"A son can bear with equanimity the loss of his father, but the loss of his inheritance may drive him to despair."
Aristocrats Are Evil
. Ambition Is Evil
too. So what could be worse than ambitious royalty?
Evil Prince Bob knows he's the stuff of which great kings are made. Unfortunately, while he is in line
for the throne
, there are a lot of lesser men in front of him. If only Prince Bob could...persuade them to get out of the way, then nothing would stand between him and the glorious reign he knows
he is destined to have.
Usually the Evil Prince is not high in the line of succession, and his scheming arises from the fact that he won't inherit under current circumstances. But sometimes he is the eldest son and heir, and his only reason for giving his father a push
into immortality is that he's too impatient to wait.
A common subtrope is to have the Evil Prince as the younger brother
to the king, who tends to be his polar opposite
. This usually means the king is too good-hearted to see his brother's true nature
, with bad results for the children of the king once he is gone (Evil Princes tend to make Evil Uncles
For some reason there are very few Evil Princesses. One explanation is that, perhaps because of the very strong influence of Fairy Tale (and Disney) heroines
, princesses are good characters (though queens may be evil). Another explanation is that royal daughters are usually not in the line of succession and have nothing to gain by disposing of their rivals. The rare princess who does ascend to the throne in this way will invariably be an utter tyrant as a queen
This trope is rooted in an underlying belief that certain persons are or are not meant to rule, particularly when the monarch is understood to hold the throne by the will of some higher power. King Bob, by circumventing the rightful sequence of succession, is an illegitimate ruler — he wasn't meant
to have the throne — and thus he and his rule will be bad. The irony is that legitimate rulers are not automatically good: the firstborn son may be a Royal Brat
; the King who believes he is descended from the gods
may become a tyrant. On the other hand, the law of succession is a better system for determining the ruler than combat and/or murder
— and a man who would literally kill for the throne is unlikely to rule with kindness.
This is at least Older Than Print
, stretching back to Mordred
and seen as recently as Stardust
See also Patricide
, Aristocrats Are Evil
, The Baroness
, Evil Uncle
, and Evil Chancellor
. If an Evil Prince already has the throne and is trying to keep the rightful heirs off of it, see Regent for Life
. Regardless of how thorough they are in killing off rivals, there's usually a Hidden Backup Prince
with better credentials.
Contrast with Sheltered Aristocrat
, The Wise Prince
and Knight in Shining Armor
In terms of the ranks of Authority Tropes
, the tropes that are equal are Prince Charming
, Prince Charmless
, Warrior Prince
, The Wise Prince
, and all Princess Tropes
. The next steps down are The Good Chancellor
, Evil Chancellor
, Standard Royal Court
and Deadly Decadent Court
. The next steps up are The Caligula
, The Good King
, God Save Us from the Queen!
, The High Queen
, She Is the King
, and The Woman Wearing the Queenly Mask
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Anime & Manga
- From Dragon Ball Z, we have Vegeta, who is nicknamed the Dark Prince, specifically after his Face-Heel Turn.
- He played the trope more straight during his first confrontation with Goku.
- Tsukuyomi from Mugen Densetsu Takamagahara Dream Saga refuses to allow Amaterasu to awaken because her current incarnation, his sister, would quash his pollution-and-repression-happy regime in an instant. Actually, she'd do a lot more than that.
- Most all of the princes in Code Geass are manipulative mass murderers raised by the Holy Britannian Empire's Darwinistic ideals to scheme and fight against each other for the throne... with the exception of the mellow 1st Prince Odysseus, AKA Prince Valium. Schneizel is the prince that tries to overthrow his father and take the throne. Lelouch is the one that succeeds, though he did it for revenge rather than the throne. And to save the world, but that's besides the point. And he did take the throne afterwards, but that was completely unrelated.
- Mobile Suit Gundam has Prince Gihren Zabi, who acts as the Evil Chancellor and The Starscream to his father, Sovereign Degwin Sodo Zabi. Cutting his father off from all genuine power, Gihren takes the reins of the state, before finally annihilating Degwin with a Wave Motion Gun when the latter hopes to make peace with The Federation.
- Gihren's sister Kycilia is one of the rare Evil Princesses in fiction. A ruthless military commander who acts as The Starscream to Gihren, Kycilia and her brother go back and forth on the coup d'etat attempts before she finally blows him away in revenge for her father.
