Often, if a work wants to portray a decaying or at least very old kingdom with entrenched rulers, they will have a leader who has a numbernote
, after their name (Eg. King Bob IX). These are always written in Roman numerals and the large ones can actually be Truth in Television
: France, for example, had 18 Kings Louisnote
Often a case of successive generations of Dead Guy Junior
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- Played straight in the Gene Catlow fanfic The Basalt City Chronicles, in which Priest-Emperor Zaykar Kh'Naral is the 24th of that name. His grandfather was Rraghan Kh'Naral CDLXVII (The 467th). It's said that their dynasty reaches back into prehistoric times.
- In the first Planet of the Apes sequel, Beneath the Planet of The Apes, this is the case with the Mendez rulers of the mutant group in the buried remains of NYC. Mendez XXVI is the last one.
- Pteppic in the Discworld book Pyramids is Pteppicymon XXVIII when he takes the throne (however briefly). That's a reference to the Real Life pharaohs of Egypt; the last pharaoh was Ptolemy XV, Caesar's son by Cleopatra. But the Ptolemies ruled only in the Ptolemaic Dynasty, which lasted about 250 years (and not all the Ptolemaic pharaohs were named Ptolemy!); before the Ptolemies were more than thirty-five previous dynasties and interstitial rules, dating back no less than three thousand years. And that's an incomplete list.
- Elric of Melniboné is the eighth monarch to bear that name, and the 428th Emperor of Melnibone. His father was Sadric LXXXVI.
- Melnibone did last over ten thousand years, after all.
- Dune makes a good example. It's the year 10,191 of the Galactic Empire, and the current monarch is Shaddam IV, 81st Padishah Emperor. It's never explained within the original novel who exactly the previous three Shaddams were.
- The Dune Encyclopedia has a list of every Emperor along with the dates of their reigns. Shaddam IV's immediate predecessors were Fredhrick XIX, Corrin XXV and Elrood IX. Shaddam III reigned 4200 years before Shaddam IV, Shaddam II was some 3000 years before that, and Shaddam I reigned 2400 years before him. Shaddam IV was the 81st "Padishah" Emperor, but the 370th Emperor of the Known Universe.
- The final emperor is Leto II, though his namesake was just a duke. You see, his father Paul, son of Leto I, overthrew Shaddam IV.
- In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, due to an incident involving a prophylactic and a time-machine, all Zaphod Beeblebroxes are numbered backwards, with the youngest being "Zaphod Beeblebrox I", his father "Zaphod Beeblebrox II", grandfather "Zaphod Beeblebrox III" and so on. A maverick judge in the third novel, who lived millions of years ago, is known as Zipo Bibrok 5x108, i.e. Zipo Bibrok (an underlined D), implying that he is a very distant ancestor. Er, descendant.
- The Empire-Foundation novels of Isaac Asimov have a few examples in the Galactic Empire's 12,000-year history.
- Swemmel II, an early monarch named in Pebble in the Sky, Swemmel VII, his not-as-impressive namesake.
- Millennia later, the final Trantorian emperor Dagobert IX, and his insane son who never gets a chance to become Dagobert X.
- From what is revealed, the most common name amongst them is Agis (fourteen to be precise). Like the previous examples Agis XIV is nothing like his namesakes, though he didn't really want the job.
- Cleon II in Foundation in Empire, who took his name in memory of Cleon I, under whom the Empire reached its zenith. In contrast with the aforementioned examples, Cleon II likely surpassed his namesake, as Cleon I was not a forceful monarch and he preferred letting his First Ministers do the real governing, but Cleon II was a very active and powerful emperor.
- Titus Groan is the 77th Earl of Gormenghast.
- Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness has Argaven XV of Karhide, latest of a dynasty that has lasted 700 years or so. There were a lot of kings before them, though.
- In the short story Winter's King all the kings of Karhide who aren't called Argaven are called Emran. King Argaven XVII commits to taking back the throne when she finds out that the corrupt Emran, Argaven's child who is now older than her because Argaven has been off-planet and been affected by time dilation, has chosen an heir with neither of the traditional names. '"The kings of Karhide are called Emran," said Argaven, "and Argaven."'
- In John Ringo's and David Weber's Empire of Man (aka Prince Roger) space opera series, the 500-year-old dynasty has had ten Emperors and eight Empresses. All Empresses but the first have been named Alexandra — Prince Roger's mother is the seventh. His sister is also named Alexandra. One of his middle names is Alexander.
- Cordwainer Smith's Norstrilia had Roderick McBan CLI.
