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Abdicate the Throne

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"A few hours ago I discharged my last duty as King and Emperor, and now that I have been succeeded by my brother, the Duke of York, my first words must be to declare my allegiance to him. This I do with all my heart. ... And now, we all have a new King. I wish him and you, his people, happiness and prosperity with all my heart. God bless you all! God save the King!"
King Edward VIII of the United Kingdom's Abdication

Being the king sucks. Not only do you have to deal with Royal Brats, Royally Screwed Up family and Requisite Royal Regalia, you're practically a Living MacGuffin, even without Blood Magic coming into play. As such, there may come a time when you need not to be the king anymore, but don't want to die. In times like that, you can abdicate the throne. Retire, leave. Give the role to someone worthy and spend the rest of your days in peace.

So you hope, at least— some countries, fictional and otherwise, forbid abdication, or place very specific conditions on it. Or maybe there isn't an heir lined up, and it would just be terminally irresponsible to provoke the ensuing Succession Crisis. That forces a plot where the monarch must convince Parliament to change their minds about that particular law, or find a way to fulfill the preconditions. Or you could just run away...

Sister Trope to Offered the Crown, which is what happens when the king (or someone else) chooses his successor rather than leaving it to the default. Can sometimes happen when the Rightful King Returns and the current ruler wants to get out with his neck intact. May result in Vetinari Job Security if the abdication causes such turmoil that the people want their old king back.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Part of Leonmichelle's plan in Dog Days. She's strictly speaking a regent anyway, but she plans to leave the throne early in an attempt to Screw Destiny. Things never really get that far, though.
  • In the anime of Fate/stay night, a flashback scene shows Saber (aka King Arthur) fighting with a knight who demands to know why she won't abdicate the throne. The credits identify the knight character as Mordred.
  • The absolute first thing that Hikaru does after becoming ruler of Cephiro in the second season of Magic Knight Rayearth is abolish the monarchy. Since she had been present when the previous ruler had been Driven to Suicide by the emotional strain of having to continuously care for everyone and everything equally without caring for any single person or thing as an individual — including herself — or else the bits she doesn't care for will start falling apart, you can understand why. In the manga, she not only does this, but she gives the power to everyone in the world, even the reader, whom she asks to rename Cephiro.
  • In Naruto, the third Hokage retired to give the title over to the fourth. Unfortunately, the fourth's sudden Heroic Sacrifice forced him to take up the reins again.
    • This trend continues in Boruto, where we learned that the fifth Hokage retired for the sixth, who later gave up the position for the seventh. We also learn that the third Tsuchikage, the fourth Raikage, and the fifth Mizukage all also gave up their positions for their successors.
  • In Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, Shogun Yoshimune steps down in favour of her daughter Ieshige. However, she remains in Edo Castle and becomes a shadow ruler whose policy suggestions are more often followed by senior councilors than the actual Shogun's.
    • Ieshige later does the same thing for her daughter Ieharu, but is far less influential in retirement.
    • Tokugawa Harusada passes herself over in the succesion and allows Ienari to ascend to the post of shogun in her place. She later explains that since she already has a child she's content to use Ienari as a breeder while she remains the power behind the scenes.
    • The Succession Crisis that threatened to brew during Ienari's reign ended when Ienari abdicated in favor of the son of his choice.
  • Prince Juda Haspirupi does this towards the end of Red River (1995) to finally bring an end to Queen Nakia's continuous attempts at getting her bloodline to rule the Hittite Empir. Also done as his way to finally call out his My Beloved Smother of a mom on all the shit she had pulled on Kail, the new King and Juda's half-brother, and his wife Yuri.
  • In Utawarerumono, the Oruyankuru gives his daughter, Urutorii, his title just before the final invasion.

    Comic Books 
  • At the end of Black Panther 2016, T'Challa steps down and makes Wakanda a constitutional monarchy, with the goal of transitioning to democracy.
  • At the end of Inhumans vs. X-Men, Medusa steps down and abolishes the monarchy, allowing New Attilan to become a democracy instead. This allows her to finally return to Black Bolt after a good year of strife between the two.
  • The Prince Valiant series started with Valiant and his father King Arguar of Thule being forced to flee by Sligon the Usurper. When they return to take back the throne years later, Sligon announce that he is tired of power and will exchange the kingdom for their little island in Britain. Some years after that, Valiant run into Sligon, who has grown old and dotty and has never regretted giving up the kingdom for a second.
  • The Sandman (1989): A king decided that enough was enough, he was tired and fed up, so he closed his kingdom, gave away the key, and left. Later he opens a piano bar in Los Angeles. The king in question? Lucifer.
  • Thorgal: The Fall OF Brek Zarith has Thorgal helping prince Galathorn reclaim the throne. Galathorn is the rightful heir, his cousin Shardar killed his uncle to get the throne. Along the way they enlist the help of a Viking army in exchange for treasure. After much fighting, they finally make it to the Treasure Room... where Shardar abdicates in favor of his cousin, wishing him good luck with the intrigues and backstabbing that comes with it. The story would end there, except Sardar intends to leave with Thorgal's wife and psychic son in his luggage... Asskicking ensues.
  • Warlord of Mars: John Carter is proclaimed the titular warlord for his heroic deeds, having united the warring races of Barsoom at great cost such as the death of his grandfather-in-law and his son, who previously ruled his city-state. When the original king Tardos Mors mysteriously returns to life, Carter willingly surrenders the crown to him, reasoning that a civil conflict could erupt between those who supported him against those who prefer Mors and being a veteran from the American Civil War, he'd rather avoid having another war being fought in his adoptive home.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): Toyed with. Hippolyta greatly reduces her own power as queen voluntarily and starts having long absences from Themyscira but while she does talk about abdicating in the end she is forced from the island after she jumps to conclusions about the Bana and attacks them for things they were framed for because she didn't listen to her advisors.