- Ukyo from Samurai 7 kills the emperor, who he is a clone of in order to inherit the throne sooner, although it's implied he is the last remaining clone of the Emperor (who is hooked up to a life support system), so he probably wouldn't have had to wait that long. He also caused his adoptive father's demotion in order to take his place.
- He wasn't the last possible heir. He found some of the others and made them act as body doubles. He was the only one to ever be publicly acknowledged as heir instead of being executed as unsuitable, however.
- Almost everyone in Adarushan no Hanayome assumes main character Alexid to be one of these. He's called the "Black Demon" for his apparent savagery in battle, he consistently wears dark clothing, and his mother was a commoner. Even his mentor, who raised him, believed Alexid harbored resentment towards his older brother the king and harbored ambitions to take the throne. This culminated in his mentor trying to kill him. The truth is the complete opposite. Alexid truly loves his brother and is actually terrified by the prospect of taking over the throne since he doesn't have the same knack for ruling a country.
- The Five Star Stories has FEMC GL IIII Amaterasu dis Greens OOE Ikaruga, better known as Sarion. While he's a pretty minor character, he still fits this trope as a glove. Ax-Crazy? Check. Made himself an orphan just For the Evulz? Check. Gleefully permitted his underlings to rape and pillage their own nation during his rebellion? Check. Rebelled after his royal cousin the protagonist commuted his death sentence (due to aforementioned orphaning) to life imprisonment because a lowly fatima was made a princess and placed higher than him in a succession? A tick mark the size of a Float Temple.
- And for the kicker he's still one of AKD's premiere knights, commanding a sizable detachment of the Royal Guard, First Easter Mirage Corps Green Left Wing, consisting of heroic sociopaths just like him. In fact, his current princely title was given him after that story with the rebellion. He's just that useful.
- Xanxus of Katekyo Hitman Reborn!. Subverted because he's adopted so he couldn't be the next boss of the Vongola after all. And also Belphegor. His brother Rasiel is supposed to be the next king. Belphegor killed him because of this. In the Future Arc Rasiel shows up alive and reveals that he is just as evil, that he was also planning to assassinate Belphegor and that they tried their plans on the same day.
- Crown Prince Sincline from Golion, whom himself is a halfbread spawn of a human and whatever creature Daibazaal is.
- Rare Female Example: Joei from The Twelve Kingdoms, younger sister to the deceased Queen Joukaku and aspirant to the Kei throne, who tries to usurp it from the rightful heir Youko.
- Dilandau sits on a throne in a scene or two in Escaflowne, but he is not actually a prince. He is a noble, being Allen's sister Selena and all, but he doesn't know that.
- Believed to be the case in-universe in Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle. The Valerians fear that their (supposedly) evil twin princes Fai and Yuui will usurp the throne someday, and this is implied to be part of the reason that said twins are "punished" as horribly as they are.
- Ruu-Kain from Blue Comet SPT Layzner, son of Big Bad Admiral Gresco and leader of the Gradosian army and THE Big Bad of the second part.
- It's explained in his Back Story that Darkseid was second in line for the throne of Apokolips behind his older brother. With help from Desaad, he killed his older brother and usurped both the Omega Force and the role of crown prince.
- Likewise Marvel's Thanos, whom is an Expy of Darkseid, was the eldest son to the planet Titan's leader and was banished for his crimes. Years later he would return to devastate Titan and rule it with an iron fist until he was defeated by Earth's heroes during his first encounter with the cosmic cube.
- Aquaman's half-brother Orm (alias Ocean Master), who is constantly out to usurp his place as King of Atlantis.
- Mickey Mouse and the World to Come has Nikolai of Illustania, who took charge of the kingdom when his father became old and ill and decided to ruin the pristine landscape with industry as well as assist international criminal the Rhyming Man in a scheme to change the face of the globe.
- Bron from Scion began this way before killing his father and becoming king himself.
- According to two 1940s comic stories, Queen Grimhilde had one of these for a brother.
- In Teen Titans, Blackfire is first in line to inherit the position as Queen, but the fact that she was born without the superpowers that are common on her planet make her seem weak, so her younger sister Starfire becomes first in line. This does not sit well with Blackfire, who then sells her into slavery to get rid of her.
