Ruling Family Massacre

A Fantasy and Historical Fiction trope, where the first thing that follows a successful invasion or government overthrow is a thorough massacre of the target land's current ruling family, be it Royal Blood or just a noble house of whatever. The reasons for such brutality (even children are usually murdered alongside their parents) may be emotional, but it may also be simple shrewdness and pragmatism: La Résistance is inevitable, so why make their job easier by leaving a potential leader/banner alive?

This trope is naturally countered by a Hidden Backup Prince (if the ruling family in question is productive and prudent enough) or a Sole Survivor-slash-Last of Her Kind who somehow escapes the massacre.

A subtrope of The Purge. Also, this is a Death Trope that often makes a Wham Episode! You Have Been Warned.

Examples

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Attempted in the Back Story of the original Mobile Suit Gundam: to usurp the leadership of the space colonies, Degwin Sodo Zabi murdered their enlightened ruler Zeon Zum Deikun but failed to finish off his children Casval and Artesia, who were saved by an old family friend. The entire series can be also interpreted as one man's crusade to apply this trope back: Casval, now grown up and going by the new identity of Char Aznable, goes about systematically wiping out the Zabi family (with the ultimate prospects of becoming the new ruler of the space colonies).
  • Romeo X Juliet begins with the massacre of the Capulet family, with little Juliet being the only survivor.

    Comic Books 
  • In Black Moon Chronicles, Wismerhill does this to the leaders of one of the tribes that followed him when it turns out they'd started practicing Human Sacrifice despite his forbidding it. He specifically cites not wanting to deal with the heirs twenty years down the line when asked about the kids. He then tells the wimpy chancellor that he's in charge, and knows what's waiting for him...
  • Hellboy: The Wild Hunt reveals that, after King Arthur died in battle, his enemies tracked down and killed all of Arthur's legitimate and illegitimate sons. Unknown to them, Arthur also had a daughter, and she escaped unharmed. Hellboy's human mother was a direct descendant of that daughter.
  • As Plourr Ilo is an Expy of Anastasia, during her backstory her family was overthrown and then later slaughtered, though she and her little brother managed to escape. Though her brother immediately tried to tell the revolutionaries where she was.

    Fan Works 

    Film 
  • The main events of Kull the Conqueror are kicked off when the King starts to murder his heirs left and right, as well as anyone who may legitimately lay a claim to the throne. He manages to slaughter his immediate family before being stopped and mortally wounded by Kull. Slightly subverted in that there is a remote member of the family who immediately demands the crown, only to have the general (also of noble blood) to claim that it's his by right. The dying King decides to give them a final "screw you" by handing the crown to Kull. The high priest acknowledges that this makes Kull the new king, despite the fact that he's a barbarian.
  • Happens to the ruling family of the United Kingdom in a freak accident (they are all electrocuted while posing for a family photograph) at the beginning of King Ralph, which leaves a Las Vegas lounge singer as heir to the throne.
  • Part of the back story to The Court Jester; which ends with the rightful heir — the sole surviving royal baby — being enthroned.