    Fan Works 
  • Compass of Thy Soul (Naruto): On several occasions, a person would retire from their position in the Uchiha clan in favour of a younger or better-trained relative.
    • The position of Homeguard Head, in charge of dealing with the clan's economical and internal affairs, goes from Ohabari, Madara's aunt to Kita, Madara's fiancé, and then to their cousin. First, because Ohabari gets pregnant and Kita's has both completed her training and has greatly contributed to the clan's economy with her various ideas (non-combat-oriented seals, giving jobs to widows, producing their own silk, starting a pottery business, etc.).
    • Due to its size, the clan is divided into Mangekyou lineages — there are several types of Mangekyou Sharingan, each with their own power set and way of awakening. Whenever an Uchiha gets their Mangekyou, they become the Head of their respective lineage. For instance, Kita is moderately removed from her lineage's main family, but when she awakens the Toyotama Mangekyou, she becomes the head. Other than the Mangekyou being very powerful, this custom is a way to honor those clan members who have suffered the most.
  • In Dragons of Ice and Fire, Jon Snow eventually abdicates his titles as King in the North and King Beyond-the-Wall to his half-brother Bran, both because he knows that he's better at fighting than ruling and would make a better general than king, and because he believes that the North would be better unified under a trueborn son of Ned Stark.
  • The Elements of Friendship has this pop up at the end of Book 1: Zecora, having become Queen of Pundamilia after her mother Malkia's death, stands down in favor of a democracy she helps set up, and then emigrates to Equestria to live in Ponyville with her friends.
  • Fallout: Equestria: This happened in the backstory. After years of war with the zebras, Princess Celestia became convinced that she could no longer lead Equestria effectively. The final straw was when Big Macintosh died defending her from an assassin. She abdicated the throne to her sister Luna, who immediately recruited the Mane Six to help her. That caused a lot of problems, but the biggest problem was one that didn't become clear until hundreds of years later. A thousand years before the war, Luna was corrupted into Nightmare Moon and banished to the moon. She returned and was cured, but the zebras didn't believe it. They thought she was still as evil as ever. So when she was put in charge of Equestria, they were absolutely horrified and thought that they would be completely annihilated if they lost the war. From then on, any attempts at peace were just tricks to try to kill Nightmare Moon, and when they were on the cusp of defeat they unleashed the megaspells because it couldn't possibly be worse than what Nightmare Moon would do to them.
  • Fire Emblem Fates: Aftermath: Azura decides that she's not cut out for being the queen of Valla due to her aversion of socializing and lack of charisma, so she tells Corrin that he can have the throne.
  • The MLP Loops: Usually played for laughs.
    • Celestia was a bored immortal God Empress in baseline; she gets much worse after she starts looping. She often abdicates the throne, though it's less "abdicates" and more "dumps everything on Twilight and friends while she goes off surfing." She also has a tendency to forget to check if Twilight and her friends are Awake first.
      Twilight: B-Bu-wha-how-huh-bwa-wha... COULD SOMEONE TELL ME WHAT THE HAY IS GOING ON!
    • In "Daughters" loops, Twilight is the mother of the Cutie Mark Crusaders, who are all alicorns. She always abdicates the throne to them so that she can take a thousand-year vacation. The first time they had a loop like this, they only remembered she'd be coming back at the last minute.
      Princess Diamond Tiara: In just a few hours, Queen Twilight Sparkle will return to Equestria. She is a threat to our way of life.
      Rarity: Define threat?
      Princess Nyx: She doesn't approve of noisy, fun, all night parties.
      Pinkie: [gasps]
    • Once Chrysalis discovers that she can do the whole "share the love" thing years early, thus freeing her species of their Horror Hunger and her primary responsibility to keep them fed, Chrysalis usually abdicates as fast as possible.
      Chrysalis: Good work, Thorax. Now, two decrees, to take effect simultaneously. Firstly, I abdicate. Secondly, you're promoted to King. Enjoy. [teleports away]
      Pharynx: Thorax? What happened to us? How come you're... tall?
      Thorax: I'm what? [looks down at himself] ...huh.
      Carapace: Did she say you're king now? I guess you are taller than everyling else, and I always thought that's how we picked who was in charge.
  • Queens of Mewni: Queens are expected to abdicate once their heir apparent marries. The only ones that didn't were those that died before they could abdicate (Hemera cuts it close as she was poisoned literally the night she abdicated, and Helia died of mysterious causes the day her daughter was to be married/crowned), Eclipsa, who technically ran away, expecting to leave a Succession Crisis since she believed her heir dead, and Celena, who waited ten more years before abdicating so her heir Diana had a few more years of freedom before having to take on The Chains of Commanding.
  • In both Summer Crowns and its Spiritual Successor Chasing Dragons, Robert Baratheon hands the Iron Throne and the crown of Westeros over to his brother Stannis so that he can lead the hunt for Rhaegar Targaryen's court in exile in Essos. In both stories, this ironically eventually leads to him becoming a king anyway after conquering Myr and establishing a new kingdom.
  • Triptych Continuum: Done in Post Negative Comments Only as Cadance's answer to the final Armor-Piercing Question below: what makes her different from Sombra is that she's willing to give up power — and as it turns out, she truly never wanted it in the first place. Which is part of what ultimately leads the crystals to request that she return, because they've decided the ponies best-suited to hold that power are the ones who don't desire it — along with needing somepony who knows the world as it is now to help them catch up.
  • In White Devil of the Moon, Nanoha Takamachi, here the reincarnation of Princess Serenity, steps down from her role - which she had no preparation for nor the inclination to take over - allows the Sailor Senshi to live normal lives and formally dissolves the Moon Kingdom. Luna is the only one to not take it well.

    Films — Animated 
  • At the end of Frozen II, Elsa passes the crown on to Anna while she herself retreats to the Enchanted Forest.
  • Prince Naveen at the end of The Princess and the Frog, who actually prefers to stay with Tiana in New Orleans, LA than become the next king of Maldonia. It then turns out that his younger brother was more suitable for becoming the next king.
  • Vanellope Von Schweetz in Wreck-It Ralph, once King Candy is removed from "Sugar Rush" and the game's original program is restored, discovers that she's actually a princess. She decides to set up a constitutional democracy instead.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Black Room, Gregor gives up the barony to his brother Anton to avoid being overthrown. He then kills his twin and takes his place.
  • In Election, Tammy Meltzer basically calls the election a sham and announces the first thing she will do if elected is dismantle student government so the students don't have to sit through another assembly that none of them care about. She moves from people jeering at her before the speech, to thunderous applause of most of the student body.
  • In Johnny English, the villain, Pascal Sauvage, needs the Queen to abdicate. She initially refuses, but relents when one of her corgis is held at gunpoint. In fact, she abdicates her entire line, forcing the British government to look elsewhere for an eligible heir.
  • As an adaptation of King Lear, this naturally is what starts off the plot of Akira Kurosawa's epic Ran. Warlord Hidetora Ichimonji elects to retire and divide his kingdom among his three sons, a rash decision that unleases a series of disasters as the sons fight amongst each other.
  • King Ralph: Ralph I decides to do this when his actions shamed the country and cost workers badly needed jobs. However, instead of handing it over to Lord Graves, he instead hands the throne over to Sir Cedric Willingham, who also is a Windom.
  • The King's Speech: This tells the story of the Duke of York's struggle with his own stuttering which inhibits his ability to communicate with people, and the mounting pressures on him as it becomes clear his brother the Prince of Wales and then King Edward VIII is not a man who is a good ruler who can set the Country's needs above his own. See the Real Life example below for more details.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
  • Nicholas and Alexandra: Being a Biopic of Tsar Nicholas II and his queen Alexandra, this film shows Nicholas being forced to abdicate when the Russian Revolution erupts and his train can't get to Petrograd because of all the mutinous soldiers running around.
  • The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement has Mia's grandmother stepping down from the throne so Mia can be queen now that she's 21 years old and graduated from college.
  • The main protagonist in Vikingdom is a Norse king who dies in combat and in his dying breath passes the crown to his younger brother. He is resurrected shortly after, but instead of reclaiming his throne back, he decided to live as a hermit in the wilds for the next decade.

