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Elective Monarchy

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"It is the Assembly who makes a king, and the king who nominates a successor. None of it is carried in the blood."
Lord Pyral Harrowmont, Dragon Age: Origins

The inverse of Hereditary Republic, this is when a monarch does not automatically inherit the throne, but is instead chosen by a group of people, usually a select few. This has been done in Real Life, most notably by the Holy Roman Empire and with The Pope.

Even in monarchies that are normally hereditary, this can come up if the entire royal family dies out, as a method to decide who gets to form the new royal family.

Succession Crisis is very common as people go wheeling and dealing to try to secure the throne or favors for their help in securing it.

Of course, human nature being what it is, disappointed candidates upset with the results or the agenda of the monarch proceed to lead a rebellion against the winner, not that primogeniture necessarily prevents civil wars either.

Offered the Crown as the standard practice.


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     Anime and Manga 
  • Mobile Suit Gundam SEED and the rest of the Cosmic Era timeline includes the tiny but powerful pacific nation called the "Orb Union" ruled by a elected legislature à la most constitutional monarchies but also by, not one, but five noble families, the most prominent is current ruling family, the Athhas while most of the rest are featured in the side stories like Astray, all five must agree on decisions that affect the rest of the country and voting for a "Chief Representative", the official head of state amongst their Lords (though Cagalli Yula Athha, Princess of Orb directly inherited her Father's, Lord Uzumi's position).
  • Part of Castle Town Dandelion's premise involve the King putting his successor to universal suffrage, selecting among his nine children.

    Fan Works 
  • A Good Compromise: The Lord Protector of Yarmta (the Teplan head of state) is briefly mentioned to be an "elected autocrat".

  • Star Wars: Naboo's democratic monarchy, in which the ruler is elected and even has term limits. It seems more like a republic, just one that grants their presidents the trappings of royalty. One might speculate that perhaps it was once a regular monarchy which the government slowly watered down into a non-hereditary, limited-time position.
    • According to Darth Plagueis, that's exactly what happened. Star Wars Legends also indicated that the elected leaders of cities on Naboo are "princes" and "princesses" rather than mayors. Before being elected queen, Padme Amidala was Princess of Theed, Naboo's capital.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End: The Pirate King is elected by the nine pirate lords; there have been very few kings because the lords tend to just vote for themselves. Jack surprises everyone by voting for Elizabeth, giving her two votes to everyone else's one.
  • Kronk's New Groove: Yzma briefly tries to be elected Emperor.

  • "In a democracy, it's your vote that counts. In feudalism, it's your count that votes" (probably lends itself to the arrangement specified in this trope).