    Literature 
  • A Brother's Price has this as a part of its backstory: The royal family split up, and the husband of the older sisters was infertile, so the younger sisters demanded that their children become heirs to the throne. This caused a civil war, after which the losing half was put to death. All of them. Except Prince Alannon, who didn't want to be a backup prince and chose to stay hidden. The main plot of the novel is some villains' attempt to overthrow the royal family by killing them all and using what weak claim to the throne a marriage to Alannon's grandson Jerin can provide to become Queens instead of the Queens.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire
    • In the Back Story, the Targaryen family that ruled Westeros for centuries had been all but wiped out by Robert Baratheon's rebels. Tywin Lannister sent his men to murder Prince Rhaegar's children as he had remained neutral during the war and wanted to establish his loyalty, though Ned Stark remained angry at Tywin for murdering children. Only two very young children were successfully smuggled to another continent by their retainers.
    • The infamous Red Wedding between Edmure Tully and Roslin Frey saw the traitorous houses of Frey and Bolton try to slaughter every member of the Starks, former ruling families of the North, to usurp said lands. It wasn't as successful as they wanted, because there were some Starks who were falsely presumed dead and thus not targeted. They also move against the Tullys but aren't actually planning to kill them all yet. Though they kill Edmure Tully's sister Catelyn they originally intended to keep her alive but after she goes insane murder her (which backfires on them horribly when she is resurrected). As for Edmure they keep him alive but imprisoned, though his wife fears her father will have Edmure killed if she bears him a son. Also one Tully did not attend the wedding at all (in the books) or took a lucky leak and escaped (in the series).
    • Aegon the Conqueror wiped out two ruling Houses, the Hoares and the Gardeners using his dragons. However when he killed Harren "The Black" Hoare and all their sons by burning their castle of Harrenhal he had the support of most of the Riverlands due to Harren being a brutal tyrant. As for Mern IX Gardener he and all his family were killed at the Field of Fire, the only survivor being a nephew who died from his wounds three days later.
  • The opening chapter of Black Trillium sees the Ruwendan royal family making a Last Stand during the sack of their capital by the neighboring Labornok. They are massacred by the Labornok troops off-screen, while the three Ruwendan princesses are being led to safety by their servants.
  • Attempted by Baron Harkonnen against House Atreides in Dune to usurp their place as the governors of Arrakis, but he only manages to kill Duke Leto, while his concubine and son (and unborn daughter) manage to escape the assassins and take their revenge.
    • Also, in the prequel books, an unnamed House attempted this by nuking the former Imperial capital world of Salusa Secundus. Some of the members of House Corrino were killed, but others survived and continued the line, moving the capital to Kaitain. In response, all the other Houses wiped out the unnamed House and had its name stricken from all history books. It turns out that House Moritani is secretly descended from the unnamed House and seeks to finish the job.
    • Also from the prequels, House Vernius of Ix is nearly wiped out by the Tleilaxu (secretly backed by the Emperor, who has a score to settle with Earl Dominic Vernius). Averted initially in that all four members of the house survive and manage to escape. Then the Earl and his wife are hunted down and eliminated by the Emperor over the years, while their children are protected by the Atreides. Then Kailea Vernius ends up committing suicide after accidentally killing her and Leto's son and crippling her brother Rhombur. Rhombur survives, but is unable to bear children, so his wife impregnates herself from the seed of a member of a distaff line. Rhombur ends up dying, while Bronso (the child from his wife's act) ends up being, eventually, executed by Alia for "spreading lies" (in fact, speaking the truth) about Paul. Thus, the entire Vernius line ends up being wiped out in less than a century.
  • Heralds of Valdemar: Ancar pulled this trope off-page after he took over Hardorn. In Storm Breaking, we learn that he was so thorough about killing distant relatives (both male and female) that Duke Tremaine, who isn't even Hardornen, has as strong a claim to the throne of Hardorn as any of the surviving nobles.
  • A variant of this happens in Mary Doria Russell's Children of God, the sequel to The Sparrow. The perpetrator wants to liberate his people and the only way he can begin is to kill off every member of his own family.
  • In Honor Harrington, Grayson's backstory involves an attempt at this that nearly works. At the time, Grayson is split between moderates and religious fanatics (who would eventually become the crazed Masadans). The Protector (the ruler of Grayson) is among the moderates. The fanatics concoct a plan to gather all the opposing Steadholders in the same room with the Protector and his family and then eliminate them in one fell swoop. The Protector and many of the Steadholders are indeed murdered, but an armsman manages to get the Protector's young son out of the room and safely hidden, and the Steadholders have heirs of their own. The resulting civil war ends with the moderates kicking the fanatics out and relocating them to a planet in the neighboring system.
  • This is the ultimate fate of the ruling family of Troy in The Trojan War as related in The Trojan Cycle, various Athenian tragedies and The Aeneid. In the sack of Troy the Greeks massacre every single male member of the House of Priam, including the child Astyanax (Hector's son), to prevent one of them becoming an avenger in the future. Neoptolemos also kills Priam's daughter Polyxena as a human sacrifice to appease the spirit of his father Achilles. Agamemnon took Priam's daughter Cassandra with him to Mycene, where she was killed with an axe by his wife Clytemnestra while her lover killed Agamemnon. This left Hecuba, Priam's widow, the only survivor; in some versions, e. g. The Trojan Women by Euripides, she is still able to exact revenge on some Greeks for the killing of her family.
  • In the backstory of the first book of the Dragonriders of Pern series, the ruling family of Ruatha Hold is slaughtered by the invading Warlord Fax. Unfortunately for him, he misses one...
  • In The False Prince, the entire royal family of Karthya is poisoned at once, leading to the plot of create a successful impersonator of the youngest prince who had been lost at sea several years ago. And then it turns out that the "winnning" impostor was the real HiddenBackupPrince all along.
  • Averted in Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, as not only does Door and also her younger sister survive her family's murder, but the Big Bad never wanted to actually wipe out the House of Portico, just coerce one of its members to use its hereditary powers on his behalf.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In The Powers Of Matthew Star, Matthew is secretly the Crown Prince of a distant planet whose parents were killed during a hostile revolution. He and his caretaker are hiding out in Southern California until he grows up and is able to mount a counterstrike; in the meantime they're on the lookout for people wanting to kill Matthew in order to wipe out the ruling family.
  • Season 6 of Game of Thrones revealed one storyline which was not yet shown in the books: Queen Cersei Lannister stayed in the Red Keep on the day of her trial because she wants to watch her enemies (the Faith Militant under the High Sparrow and House Tyrell of the Reach who are her in-laws) burn to the ground with wildfire at the Sept of Baelor. While she finally got rid of them for good, there is still one Tyrell who was not caught up with the flames (because fortunately she didn't want to be caught by the High Sparrow and went home instead) and that Tyrell allied with the returning rightful Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, Daenarys Targaryen, in order to avenge the deaths of her family.

