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Heir Club for Men

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Aloy: Has there ever been a Sun-Queen?
Priest: Many wives and consorts, of course. Or—you mean for the Sun to choose a Queen? This has not happened.
Aloy: Why not?
Priest: The Sun is masculine, of course, and he would choose his heirs thus.
Aloy: It's a light in the sky. I've never seen anything dangling from it.

This trope takes two main forms:

  • Agnatic Succession: When there is no male heir there is no heir.
  • Agnatic-Cognatic Succession: Women may inherit, but only if there is no suitable male heir.

The distinction is less clear than you might think. It's rarely the case that there are no male claimants, however, so if there's no clear heir (the king has no sons, but does have uncles, brothers, nephews, or male cousins) then a Succession Crisis often results. The threat of such a crisis is reason enough for kings of countries with these laws to go to great lengths to ensure that they have at least one son on the ground who is both legitimate and his official heir.

If the king has no son or circumstances seem to be making that problematic, the courtiers may get into the act. A Succession Crisis can be unpleasant all around. This is done commonly with a grieving widow queen or widower king, who is likely to be told You Have Waited Long Enough with great promptness.


Even in the fortunate case where the king has a healthy male heir, this only secures the monarchy for one generation. As soon as that son comes of age, he will start feeling pressure to marry and produce an heir of his own. Furthermore, only one child is dangerous; surely you need at least two to guard against tragedy (although this drastically increases chances of producing The Evil Prince, which comes with its own set of problems). This is one of the few situations where either My Biological Clock Is Ticking or I Want Grandkids is likely to apply to a male character.

Additionally, it's a good idea to guard against fraud. Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe may raise doubts about whether the baby is suitable. Some monarchs will avoid putting all their eggs in one basket and make the spare a Hidden Backup Prince. (Bastards of the king are popular for fulfilling both these tropes, although as making them heirs defeats the purpose of Altar Diplomacy, they are best avoided.)


Although most common in stories about royalty, this trope also includes the common people. This trope is about heirs, and it is not intended to cover cases where the parent(s) merely wish for a boy (or girl) because they would like one, but is only when they wish for one to continue the family name — when tradition demands it.

Also: The blurb is a reference to the Hair Club for Men, a company that specializes in hair restoration and hair replacement. The blurb is their actual sales pitch from their website... with a few words changed to fit this trope.