  • In the Mercedes Lackey Bardic Voices series, Kestrel was the rightful king of Birnam after his uncle deposed his father. It turned out that the father was taxing the people heavily and wasting it on personal luxuries while the uncle was ruling the kingdom wisely. Kestrel, knowing that he wasn't really competent to take it, publicly renounces all claim to the throne, and ensures it sticks by marrying the Gypsy Bard he is in love with.
  • A Brother's Price has the queens of Queensland, aging, transferring more and more responsibility to their surviving daughters. They won't abdicate the throne until the princesses have married and produced at least one child, but are expected to do so when that happens.
  • When the emperor Gastern loses his mind in The Chronicles of Magravandias, he is forced into abdication. His son is pre-emptively forced to abdicate as well, as everyone knows he will only be worse.
  • The Chronicles of Dorsa: Tasia implicitly gives up her throne at the end. She was believed dead, and rather than return, proving she's alive, stays that way to most people. Instead she happily retires to live a humble life with Joslyn.
  • Conan the Barbarian — In Robert E. Howard's "The Scarlet Citadel", Conan is offered freedom and gold if he will do this.
  • John C. Wright's Count to the Eschaton: In Count to a Trillion, Menelaus realizes that this is one possible solution to Blackie's dilemma — but he won't do it.
  • Abir gives up being queen at the second lottery in Dirge for Prester John as part of the new system of government she has put in place.
  • Discworld:
    • Tomjon in Wyrd Sisters probably holds the record for fastest abdication on record, when he abdicates after a grand total of about five minutes as king in favour of his half-brother.
    • Pteppic does this at the end of Pyramids, giving the throne of Djelibeybi over to his half-sister Ptraci so he can go back to Ankh-Morpork.
    • Carrot pre-emptively abdicates his position as the rightful King of Ankh-Morpork, and has even gone as far as killing someone who attempted to put him on the throne in Men at Arms and the subsequent novels in the City Watch sub-series.
    • Cohen the Barbarian, who became Emperor Cohen in Interesting Times, does this shortly before The Last Hero. That said, it's a little ambiguous whether Cohen actually technically abdicated or just scarpered off. Given that his plans were to return the fire that was stolen from the gods (in the form of a large keg of the Discworld's equivalent of dynamite), bothering about formalities would have been rather overly pedantic.
  • At the end of Dune Messiah, Emperor Paul Atreides leaves the throne after being overwhelmed by Chani's death and losing his prescience abilities when his twins were born. As per Fremen tradition, he walks toward the desert alone after he was blinded by a stone-burner during a failed assassination attempt. His sister, Alia, becomes regent for his children.
  • The "Sheltered Aristocrat" called Chivalry does this at the beginning of Robin Hobb's Farseer trilogy, out of shame in having an illegitimate child.
  • Forest Kingdom: In book 4 (Beyond the Blue Moon), Prince Rupert effectively does this by refusing to take the throne in his brother's place. His father, King John IV, also did so by faking his death in the aftermath of the Demon War and becoming a hermit.
  • The Forgotten Realms novel Cormyr includes the story of a Cormyrian king who was thoughtful and well-intentioned, but not strong enough to hold the throne. When he realized that even his own steward was plotting against him, he decided to screw tradition and abdicate in favor of his much more popular and better-suited sister.
  • In The Goblin Emperor, Lord Chavar and Sheveän try to force Maia to abdicate in favor of his nephew. It goes badly when Idra doesn't want the first thing to do with it.
  • In the Gone series, the leadership of Perdido Beach is like a game of musical chairs.
    • Caine waltzed in and took over, but left after the end of Gone. Sam then took over for Hunger, and then got tired of the responsibility and gave the leadership to the Town Council in Lies, run by Astrid. That turned out to be a disaster, so Sam returned as of Plague. Sam then left again for the Lake Tramonto settlement at the end, so Caine came back and became the absolute ruler of Perdido Beach. That works for a little while, but only until Light — Sam and Caine both leave to look for Gaia, so Edilio becomes the final Mayor of Perdido Beach, and actually maintains that position until the barrier comes down.
  • Heralds of Valdemar:
    • In the Mage Winds trilogy, Princess Elspeth abdicates her position as Heir in favor of her two younger half-siblings, reasoning that, as the first Herald-Mage in centuries and the only one currently trained to use magic, she will be obligated to take on duties that will be far too dangerous for the Heir.
    • At the end of the third book of the Herald Spy trilogy of the same series, King Kiril announces his intention to abdicate the throne in a few years time in favor of his son and Heir Prince Sedric. By the time of the sequel trilogy (Family Spies), this has abdication has taken place, making Kiril the first monarch of Valdemar in recent memory to ever retire from his duties and Sedric the first monarch to take the throne without the death of the previous monarch happening.
  • This marks the start of the story in How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom when King Albert abdicates in favor of our protagonist Kazuya, believing his knowledge can greatly improve the kingdom. He even betroths his daughter Liscia to Kazuya to make it more official, making him their Heir-In-Law. Kazuya indeed does a great job.
  • The Lord of the Rings:
    • In the Second Age, the Kings of Númenor normally abdicated in favor of their heir well before "laying down their lives" (ie: voluntarily dying). This is because as Númenóreans didn't get diseases and lived for hundreds of years, their sons would be old men by the time they died, so it became tradition to abdicate when their heir reached his full manhood. It is a sign of the kingdom's moral deterioration when they cease doing this.
    • 3,000 years after the fall of Númenor, their distant descendant Aragorn (who is the last heir of the royal house of Gondor, in turn descended from a cadet branch of the royal house of Númenor) restores this tradition as High King of Arnor and Gondor, abdicating the throne to his son Eldarion before voluntarily dying.
  • Max & the Midknights: The Tower of Time: After her father, King Rotgut of Klunk, is made Cap'n Scab's new cabin boy, Emeline is able to inherit his throne. However, she turns it down, saying that the people of Klunk can choose their own leader, and that she wants a change of pace.
  • In The Priory of the Orange Tree, several Berethnet queens have abdicated before death in Inysh history. Sabran contemplates the possibility herself. In the end, after the Nameless One is permanently defeated, Sabran decides that she will spend the next ten years restructuring the government into something like a republic and then abdicate, using the public justification that the Berethnets have fulfilled their holy responsibility (even though privately they know that the line wasn't holy after all).
  • Red Queen: After fending off an invasion by the Lakelands, Cal chooses to abdicate and abolish the Nortan monarchy, turning it into a republic. This is partly because he wants to bring democracy to Norta, and partly because he wants to be with Mare, who has explicitly rejected the possibility of becoming his queen.
  • Safehold: In book 9, At the Sign of Triumph, King Rahnyld III of Dohlar is forced to abdicate in favour of his teenage son by Lywys Gardynyr, Earl of Thirsk, who takes the position of First Councillor and throws the Inquisition out of the kingdom.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, Robert Baratheon confesses to his friend(and current Hand) Ned Stark that he would like to do this, cross the Narrow Sea to Essos, and live as a highly-paid sellsword(mercenary). What's stopping him? The thought of his son Joffrey as king, though it later turns out Joffrey isn't Robert's son Robert dies before finding out.
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe: In "Master & Apprentice" Queen Fanry abdicates the Pijali throne after her attempt to seize absolute power failed. She was succeeded by her cousin Lamia, who herself only reigned as Queen long enough to sign treaties setting up a new government, freeing slaves in the system, outlawing slavery, and then abolishing the monarchy forever.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • Jedi Apprentice has The Mark of the Crown, in which a ruler is converting her planet from a monarchy to a democracy. She will abdicate in favor of whomever wins the election. It's not going as smoothly as planned, so she calls in some Jedi to help with the process.
    • In Starfighters of Adumar, due to the Adumari honor code the perator of Cartann refuses to surrender in order to end the war. He is convinced to abdicate in favor of his son, who also refuses to surrender, but who does agree to a peace treaty.
  • The Stormlight Archive:
    • Words of Radiance: When King Elhokar goes on a rant about how he's a terrible king, he asks Kaladin what he should do. Kaladin bluntly tells him that he should abdicate in favor of his uncle Dalinar. Even in his drunk and self-pitying state, Elhokar finds that a step too far. Kaladin, it should be noted, was having an even worse day than Elhokar; normally he's not quite so blunt, and he later accepts that Elhokar is at least trying, and doesn't deserve to be assassinated by one of Kaladin's subordinates.
    • Ironically, Elhokar does end up abdicating... for about fifteen minutes. Kaladin hid him in The Lopen's house, and Elhokar abdicated so that they could say that King Elhokar was not in the building. The Lopen was king for those fifteen minutes before abdicating in favor of Elhokar again.
    • Oathbringer: Adolin spends much of the book worried about his place in the world, since his father is close to abdicating control of the princedom to him. This gets worse when Elhokar dies, and Adolin realizes that with his father removing himself from the line of succession and Elhokar's son too young, Adolin is going to end up as king. He has a discussion with Azure, a woman from another world who gave up her throne, and she says that sometimes the most responsible thing is to give up a responsibility that you know you can't handle. In the end, Adolin refuses the throne, and Elhokar's older sister Jasnah (who was originally skipped in the line of succession) becomes queen.
  • In Fiona Patton's Tales of the Branion Realm, it is illegal for the sovereign to abdicate, since he is the avatar of a god and the avatar is automatically the secular ruler as well. One sovereign does abdicate, but he's an apostate who turned to a different religion, and the followers of the original religion regard this as shirking his duty. In another book, the Crown Prince offers to abdicate, knowing full well it would mean execution.
  • The final Wham Line of The Uncommon Reader that Elizabeth II abdicated so that she could write a book.
    Queen Elizabeth: (to her assembled cabinet) Why do you think you're all here?
  • In Warrior Cats, Pinestar, leader of ThunderClan, left the Clan to become a kittypet (house cat) near the end of his life. (This is also one of the motivations behind his son, Tigerstar's hatred of kittypets.)
  • In The Westmark Trilogy as soon as Mickle remembered that she was heir to the throne, she expressed a wish to abdicate. She doesn't actually abdicate until the end of the third book, because before then she didn't trust any individual with running the country; after the common citizens of the country spontaneously rose up to oust a usurper, she decided to abdicate in their favor and turn the kingdom into a republic.
  • In The Wheel of Time, the Queen of Andor secretly abdicates her throne in favor of her daughter, Elayne, after being forced to abandon her nation. It contributes nothing to the plot (since everyone thinks she's dead anyway) — Elayne still has to deal with a Succession Crisis — but it adds a little bit of secret justice to the cause, from the reader's point of view, anyway.
  • Occurs several times in the Xanth series. Good Magician Humphrey served as king for several decades before tiring of the job and abdicating to the Storm King. Magician Trent (the Storm King's successor) would later abdicate to his son-in-law, Dor.
  • Young Wizards: In Wizards at War, King Nelaid of Wellakh abdicates his throne because he's had enough of The Chains of Commanding and being a target for assassination just for existing, even though his family work hard to protect the planet... so he gifts all of that to his 15-year-old son. Nice, Nelaid.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Edward VIII's real-life abdication of the throne of the United Kingdom is a constant background event for the first three seasons of The Crown, a shadow looming over the Royal Family until Uncle David finally died. One episode of the first season even opened with a dramatisation of his broadcast after abdication (which provides the page quote).
  • Doctor Who: "The Beast Below" sets up an impossible choice for Queen Liz X: abdicate her throne in order to free the star-whale providing the ship with its propulsion and doom her citizens or forget what she has learned and continue her rule. Fortunately, Amy realizes that the whale will stay because it wants to help them so she forces the queen to hit the "abdicate" button, but nothing changes.
  • In the season six finale of Game of Thrones, Tommen falls into despair after the Great Sept of Baelor is destroyed in a wildfire explosion. He realizes that he had failed as a king. Once he is alone, he quietly removes his crown and leaves it behind for whoever is foolish enough to want it. Then he calmly walks out the window.
  • Goodbye My Princess: In the epilogue Cheng Yin abdicates and gives the throne to his nephew.
  • In a moment of panic, Prince Arthur from Merlin offers to give up the throne in order to save Guinevere from being burnt at the stake.
  • The Other Kingdom: Petrithon was next in line to be the ruler of Athenia once, but he stepped down in order to stay together with a woman in the mortal world and permanently adapted his human alias Peter Quince, leaving his younger brother Oberon to be the next king by default.
  • Near the end of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Worf becomes Chancellor of the Klingon Empire after killing the increasingly corrupt Gowron. His chancellorship lasts about a minute before he places the cloak on the shoulders of his blood brother, General Martok.
  • Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms: Long before the series starts, Dong Hua Dijun abdicated in favour of the current Heavenly Lord. He still lives in the Nine Heavens and keeps an eye on things, though.
  • At one point in The Windsors, Prince Harry fundamentally misunderstands the concept. After he becomes aware of "Edward of Vee-One-One-One's" abdication to marry Wallis Simpson after watching The Crown, he becomes convinced he's going to have to abdicate and move to France to marry Meghan Markle, not getting it's only something an actual crowned head can do.