  • In the Belgariad series, Sendaria choose its first king like this, and everyone could vote. Also, the winning candidate had to have a majority of the votes rather than simply the most votes. It took six years and twenty-two ballots to winnow the 724 candidates down to a single winner, a rutabaga farmer named Fundor. As a result, nobody takes the monarchy all that seriously—not even the monarch. Also, the Empire of Tolnedra elects a new Emperor if the old one dies without an heir.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • The royalty of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros is normally hereditary, but a hundred years before the series takes place, the Blackfyre Rebellion occurred because the king legitimized his bastard sons on his deathbed and in so doing created a massive Succession Crisis (there were rumors that the trueborn brother, who was also the eldest, was actually the king's brother's son, and the eldest bastard, Daemon Blackfyre, believing them, rose up against him). Several years and a few thousand bodies later, the only Targaryen heirs left were either children or mentally unstable. A Great Council was formed from many of the ruling lords to choose the next king. They passed through many candidates in the Targaryen family tree before settling on Aegon V, a fourth son of a fourth son, hereafter known as Aegon "The Unlikely". After choosing the next king, the Great Council dissolved and the crown passed on through the family, though in the prelude to the War of the Five Kings, the possibility of another Great Council being formed is brought up due to the disputed heritage and validity of nearly all the contenders' claims to the throne.
    • The First Great Council was called by Jaehaerys I after the deaths of his two eldest sons to decide who would be his heir. The lords, with a vast majority, voted for the male-line candidate, Jaehaerys' 24-year old grandson Viserys, rather than a female or the female-line candidate, Jaehaerys 7-year old great-grandson Laenor Velaryon. This apparently codified that Targaryen rule had to happen through the male line.
    • The Ironborn thousands of years ago elected their Kings through a Kingsmoot, which could sometimes go on for days and would occasionally be used to depose unworthy Kings. This practice ended when Urron "Redhand" Greyiron, the great-nephew of the previous King, murdered many of his opponents at the Kingsmoot, beginning hereditary rule. After House Greyiron ended the Ironborn chose House Hoare, and when House Hoare was destroyed almost three centuries before the series starts, Aegon the Conqueror allowed the Iron Islands to choose their new ruler, and they chose the Greyjoys. Ironborn ostensibly follow the same agnatic-cognatic primogeniture as five of the other six kingdoms, but in practice, there is enough resistance when a woman is next in line to inherit that they revive their centuries-dead tradition of a Kingsmoot instead. The crown winds up going to Euron Greyjoy, the man who would have been heir in an agnatic (male-only) primogeniture system. Ironically the Kingsmoot was called by his youngest brother Aeron partially to prevent Euron becoming King of the Isles, who hoped his other brother Victarian Greyjoy would be chosen instead. No word yet on if they'll codify this or stick with an elective monarchy.
    • The Wildlings occasionally elect a "king beyond the wall", which is simply a title given to whichever one of them manages to unite sufficiently many wildlings to follow his leadership. Mance Rayder is king beyond the wall during the events of the book, and holds it entirely on merit.
    • The Prince of Pentos is chosen by the magisters. He has a mostly ceremonial role, charged with justice, trade and war, while the magisters largely run the city. If he fails in his duties, he's sacrificed to appease the gods and another prince is selected. The candidates are selected from the "forty families" and seem to have no say in the manner. One of them liked the idea of being chosen so little he fled the city and is known as the Tattered Prince (he now heads a company of mercenaries).
    • The Sealord of Braavos is also elected, though it's unclear if it's this or a republic. However considering Braavos is based on Italian Renaissance city-states (especially Venice) it is likely the latter.
    • Lorath has three princes, each of them elected by a different group — the Harvest Prince is elected by vote amongst all landowners, the Fisher Prince by all shipowners, and the Prince of the Streets by all free men. All three offices serve for life, but have long since been reduced to Puppet Kings of the city's magisters.
    • The Archon of Tyrosh, like the Prince of Pentos, is chosen by the council of magisters, in this case from among their own number. How much actual authority he really has is unknown.
  • In Mistborn: The Original Trilogy, after the fall of the Lord Ruler, Elend Venture crowned himself king of the Central Dominance and set up a parliamentary body called the Assembly with far-reaching powers, including the ability to depose and replace him. Essentially, imagine if the President was lifelong and hereditary, but Congress had the power to impeach him. They only managed to hold one election before Elend abolished the Assembly and set himself up as emperor in the face of the danger posed by Ruin, but he let the guy who beat him in the election rule as a client king.
  • An interesting case in Mikhail Akhmanov's Envoy from the Heavens with The Empire on planet Osier, which has been stuck in Medieval Stasis for at least a thousand years, which is the reason why the protagonist is sent there in the first place — to figure out why all their efforts to secretly advance the culture have failed. On the death of the emperor, his son does not necessarily ascend to the throne. Any (male) member of the royal family may become the next ruler, provided they are popular and influential enough within the family. In essence, the emperor is chosen by vote, but only from members of the royal house (the system used by some real monarchies, such as Saudi Arabia for instance).
