince Maximillian's plan to take over Gallia involves forcing its princess to marry him.
- In Crusader Kings the downplayed trope is very common, as characters get a prestige bonus from marrying landed characters or their close relatives (whether they are set to inherit or no). Otherwise this trope is averted as females either can't inherit at all (under completely agnatic systems) or inherit fully as rulers (agnatic-cognatic or fully cognatic systems) with whoever they marry being their spouse and nothing more or less. It is possible to marry female rulers in order to put your dynasty on the throne from the next generation onwards (and is the norm) but your character does not gain any influence in your spouse's realm simply by marrying her (until they die and you start playing their heir, at any rate).
- In Al-Qadim: The Genie's Curse, the Caliph's daughter is due to marry a son of the Al-Hazrad family (you, the protagonist). However, the Al-Hazrads' genie nearly drowns the Caliph in a storm, and he decides that his soon-to-be in-laws aren't content with just securing the marriage — they want the him out of the way so that they seize the throne. The Caliph accepts that the you were ignorant of the plot yourself, since you helped rescue him, but the other Al-Hazrads are imprisoned.
- This is the norm in The Royal Trap, with it being a matter of law that sons-in-law take precedence even over actual sons. Marrying an eldest daughter makes you heir, while the sons who would be heirs in a more traditional set-up have to go princess-hunting in the hopes of becoming king of somewhere that way.
- Formal, codified systems of royal inheritance tend not to use this idea—those which don't let princesses inherit tend to send the throne to a male cousin (who does have royal blood) rather than sending it to a princess's husband (who doesn't). That said, plenty of people have pressed claims based on their marriages anyway, and if they had the bigger army, sometimes got away with it. A man could legally get a title through his wife, but would hold it jure uxoris ("by right of his wife" or "in right of a wife"). Legally the husband and wife would equally hold the title, rather than the husband taking the whole thing, but sometimes he could take it in the case of her death or even divorce. Morganatic marriages explicitly don't confer any rights on the person of lower status, so are sometimes used to avoid any potential for this sort of thing.
- Specific examples from English history:
- William III became King of England through his marriage to Mary II, initially as co-monarch rather than sole monarch. However, he continued to rule after her death rather than make way for her heirs, as he would have done had he just been a consort. It probably helped that William was also the next male in the line of succession as Mary's first cousin, and that he took the throne in what was essentially a coup d'etat.
- The Tudor claim to the throne of England and France comes from two instances of this—Henry VII's marriage to Elizabeth of York as well as the marriage by Princess Katherine of France (widow of Henry V) to Owen Tudor. Another case of succession through having the larger army.
- The negotiations that preceded the marriage of Mary I of England and Philip of Spain were intended to ease English fears that this trope would hand ownership of England over to the Habsburgs. Under common law of the time, any property and titles held by a woman became her husband's upon marriage. Parliament demanded that Philip only receive the title of King of England for the duration of Mary's life, with no right to succeed her.
- Later on in history, Albert was the Prince Consort of Queen Victoria, but Parliament passed a law to prevent him from repeating William's actions.
- Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, inherited or was elected to many titles in his own right, but claimed the title King of Jerusalem by virtue of marrying Yolande, the heir of the Crusader States. Yolande was very young and not acting as ruler in her own right. What power she had in her name was exercised by her father John, acting as Regent. Upon their marriage, Frederick immediately declared himself in charge of her territory and dismissed her father. Yolande never reached adulthood—she lived only long enough to give birth to an heir and die in the process.
- This was a sore spot between Mary Queen of Scots and her husband, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. While Darnley was officially the King of Scotland, with his name coming before Mary's on government documents and his face appearing on coinage, she was the queen and he the consort. Darnley was constantly badgering Mary and the Scottish Parliament to bestow him with the Crown Matrimonial, which would have allowed him to inherit the throne and rule in his own right if Mary died. Darnley's ambition to rule Scotland in place of his wife was enough that Catherine de Medici, Queen Mother of France, wondered if it affected his feelings toward his and Mary's son, whose claim to the succession trumped his.