    Religion and Mythology 
  • In The Bible, this happens to several successive ruling families of the (ten-tribe) Kingdom of Israel, who unlike the Davidic monarchy of Judah did not have the unending blessing of divine right, thus meaning that the nation's history was rife with assassinations and hostile takeovers (the longest dynasty was four generations, because that is how long God promised King Jehu's line would have the throne). The most notable examples are the families of kings Jeroboam and Ahab, where God Himself mandates that their male line will be wiped out as punishment for their sins.

    Theater 
  • Macbeth initially subverts this, in that Macbeth tries but fails to prevent Duncan's sons, Malcolm and Donalbain, from getting away, which comes back to bite him; however, as he slips into paranoia, he starts ordering that more of his enemies and their families be murdered, most notably all of Macduff's family, children included — which also comes back to bite him, as it sets Macduff off on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge. Damned if you do, damned if you don't — and Macbeth is certainly damned.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Battletech universe has the usurper Amaris murdering the entire extended Cameron family once he takes over the Star League. After he is deposed and executed himself, all his relatives are killed as well. This of course leads directly into the Succession Crisis that dominates the setting's history for the next four hundred years.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • A drow house which eliminates another house must kill all the nobles, because these are the only ones who can accuse them of the attack. While they don't exactly conquer the house in question (although their position can get elevated if it was above them in the city hierarchy, as is usually the case), they do take in any surviving enemy soldiers.
    • From the 1st Edition supplement Empires of the Sands: In the nation of Tethyr, after the ruling family's castle was overthrown everyone who was even suspected of being a member of the royal family was hunted down and put to the sword. The only one who escaped was Prince Lhaeo, who had been sent to the sage Elminster as an infant for training and protection.

    Video Games 
  • A Dance with Rogues starts with a somewhat interactive cutscene depicting the sack of Betancurian royal palace, wherein the entire royal family is massacred by the Dhorn. Only the youngest princess, who is also the Player Character, escapes with her life by sheer luck (whether it's good or bad luck is debatable).
  • MechWarrior4: Vengeance has Steiner murdering the family of the Kentares Duke except for one nephew they install as a puppet ruler. Three more survive due to either being away or fleeing; one dies, one more can die during the game, the last one is the protagonist.
  • The Human Noble origin in Dragon Age: Origins concerns the massacre of the Cousland family (teyrns/dukes of the largest province of Ferelden) by a treacherous vassal who usurps their titles and lands. Only the heir apparent, who is away fighting Darkspawn at the time, and his younger sibling (the Player Character), who is saved by the Grey Wardens, survive — but should the player pick another origin, the Cousland family is strongly implied to have been completely wiped out (Fergus is lost on patrol, and the Warden never escapes the castle), although subsequent games make it clear that Fergus is the Sole Survivor in this case.
  • When Gornar, capital of the Gorn Hegemony, fell to the Klingons in the backstory of Star Trek Online, the hardliners on the Klingon High Council wanted to have the Gorn royal family executed as per Klingon S.O.P. However, Chancellor J'mpok decided to test King Slathis' character and fought him in an honor duel, and Slathis fought well enough to badly wound J'mpok and greatly impress him. He chose to spare their lives and grant the Gorn self-rule as a vassal state of the Klingon Empire.
  • At the beginning of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, the Mythic Dawn cult carries out coordinated assassinations of the entire Septim Emperor bloodline to clear the way for their Daedric master's invasion. However, The Emperor's last bastard son is saved just in the nick of time by the Player Character to lead Cyrodiil's defenders.