Of course, in the case of a Matriarchy, this trope is automatically gender-inverted. See also Royal Mess for the ways in which this can get interesting.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept., Prince Schwan is regarded as the heir because he is the only (known) son of the king's daughters. When he realizes Lotta is his cousin, he doesn't care, because she is a girl... until Magie tells him Lotta has a brother.
  • The plot driver of Ribbon No Kishi, a.k.a. Princess Knight, which provided direct inspiration for other mangas like The Rose of Versailles. A male heir must inherit the throne, Sapphire is born with a conspicuous lack of penis, her father the king decides to bluff the public and Sapphire becomes a Sweet Polly Oliver.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Rishid in the original was adopted by the Ishtars to provide a male heir. Then Ishizu and Marik were born in turn, and Marik the son was chosen as the official heir. A particularly potent example: Rishid/Odion desires the position of Tombkeeper more than anything, whilst Marik wants nothing more than to be rid of it.
    • Though notably Rishid/Odion wants the position BECAUSE Marik wants nothing to do with it. And for the sake of geniunely wanting to fulfill the family duty rather than for the power of the position. Mostly out of loyalty because Marik truely does love him as a brother and he wants to relieve him of the unwanted burden, and on a lesser note out of practicality to the family that took him in as it would obviously make more sense for the critical family position to be filled by someone that actively wants the job.
  • Needing a male heir, in particular, a biological one, is the source of much of the trouble related to adopted child Amon in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX. Like Rishid, Amon was adopted by the Garams to be their heir after he was abandoned by his biological family and felt he had nothing to live for. Then the Garams have a young son, Shido, who becomes the heir and Amon is expected to essentially do everything in his power to support Shido.
  • Miroku of Inuyasha needs to perpetuate his line (with a son) before the affliction that plagues all men in his family kills him. He attempts to do so by propositioning every girl he meets. He loses the affliction before the end of the story but has at least three kids anyway with Sango, and one's a boy.
  • In the fictional Kingdom of Sauville in Gosick, the Queen Coco Rose was deposed of by King Rupert because of her inability to bear a child. Which later turns out to be a ruse: It was King Rupert who was sterile. To add insult to injury, Coco Rose became pregnant... with Leviathan the Alchemist's child.
  • Thought to happen in Syaoran's family in Cardcaptor Sakura, as he is considered the head of his family (despite having four older sisters) since his father passed away. This status is limited in Syaoran's case, however, given his young age. It puts a lot of pressure on him.
  • The aversion of this trope forms the basis of The Ambition of Oda Nobuna; its Alternate Universe version of Sengoku period practices equal primogeniture which justified its gender flipping some historical figures but not others.
  • This is why Ryuunosuke Fujinami was Raised as the Opposite Gender in Urusei Yatsura; her father was obsessed with the idea that only a boy could be a worthy heir to his family legacy of... running a ratty little beachside store. This is used for roughly equal parts comedy and to paint Mr. Fujinami as creepy and insane.
  • In Mayo Chiki!, Subaru's family has had a tradition of serving as butlers to the Suzutsuki family, but her mother died a few years after giving birth to her, and her father, the current butler, does not wish to remarry. The head of the Suzutsuki family is willing to allow Subaru to be the next butler in an exception to the rule that only males can do so, but under the condition that she keep her gender a secret for her high school years- the plot is kicked off by Jirou discovering her secret.
  • A serious plot complication during the second and thirdnote  arc of Ooku: the Inner Chambers, given the ongoing plague-driven gendercide. Reverend Kasuga did not at any point in her machinations to keep the House of Tokugawa from extinction consider the possibility of Shogun Iemitsu's daughter actually ruling, while upon taking the throne openly Iemitsu the Younger (nee Chie) herself considered herself only a stopgap and died from repeated miscarriages suffered in trying to bear a son after she had three healthy daughters. By the latter's great-granddaughters' time, the Shogunate and Japan at large were firmly of the opposite school of thought.
    • Interestingly, after they end up with two male shoguns in a row (Ienari and Ieyoshi), many expressed the wish to make it a heir club for women again, if only because women can't produce too many children, while Ienari and Ieyoshi each had dozens of children that drain the coffers and have to be found suitable mates.
  • In The Rose of Versailles, general de Jarjayes, annoyed after his latest attempt at having a male heir to inherit his titles (necessary due to French law) failed, decided to raise his youngest daughter as a man. Differently from usual instances, everyone knows that Oscar is actually a woman, but she's so confident in men's clothing and so talented in her military role that French society basically treats her as an 'honorary' man for all intents and purposes. At one point general de Jarjayes realizes that Oscar will fight in the imminent French Revolution, and tries to just marry her off... Only to have her scare any and all prospective grooms away.
  • Plays into the backstory of half-siblings Kakeru Manabe and Machi Kuragi in Fruits Basket. Kakeru is both older and a boy, but he's the son of a mistress. Machi is a legitimate child, but she's younger and a girl. Both women pushed their children to be perfect so as to be named heir. Kakeru's mother eased up when he rebelled, but Machi's only let up after giving birth to a son. Not only does she refuse to acknowledge that it's her fault her daughter is "dull", but she and her husband kick her out when they catch her trying to cover her brother with a blanket, assuming she was trying to smother him to death.
  • Subverted in My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!. When Katarina is eight her family adopts a distant relative to take over the Claes family name, but it's quickly made clear that this isn't because women can't inherit but because she got engaged to a prince, meaning when she gets married she'll need to lose the family name.
  • Accomplishments of the Duke's Daughter: a recurring theme is that talented women get sidelined for mediocre men due to male preference.
    • Iris is put in charging of managing the ducal fiefdom and does such a fantastic job that her family is seriously considering just skipping Berne for succession entirely. He was first in line despite being her younger brother, but her sheer talent and effort compared to his wasting his time really shows the difference between them. However, in the end despite being significantly more capable than him it's indicated that she'll be ultimately sidelined, most likely due to her gender.
    • It happened even earlier with Queen Arya. Her older brother the crown prince died before succeeding the throne, putting her first in line. However, a female monarch was unprecedented, so she quickly made to marry a duke who became the king rather than a prince consort. That being said, she was still probably the more powerful of the two and keeps herself involved in the state of affairs.

  • Twisted in the Child Ballad Fause Foodrage. Aware that only a son would be a serious danger to him, the king's killer tells the queen that he will spare a daughter but kill a son. The queen escapes and persuades a noble to take her son and give her his daughter. In due course, the son returns to kill the king's killer and take the throne.