- In the Worldwar series by Harry Turtledove, the Race is governed by a 50,000 year old imperial dynasty headed by the Ssumaz family. The current emperor is "37th Emperor Risson".
- Fighting Fantasy gives us King Salamon LVII of the city-state of Salamonis.
- Averted in Deltora Quest, in which there does not seem to have been more than one monarch with the same name in the country's history. Although the series does end by revealing that Lief and Jasmine named their one of their sons after his father, he is either a second or third son (his brother is named after Jasmine's father, in an aversion of Dead Guy Junior) and likely won't become king.
- Variation in Codex Alera. The First Lord is Gaius Sextus and the deceased heir was Gaius Septimus, meaning the First Lord is Gaius the 6th and the deceased heir is Gaius the 7th. This becomes a plot point in determining the next heir to the crown Tavi is short for Octavian, aka Gaius the 8th.
- Rafik Schami's fictional city of Morgana is technically a democracy with an elected president but practically always ruled by a member of the family Hadahek (a very large and costantly feuding family). At first, the presidents were numbered (President Hadahek LIII) but people soon got fed up with the increasing numbers, and added adjectives intead (President Hadahek the Brave) until they ran out of adjectives. Currently they name their presidents according to their hobbies (President Hadahek the Toy-Collector)
- Parodied in Verhalen van de tweelingbroers by Tonke Dragt, when one of the main characters suddenly becomes King of Tirania, he has, despite being named Laurenzo, to adopt the name of Sutan the 467thnote , because all his predecessors have borne that name as well. There being actually two Sutans the 467th isn't reflected in the numbering, though.
- In the Belgariad novels, the ruler of Tolnedra is always referred to as Ran [House] [Number] of the [Number] [House] Dynasty (If a given Emperor died without male issue, a different noble house would start a new dynasty rather than passing the throne to a brother, nephew or cousin of the previous emperor, with the throne often returning to a house that had held the throne at some other point in history). Arguably subverted when General Varana of House Anadile was adopted as the son of Ran Borune XXIII and took the throne as Ran Borune XXIV instead of Ran Anadile I.
- The Kings of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men in A Song of Ice and Fire do this, sometimes more formally as "the Nth of his name." Since the books are set at the beginning of a new dynasty that comes from a different naming culture than the founding dynasty, most of the kings we actually see are only the first of their name, but the previous Targaryen dynasty had racked up five Aegons, two Viseryses, two Jaeheryses, and two Aeryses.
- Balon Greyjoy is apparently the ninth of his name.
- While the exact number isn't known, the Starks have had a tradition of naming one son Brandon in every generation... going back 8,000 years to Brandon the Builder. Even if only one generation in five had a Bran in charge, and if the average reign was 20 years, that would make the current Bran Stark (who is, in theory, the King in the North after Robb died at the Red Wedding) the 80th of his name
- There's also brief mention of two kings of the Reach: Garth XII and Mern IX of House Gardener. The latter was the final king of the Reach, at the time of Aegon's Conquest.
- Assorted royal characters in the medieval fantasy Tales of the Branion Realm. Since the series spans four centuries, certain names get reused; Marsellus I and III are major characters in two different books, and princes named Marsellus feature in two more. Kassandras, Atreuses and Kathrines also appear frequently.
- Emperors of Arkon in the Perry Rhodan universe use this in conjunction with their family name. So, Atlan da Gonozal => Emperor Gonozal VIII (there were seven emperors of that family before him, including his father) or Gaumarol da Bostich => Emperor Bostich I.
- The Chronicles of Narnia has Prince Caspian, from the book of the same name, who ascends the Telmarine/Narnian throne as King Caspian X. We know his father was King Caspian IX, the rest of the Caspians are never mentioned.
- In The Lord of the Rings, the rulers of Gondor and Arnor and the dwarves of Durin's line followed this practice. The numbers don't get particularly high, at least on the family trees included in the appendices; only the Durins, which get to Durin VII and Last, get beyond III. Aragorn was Aragorn II as Chieftain of the North, but took a new name, Elessar, as king.
Live Action TV
- Mister Rogers' Neighborhood had King Friday XIII of the Land of Make-Believe.
- In Babylon 5, when Londo Mollari becomes Emperor of the Centauri Republic (as prophesied by Emperor Turhan's wife early on), he becomes "Emperor Mollari II;" evidently, Centauri Emperors are known by the names of their Houses (which, fittingly for the Romanesque Centauri, follows Roman practice), and House Mollari had previously provided one Emperor.
- In Farscape, Rygel XVI is a diminutive Dominar-in-exile of the Hynerian Empire, ruler of 600 billion subjects. He was overthrown by his cousin Bishan (whose number is not given) and remained in exile for over 130 cycles. He finally regains his throne in the follow-up graphic novel. His greatest hero is his ancestor Rygel I.