    Religion & Mythology 
  • The Book of Mormon:
    • An interesting example when King Mosiah voluntarily discontinues the Nephite monarchy entirely so that the people can instead be ruled by elected judges. He does this after having seen a local Nephite offshoot state being made slaves to the Lamanites, having lost God's protection when they fell into sinful ways following the example of a single wicked king. He technically doesn't abdicate himself, since he remains king for the (fairly short) remainder of his life, but that was mostly to ease the transition.
    • Alma, the first chief judge (essentially the elected president) of the Nephites gives up his position after only five years. He does this to focus his time and energy on teaching the people to repent seeing how they are lapsing into sin because of pride and wealth again, and they need God on their side to defend against the repeated and intensifying Lamanite invasions.
    • Alma's great-grandson Nephi later does something similar, handing over the judgement seat to Cezoram and going out to preach with his brother Lehi.

  • The second half of King Charles III sees various forces trying to get Prince Charles to abdicate before his official coronation. He does, when faced with the combined prospect of his sons publicly disavowing him & cutting off all contact with his grandchildren, and with Parliament stripping away the minuscule sliver of executive power left to the monarchy. The throne passes to his son William, but not before Charles makes a scene at the coronation and totally subverts what was meant to be an Awesome Moment of Crowning.
  • Oedipus the King: Oedipus at the end of his play has to abdicate after discovering he murdered his father and married his mother. The resulting power vacuum this leaves results in war, the deaths of his sons, and the plot of Antigone.
  • William Shakespeare:
    • Both Richard II and Henry VI Part 3 have forced abdications.
    • The plot of King Lear is kicked off when the king decides to abdicate (in fact if not in name) and must decide how to divide the kingdom among his potential heirs. To a Jacobean audience this would be disturbing as many people considered the King the link between man and God, and the play shows the natural order being disrupted.
    • Likewise, when Henry VI is placed back on the throne, he does the same as Lear: abdicates de facto and gives the ruling of the state to two of his supporters.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Rocket Age some Martian Principalities have ways of doing this without losing face, such as deliberately losing a duel to a "challenger".