    Comic Books 
  • In Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld Dark Opal's repeatedly attempted to get himself an heir, but his own children are all misshapen and he locks them away in another dimension, except Granch, who understandably rebels against him. Then he "adopts" Carnelian, an earthling and that ends up much the same way.
  • The Invisibles: Transvestite shaman Lord Fanny was born a boy in a family with a long line of brujas. After his mother's second attempt to have a child ended in a miscarriage, his grandmother ordered him to be raised as a girl. Fortunately, Fanny took quickly to cross-dressing and ably took up the family tradition.
  • In one of Strangers in Paradise's later story arcs, the plot is driven by Tambi's machinations to get Katchoo to produce an heir for the Baker-Choovanski clan.
  • Ra's Al-Ghul needs an heir to take over his criminal empire, who must marry his daughter, Talia Al-Ghul to inherit. Batman from the animated series once referred to him as "the world's oldest chauvinist" (especially since Talia has proven at least as capable as Pops). Ghul's somewhat successful when Talia conceived Damian.
  • A modern, political example happens in Sin City. The Roarke family is the most powerful family in the country and corrupt to the core. They have been running the city for over a century but during the events of the series, there was only one heir to the "royal family": Junior Roarke, a Serial Killer and child molester. Junior is castrated and later killed by Detective John Hartigan, resulting in the Roarke legacy being cut off for good.
  • The Phantom, Lee Falk's masked hero, has a complex situation. Both the suit and the title always go from father to son, so each Phantom must have always had a male heir. The current, 21st Phantom has a son and a daughter. The families of the previous 20 generations haven't been fully revealed (and what has been revealed isn't always consistent), but it's known that the 8th Phantom had four sons (of which the youngest succeeded him, the others pursuing other careers) and the 16th Phantom had both a son and a daughter (the latter worked for a while as a female Phantom, then married and lived a normal life). The fates of any other Phantom children are unclear.

    Fairy Tales 
  • The king and queen in "Donkeyskin" only had a daughter, and were content with this. But the queen fell ill and died without leaving a male heir, but not before saddling him with the additional restriction that his new wife equal her in beauty and other attributes. Which, after many failed considerations, leads him to the conclusion that his new wife should be his own daughter. Because that would be more acceptable than simply letting her inherit the throne. She manages to escape that situation, and marry a prince, to boot. Thankfully, the prince is not her brother.
  • Other tales of this type include: "All-Kinds-of-Fur", "The King Who Wished Marry To His Daughter", "The She-Bear", "Margery White Coats", and "Golden-Teeth".
  • In "Catskin", the nobleman doesn't care about his daughter because he wants a son. When she grows up, he orders her married off to the first man who will have her and she has to run away.