    • This shows that despite the name, the Empire is far from being evil. In fact, it ruled the inhabited continent for so long (with only a few small kingdoms bordering it), that the emperors see no need to be cruel to enforce their will.
  • In the Tales of Kolmar the Kantri are ruled by a king or queen chosen by all of them, and remain in that position for life or until the others decide to give the rank to someone else. It's more a position of public service than privilege. The rank is interchangeably king/queen or "lord".
  • The Vampire Princes in The Saga of Darren Shan. A new Prince must be nominated by one of the Princes, and approved by all of the others. If one does not approve, it is voted on by the Generals (a much larger group of officials between the Princes and ordinary vampires). If two or more Princes refuse, the nomination is cancelled. Book 4 introduces a character who is set to become a Prince, who was rejected by one Prince and approved by only 54% of the Generals. After Darren's act of heroism, all of the Princes and Generals approve his nomination, despite the fact that he's a child, and only a half-vampire.
  • In Fiona Patton's Tales of the Branion Realm, Gwyneth, an expy of Wales, is independent for part of the series, and the Princes of Gwyneth are elected. This ends when a grandson of the current Prince becomes monarch of nearby Branion-other books make it clear that Gwyneth was subsumed and its Prince is now the heir to the Branion throne. Since the series was written in chronological reverse, this foredooms one character's intent to keep Gwyneth independent.
  • The Weald in The Hallowed Hunt by Lois McMaster Bujold. A Fantasy Counterpart Culture of the Holy Roman Empire (see Real Life section below), the new Hallow King is officially elected by the heads of five great houses and three influential church members (who have replaced three houses whose lines have died out or fallen out of power). The last few generations have seen the current ruling house have their eldest sons confirmed as heirs while the old kings are still alive, eventually turning it into a normal hereditary monarchy.
  • In the Belisarius Series all Axumite Emperors are ceremonially approved by the soldiers. While birth does factor in, it is not final.
  • The dwarf clan chiefs in the Inheritance Cycle vote for their new king or queen upon the creation of a vacancy in the position. In Brisingr, after the death of La Résistance-friendly King Hrothgar, a few isolationist clans unsuccessfully oppose the royal candidacy of Orik, his nephew and heir. The elves do the same in Inheritance too, with a number of families, noble houses and elders required to consent on the choice. Arya is the one they appoint in the end.
  • The Wheel of Time:
    • It's mentioned in The Eye of the World that the kings of Malkier were chosen by the Great Lords, and indeed one candidate losing by just two votes helped lead to its downfall, since he then tried to take over by force.
    • In Andor, the eldest daughter of the reigning queen is considered the heir-apparent and styled the "Daughter-Heir," but she must still be confirmed by the noble houses to become queen. In ordinary times this is just a formality, but after Morgase managed to get a 0% Approval Rating due to mismanagement while she was mind-controlled by an evil magic-user, there was enough opposition to her daughter Elayne inheriting that it came to a Succession Crisis before she could get the backing of enough houses to be confirmed as the new queen.
    • Kings of Arad Doman are chosen by the Council of Merchants from among the nobles, requiring at least eight members for this. The King has absolute power, except for the fact that they can be deposed by a three-quarters vote from the Council.
  • The Elenium has this in pretty much the same way as the Papacy for the Archprelacy of the Elene Church. The sequel series, The Tamuli, has a report within the foreign Tamuli Empire (which uses hereditary inheritance) that calls the Elene Church's tradition of electing their leader weird, but acknowledges that there isn't any non-offensive way to make it hereditary considering Elene priests are supposed to be celibate.
  • In Vampire Academy, the Moroi have such a monarchy. Candidates must be Royals, have their candidacy supported by at least three other Royals, and must pass three trials before the matter goes to a vote. Then it's a matter of votes gathered.
  • On the Discworld the Low King of the Dwarves is selected through a complex procedure that's more or less an election, usually of a candidate from various powerful dwarf clans. The complex and ancient politics involved end up with a relatively unknown candidate on the Scone rather than the expected traditionalist, raising many tensions within dwarf society.
  • In the The Riftwar Cycle, it's mentioned that upon the death of the King, the Council of Lords elects the new King of the Isles. However, it's also mentioned that said Council has never once failed to elect the previous King's eldest son (if he had one), or personally chosen successor (if he hadn't). This makes the election a formality unless the King has failed to produce a son or name an heir, which generally results in a Succession Crisis.
  • Knowledge Of Angels: Palinor is an elected prince of his home country, Aclar.
  • The Constellation in Hellhole. The nobility elects the ruling Diadem upon the death of their predecessor. The only explicitly noted limitation is that the children of former Diadems are prohibited from being elected, ensuring that there are no unbroken Diademic dynasties and the elective system is maintained.
  • Lord Darcy: We don't see it on-page, but by law, when the King dies Parliament must elect a Plantagenet as the new king. They're allowed to elect any Plantagenet. It's specifically noted in one story that while it's most likely John IV will be succeeded by one of his two sons, his brother Richard is not out of the running.
  • The Silerian Trilogy: The Yarhdans, Sileria's rulers in the old days, were chosen by the Council of Guardians.