- Liz-Ten in Doctor Who is actually Queen Elizabeth X of Starship UK.
- Dungeons & Dragons features Vlaakith CLVII, Lich Queen of the Githyanki in the Planescape setting, and through Planescape in pretty much every other setting as well. This Vlaakith, by virtue of being an ancient undead abomination, has also ruled for at least a thousand years, although time doesn't exactly work the same way on their home plane.
- The founder of the Third Imperium in Traveller was Cleon Zhunastu I, apparently a Shout-Out to Foundation. His son was named Cleon II, but he abdicated the throne. Centuries later when his successor's dynasty died out the Imperial moot tracked down his distant descendant and named him Cleon III, unfortunately he turned out to be insane and was assassinated. Following emperors sometimes were numbered but due to changes in dynasty they rarely got to large numbers.
- Probably implied in Ruddigore. At the time of the play's setting, in the beginning of the 19th century, there are depending on how you look at it, either 22 or 23 "bad baronets" of Ruddigore. As the bulk of baronetcies were from the mid 1600s, it seems a bit short of time for their to have been that many of them. Likely, since they are cursed to die if they don't commit at least one evil act daily, they have a high turn-over rate.
- Chrono Trigger gives us King Guardia XXI, who rules his eponymous nation in the year 600 AD, and his descendent four centuries hence, King Guardia XXXIII.
- Kingdom of Loathing has King Ralph XI. Who constantly gets imprismed. By a magical, indestructible sausage that somehow keeps coming back.
- Metroid Prime 3 has this as a borderline Running Gag when you scan busts of Bryyo's ancient rulers found all over the planet... until you reach 'The last emperor of Bryyo'.
- The plot of the obscure puzzle game Blue Ice begins with the death of Edward the 712th.
- Princess Garnet is the 17th actually 18th person to hold that name. The game doesn't elaborate on how many people have held the name Brahne, but it can be assured that there won't be any more after the game's events.
- A lesser example from the same game, but the regent of Lindblum is Cid Fabool IX.
- The Elder Scrolls games have Emperor Uriel Septim VII, the last Emperor of the Septim Dynasty. (Not counting Martin, whose reign lasted the length of Oblivion's main quest.)
- Saga Frontier 2: Gustave XIII at least until he was proven to have no aptitude in Anima, who also had a younger half brother named Gustave.
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time has King Zora XVI ruling Zora's Domain; Twilight Princess is set about a century later and refers to a recently-deceased King Zora, who presumably had an even higher number.
- An accidental version in Warcraft III: Hero units all gets their own proper names (Gavinrad the Dire, Sage Truthbearer or Manadar the Healer for paladins, etc.) but if there are more heroes than there are names, the list rolls around with the new ones having II, III, etc. added to their names (highly unlikely unless every player picks the exact same heroes though, or is playing a custom map).
- One Strong Bad Email from Homestar Runner had Strong Bad mention that there were actually twelve King of Towns. And for some reason, the fourth King of Town was an onion.
- He was the most popular one.
- Erfworld has King Saline the Fourth (IV). Think about it.
- Girl Genius has Aaronev Wilhelm Sturmvoraus, also known as Aaronev VI, the Prince of Sturmhalten. It can only be presumed that if his son, Aaronev Tarvek Sturmvoraus, was allowed to remain in the city and became officially recognized as its ruler, he would be known as Aaronev VII.
- The minor character King Bushnik the Thirty-Third of Rocky and Bullwinkle seems to invoke this, but then it is revealed that he is the island's first king, who is called that because he lives on 33rd St.
- The song The Phony King of England from Robin Hood mentioned a suggestion that King John I should be now known as King John "the Worst!"
- There had been implied at least one "King John" prior, since the song goes "Too late to be known as John the First..."
- The singers may have been making the not too unrealistic assumption that John would never become king, having been born second and King Richard I still lived. Any children Richard had would have been in line for the throne ahead of John.
- Regnal numbering only began in 12th or 13th century Europe; numbers prior to this have been applied in retrospect by historians. Before this, monarchs were distinguished by nicknames, (e.g. the English kings Edmund the Magnificent and Edmund Ironside) or by paternity.
- This is why Edward Longshanks of The House of Plantagenet (r. 1272-1307) is called Edward I even though three previous Edwards (Edward the Elder, Edward the Martyr, and Edward the Confessor) had been King of England (well King of the English...) before the Norman Conquest of 1066.