    Fan Works 
  • A common fan theory for why Scar chose Kovu as his heir is that Nuka was too weak and idiotic and Vitani was female. It's actually a major plot point in the third part of the fan webcomic, The Relatives of the King, where Zira and Scar keep having cubs in an effort to produce a strong, male heir. In the end, they just end up adopting (or more accurately stealing) Kovu and proclaiming him next in line.
  • In If Them's the Rules Arcturus figures it would be okay to kill Marchosias for talking to Harry since Marchosias has a son. This is also the only reason he slept with his wife. They only slept together twice in their marriage because their first child was a girl.
  • The Black family in Black Sky is elated to learn that one of Dorea's unborn children is male, meaning he would automatically inherit the Black Lordship over his mother. However, it's justified by the Family Magic being dangerous for a witch's health, so a female heir is prohibited in order to protect her.
    • Only a Sky can hope to inherit the mantle of Don Vongola. It's mentioned that Daniela Vongola became Ottava for being the only one of Settimo's children to have Sky Flames.
  • This is gender-inverted in The Legend of Zelda fic In Sotto Voce. Only female heirs are allowed in Hyrule. The royal family must always have a princess or queen named "Zelda".
  • To Belong: Pocahontas is the oldest sibling, yet her father wanted his sons to rule over his land instead of her. Thus, Charming and John are the lords of their land despite being less fit for it than their half-sister. Charming doesn't even want to be a lord.
  • Alternate History predates the confirmation that being Fire Lord is unisex. With her older brother banished and her father aging, it's up to Princess Azula to produce an heir. She has had three kids so far, but they're all girls.
  • In Let The World Smile, Princess Zelda is only considered good for marrying off. Her mother had her late in life and was so ashamed about her only child being female that she was Driven to Suicide.
  • Ghosts and Dreams: This is why the Targaryen loyalists prioritized the safety of Aegon and Jae over Viserys and Daenerys. Since they're the sons of Rhaegar, their claims are superior per the rules of male-preferred primogeniture. No one has any intentions of enthroning Viserys anyway since he's mad, while Dany's only political value right now is as a marriage piece.
  • Pocketville Twilight: Gender-inverted for the Pocket Kingdom. It it said that the Tomlin dynasty is a Matriarchy, and that the title of monarch as well as the Friendship Heart is passed down to the eldest daughter. There was only one king regnant, however, but his reign did not last long as his status was then taken by his sister. He became a Royal Brat afterwards.
  • The Prince Of Dorne: Played with regarding the succession of Spotswood. Lewyn Martell explains that Dorne practices absolute cognatic primogeniture, meaning that Ser Symon Santagar's eldest daughter can inherit her father's lands. However, she cannot inherit his title because the Faith of the Seven does not allow women to be knights.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Emperor Caligula from Caligula refused to marry Caesonia until she bore him a son. When his sister Drusilla pointed out that it would be impossible to tell if the child was actually his, he replied that he would simply keep her under constant guard. The guards would be homosexuals...who'd been castrated.
  • The king in Fantaghirò really insists on having a male heir, as (paraphrased) when his third child was born:
    King: (as servant brings the baby) I have no doubt it's a prince this time! You will bow to him, daughters, for he is SUPERIOR!
    (unwraps the baby on-screen, vagina ensues)
    King: A GIRL? What SORCERY is this? That white witch must have CURSED me!
  • Played with in Gladiator, as Marcus Aurelius laments that Lucilla was not born a man, noting "What a Caesar you would have been," to her. Only to deny her brother and expected blood heir the throne and promise it to Maximus instead, setting off the events of the movie.
  • Mad Max: Fury Road: Immortan Joe uses women as breeding stock to birth children for him in the hopes of eventually getting the perfect male heir to succeed him over his strong but dumb son, Rictus Erectus, and smart but weak and disabled son, Corpus Colossus. When his favorite pregnant Wife, Splendid, is dying after being run over, he demands the Organic Mechanic removes the baby as quickly as possible. When it's shown to be beyond saving, he sadly asks if it was a male.