     Live Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Just as in the books, the Ironborn and wildlings elect their kings. However, the wildling king only holds power so long as the wildlings choose to follow him and there are always holdouts like Craster. There is no sign yet of whether Pentos elects a prince too.
    • Robb of House Stark is acclaimed King in the North by his bannermen and the riverlords of the Trident. As it turns out, what the bannermen give, the bannermen can take away just as easily. This also happens with his successor Jon Snow.
  • Babylon 5: The Centauri Republic (which despite its title is really a constitutional monarchy) allows the Centauruum (the Republic's parliament) to elect an Emperor when the line of succession has become unclear. Though when Cartagia (inherited) is found to have had a son the kid ends up behind Londo's (elected) chosen successor Vir in the line of succession.
  • The Magicians: Fillory becomes one, and elects Margo High King.
  • Star Trek: The Klingon Empire in Star Trek: The Next Generation and later shows is a close variant. There is no emperor (until "Rightful Heir", when a clone of the ancient Emperor Kahless the Unforgettable, a King Arthur-like figure, is made a ceremonial monarch in hopes of reuniting the empire after a Succession Crisis), but the Chancellor of the High Council, who has equivalent power, is selected either by acclamation of the heads of Great Houses that sit on the Council, or by killing their predecessor in honorable combat.

     Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer:
    • The Empire elects their emperors in essentially the same way as the Holy Roman Empire, with the provincial nobles and the high priests selecting one of their number. This system was put in place after the first emperor died and was deified without designating an heir. That said, it is a rare occurrence indeed that the Elector of Reikland does not win the election. The Elector of Reikland and the Grand Theogonist and Arch-Lectors of the cult of Sigmar always vote for Reikland, The Ar-Ulric and Elector of Middenheim always vote for Middenheim and the Elder of the Moot always votes for the eldest son of the incumbent (unless said son wears his pants on his head), meaning that the Elector of Reikland more often than not has five of fifteen votes by default, the Elector of Middenheim has two, and eight are up for grabs.
    • The High Elves have a similar system for the position of Phoenix King, although their Everqueen is a hereditary monarch. Caledor II, son of Caledor the Conqueror, left the elves with such a distaste for nepotistic Phoenix Kings that they have never appointed the son of the previous king since then.
    • The dukes of Bretonnia elect a king from amongst themselves (with the Grail Enchantress having the final word) whenever an old king dies. This is because the king of Bretonnia must be a Grail Knight (a duke, meanwhile, must only be a knight). However, if the king's hereditary heir already is a Grail Knight he's all but certain to be the next king.
    • The Dwarfs do something a bit different. Each individual Holdhas a hereditary monarchy, passed down the royal line of the ruling clan. The position of High King, however, is available to all royalty. Instead of merely voting on a successor, though, they compete for it. When a Council of Kings is called, powerful Thanes and the entire royal families of every clan convene in the capital of Karaz-a-Karak. The candidates have one year to perform heroic feets and great deeds, and a Council of Elders chooses the High King based on who they believe accomplished the most.
  • In Traveller one of the two main official powers the Imperial Moot (all the nobles in the Imperium who have the time to show up) has is to veto or confirm the Emperor's choice of succession and to dissolve the Imperium. The second power was given as a "mutual assured destruction" should one noble house become too overbearing. But the first makes the Third Imperium a sort of hereditary/elective monarchy. In practice the moot has a lot of other powers because they have the interests of eleven thousand planets to juggle and even The Emperor's exalted status does not give him more than twenty four hours a day to go through all that paperwork.
    • In practice the power of veto over succession is seldom exercised and the Imperium is closer to a hereditary monarchy. All this convoluted political tangle is realistic and shows just how complicated such things can be. One of the few instances in which the Moot does not simply confirm the chosen heir is when the Right of Assassination is invoked, in which case the Moot has to decide whether the assassin's claim is legit. Of course the first time someone claimed the throne that way the Moot had planned it after realizing how insane Cleon III was.
  • BattleTech
    • The Rasalhague Principality/Free Republic/Dominion had their ruling Princes elected by parliament for up to two ten-year terms, from among members of the royal family and usually the previous Prince's son. When the Free Republic was conquered by the Clans the Elected Prince's son Ragnar Magnusson was taken as a bondsman by first Clan Wolf and then Clan Ghost Bear, where he earned freedom and rose to the rank of Star Colonel. Surprisingly the remnants of the Republic elected him Prince, enabling him to negotiate the merger of Clan Ghost Bear and the Free Rasalhague Republic into the Rasalhague Dominion.
    • The Clans themselves also use elections to determine who will be their Khan. The Clan Council (made up of several hundred bloodnamed warriors) chooses a Khan from amongst themselves. If a runner up or rival faction does not like the result a Trial Of Refusal usually settles things. A Khan can also be removed at any time with a simple majority vote, again likely to be contested by trial.
  • In Fading Suns Emperor Vladimir Alecto created a number of "Elector Staffs" that would enable those who held them to elect his successor and distributed them to the Houses Major, the Church, and the Merchant Guilds. Unfortunately he was assassinated at his coronation and the Houses went to war with each other, for centuries there wasn't an Emperor but instead a "regent" with a limited term. Until eventually Prince Alexius Hawkwood convinced the Church and Guilds to elect him. The RPG takes place shortly after his coronation, the 4X game Emperor of the Fading Suns takes place during the Emperor Wars and has the objective of being elected Emperor.
  • In the Star Fleet Universe version of Star Trek, the Klingon Empire has a variation on this. The Emperor, who serves till death, abdication, or overthrow, chooses three 'Princes', whom must be approved by the Grand Council. There is no requirement that any of the three be blood relatives, and traditionally one is chosen from each the military, the bureaucratic government structure, and industry. When it is time for a new Emperor, the Grand Council then elects one of those three, often choosing the career path that would best serve the Empire at the time.

  • In the world of Shakespeare's Hamlet, the Danish monarchy is elective, as it also was in reality until the late 1600s (though in practice, the eldest son was pretty much always elected). This is the reason why Claudius is king instead of Hamlet himself. Hamlet describes his uncle as having "popp'd in between the election and my hopes", and later says that he foresees that "the election lights on Fortinbras" as he himself is dying (and the Danish royal line with him), giving his nod to Prince Fortinbras of Norway, whose leadership he had soliloquized approvingly about earlier.
  • In Macbeth, the Scottish kings are elected, which explains why the title character is chosen after Duncan, rather than his son. Reading between the lines, it may be that Duncan incurred some ire from the nobles for making his son heir-apparent while he was living. The 1971 film version by Roman Polanski actually showing Macbeth's election, which involves a special ceremony.