    Video Games 
  • BloodStorm: Fallout's ending has him, about to become the new High Emperor, instead wander off and be never heard from again. This causes the provinces he was meant to lead from tearing each other apart in a violent global war.
  • In Dark Souls II and beyond, the First Flame that keeps the universe alive is referred to as a throne, both literally and metaphorically. Each time a hero rises up to become the Lord of the world, they must sacrifice themselves to that throne. Dark Souls 2 is a story of King Vendrick, who refused to take that throne, while Dark Souls 3 requires the player hunting down previous lords who have wandered away from their thrones. To the credit of the Lords of Cinder from 3, two of them (The Abyss Watchers and Yhorm the Giant) had gone mad due to the Abyss in the former case and the destruction of his homeland in the latter, while Aldrich is an evil Blob Monster dedicated to his Age of the Deep. Prince Lothric refused to sit on the throne in the first place, sparking the plot of the third game (the awakening of the aforementioned previous Lords and when all but one wandered away, the awakening of the Ashen Ones, including the protagonist.)
  • Dragon Quest III, after returning his stolen crown to the King of Romaly, he declares you the new King and abdicates. Unfortunately, as King, you have no power to do anything or even leave the city limits to continue your quest. The only thing you can do is find the former King gambling in the casino and ask him to retake his throne. Pointless diversion from the game, or lesson about how having power doesn't make you important? You decide.
  • Not quite a monarch, but in Fallout 3, depending on how you choose to complete it, a quest half way through the game where you return to Vault 101 can lead to the overseer giving his position up to his more reasonable daughter. Although this doesn't change the fact she still has to forbid you from returning to live in the vault, reluctantly.
  • In Final Fantasy XIV, Nanamo Ul Namo, the sultana of Ul'dah, becomes disillusioned at the fact that she is essentially a ruler in name only, unable to help her people while the Monetarist factions prioritized profit over the well-being of their fellow citizens. To that end, she plans to abdicate the throne, dissolving the Royalists and Monetarists and paving the way for a democratic Ul'dah. Her plan, unfortunately, is halted by a Monetarist plot to assassinate her. While she survives the attempt, other pressing matters prevent her from abdicating the throne for some time.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • At the end of Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem, Sheena, Nyna, and Minerva all renounce their thrones to Marth, leading him to unite the continent under his rule.
    • At the end of Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn:
      • Micaiah discovers that she is actually Sanaki's long-lost older sister and the rightful Empress of Begnion, but abdicates that throne to go restore order in Daein.
      • If Pelleas is still alive, he abdicates the Daein throne to Micaiah. Justified since 1. his claim to the throne, that he was the prior king Ashnard's long-lost orphan, was a lie (albeit one that he himself genuinely believed) and 2. despite his good intentions, he was... well, completely unfit to actually be the King, which nearly led to the complete annihilation of Daein and pretty much destroyed his life. Since Micaiah is much better cut for the job, Pelleas chooses to stay around but as one of her advisors, which fits him much better.
      • If Skrimir is alive at the end, his uncle Caineghis abdicates the throne of Gallia after the end of the war so he can pass it on to Skrimir. If Skrimir is dead, Caineghis remains king of Gallia.
      • Renning, by technicality. He was supposed to be next in line for the Crimean throne before his niece, Elincia, was born. The court decided to keep Elincia's existence hidden from the public eye in order to prevent a succession crisis from happening in Crimea. However, when the Mad King's War began, he was thought to be killed and Elincia eventually became queen. It is eventually discovered that he was alive, albeit controlled by a Psycho Serum and under the name Bertram, and is cured by a galdr. However, despite his return and the possibility of him claiming the throne, he steps down and instead serves as Elincia's adviser.
    • Fire Emblem Fates:
      • In the Birthright route, after Xander's death in the war, his half-sister Camilla is next in line for the throne. However, she chooses to abdicate and leave the throne to her younger brother Leo; it's implied that she feels she isn't cut to be the Queen, whereas Leo is.note 
      • In the Revelation path, Corrin's best friend Azura has the greater claim to the Vallite throne than Corrin him/herself, being the true princess rather than the child of a usurper. She decides to pass the Kingdom over to them, though, unless Male!Corrin marries her; in that case, he gains the throne by marriage and they rule together.
    • In Fire Emblem: Three Houses:
      • If Claude is still alive at the end of the game, he renounces his title of Duke Riegan and returns to his homeland Almyra to become its king. In his paired ending with Lysithea, he renounces the Almyran throne and goes on a journey to find a way to cure her shortened lifespan; in his paired ending with Shamir, after completing his goals of reform, he renounces the Almyran throne and vanishes on a journey with Shamir.
      • If Petra is paired with Male!Byleth at the end of the game, she renounces the Brigid throne to be with him.
      • Most of Edelgard's paired endings mention her eventually abdicating as emperor and passing the throne to an unnamed successor.
  • Several of the nobles' schemes in King of the Castle include an option to force the King to abdicate in favour of their chosen claimant if they succeed; this isn't always a bad thing for the King.
    • The Ascension scheme entails the Counts of the East persuading the King to join a secret society of immortal vampires in exchange for the crown. If the scheme succeeds, the King is won over by the idea that Living Forever Is Awesome and happily yields the throne to the Counts' claimant.
    • Multiple schemes, including the Modernization scheme (in which the Barons of the March reform the military and then leads it on the capital), the Conspiracy scheme (in which the Patricians of the Coast bury the Kingdom in debts it cannot repay), and the Subterfuge scheme (in which one of the factions gradually replaces the King's inner circle with their own nobles), can result in the King being obliged to surrender the throne, but the winning region will offer them a subsidised existence as a sheep farmer. If they accept, the King finds the pastoral life hard work and secretly misses being on the throne at times, but ultimately decides their new situation has its pleasures.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom has two examples:
    • Sometime between now and the previous game, Impa retired as head of Kakariko Village and named her teenaged grandaughter Paya as the new chief, with Paya's diary mentioning that the act was very spontaneous on Impa's part. Much of Paya's story revolves around her doubts about her ability as a leader.
    • Kaneli, the elder of the Rito, retired and left his position to Teba.
    • The conclusion of the Zora's Domain quest sees the elderly King Dorephan abdicate the Zora throne. His son Sidon and his new wife thus ascend as the new Zora king and queen.
  • Some of the possible endings of Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen have Tristan give up the throne in favor of the player character, because the people want hir (their liberator) to serve.
  • Pokémon:
    • Pokémon Gold and Silver: In the three-year timeskip between these games and Red and Blue, Red (the player character of Red and Blue) decided to quit being the champion and go live as a hermit on Mt Silver. In his absence, the strongest of the Elite Four, Lance, was promoted to Champion, and remains such until he is defeated by Ethan, the player character of these games. In a bizarre player-driven example of Gameplay and Story Integration, Lance is generally considered the easiest champion in the series. Which is appropriate because he's the only one who didn't earn it, only having the title because the guy who did earn it got bored and quit.
    • Pokémon Sword and Shield: Sordward and Shielbert, who claim to be descended from Galarian royalty, upon being defeated for the final time by the player character, relinquish their claim to the Galarian throne to the player character. Rather downplayed as by this time there hasn't been a throne to claim in centuries.
  • In the Quest for Glory series of games, the character Rakeesh is the rightful ruler of the land of Tarna, but gives up the throne to become a paladin.
  • In 10 Days with My Devil, Kakeru Kamui is the heir to the throne of the demon realm, and his younger brother Meguru is the Spare to the Throne. When their father the Demon King sentences Kakeru to death for meddling in the lives of humans, Meguru abdicates his claim on the throne, forcing the Demon King to spare Kakeru in order to avoid a Succession Crisis.
  • In Tyranny, with sufficient Lore skills (or if you found a legal document mentioning this law) this can be invoked as a form of Loophole Abuse in order to end a royal line with comparatively little bloodshed. Specifically, when it's revealed that the ruler of Stalwart has an infant grandchild, you can tell the child's mother that since she's technically the regent she can abdicate on her daughter's behalf and thus avoid having to murder an infant. Your superiors will note that while you certainly got the job done via the letter of the law, they do not appreciate your blatant dismissal of the intent.
  • Undertale: During some Neutral endings of the game (especially if you've killed some monsters) lead Undyne, if she was left alive, to lead a revolution against Toriel and her new practices. When Toriel realizes this, she peacefully abdicates and banishes herself back to the Ruins. Depending on whether or not Papyrus is alive, he'll either welcome you to come back, or Sans will essentially tell you to go to Hell.
  • Xenogears: After former King Bart liberates Aveh from the ruthless dictator Shakahn, he decides to abdicate the throne in favor of a republic according to his late father's will.
  • In Yakuza, Kiryu maneuvers his way into becoming the Fourth Chairman of the Tojo Clan just long enough to stop the clan civil war before he resigns and gives the title to Terada. Even if he was only Chairman for all of fifteen minutes, he's still treated with massive respect by other ranking members of the Clan.
    • An even bigger version of this happens in Yakuza: Like a Dragon, where Daigo Dojima and Masaru Watase, Chairmen of the Tojo and Omi respectively both not only step down but outright disband their organizations with plans to reform their organizations into private security firms, partly because they believe the time of organized crime remaining in power is coming to an end as well as to avoid remaining under the thumb of the Governor of Tokyo.