- James I and James II are properly "James I and VI" and "James II and VII" (of England and Scotland respectively), double dipping this trope. Most of the other monarchs of the UK, both before and after the act of Union, haven't recycled names from before the Scottish and English thrones merged. Current protocol is that the higher number takes precedence, hence William IV, Edward VII, Edward VIII and Elizabeth II. Mary II is a slightly odd case since the number for England and Scotland matches up. Conveniently, since 1707, no monarch has had a name with a higher Scottish numbering than English, and the royals are unlikely to do so; thus we are unlikely to see David III, James VIII, or Robert IV on the throne anytime soon.
- There was some talk about the eldest son of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge being named Alexander, in which case he would have had to be "Alexander IV", but in the end he was named George (full name George Alexander Louis).
- The British monarchy is also relatively tame on this trope and none of the numbers have gotten into the double digits yet. Eight Henries and Edwards, seven Jameses and six Georges.
- Averted with, among others, King Stephen, King John and Queen Anne. No numbers since they're the only monarchs to bear that name on the English/British throne. Anne doesn't stand out since there haven't been that many reigning queens but Stephen hasn't been recycled since 1154. (Not all that surprising, since King Stephen reigned during a disastrous civil war and also was the first and only member of the House of Blois to sit on the English throne, without becoming part of the ancestry of his successors). Queen Anne, on the other hand, was quite a successful monarch, so the current queen had no problem using that name for her daughter.) Contrary to a popular misconception, the name John has been reused in the English and British royal family - for instance the current royals are all descended from John of Gaunt, son of Edward III, and the youngest son of George V was Prince John (1905-1919).
- Victoria has also not been recycled, but considering that she was relatively recent and that there has only been one queen regnant since her, this may not mean anything. It may be permanently unused to preserve the uniqueness, but then people thought the same thing about Elizabeth until 1952 (when the present monarch first learned of her accession, her personal secretary asked her, "By what name shall you be known?" expecting her to pick a different regnal namenote ; the ever-practical Queen surprised him and said, "My own, of course.")
- Prince Charles -whose full name is Charles Arthur Philip George- once said when he will reign he would be "King George VII", not "Charles III", as the two previous Kings named Charles had been rather unlucky. This means that his grandson will in all likelihood be George VIII (assuming he doesn't want to mess with people by becoming Alexander IV or Louis I).
- In the (now highly unlikely) event that Prince Harry became king, he would likely be Henry IX. (Although the last Henry was somewhat unsavoury, the alternatives are worse; his full name is "Henry Charles Albert David," considering that "Charles" is probably more of a no-no than "Henry"—see the bit about his dad—"Albert" is permanently reserved for Queen Victoria's Prince Consort, and "David" would not only require everyone to be confused about "David III" but would also remind his uncles about the other David—their late and unpleasant great-uncle Edward VIII, known to his family by that name.)
- Pope John XXIII (actually the 21st Pope of this name, due to some confusion in numbering; Antipopes make everything terrible - the 20th century John XXIII is also the second John XXIII). Also Benedict XVI, Gregory XVI, Pius XII, Leo XIII, Clement XIV, Innocent XIII. Before our current Pope Francis, the last Pope to have an original name was Lando (no, honestly!), reigned AD 913-914 (unless one counts "John Paul" as original).
- Interestingly, the first John Paul actually called himself "John Paul I" Latin , which means Francis is unquestionably the first since Lando not to have an ordinal.
- Also, there's confusion in the numbering of several papal names, including numbers that were mistakenly skipped over.
- Margaret of Mar (born 1940), 31st Countess of Mar and 24th Lady Garioch
- In fact, the French had approximately 18 kings named "Louis". And one Louis-Phillippe. Oh, and ten named Charles. The current heir to the house of Bourbon styles himself as Louis XX (Louis XIX having been the nominal last king of France for 20 minutes in 1830).
- Deliberately invoked from the 17th Century through to the French Revolution: every heir in direct line for the throne was given the first name Louis, for eight generations beginning with Louis XIII.note In fact, Louis XVI and Louis XVIII were brothers, both named Louis but with different middle names.
- There were also four Frankish kings named Clovis, which was an early form of the name that became Louis, so the real number could arguably be 22.
- Carl XVI Gustav of Sweden (although he is probably only the 10th king named Carl/Charles/Carolus - when Swedish kings first adopted regnal numbers in the 16th century, they based them on a history that was pretty much entirely fabricated for events before the 11th century, and this history listed a number of Charleses who likely never existed)
- Heinrich LXXII, Prince of Reuss-Lobenstein-Ebersdorf. But unlike with most European monarchies, his number does not indicate that he was preceded by 71 previous rulers also named Heinrich. By tradition, all male members of the House of Reuss are named Heinrich, and are numbered by order of birth within the family in general. In the Reuss Younger Line, the numbering system was reset at the beginning of each century; thus Heinrich LXXII's high number is directly related to his having been born at the very end of the 18th century (1797).