     Video Games 
  • Twilight Princess has the Twili, but it's never elaborated any further.
  • Dragon Age:
    • Ferelden is a downplayed example. While on the surface the nation appears to follow a traditional feudal system with primogeniture inheritance, unlike in neighboring Orlais where the nobles believe in rule by divine right, Ferelden has a culture of rule by merit and is more democratic. The banns (the lowest form of titled nobility, sort of like barons) are elected from the local gentry by the Freeholds (free men and women) to protect them in exchange for allegiance, and though the title usually passes to the bann's eldest son, it doesn't have to. The higher-ranked teyrns (akin to dukes) in turn have the loyalty of banns and arls (earls), and the king is regarded as merely the most powerful teyrn and is elected by them at the Landsmeet (an annual council of the nobles that serves the role of a parliament) if the line of succession is unclear, as in the Succession Crisis plot in Origins.
    • According to Zevran, Antivan kings are also elected — with the added complication of getting to the election without being assassinated by the Crows. If no-one has the nerve, the Crows go after the people they think should run. "Never let it be said that the Crows are not patriots."
    • The Dwarven Kingdom of Orzammar. The King appoints a heir and the Assembly usually approves it, but they can reject the former King's first choice in the past and select their own.
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Skyrim has a High King who is elected by the nine Jarls in the province. Before the game begins, Ulfric Stormcloak killed King Torygg and started a rebellion against the Empire with the intent of having himself proclaimed High King. The Empire prefers the acting ruler, Torygg's widow Elisif. The Dovahkiin's choice of side in the Civil War storyline decides the issue.
  • The Kingdom of Rhodoks in Mount & Blade games. As one of your followers notes, even though Rhodok citizens consider themselves superior to the other lands of Calradia due to having a more civilised means of government, in practise they still have a ruling elite of lords and a downtrodden peasant class, same as all the other kingdoms.
  • On the Capricorn server of Imperium Nova the empire became a constitutional monarchy with the emperor elected by the imperial houses every five (in-game) years. Though a military coup by House Canaigh briefly removed the elective element from the monarchy.
  • In Jagged Alliance 2, according to the background information, the country of Arulco ran on a version of this, with new rulers elected every ten years. Most of the country's history involved only two families being considered worthy of ruling: the Chivaldoris and the Cordonas, the former of which ruled the country for most of its history and the latter of which ruled during World War II. It all eventually crashed down when the current king, Enrico Chivaldori, was elected, and his wife, Deidrianna, launched a coup that turned into a brutal, nine-year-long dictatorship.
  • Crusader Kings II:
    • This is one of the succession options available to feudal rulers of kingdoms and empires. Under elective succession, all of the dukes of the realm, plus the sovereign, get to vote on the heir to the crown. Used properly, it's extremely powerful, as it allows the player to select the most suitable heir, rather than the doddering idiot who just happened to be born first. Used improperly, it can result in your hard-earned imperial crown being wrested from your dynasty entirely. Appropriately, it's the default succession style of the Holy Roman Empire—see below.
    • A later patch added the 'Tanistry' succession law to the game which can be chosen by Celtic rulers (Irishmen, Picts, Scots, Welshmen, and Bretons). On the plus side candidacy is restricted to members of the ruling dynasty, so no losing titles to popular underlings. On the negative side, if you are a duke or kingnote , every landed noble in the realm gets a vote, not just the dukes, so getting the winner you actually want becomes near-impossible. Additionally, NPC voters in tanistry tend to prefer older candidates from other branches of the dynasty than your direct line of descent, which can complicate things further.
    • Unreformed pagans are restricted to elective gavelkind succession. On the one hand the successor has to be of the ruling dynasty, but if the decedent has multiple secondary heirs (i.e. the ruler has two sons and elects one), any same-tier title that the ruler controls enough land to create will be created for them automatically, dividing the realm. Unsurprisingly players prefer to ditch elective gavelkind as soon as possible, which means changing to an organized religion, or reforming your pagan faith into one.
  • The Free Palatinate of Dyrwood in Pillars of Eternity is ruled by a duc who is elected by the seven regional els.
  • In King of Dragon Pass, Orlanthi tribes are always ruled by elected kings or queens. Hereditary rule isn't seen as an option, and it's extremely rare for successive kings to even come from the same clan. In order to get to the endgame (and either victory or a "standard" loss) you have to form a tribe and have a clan member elected to rule it, which requires decent relationships with your tribemates, a skilled candidate, choosing the right person to speak for them, and of course, hefty bribes.
  • Due to being clones and all, the leadership of the Kingdom of Mikes from Battleborn is elective rather than hereditary according to Word of God in the reveal stream of Oscar Mike's DLC Story Operation. The rulers of this said monarchy are of course King Mike and Queen Mike.
  • In Stellaris the rulers of dictatorships are elected for life, dictatorships with the "Philosopher King" civic are even referred to as Elective Monarchies.

  • King David Johann of Callan in Dominic Deegan, though the first elected king due to being the first human archmage ( and the hereditary king and queen having been assassinated by him).

     Western Animation 
  • In Adventure Time, the local Con Man and self-proclaimed King of Ooo rallies the gullible citizens of the Candy Kingdom to vote for him to replace their only ever monarch, Princess Bubblegum. She, in turn, ignores all of this, content with her 100% Adoration Rating. She loses in a landslide and is exiled to a dingy shack on the outskirts of her former territory.
  • The plot of an episode of The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3, "Princess Toadstool for President", revolved around the Princess challenging Koopa to try earning the Mushroom Kingdom fair and square in an election.