- The Yellow Bastard from Sin City fits this trope and then some. As the son of a sadistic United States Senator and heir to the most powerful (and evil) family in Basin City, Roark Junior has carte blanche to do whatever the hell he feels like with impunity — including preying on children.
- The Fantastic Four found out to their horror that Prince Zorba, the hereditary ruler of Latveria they restored to the throne after deposing Doctor Doom, was this when Von Doom showed them the tyrannical devastation he was inflicting on the country. In cooperation with Doom, the Four helped depose Zorba, but were forced to leave Doom in power.
- Comicbook/Loki is prince by adoption of Asgard and technically prince by birth of the Frost Giants of Jotunheim. He has enough clout with the Frost Giants to at least use them as Mooks from time to time and regularly schemes to overthrow his adopted father Odin, take over Asgard and kill his foster brother The Mighty Thor somewhere along the way.
- Like Loki, Vulcan from the X-Men books is a common-born brought into a royal family. Instead of being adopted, as Loki was, Vulcan exploits a loophole on Shi'ar law to marry into the Shi'ar royal family through marriage to Deathbird. He wastes no time in wasting his new father-in-law and taking his crown.
Films — Animated
Films — Live-Action
- Wang Sau-Leian in Chung Kuo has to wait for his father and three older brothers to die before ascending the throne - but why wait?
- Tortall Universe
- While technically a duke, Roger from Song of the Lioness enacts numerous Evil Plans to get rid of his young cousin so that Roger can be first in line to the throne again. He tries everything from Mystical Plague to Animal Assassin to a Reality Changing Miniature. And when he comes back from the not-quite-dead, he's a straight-up Omnicidal Maniac.
- Extremely rare female example in Daughter of the Lioness; Princess Imajane, the regent for the three-year-old king, arranges to send a magical storm to kill his majesty and become queen. Her husband doesn't object, but he's mostly following her lead. Surprisingly, it works. For a while.
- A minor example in Provost's Dog. Prince Baird is a Jerkass and willing participant in the plot against his brother, but he's really a pawn of Lord Halleburn and wouldn't have come up with the idea on his own.
- Prince John, from the most widely accepted modern version of the Robin Hood stories (and, according to some, in Real Life, although the latter has been hotly contested among reputable historians on both sides). (Please see the Discussion Page for further details.)
- Several of these in the Deryni works:
- Prince Festil Furstán of Torenth was a younger son who didn't like being landless, so he gathered other landless younger sons, borrowed some troops from his father and conquered neighbouring Gwynedd in 822.
- Then-Prince Wencit Furstán deposed his nephew King Aldred (with the help of Aldred's wife Charissa of Tolan) and took the throne of Furstán for himself.
- Prince Conall Blaine Cluim Uthyr Haldane is the eldest son of Prince Nigel Haldane and terminally jealous of his cousin King Kelson and Kelson's foster brother Dhugal, Earl of Transha. He takes secret instruction in using the Haldane powers, which are only supposed to wielded by the reigning monarch. He puts merasha in Dhugal's flask while traveling on a quest for Camber's relics. He seduces the woman Kelson wants to marry. He attacks his father and leaves him in an arcane coma. He ultimately challenges his cousin to a duel arcane at his treason trial. By the way, his second name was also that of a Festillic king; coincidence? Maybe not.
- Mahael and Teymuraz Furstán are this (as well as being evil uncles) to Liam-Lajos in King Kelson's Bride. One or both of them are widely suspected of suspected of disposing of Liam's elder brother Alroy previously.
- All the princes in Stardust (except possibly Primus), but especially Prince Septimus. Moreover, their father was himself an example of The Evil Prince made good, as were a number of other monarchs before him (it was a family tradition). Primus, while clearly ambitious, appears not to be evil (to stop Septimus, Primus bribes a soothsayer to lead his brother on a wild goose chase; to stop Primus, Septimus tries to poison him).
- In the book, each of the three princes that survive their father (including Primus) had killed one of their brothers; Septimus had killed two. Before the book ends, Septimus had killed a third and was quite peeved that someone had Primus killed first as he now had to avenge his dead brother instead of kill him.