    Web Original 

  • Drowtales:
    • In Chapter 49, Vala'drielle decides to abdicate the leadership of the Kyorl'solenurn clan to Anahid. Played with in that the position was always rightfully Anahid's, but Valla'drielle had been appointed before Anahid could properly claim it by the Judicators, who at this point are almost all dead.
    • Quain'tana Val'Sarghress also expresses a desire to do this and go out adventuring in the world one last time before her body gets too old. She never gets the chance.
  • Kill Six Billion Demons: Sometime during the Universal War, one Demiurge — a Master Swordswoman, peerless general, and despoiler of twenty thousand worlds — abandoned her throne for unknown reasons to wander The Multiverse as the drunken mendicant knight "Auntie Maya". Her successor Incubus is disrespected by the other Demiurges for not winning power the "proper" way in a tide of blood and carnage.
  • King Jeff of Hilla abdicates to an impatient barbarian as an excuse to go on vacation in Latchkey Kingdom.
  • A Magical Roommate: the rulers of Umbria abdicate the throne to their children when either the king or the queen dies, since it's a rule that the royalty may not rule without a companion.
  • In Sailor Moon Cosmos Arc, after Usagi becomes Sailor Cosmos and ascends to godhood Endymion relinquishes his claim to the throne to take Helios's place as priest of Elysion, so Helios could be with Chibiusa.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
      • A semi-example: on two occasions, Iroh has a chance to challenge his brother, Ozai, to be Fire Lord: right after their father's death (the audience knows for a fact that the father wanted Iroh to succeed him), and during the final battle at the end of the series. Both times he refuses: the first time most likely because he's still devastated by the death of his son, and later because he feels Ozai's son, Zuko, should be Fire Lord instead, officially renouncing his claim to the throne.
      • Played With again during the Grand Finale, when Fire Lord Ozai passes the title of Fire Lord to Azula; however, this is because he intends to conquer the entire world and give himself a new title, Phoenix King.
    • In The Legend of Korra (Sequel Series to the above), Zuko's daughter is Fire Lord, while Zuko, now an old man, abdicated to become a worldwide ambassador of peace instead.
      • Also, in the second season Tonraq apparently decides not to contest his niece and nephew's right to the Northern Water Tribe throne, despite now knowing that their father stole it. He is selected Chief of the Southern Tribe instead, but at least he's allowed to return to his homeland anytime he wants, and has done so once.
      • At the end of the the fourth season, Prince Wu abandons his claim to the Earth Kingdom throne, with the intent of letting it become a republic with elected leaders. The sequel comics The Legend of Korra: Ruins of the Empire explores it further; Prince Wu comes to realize his country is in a precarious state, and he was forcing the Earth Kingdom into democracy too quickly so he resolves to keep the throne to help manage the transition, even if it will take his whole lifetime.
  • Prince Wally does it so that he can run for President on an early episode of Kim Possible. It is a big case of Prophecies Are Always Right: It has been foretold that his country's royal line will end at Prince Wally. Instead of being assassinated as the characters assume, he opts to abdicate after being impressed with American democracy.
  • In the season one finale of The Legend of Vox Machina, Sovereign Uriel, after being manipulated by General Krieg and flat out mind controled by the Briarwoods, decides to succede control of Emon to the city council, having decided that it'd be harder to manipulate a council of leaders than a single absolute ruler.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic:
    • "Gauntlet of Fire": Torch starts the contest for the new Dragon Lord because dragon customs dictate that he must abdicate the throne after having ruled for the time that he has. At the end, Spike completes the challenge and thus lawfully becomes the new Lord himself, but passes the Bloodstone Scepter to Ember as she is more capable of being Dragon Lord than he is and he has no desire to stay in the dragon lands. Spike only participated in the first place because he wanted to make sure Torch's successor wouldn't wage war on pony kind for petty reasons, which he knows Ember won't do, and he was only able to obtain the scepter in the first place because she held off Garble for him.
    • In "The Beginning of the End: Part 1", Celestia and Luna announcing their retirement as rulers and dub Twilight as their successor. The original plan was to do this effective immediately, but the episode's events — including Twilight's own panic, as she had no inkling of these plans until this point — convince them to delay the abdication until Twilight has finished preparing herself.
  • Star Trek: Lower Decks: Season 2's "Where Pleasant Fountains Lie" serves as A Day in the Limelight for the Cerritoss chief engineer, Andy Billups...who is actually Prince Andarithio of the planet Hysperia (which is home to dragons, and apparently got colonized by a bunch of Renaissance Fair enthusiasts). But he hated being a prince, and prefers being an engineer in Starfleet, much to the annoyance of his mother, Queen Paolana. Their succession laws are that, if the crown prince has sex, he immediately accedes to the throne; ergo, Paolana has repeatedly attempted to get her son to have sex (which Billups has steadfastly avoided; it's quite possible he might be asexual). This time around, she fakes technical malfunctions and then causes part of her flagship to explode, seemingly killing her and forcing Billups to take the throne. Tendi and Rutherford, however, serve as a Spanner in the Works and end up uncovering the plot. Fortunately for them, Billups had trouble "rising" to the occasion (his mom had bragged earlier that her bodyguards were trained to skip foreplay, so that probably didn't help), and remains onboard the Cerritos.
  • Steven Universe: "A Single Pale Rose" revealed that Pink Diamond's assassination six thousand years ago was actually an elaborate Faking the Dead plot so she could abdicate and hand control of Earth to humanity. She previously tried to abdicate normally, but her fellow Diamonds overruled her.
  • The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries: Some lions wanted to depose their King because their food reserves (read: game) were running low. The King wouldn't mind abdicating except that it wasn't allowed. He had to die before a new King rose. He instead tricked Sylvester into switching places with him. (Which was posible thanks to Paper-Thin Disguise) The food was eventually found inside the cave of a lion who planned to usurp the throne but decided the current King wasn't all that bad when compared to Sylvester.
  • In the Teen Titans (2003) episode "Betrothed", it is revealed that Starfire is the crown princess of her planet, Tamaran, as she was in the comics. After agreeing to an arranged marriage (a Tamaranian custom, as she is quick to inform Robin of), finding out that her husband is a slimy, flatulent Eldritch Abomination, that the whole marriage was engineered by her criminal older sister, Blackfire, who seized the throne and agreed to trade Starfire to the blob people for a MacGuffin to boost her powers, and finally taking the throne back from Blackfire by force and banishing her from the planet, Starfire abdicates the throne and gives the crown to her male nanny, Galfore, "the hands that raised her when she was very small".
  • In the Tom Terrific story arc "Go West, Young Manfred," Tom and Mighty Manfred are in the old west helping a prospector get to the California gold rush. Manfred is taken in by a tribe of Indians from a dance of pain he did after landing on some cacti. He abdicates after Tom sways him with some goodies and an extra-soft mattress.
    Manfred: Dear fellow native behooves me on this great occasion to leave the home of my redskin blood brothers for the home of tiny paleface Tom Terrific, who needs me on his next really great adventure. Farewell, kemosabes!
    Indian: Kemo who??