  • In Pan's Labyrinth, Captain Vidal is determined to have a male heir no matter the cost to his wife or his stepdaughter.
  • Frederich is shown praying desperately for a son in Snow White: A Tale of Terror. It seems to be the only reason he married Claudia as he is still in love with his dead wife. Claudia, who admitted to her mirror that she really loved him, is not happy when she realizes this.
  • The fact that only males can inherit the throne in Stardust means that Princess Una isn't a target of her other brothers, who are busy killing each other off because the law also demands that there be only one male contender. It helps that they have no idea where she is.
  • Possible examples in The Thief of Bagdad (1940); Jaffar's stated reason for asking for the hand of the princess of Basra is that he wants to start a dynasty. The sultan of Basra then says, "I tried that once, and what have I got? A daughter!" (Of course, Jaffar is a usurper, for whom having a marriage and heir with royal blood would probably be a bit more important.)
  • In the Soviet film Unbelievable Adventures of Italians in Russia, an Italian mafioso has half a dozen daughters and not a single son. Being a traditionalist, he wants a male heir and is desperately hoping that his currently pregnant wife finally produces one. At the end of the film, he receives the news... it's another girl. He's not happy.
  • Young Frankenstein: The deleted scene where the contents of Baron Frankenstein's will were revealed: On his will, Baron Frankenstein described Frederick as his only male heir and never considered leaving anything to his granddaughter.
  • The Mummy (2017): Ahmanet was the heir to her father's throne but lost the status as soon as her brother entered the line. Instead of taking the path some Egyptian princess took (IE: marrying her brother), she decided to turn to murder and necromancy instead.
  • In The Draughtsman's Contract, it is mentioned that Mr. Herbert doesn't believe in women owning property, leading to uncertainty as to what will become of his inheritance unless his daughter Mrs. Talmann has a son.
  • Rudhramadevi begins with the birth of the title character, a girl, to the king of a nation surrounded by enemies eager to take over. Thus the decision is made to raise her as a prince.
  • In The Phantom of Crestwood, Aunt Faith tells Esther that a woman's only function is to bear healthy sons and that she intends to oppose Esther's marriage to Frank as she does not consider Esther's bloodline pure enough to ensure this.
  • In Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks, Count Frankenstein laments that his wife died giving birth to a stillborn son, so there is no one to carry on the Frankenstein family name. Krista hints, none too subtly, that it is not too late for him to remarry and father a male heir.
  • In the remake of Overboard, Don Montenegro, owner of Montenegro Industries, the largest construction supply company in the world, is lying on his deathbed, his eldest daughter Magdalena who has been esentially running the company, becomes angry at the fact that her brother, the hard partying, Leonardo is named the new owner of the company should Don Montenegro die. When Leonardo, after a drunken escapade on his yacht, washes up on shore an amnesiac, Magdalena leaves him behind in the mental hospital he's in, tells her father and younger sister, Sofia, that Leonardo was killed by a shark, and she's given control of the company. Later, when Leonardo is found again, his father hands him back the company, angering Magdalena again. When Leonardo tries to go back to his "wife" Kate, Don Montenegro disowns him, for choosing a poor woman over his family, and gives the company to Sofia, citing the fact that Magdalena abandoned Leonardo, and Sofia names her head of their charity organization.
  • Last Knights has Lord Bartok, who has only one daughter, designating his knight Raiden as heir to head his clan.
  • Hot Spur: During their argument, Jason O'Hara bitterly taunts his wife Susan that he has given her everything she ever wanted, but she has failed to give him the one thing he wants: a son.
  • In Noelle Santa Claus is a Legacy Character whose title has been passed from father to son for 2,000 years. When the new Santa, Nick Kringle, decides he's not up for the job and leaves, his sister Noelle gets passed over by the Elf Elders in favor of their techbro cousin Gabriel, who makes a mess of things in the name of efficiency. In the end, Nick is convinced to return to the North Pole, but makes a compelling case for Noelle to be Santa, and the head elder admits he re-read the laws and they didn't specify gender.