- In the book, the father is quite peeved at the inadequacy of this generation: his father had been, properly, down to one son by the time of his death. He says as much in the movie as well and helps arrange for Septimus to off another one before he dies.
- C. S. Lewis's Narnia: Prince Rabadash in The Horse and his Boy; Miraz from Prince Caspian killed his brother, stole the throne, and plotted to kill his nephew as soon as his own son and heir was born.
- In Tolkien's The Silmarillion we have Ar-Pharazôn, last King of Númenor, who usurped the throne by the less usual method of marrying the rightful heiress and then forcibly reducing her role to that of his consort. There's also the example of Maeglin, the nephew of King Turgon of Gondolin, who betrays the city to Morgoth partially to gain rulership over it, but mostly because he wants to marry his cousin. That she already has a husband and son doesn't stop him — he just plans to off them first.
- Although based on Macbeth, given that he's the brother of the king he murders, Duke Felmet of the Discworld novel Wyrd Sisters likely counts.
- This also seems to be played with in the novel Men at Arms where the evil aristocrats try to place Captain Carrot (the legitimate heir) on the throne with Edward d'Eath and other members of the Assassins' Guild as Poisonous Friends.
- The Duke of Sto Helit in Mort. Cousin to King Olerve of Sto Lat, he's gone from fifth to second in line before he appears, and becomes next in line shortly afterwards. Described in the Discworld Companion as "quite capable of killing all who stood between himself and the throne, or even between himself and the drinks cabinet."
- Several Princes vying for Oberon's throne in The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny. Describing the exact intentions of the Nine would spoil most of the intrigue, but be prepared that some "evil" guys will be redeemed and some "good" ones will reveal themselves evil to the core.
- The novel The Prisoner of Zenda has an interesting example in the character of Black Michael, who plots to capture and kill his half-brother, the legitimate heir and take the throne for himself. Uniquely, he is much more popular than their true heir, suggested to be their father's favorite and doesn't come across as that evil outside of this plan.
- Prince Serg of Lois McMaster Bujold's Shards of Honor was sufficiently nasty that his father was forced to kill him rather than let him succeed to the throne.
- A subplot in A Civil Campaign deals with this on a lesser scale. Richars Vorrutyer had done everything up to and including possible murder to insure his cousin Count Pierre died without issue and left him the heir apparent. He thought Pierre's younger sister Donna using an old rule to secure a three month stay on his confirmation and heading offplanet before the late Count was in the ground was of no consequence...and was rather put out when Pierre's younger brother Dono returned to Barrayar to claim said seat by right of blood.
- Toyed with in the unrelated novel The Curse of Chalion. A bare bones description of Royse Teidez slaughtering the sacred menagerie that was keeping the worst effects of the titular curse on Roya Orico's health at bay would seem to fit this trope perfectly, but the boy honestly thought he was eliminating the uncanny source of his older half-brother's illness. The Evil Chancellor's Even More Evil brother, who put Teidez up to it, apparently knew better and was probably trying to supplant his elder brother by replacing the chancellor's puppet monarch with his own. But he dies before his plan can come to fruition.
- Kalide from The Legendsong Saga. He’s particularly annoyed given that a) his brother is mad and b) the position of Holder (or mermod) is assigned by the soulweavers not inherited anyway. Coralyn's plots revolve mainly around bypassing these obstacles to put her preferred (and controllable) son on the throne.
- Conphas, the crown prince of the Nansur Empire in Second Apocalypse, is like that.
- Prince Regal, from Robin Hobb's Farseer trilogy fits this quite well. He's born the third son of the king. After Fitz appears and Prince Chivalry (the eldest) steps down, he bides his time for a while before sending Verity (the middle Prince) off on a suicidal mission (and sends some Mooks to make sure he doesn't return), and finally offs the king right after being confirmed as the King-in-Waiting.
- The Prelude to Dune novels by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson ( if one acknowledges that they exist) have two examples:
- Shaddam Corrino IV poisons his father, Elrood IX, to get the throne.
- Glossu "Beast" Rabban kills his father Abulurd. Abulurd tells him: "You couldn't kill your own father. You are not such a beast." Glossu kills him and responds: "From now on you may call me Beast."
- In the original Dune novel, Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen is one part this to two parts Bastard Understudy.