    Real Life 
  • Britain's Edward VIII abdicated in 1936, less than a year into his reign. He was determined to marry American divorcée Wallis Simpson and keep the throne. Not only did divorce carry great stigma at the time, but the King was supposed to be the head of the Church of England, who taught that marrying after divorce was wrong if the divorced partner was still alive.note  He didn't really fancy being King anyway and neither did the British establishment (he was known to have Nazi sympathies, but the wider public didn't find out until decades after). So that's OK. Here is his speech announcing the his action to his former people.
    • This is probably why Britain is just about the only country where any talk of abdication is considered a bad thing. Elizabeth II lived to be 96, far older than everyone below, and had no intentions whatsoever of abdicating, pledging at 21 that "[her] whole life, be it long or short", would be devoted to the service of her country — a pledge she fulfilled until her dying day,note  and an example which her son, King Charles III, has rather emphatically declared that he is going to follow. We should also note that Elizabeth remembered Edward VIII's abdication, as she was not only alive at the time (she was 10) but made acutely aware of the fact that this was why she was Queen (her father, King George VI, was Edward's younger brother, who never expected or wanted to be king and quite possibly died before his time because of it), or at least why she was Queen in 1952 rather than, say, sometime in the 1970s. Most sources indicated that she was not entirely happy with the circumstances that led to her eventual accession.
    • Also compounding the issue of abdication in Britain is the fact that technically, the monarch cannot abdicate without the consent of Parliament -- and of every one of the parliaments or governments of the other Commonwealth Realms — because of the old British and typical Commonwealth rule that Parliament alone is permitted to decide the succession to the throne, and that includes who currently sits on it. It's unlikely that a monarch intending to abdicate would be denied, but even if they were just trying to retire and there was no hint of scandal, the effort it would take to get all the necessary approvals would be, if not daunting, then very annoying.note 
    • Finally, the issue of abdication in the UK is complicated still more by the fact that the United Kingdom is the only extant European monarchy to still practice the ritual of a true coronation (as opposed to the investiture or oath-swearing now used elsewhere). In essence, Elizabeth II was an anointed monarch consecrated to God and to the service of her kingdom, and Her Majesty took that oath very seriously. (No anointed English or British monarch has ever willingly abdicated; Edward VIII abdicated before he was formally crowned and therefore before he was anointed or took any of the major holy oaths, thereby making the abdication slightly less unforgivable in the eyes of Palace tradition.)
    • In fact, Edward was explicitly warned by Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin that if he went ahead with marrying Simpson, then the government would Resign in Protest, triggering a constitutional crisis.
  • Queen Christina of Sweden abdicated her throne in favor of her cousin Charles X Gustav to convert to Catholicism and go live in Italy.
  • Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands abdicated in favor of her daughter Juliana in 1948. Decades later (in 1980), Juliana did the same for her daughter Beatrix; who in turn stepped down in 2013 favor of her son Willem-Alexander. Considering Willem I's abdication in 1840 in favor of his son Willem II (like Edward VIII, there was a woman involved), far more post-Napoleonic Dutch monarchs have stepped down than died in office and this may safely be considered a tradition.
  • Tsarist Russia:
    • Ivan the Terrible also pulled this once, but it was actually a Batman Gambit to get the non-boyars to acquiesce to his boyar-slaughtering Oprichnina.
    • The February Revolution of 1917 gives us two examples within 24 hours, 15-16 March (2-3 March Old Style) 1917:
      • The reigning Emperor, Nicholas II, realized on 15 March that he had no practical choice but to abdicate. However, he did not abdicate and leave the throne vacant; after some heming and hawing, he abdicated in favor of his brother, the Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich, hoping to preserve the Tsarist regime.note  At the time, this didn't seem insane; many had joined the revolution primarily because they thought Nicholas (and his wife) had run the Russian war effort incompetently, and were at least in theory fine with the continuation of the Romanov monarchy in some form. If he (and not the regime) was the problem, then his abdication was the solution (and thereby preserve the regime). Though it pained him—as he'd spent his whole life convinced that he had been chosen by God to reign in Russia—even Nicholas could see the logic, and ever loyal to the institution of Russian monarchy, he abdicated, handing the throne to the Grand Duke.
      • The Grand Duke—a much savvier political operator than his older brother—nevertheless recognized two main points: (1) Even the people who were OK with a continued Romanov monarchy "in some form" wanted that form to be constitutional (not necessarily full parliamentary monarchy, but with a far stronger role for the ministers and the elected Duma than Nicholas had ever allowed). (2) Revolutionary politics being what it is, the question of Russia's political constitution would have to be committed to some kind of popularly-elected convention (barring any major changes). Therefore, the day after his brother's abdication, Grand Duke Michael proclaimed that he would not accept the throne until an elected Constituent Assembly had offered it to him, and that in the meantime the Provisional Government that had coalesced around the former Imperial Duma would run the country and war effort.note  It's clear that Michael hoped that the eventual Constituent Assembly would settle on a Romanov-headed constitutional monarchy with himself as Emperor and Nicholas and his family living quietly in the countryside;note  indeed, as of early 1917, this seemed like the most likely outcome. Even if that didn't work, all indications were that a republican regime in Russia would probably leave the Romanovs alone—at worst, they'd be exiled to live with their cousins in Britain or Denmark. But events remained tumultuous, and then the Bolsheviks took power in the October Revolution, and things only went downhill for the Romanovs from there...
  • Diocletian, the Eastern Roman Emperor. The resignation was the capstone of reforms aimed at making the transition of power more orderly. It didn't work, and the generation after him was plagued by civil war.
    • When begged to come out of retirement and end the conflict, he refused saying "If you could show the cabbage that I planted with my own hands to your emperor, he definitely wouldn't dare suggest that I replace the peace and happiness of this place with the storms of a never-satisfied greed."
  • Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, who was also Charles I of Spain, retired to a monastery when he was tired of being The Emperor-not to be a monk, for he continued to live in unmonastic luxury. Rather, because the area also made a rather decent ad-hoc villa and perhaps because he liked the company of monks more then that of courtiers. He left the Spanish throne to his son and the Holy Roman Empire to his brother.
  • Lucius Cornelius Sulla, who as a dictator was king in all but name, "retired" after a while, but only after securing that his legislation wouldn't be challenged and making sure the majority of the Roman senate were chosen by himself. Caesar said that he was politically illiterate for doing so, but we know what happened to him when he showed no sign of giving up the post... This trope, in any case, was required of dictators in the Republic, and Cincinnatus earned fame and admiration for doing so earlier than required.
  • Pope Benedict XVI became the first Pope in almost 600 years to resign (the church does not refer to it as an "abdication", but many others do). And the first in 900 years to resign voluntarily rather than at the point of a sword.
  • Ottoman Emperor Murad II resigned in 1444 in favor of his 12-year-old son Mehmed. A couple of years later the latter realized he was in over his head and sent a message spelling things out for his father:
    "If you are the Sultan, come and lead your armies. If I am the Sultan, I hereby order you to come and lead my armies."
    • Mehmed did prove himself eventually; he didn't earn the sobriquet "The Conqueror" for nothing, after all, having ended the Byzantine Empire in 1453 among other accomplishments.
  • Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem Al Thani of Qatar stepped down and turned the throne over to his son, Sheikh Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.
  • Belgium has had two abdications since World War II:
    • In 1951, King Leopold III abdicated in favor of his eldest son Baudouin/Boudewijn/Balduin in order to avoid the outright abolition of the Belgian monarchy. Leopold was widely suspected of having collaborated with the German occupation during the war, and the installation of his more popular son as King was needed to avert catastrophe for the royal family.
    • In 2013, King Albert II, the second son of Leopold III, (who had succeeded his older brother Baudouin when he died childless in 1993) stepped down effective in favor of his eldest child Philippe/Filip/Philipp. Albert was 79 at the time and cited health reasons for his decision, which is easy enough to believe.
  • Dom Pedro I, the founding emperor of Brazil did it twice, in two different countries. He was originally the Portuguese Crown Prince who was left in charge of Brazil after the Napoleonic Wars (during which the Portuguese monarchy took refuge in its Brazilian colony). After reorganizing the country based on liberal principles, Pedro declared Brazil independent and made himself its constitutional monarch. This did not keep him from succeeding to the Portuguese throne in 1826, but, after a short while, he abdicated the Portuguese throne and passed it on to his daughter. He abdicated from the Brazilian throne, however, when his daughter in Portugal was overthrown by the reactionaries in 1831 and went to Portugal to lead liberal forces. He is known as "the Liberator" in both Portugal and Brazil, but his tendency to suddenly abdicate caused much confusion in politics of both countries, to say the least, and contributed to the reactionary rebellions in both countries.
    • His son Dom Pedro II was also forced to abdicate the Brazilian crown in a highly unusual situation: after implementing abolition of slavery he had lost the support of the rich and wealthy class, who began pushing for a Republican government to replace the Empire. Pedro II did not resist, as he himself grew tired of ruling for over 50 years (he was crowned as a 14-year old) and so the Republic was established in a practically bloodless coup, despite him having the full support of both the people and the recently freed slaves (who equated the monarchy with freedom for his role in the abolition) who did not wish to see him deposed.
  • Effective 19 June 2014, then-76-year-old King Juan Carlos of Spain officially handed the reins over to his son Felipe (VI).
  • Subverted with Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany. In the final stages of World War I, the German government were fearing revolution could break out, as the German people might be inspired by the Russian revolution against the tsar. Therefore, they made the announcement the Kaiser abdicated the throne, in favor of a new German republic. Unfortunately for Wilhelm, this happened without his permission. When he heard the news at his retreat in Belgium, he knew everything was lost. Fearing for his life as his home country might hand him over to the allies to be tried, Wilhelm fled to the neutral Netherlands to live out the rest of his days there. He finally died in mid-1941.
  • This happened repeatedly in Japanese history. Reigning emperors would rule for a few years, get tired of the endless rituals they were required to perform, and retire in favor of a son to live in luxury and actually wield more power than the current Emperor. Sometimes there would be three or four such retired Emperors around, all of them running their own schemes.
    • For much of Japanese history, the Emperor's "rule" was a fiction; shoguns and other lords for centuries ruled large swaths of Japan (albeit in the Emperor's name) while the Emperor himself was more often seen as a religious leader and icon than a temporal ruler. Indeed, so much of the Emperor's time was spent on rituals that were, in honesty, so repetitive and boring that they didn't leave much time for actual rulership. Many times, an Emperor would abdicate in favor of a pubescent child who would go through the rituals because the adults told him to, who would then be allowed to abdicate himself sometime in his late teens or early twenties to a well earned retirement so that he could do something productive with his life.
      • After decades of consolidating power in Sengoku-era Japan, Ieyasu Tokugawa was officially appointed Shogun in 1603. After just two years he abdicated and passed on the shogunate to his son to ensure a peaceful transfer of power. Though he officially retired, Ieyasu still had power until his death in 1616.
    • In modern days, the situation of Japan's monarchy has vastly shifted. In centuries past, Japan was flush with eligible nobility to succeed to the crown, with succession guidelines being very fluid, at times following a Saudi Arabian-like system where brothers or cousins of the late monarch would gain the throne rather than said monarch's own children. This system led to the creation of several cadet branches of the Imperial family, along with entirely separate eligible families. With Japan's defeat in World War II, however, the Constitution was rewritten to eliminate many traditional aristocratic privileges, with succession to the crown limited to direct male-line heirs of the reigning Emperor, the abolishment of Imperial status of all other cadet families, and the removal of Imperial status from all female members who marry outside the royal family. This had the unintended side effect of drastically reducing the available pool of possible successors, as many members of the royal family had no children, or very few, and many of them femalecomparison . Emperor Akihito caused waves worldwide when he made a televised address containing blatant hints that he wished to abdicate in favor of his son due to health reasons, not only because this would require a change in the existing law while post-WWII Constitutional custom makes it not only discouraged but nearly forbidden for the monarch to comment on the laws and politics of his country, but because there were so few members of the royal family eligible to take his place. The Japanese government eventually passed a one-off bill in the Diet that began the process of Akihito handing over responsibilities to Crown Prince Naruhito, with the formal handover occurring in 2019.
  • Since being raised to a Grand Duchy, Luxembourg has, like the Netherlands, seen more monarchs retire than die "in harness."note  Adolphe (having inherited in 1890 when he was well into his 70s) and Guillaume IV reigned for life, but since then? Marie-Adélaïde abdicated under a cloud after World War I when she was not quite 25 (1919), her kid sister Charlotte was pushing 70 when she quit 19 years after returning home with the exiled government after World War II (1964), and the latter's son Jean handed things over to his son Henri in 2000 at the age of 79.
  • Queen of Sweden Ulrika Eleonora abdicated in 1720 after having been Queen of Sweden for little more than a year. She still remained a queen after abdicating, however — the abdication agreement with the Riksdag made her husband, Frederick I, the reigning king, making her the queen consort (and heir to the throne if he predeceased her, although that did not happen). All indications are she wanted to be a reigning queen, but she wanted her husband to be officially involved with affairs of state even more, so when a co-monarchy was denied an abdication was agreed upon.
  • Victor Emmanuel III of Italy abdicated in 1946 (after having ceded the actual powers of the king to his heir in 1944), probably in a ploy to boost the monarchy's popularity in face of the impending republican referendum. If so, it didn't work — Umberto II was king for forty days, accepting the results and peacefully stepping down.


Video Example(s):


Billups Was a Prince

Billups reveals he abdicated his birthright as prince to be an engineer in Starfleet. His mother has been trying to undo that decision.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / AbdicateTheThrone

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