- Ancient Egypt was ruled by thirty-three separate dynasties over the course of 3,000 years.
- Surprisingly, only two names (Rameses and Ptolemy) were used more than 8 times (11 and 15, respectively). See, time is no excuse for lack of originality!
- The Cleopatra who wooed Caesar and Marc Antony was actually Cleopatra VII.
- Another real life example; the kings of Thailand, who have traditionally adopted the regnal name "Rama" since the late 18th century. The current monarch, Bhumibol Adulyadej, has the regnal name Rama IX.
- In the British peerage, a hereditary peer of the realm will be styled "The Nth Duke of Earl." If a title lapses and is later created again, the numbering starts over again. E.g., Andrew Russell is the 15th Duke of Bedford, of the Fifth Creation (1694) of that title; the First Creation was in 1414; and before that, there were two creations of Earls of Bedford, one of which remains as a subsidiary title of the Duke of Bedford; technically, the Duke of Bedford is the Nth+5 Earl of Bedford (as the Dukedom was created for the 5th Earl) so Andrew Russell is also the 20th Earl of Bedford. The Duke is also the 15th Marquess of Tavistock (the title was given to the 5th Earl at the same time as his dukedom); however, the person usually called the Marquess of Tavistock is the Duke's son Henry, by the use of courtesy titles. But wait, it gets confusing: simply because Andrew Russell is a duke with the additional title of earl with the name Russell does not mean that he is the "Earl Russell"; far from it, his distant cousin holds that title as Nicholas Russell, 6th Earl Russell, a peerage created for the junior line descending from John Russell, third son of the 6th Duke. Confusing enough? Well, Andrew (the Duke) also holds the title of Baron Russell originally awarded to their ancestor in 1539 for services to The House Of Tudor...which is not to be confused with the title Baron Russell of Liverpool, which belongs to the descendants of an unrelated Victorian and Edwardian-era journalist and Liberal politician (the 2nd Baron Russell of Liverpool and the 3rd Earl Russell sent a joint letter to The Times in 1951 clarifying that "that neither of us is the other").
- In the Eastern Ijaw Kingdoms of Nigeria (Okrika, Opobo, Bonny, Kalabari, Nembe), kingship is the property of a particular War Canoe House (a trading company), and with its Chief becoming the Monarch. Each monarch officially reigns under the House name, adopting the regnal number following his predecessor. Most of them are in the double digits now.
- Subverted with the actor David H. Lawrence XVII. He is not the seventeenth David H. Lawrence in his family... he is the seventeenth David H. Lawrence to be registered on IMDb.
- Matt Smith, who plays The Eleventh Doctor, managed to get the title of Matt Smith XI on IMDb as well.
- A similar numbering was also used in some armies to distinguish officers of the same name within one unit (or, ca. 1800, officers of the rank of colonel and above within the entire Russian army), or even privates within a regiment.
- The House of Savoy, formerly reigning over Italy, tried to do this with the names Vittorio Emanuele and Umberto, their last four kings being, in order, Vittorio Emanuele II (originally King of Sardinia, his minister Cavour managed to expand the state enough to claim kingship over Italy), Umberto I, Vittorio Emanuele III and Umberto II, with the heir and only male child being named Vittorio Emanuele. The situation is made more complex by the existence of three previous Umberto with the title of Count of Savoy, including the founder Umberto I the White-Handed. Other popular names were Amedeo (they got to Amedeo IX between counts and dukes, plus its presence as the second part of the regnal names of a duke, a duke-turned-king and a king) and regnal names containing Carlo and Vittorio as the first name and Emanuele as second.
- The Arab monarchies traditionally avert this—although names repeat, the tradition was to identify rulers as Fulan bin Allannote , there are two modern monarchies which are easing into this:
- Jordan is currently on Abdullah II, son of Hussein, who has named his son and heir Hussein, making "Hussein II" likely...and it's likely that Hassan II will name his son and heir (when he has one) "Abdullah."
- Morocco is already here; the current king is Muhammad VI, and has named his son Hassan after his father Hassan II.
- Note that it's an Arab tradition to name your eldest son after your father. Assuming Jordan and Morocco remain monarchies, we can look forward to some very high-numbered Husseins alternating with Abdullahs in Jordan and Hassans alternating with Muhammads in Morocco in the future...