- Prince Lycheas, Bastard Bastard cousin of Queen Ehlana in the David Eddings Elenium trilogy, assumes the throne as Prince Regent while Ehlana is magically incapacitated. He's little more than a puppet of Sinister Minister Annias though, who is himself being jerked around by Martel and Azash.
- And in the Malloreon, it's revealed how the succession works in Ctholl Murgos: The eldest surviving prince is the heir, and his first royal act is to order the execution of all others. So, all princes are evil, and only the most clever one wins. For example, The Drasnian bastard child.
- This was actually the rule in the Real Life Ottoman Empire, and was fine with the populace for several generations until the early death of a sultan resulted in the execution of several child princes. This was a bit much for Turkish sensibilities and after that reign sultans locked their brothers up instead. This proved convenient when the current ruler succumbed without providing an heir.
- Redwall has both Evil Princes and Evil Princesses. In Mossflower Tsarmina Greeneyes usurps the throne from her brother (displaying ultimate ignorance of point #3 in the Evil Overlord List), and in Marlfox various members of the seven offspring of the titular villainous royal family are constantly attempting to backstab their siblings and mother. Then there's Kurda, another female example, and her brother Bladd in Triss, Pitru in High Rhulain, Klitch in Salamandastron and possibly Veil in The Outcast Of Redwall... though his father, Swartt, is a lord not a king.
- One for the Morning Glory Part of the backstory. The kingdom of Overhill was independent because a king had sent his brother packing to an unsettled corner of the kingdom, and he had declared it an independent kingdom.
- In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel Necropolis, part of Salvandor Sondar's Back Story; he killed his uncle to gain his place and still resents how much his uncle was loved.
- Dagnarus of the The Sovereign Stone trilogy was second in line for the throne. He didn't hate his father or try to take the throne away from him, but he did both for his elder brother, Helmos.
- In Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40,000 novel Brothers of the Snake, when the Space Marine Priad is told that a queen was murdered, his immediate suspect is the new king. The Inquisitor, who told him, tells him that he is no detective.
- The Wheel of Time:
- Luc apparently thought he was going to be the king of Andor, despite it only ever having Queens. Luckily, he mysteriously disappeared before this could happen.
- This kind of succession seems to be standard in Seanchan. The Empress's children are expected to contend with each other, so only the fittest can inherit the throne. It's not clear whether the Empress herself is a target from this.
- Prince Xizor from the Shadows of the Empire multimedia project qualifies. Whether "Prince" might just be the title given to him for being the head of Black Sun, he sits at the Emperor's feet and has a bitter rivalry with Darth Vader for Palpatine's favor.
- Xizor was a prince to the Falleen, his own race, however the majority of his race, including his family, were accidentally killed by Vader. He secretly planned to murder the Emperor and Vader, though he suspected, and it was confirmed, that Palpatine was well aware of this and kept him around since he was useful and he felt that any of Xizor's plans would fail.
- Prince Robert, the king's brother in "Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone", who kills his sister -for whom he has a creepy attraction- in order to lure his brother into a trap. In which he gets killed, but manages to reappear as undead by a fluke
- Forgotten Realms: A Red Wizardess of Thay once magically disguised herself as the queen and seduced Azoun IV, evidently intending to give birth to this trope and seize the throne of Cormyr in a Succession Crisis. Subverted when her agents found out that Azoun had sown so many wild oats as a young man, their Evil Prince would have to get in line behind hundreds of older byblows.
- Heralds of Valdemar:
- In the first trilogy, Prince Ancar of Hardorn arranged for his father's murder so that he could become king sooner. He went on to be a sadistic bastard, who tortured people for fun, drove his own country into ruin and then invaded his neighbors.
- When Prince Thanel of Rethwellan finds out that he can't be crowned king of Valdemar without first being Chosen to become a Herald (which requires being a genuinely nice person), he tries to murder his wife, Queen Selenay, so he can become Regent for their daughter Elspeth.
- Ranger's Apprentice - Halt is the older of a set of twins. His brother drove him from their native kingdom to take the throne for himself.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire, evil and arrogant Viserys Targaryen fits this trope, if only because he believes himself the rightful King of the Seven Kingdoms and behaves very much like one, despite not having a kingdom and being actively disliked by most if not all people who come into contact with him.