     Real Life 
  • As a general rule, most monarchies were a combination of Elective and Hereditary whenever nobles had any usable degree of power; in a legally elective monarchy, the family of the previous King was often influential, and stood to gain prestige and favors (and thus votes). In a legally hereditary monarchy, rightful successors were known to be passed over for a more effective or popular family member, as an inability to control their vassals would result in the dynasty losing control of the monarchy. The end result of this was that certain nobles would make their wishes for the succession known directly to the king, who often had to balance the legal succession laws with the reality of the situation for the sake of a stable realm. While not legally elective monarchies, they had similar effects and political dynamics.
    • A peculiar attitude towards this is the British monarchy, where said nobles—plus some rich commoners—had formed themselves into a Parliament early on and had repeated disputes with the monarchs about who got to "settle the succession": that is, determine the law of who got to be King. After a big war, Parliament came out on top; to this day, the British succession is governed solely by statutory law passed by Parliament, and the will of the monarch is only given weight as a practical consideration. Thus although the British monarchy is hereditary, it is indirectly elective, because Parliament decided to set down a predetermined hereditary succession law rather than elect a new monarch each time the monarch died (which Parliament is legally entitled to do). So in a way, Britain is an elective monarchy where the electing body has decided that doing the actual elections would be too much work (and that it was desirable to continue with the French-derived system of the heir instantly taking the throne upon the monarch's death, avoiding any interregnum period in which the throne is empty) and simply set down a law that "automatically" elects the monarch's heir by primogeniture as the new monarch. Under the United Kingdom's system of parliamentary supremacy, the exact mechanism for succession can be and has been changed at will by a new vote of Parliament, most recently in 2013 to change from male-preference to absolute primogeniture and to remove the ban on those in line to the throne from marrying Catholics.
  • The Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, especially after the last of the Jagiellons died without issue in 1573. It was even known as the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth. With a king. One may claim it was a republic with a lifelong presidential term (compare with Venice below).
  • The Holy Roman Empire (of the German Nation): Since the Golden Bull of 1356 the Emperor was elected by a group of four secular prince-electors (namely the King of Bohemia, the Margrave of Brandenburg, the Count Palatine of the Rhine, and the Duke of Saxony) and three prince-archbishops (of Mainz, Trier, and Cologne; the archbishops were secular rulers as well as clergy). Before that there had also been elections of German kings and anti-kings,note  but which of the secular and clerical greats of the Empire were entitled to vote was not clear.
    • Usually, anyway-the claim to the electorate of the Wittelsbach dynasty was split in between the Count Palatine and the Duke of Bavaria, and sometimes Bavaria stepped in for the Palatinate (when the Bavarian Wittlesbachs' scheming against their cousins was particularly successful) or Bohemia (when the rival Wittelsbach branches took a break from messing with each other and instead conspired with each other to exclude Bohemia on the grounds that he wasn't German). After the Reformation, the Palatinate Wittelsbachs were Protestants and the Bavarian ones Catholics, so early in the Thirty Years' War the electoral title was given to the Bavarians, but in the Peace of Westphalia it was decided that both would get to be electors (to keep the peace between Catholics and Protestants) bringing the total to eight.
      • At the end of the 17th century a ninth electorate was added for the Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg (who became known as the Elector of Hanover) as a Catholic junior branch of the Palatinate Wittelsbachs inherited the territory, and it was felt necessary to restore the religious balance. Later, in the 1770s, the Bavarian Wittelsbachs died out, which in the end led to the Catholic Counts Palatine ruling Bavaria, as well; however, it was agreed that he would only have one vote (not that it ended up mattering). The Electors of Hanover, incidentally, became The House of Hanover in Great Britain, meaning that the British monarch had a nominal hand in choosing the Emperor for about 100 years.
    • Note that in practice, the Imperial title became hereditary within the House of Habsburg towards the end of the 15th century, and that the Electors generally did not keep the "obvious" heir from the throne until the War of the Austrian Succession (although even before then the "obvious" heir would usually make a point of doing favors for the electors to keep them from holding up the vote when the time came). Before the 15th century, there was a period when the Electors voted for the candidates of the Houses of Wittelsbach, Luxemburg and Habsburg in alternation.
    • Incidentally all German kings/emperors can be placed into a single family tree, not that it is a particularly readable or simple one, but still all of them from Charlemagne to Wilhelm II were more or less related to each other.
  • The United Arab Emirates, in theory at any rate: although the President is supposedly elected by the rulers of the seven emirates of the UAE, it's always the Emir of Abu Dhabi who holds the position of President, and the President always appoints the Emir of Dubai Prime Minister (unless the Emir of Dubai doesn't want/can't take the job, in which case his heir apparent takes it).
  • In Denmark, the kings were elected from at least the Viking age until 1660. With a single exception all kings (and one woman, Queen Margrethe I, titled "Principal Lady and Husband of the North") came from the same family though, even if some spring around in the family tree were needed now and then. But it kept on, so today ruling queen Margrethe II can look back on a millennium-old family tree of Danish kings.
  • In the same vein, Sweden elected its kings until the end of the 15th century, and all free men could vote. Of course, vote for the wrong candidate and you get your teeth kicked in, but hey, it's the thought that counts.
    • While every free man (or at least everyone belonging to the higher estates plus landowning farmers) technically could vote, the electorate usually consisted of the nobles, the bishops, their private armies, and assorted peasant revolts with a grudge.
    • Sweden did it again in 1809, when the unpopular king Gustav IV Adolf and his descendants were forcibly removed and the parliament elected his uncle as Charles XIII. It is a bit unclear whether they then realized the new king was 61 and childless or did so deliberately as an interim solution while they looked for an actual new king to elect crown prince, and elected a Danish prince, Charles August, as crown prince in 1810. Then Charles August died of a stroke later that year, and they had to elect a new crown prince, Marshall of the (French) Empire Jean Bernadotte, thus starting the current dynasty of Swedish kings.