    Webcomic 
  • Blindsprings has the ruling Llyn family killed by a mob. Interestingly, the man who dethroned them wanted to avert this trope; he put Power Nullifiers on all of them and placed them in house arrest. Two sisters survived, though, thanks to the empress making a pact with spirits to save her two youngest daughters. Turns out that after a failed rescue attempt, the house guards decided to kill all the Llyn's, and the whole incident was whitewashed.
  • The roleplays of White Dark Life involve, in part, the lunar wizard Mysta repeatedly attempting to kill Blaze and take her kingdom for himself. (This frequently ends with Mysta being immolated by Blaze herself and/or hurled around like a ragdoll by an extremely irate Silver.) After the Time Skip, Mysta also starts trying to murder Blaze's children and their love interests.

    Western Animation 
  • In Anastasia, Rasputin bewitches the Russian people into an overthrow of the Tsar and executing his entire family... except they miss Anastasia. This story is (loosely) based on the Real Life massacre of the Romanov family by the Bolsheviks.

    Real Life 
  • After Roman emperor Caligula was assassinated in 41 AD, the conspirators also killed his wife and his little daughter. They were too late to get Caligula's uncle Claudius, who was rescued from the palace by guards loyal to Caligula (he'd been hiding behind a curtain), and wound up becoming an emperor himself.
  • When the Abbasid Revolution overthrew the Umayyad Caliphate in 750 AD, the Abbasids killed most of the Umayyad family, meaning quite a lot of people; apparently, they declared amnesty for members of the family, eighty Umayyads gathered in Jaffa to receive pardons — and all of them were massacred. (One cousin of the family, Abd ar-Rahman, escaped by the skin of his teeth, spent five years on the run, and eventually reached Moorish Spain, where he was adopted as a leader with royal prestige by a local faction, and ended up establishing the Emirate of Cordoba, which is therefore considered an extension of the Umayyad Dynasty. So he annoyed the heck out of the Abbasids, but didn't actually get to lead La Résistance.)
  • Henry VI of England was held captive by his Yorkist opponents for five years, 1465-70, but was not killed, presumably because his son Prince Edward was still free. Henry was recaptured in 1471 after having been briefly restored to the throne. Prince Edward was captured alive at the battle of Tewksbury and killed by the Yorkists. King Henry was then murdered in the Tower of London a couple of weeks later, rendering the House of Lancaster extinct.
  • In 1906, Alexandre I and his wife Draga, King and Queen of Serbia, were massacred along with some of Draga's brothers and ministers by the Black Hand — the same organization whose assassination of Archduke Ferdinand would trigger World War I eight years later.
  • The murders of the Romanovs by the Bolsheviks during the Russian Civil War, after the October Revolution. They had initially hoped to put the Tsar on trial in the fashion of the French and English revolutionaries, but the Soviets at Ekaterinaburg, fearing the encroachment of White soldiers into their territory, ordered the execution of Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra, their son Alexei, and all four of their daughters, as well as four servants, on July 17, 1918. All of the other Romanovs in the hands of the Bolsheviks were murdered as well. Nicholas's brother Michael was killed four days before the Tsar. Several other members of the extended Romanov family were thrown down a mineshaft near Alapayevsk the next day — despite the use of guns and hand grenades, most of them starved to death. Four more grand dukes were executed on January 28, 1919.
  • This century, the Nepalese royal family massacre of June 1, 2001, in which crown prince Dipendra killed his father, King Birendra, eight other members of the royal family, and himself, paving the way for the abolition of the monarchy in Nepal in 2007.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/RulingFamilyMassacre