- Joffrey Baratheon...isn't this. Yes, he's evil, and yes, he's a prince, but he wants Robert's approval. Though he's fairly dismissive of Robert after his death. By that point though, Joffrey's an evil king.
- Prince Edmund, from the first series of Blackadder, tries very hard to be one but fails because he's so pathetically spineless. Prince Ludwig the Indestructible from the second series is also fairly comic, being a master of disguise with a silly accent and a long list of psychological problems. Oddly enough, he's a successful example. Arguably, the Blackadder of the third series would also count in so far as he ends up taking the place of George IV and presumably living out the rest of his life under that identity.
- Lanny from Pair Of Kings; presumably a prince, because he was to have been king before Boomer and Brady came along.
- Princess Eleanor of the short-lived British drama The Palace is an ultra rare female example. Within the (fictional, and unnamed) British Royal Family depicted on the show she is the older sister of the new King, Richard IV. She doesn't stooped to violence, but she clearly has no qualms about forcing her brother to abdicate through scandal and political crisis.
- An episode of Space: 1999 had aliens kidnap Maya to extract her brain cells for their leader's bid for immortality. The prince was less than pleased about this, so he helped foil the king's plan before trying to become immortal himself.
- That most luscious of Evil Princes Dirk Blackpool of the short lived Wizards And Warriors.
- Warhammer 40,000 has Horus, most favored son of the Emperor. Also the one responsible for plunging humanity into a galaxy-wide dark age run by an extreme Church Militant.
- Being a classic Feudal Future setting, BattleTech naturally has its share of examples. The most obvious one in recent times would be another evil princess — Katherine Steiner-Davion, who first arranged for the assassination of her mother after her father had already died of a heart attack and then manipulated her way into taking over her parents' former entire realm while her elder brother was busy trying to deal with the Clan threat.
- In the Dark Age Caleb Hasek-Sandoval-Davion, killed his father the First Prince Harrison Davion when he said he wouldn't be the heir of the throne, and immediately takes the title of First Prince of the Federated Suns. Its doesn't help that he is also a violent schizophrenic.
- Many, many characters in William Shakespeare, but Claudius (Hamlet), Macbeth (Macbeth) and Richard, Duke of Gloucester (Richard III) are the three most prominent. Don John from Much Ado About Nothing might count as well, although he's more interested in messing with the life of his brother than taking power (during the play — he's said to have rebelled before the play). About half of the examples in other media come from works that are, to a greater or lesser extent, based on these villains.
- In Pippin, the title character rebels against his kingly father and kills him. He's not portrayed as evil, though his step-mother, who assists him in his rebellion, is; he just has misguided (not to mention anachronistic) notions of what a good king ought to do.
- As a female example - in Drowtales not 1, not 2, but 3 Sharen princesses worked together to overthrow their Queen and Mother. However she was Left for Dead, organized it in a way that they Never Found the Body, assuming No One Could Survive That. Said Queen escaped via Grand Theft Me and is biding her time by hiding.
- Fang "Overlord of Darkness," the main villain from Lint, killed his entire family to take over the kingdom even though he was already first in line for the throne!
- Thief in 8-Bit Theater is an inversion of this, he's evil, and he's a prince, but loyal to his father, it's just the rest of the world he's prepared to screw over for pocket change
- Averted with Kyo in Evil Not Worth It, although Kelli fits this trope.
- In Goblins Of Razard ,Reign's brother has taken over this mantel & is on a quest to have Reign assassinated so that he can solidify his position.
- The Tourist and the Frog, a humorous take on The Frog Prince by Diana Nock the un-froged Prince clarifies: "I was not cursed for being kind".
- In Latchkey Kingdom, Princess Rosaline poisoned her parents into a coma for the crime of trying to conceive a male heir.
- In The Gamers Alliance, Prince Geraden, the cousin of the current King Gerard Aurelac de Maar Sul, was kidnapped as a baby and ended up corrupted into an amoral, power-hungry warrior. He sees his younger cousin as a weak, easily manipulative fool who has in his view robbed him of his rightful throne and that it is his destiny to turn Maar Sul into a powerful, feared kingdom which it once was. Emira Adela al-Saif ends up killing her twin sister Razia in order to become the Sultana of Vanna.