  • The medieval kings of Norway were likewise elected. The kings had to be recognized by the ruling body of nobles (Riksrådet) before being crowned. Before that, the commons, most often the farmers, had to recognize the kings at an open assembly. Historians are at odds on how this exactly worked when Denmark and Norway became a union, as Norwegians claim that they elected their kings, while Denmark was hereditary. The status for the union kings until 1660 was therefore: Crowned in Denmark and "elected" in Norway. Absolutism made an end to that mess.
    • To make things even more interesting: The founder of the modern royal family in Norway, Haakon VII/Prince Carl of Denmark, actually insisted on a referendum before taking position as king. Thus, he was actually originally elected by the Norwegian politicians. The referendum stated the support for monarchy.
  • The King of Vatican City, better known as The Roman Catholic Pope. Aside from being the head of the Catholic Church, he is the last absolute monarch in Europe and one of the last in the world. He is elected by a group of cardinals from among their number,note  hereditary monarchy being a rather difficult proposition for celibate Catholic clergy.note  And in 2013, the Pope Emeritus Ratzinger (formerly Pope Benedict XVI) proved that the office isn't necessarily for life. While papal resignation had been on the books of Catholic Canon Law for as long as the records go back, it had been nearly 600 years since the last time a Pope had done so and over 700 years since a Pope had resigned willingly rather than at the point of a sword.
    • While there hasn't been a Pope elected who wasn't currently a Cardinal in over six hundred years (Urban VI was the last, an archbishop before election), the only qualifications are that the person is a baptized, male practicing Catholic, of which there are over 600 million. That gives the Papacy the largest amount of possible candidates out of any elected office in the world.
  • France and its predecessor, the kingdom of the Franks, was at times, but the Carolingians and the Capetians both eventually overcame this by kings having sons crowned (nominally as co-regents) while they were still were alivenote ; eventually, after several generations of doing this, the monarchy became hereditary (again). But the process was not totally irreversible, there was a period when the great lords of France alternated between making a Carolingian and a Capetian (then called Robertinian) king of France. Also, in Germany, the other successor state to the Frankish kingdom, attempts by various kings and emperors to do the same thing did not prevent their monarchy from becoming elective.
  • The Most Serene Republic of Venice was one for all intents and purposes, given that the head of state (dux/doge/duke) was elected for life by the Great Council. Venetians being Venetians, the procedure was made an absurdly complex set of elections and lotteries to choose the actual electors to make sure it couldn't be fixed, with the doge being then presented to the people with the words "This is your doge, if it please you", as the people of Venice had the power to reject him and restart the whole mess (this ended in 1423 with the election of Francesco Foscari, as he and his successors were presented to the people with the words "This is your doge"). There was an attempt to give up with the election and turn it into a hereditary monarchy, but the plot was discovered and the offending doge and his co-conspirators were executed. Faliero was then subject to a damnatio memoriae treatment, with his official portrait displayed in the Doge's Palace being removed. In its place was painted a black shroud and an inscription listing this why this was done.
  • The King of Cambodia is elected by a council, even if there is a successor available.
  • The Grand Master of the Order of Malta is elected for life.
  • The King of Saudi Arabia is also technically elected. Technically, because of two caveats:
    1. When the electors (the most senior princes of the House of Saud) vote, the King is generally still alive, and they thus usually elect a Crown Prince, to succeed the current King when he dies. Theoretically, if the King and Crown Prince die within a very short span of time, the princes might have to elect a King, but this has never happened.
    2. Until 2015, the prince-electors always elected the most-senior male member of the House of Saud deemed qualified for the job (some princes are ill, uninterested, or otherwise under suspicion, and thus aren't candidates in the first place). From 1953 until the custom ended in the 2015, this meant, basically, the oldest surviving son of Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud. That's right—it's been over sixty years since the man died, and until 2015, none of his grandsons were even close to the throne. However, in 2015, the decision was made to skip the last few sons of Abdul Aziz and hand the Crown Prince position to one of the grandsons, Muhammad bin Nayef. Then, in 2017, the family surprised everyone again by electing a younger grandson, Muhammad bin Salman, who (significantly) is a son of the reigning king, Salman bin Abdul Aziz.
  • The Mongols traditionally elected a Great Khan by and from among the Khans, who were more-or-less lords without landed estates because of the whole "nomad" thing. This is in fact what "Genghis" means-that "Great Khan"'s real name was Temujin.
  • Anglo-Saxons were this, sort of. The Witenagemot: "council of wise men" (chief VIPs of the kingdom basically) chose who the king would be among the royal family. This has been exaggerated by patriotic Englishmen who wanted to emphasize Saxon's democratic virtues; all sorts of criteria could interfere, including the will of the previous monarch and sometimes simply Asskicking Equals Authority. Nonetheless it was something of an elective monarchy.
  • A variation among various Celtic clans was called "Tanistry" in which the elders elected the heir to the chiefdom rather than the chief. Among other things, this would make it less likely that an election needed to be held during a Succession Crisis: if the old chief was suddenly killed in battle before his clan had time to discuss an impending succession the successor was ready. This custom carried on for a long time and was brought to America by Scots-Irish. It is notable though perhaps coincidental that the election for President of the United States always finishes several months before the previous one leaves office. The last vestige of this tradition may be found in the title of Ireland's deputy prime minister... tanaiste.
    • The period when Scotland was switching from this system to the more common primogeniture approach is the scene of one of Shakespeare's more famous plays-the title character of which is visibly shocked when the king names one of his sons as "Prince of Cumberland" (i.e., heir apparent). Following Duncan's murder, he's elected king, due to being a popular war hero who just saved them from a Norwegian invasion. In reality, Tanistry in Scotland had, by Macbeth's time, become a system where the succession alternated routinely between different branches of the Mac Alpine family. This was why Macbeth believed he had a right to take the throne: it was his branch's turn.
  • The Crown of Aragon. Even though the elected king was almost invariably his predecessor's heir, the electors had little trouble reminding the candidate that they, in theory, could choose anyone, as this quotation from a 14th-century knight shows:
    [E]ach of us is as much as thou, but [we] all put together are much more than thou.
  • The Visigothic Kingdom took this to its logical extreme with a ridiculously powerful noble council that not only had the power to elect kings (with at least one king, Wamba, being elected against his will), but also to depose them almost as they pleased. This made civil wars common, since rival factions often just denounced previous elections as invalid and chose their own king as the real one. Of 37 kings that reigned between the sack of Rome (410) and the death of the last one (721),note  11 were murdered for sure, three more were deposed but not killed, and quite a handful more died in circumstances that are deemed suspicious.
  • The Roman Empire effectively practiced this, the emperors being elected by the will of the Senate, the Army, and the people. Its inability to formalize the matter helped contribute to its fall. The Byzantine/ Eastern Roman Empire managed to make it mostly dynastic, which stabilized it from the situation where anyone could be emperor.
    • The Romans did it even when they were ruled by kings, in a rather complicated way: once the reigning king was dead, the Senate would nominate an interrex (king ad interim) for five days (after which he had to name a successor with the Senate's approval), who would choose a candidate for kingship and present it to the Senate for approval; if the Senate approved, the nominee would be brought before the Curiate Assembly (the assembly of all Roman citizens, even if only patricians could actually vote), presided over by the interrex for the occasion, for approval; if the Curiate Assembly approved, the nominee became king, but, the king also being the high priest, an augur (a priest tasked with interpreting the will of the gods by observing the flight of birds) would have to give his own approval; if the augur announced that the gods approved, the king was finally king, but to actually have the power he would have to summon the Curiate Assembly and propose a law in which he was given the imperium (absolute power), and if the bill passed he would finally be the king.
      • According to legend, they still managed to screw this up (first the sixth legendary king Servius Tullius skipped part of the process and, in spite of being a good king, was murdered in the Senate by his son-in-law for this, and then said son-in-law, Tarquinius Superbus, seized the throne but managed to piss off the people and barely escaped Rome with his life), so at one point they took away all power but part of the religious one, with the annual ceremony Regifugum (Flight of the King) having the king (now called rex sacrorum, king of sacrifices) interpreting Tarquinius Superbus' part as he was deposed and forced to run for his life to make sure he won't have funny ideas.
    • The Roman Empire effectively transitioned from Hereditary Republic into this trope from the reign of Augustus onwards with no clear point in time during which a contemporary could say the transition had taken place. Only very few emperors were "born to the purple" (i.e. presumptive heir upon birth or childhood) as the Julio-Claudian dynasty never had a straightforward father-son transition, the Flavian dynasty came to power when Vespasian's sons were already men and the "five good emperors" Nerva to Marcus Aurelius had no biological children bar the last one. It says a lot for the little regard the Romans held for the dynastic principle that the fact Marcus Auerlius made his son emperor (who did turn out a terrible ruler) is often seen as an incredible faux-pas and the beginning of the end. Most Emperors did however make their desired heir "co-emperor" during their lifetime and the savier ones tried to get them a military command and have the senate rubber stamp the appointment to have two of the three bases of power (the third being the urban masses in Rome) in their corner from the get-go.
  • Andorra is an odd example. It is ruled by two co-princes (technically making it a diarchy rather than a monarchy). One of them used to be the King of France but after the French Revolution the position has been held by the President of France, an elected official, though elected by citizens of France rather than Andorra. The other, the Bishop of Urgell (in Spain) is (being a Catholic bishop) ultimately appointed by the Pope (in a complicated process also involving the local archbishop, the Roman Curia, and the Apostolic Nuncio—i.e. Vatican Ambassador—to the country).
  • The King of the Belgians nominates his heir, but Parliament must confirm, and may choose another member of the royal family.
  • In Kuwait, the Emir appoints with the advice and consent of the National Assembly, a "Crown Prince and Deputy Emir", who is a member of the Al Sabah Clan, but not someone in his immediate family. The last Emir hadn't bothered to appoint anyone else after his successor fell ill—too ill to become Emir—so when he died the Assembly passed him over for another relative.
  • The Kingdom of Hawai'i had the king's choice of heir confirmed by a council of nobles and later parliament. When the House of Kamahameha failed, the noble chosen by parliament called for a referendum to confirm it.
  • Malaysia:
    • Nine out of the thirteen states have hereditary rulers. Every five years, they choose among themselves a Yang di-Pertuan Agong (King), the head of state of the country. In practice, the position rotates among the nine rulers based on the seniority of the rulers when the system was created.
    • One of the states, Negeri Sembilan note  is an elective monarchy itself. The ruler is chosen from the princes of the royal family by a council of chiefs.
  • While it is hard to know for sure (one of the few written sources on the matter is not always reliable or all that detailed when it comes to that matter), some historians suppose this is what happened with the kingdoms of Israel and Judah in biblical times. During the reign of Kings Saul, David and Solomon the king was strong/convincing/charismatic enough to convince the nobles in the part where being king wasn't hereditary to support the same candidate where it was. The whole system broke down when they could not agree on a successor to King Solomon and hence the two states split.
  • Many Native American tribes had elected rulers (who Europeans invariably called "kings" though in many cases they probably didn't qualify), such as the Iroquois, where chiefs were chosen by clan elders (both male and female). However, the position was still mostly always male. The Aztec emperors (Huey Tlatoque) were not hereditary, but elected by a consensus of the elites.
  • In the Islamic World the Caliphs, successors to Muhammad, were originally elected by consensus of the community. The first four Caliphs, Rashidun Caliphate were elected in this fashion as Sunni Muslims believed Muhammad had originally intended before Muawiyah, the sixth caliph, averted this trope and turned the Caliphate into what is known as the Umayyad Dynasty, a hereditary monarchy.