  • In Piers Anthony's A Spell For Chameleon, the Magician Trent must marry the Sorceress Iris in order to remain in Xanth; this condition is set because only Magicians can rule in Xanth, and in hopes that their powers will ensure that they have a Magician son. In The Source of Magic, the widowed Trent has difficulty ensuring an heir because he's still in love with his first wife; they do succeed, in time, in having a child, but a daughter. Finally, in Night Mare, when Magicians are being removed as soon as they are King, during an invasion, Loophole Abuse is invoked: the laws of Xanth forbid a ruling queen, but do not explicitly require that kings be male. Sorceresses, both Iris and her daughter, ascend the throne as Kings.
  • The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga: It's discovered in the first book, Ice Forged, that a long-ago ruler, King Hougen, anchored humanity's control of magic to the bloodlines of himself and twelve of his followers, anchors that are only passed along the lines of firstborn sons. Because of this, over half the anchoring bloodlines, including that of Hougen himself, ended even before a Fantastic Nuke attack kills off almost all of Donderath's noble houses and brings on the collapse of human civilization across the Continent. This leaves protagonist Blaine McFadden, who was exiled for murder at the start of the series, as the last surviving Lord of the Blood and therefore the only one able to re-anchor magic.note 
  • Isaac Asimov and Janet Asimov's Norby and the Court Jester: The inheritance and deaths of a few generations ago nearly causes a Succession Crisis in this book. Queen Tizzle's great-great-uncle Orz was the older of the two boys born to the then-queen of Izz. Since there was no female to inherit the throne, Orz chose to abdicate, and allow his younger brother, Narrin, to rule instead. However, Orz's first wife divorced him, and he remarried to produce a son. Garus is related through male ancestors to Queen Tizzle. What's more, Orz's first wife remarried, and had a daughter. Xeena is her descendant, through matrilineal inheritance, giving her a claim to the throne that she attempts to act upon in this novel.
  • Assassin Fantastic: In Coin of the Realm, Princess Rosalind's father had six daughters before finally getting the son he wanted to succeed him. He regards his daughters as nothing more than "coin to be traded", with no more value than whatever he can get for marrying them off. This, naturally, doesn't sit well with Rosalind at all.
  • The Assassins of Tamurin: The success of Makina Seval's plot hinges on her adopted daughter Ashken having a male heir with Ardavan. Nilang assures Lale she has a contingency plan — if Ashken's first child should happen to be female, she will quickly be Switched at Birth with a male child before anyone is the wiser.
  • In Aunt Dimity and the Lost Prince, Tappan Hall actually belongs to Lady Barbara Booker's great-nephew due to an entail. Even so, he declines to be addressed by the title "Lord" while she's still alive, insisting that she should rightfully have it.
  • Jane Austen:
    • One of the major plot motivators in Pride and Prejudice is the Bennetts' lack of a male heir. Their family estate is entailed, which means that it is bound legally to be inherited by the next male relative in the family line. It's their distant cousin, Mr. Collins. He kind of felt for the Bennet sisters and proposed to one of them; however, she didn't want to marry a stupid and obnoxious person because of property.
    • Persuasion: Sir Walter's estate Kellynch Hall is entailed and he has no son. His heir presumptive is Mr. Elliot, a distant cousin to his daughters. The family wished he would marry the eldest daughter Elizabeth, but he married a low-born woman for money. When he became a widower, he set his eyes on the younger Elliot daughter Anne, who though not as handsome as her sister is very intelligent, gentle and nearly an angel. He appreciates her character, however, his strongest motive to remarry is to be closer to the family so that he can keep an eye on Sir Walter (also widowed) who might get married again soon and produce a son of his own after all, which would cut his inheritance of the baronetcy and the estate.
    • In Love and Freindship, Laura's father-in-law remarries in hope of a son — and gets one.
  • The Beast Player: Inverted. The title of the Yojeh is passed down from mother to daughter because the Founder of the Kingdom, Jeh, was a woman.
  • Notably averted in A Brother's Price, by the fact that all sisters of a family rule together, and their daughters are all considered heirs to the throne. Men presumably cannot inherit the throne, but as boys are so rare that a family with four boys out of thirty-two children is considered lucky, this is not a problem that is likely to ever present itself.
  • In The Castle of Otranto, a nobleman's sole male heir is mysteriously killed, and he immediately begins making plans to marry his late son's fiancée, annulling his current marriage and consigning his wife and daughter to ruin. Played with, in that he acts this way because he fears that failure to produce another son will bring an ancestral curse down on him, not because he actually cares about his bloodline's future.
  • C. S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia: In Prince Caspian, it is when the usurping Evil Uncle finally gets a male heir that jump-starts the plot and gets Prince Caspian moving. Fast.
  • In the Jim Butcher series Codex Alera, which is based on Ancient Roman culture, the First Lord (i.e. the emperor) is passed down through male heirs. One of the major political issues is that the First Lord has no heir, since his son died in an attack on a remote area of Alera, so there is a lot of political maneuvering for the throne. About midway through the series, this comes to a head. We find out that there is indeed a long lost heir 'Tavi' a.k.a. Octavian, the First Lord's grandson who remained hidden for good reasons.
  • In Robert E. Howard's stories of Conan the Barbarian after he became king, several times it is a plot point that Conan's death creates a problem, as he has no son. Oddly enough, we never see any pressure on him to marry and have one, though in other stories he does eventually get married and have a son.
  • In Lois McMaster Bujold's The Curse of Chalion, Roya Orico grasped that the titular curse lay with him and convinced his Royina to secretly lie with his (evil) Chancellor (who was at least polite about it) and said Chancellor's even more evil brother (who was not). When that plan proved unsuccessful (and Royina Sara threatened to kill herself), he summoned his much younger half brother Teidez to court along with his sister Iselle. Bujold eventually subverts it when Iselle (the bright one to begin with) is left the last of Fonsa's line alive when the titular curse is finally broken.
  • The Dalemark Quartet: This is how Dagner winds up Earl of the South Dales — his mother is the niece of a previous Earl, and every other male heir was killed during an attempted invasion of the North when his younger brother Moril used Magic Music to close the pass, leaving him the heir. Kialan finds this hilarious. Dagner himself would rather be a Singer.
  • In Dark Ones Mistress, this is the main reason Clara, along with four other women, was kidnapped in the first place.
  • Darkover is obsessed with this trope and wanting sons, though with several exceptions. The Aillard line is matriarchal and matrilineal, and Renunciates are forbidden from playing the game; they must vow to never make a traditional royal marriage or become a concubine, and "to bear children only in [their] own time and season," not for their family's ambitions. This is justified because laran is determined genetically.
  • A particularly ironic lampshade is placed on Rhys in Katharine Kerr's Deverry Cycle, when he puts aside his wife for being infertile ... and she remarries and is immediately knocked up by her new husband, much to the amusement of everyone involved, except Rhys. A much less amusing example in one of the flashback story arcs involved a king who had three daughters and no sons. When he died the fathers of his grandsons each declared that their firstborn son was the rightful king (And that the father of the 'rightful' king was naturally his regent until the king became of age). This kicked off a century-long Succession Crisis known as the Time of Troubles.
  • Dune:
    • In the original novel, Duke Leto's concubine Lady Jessica was supposed to have a daughter for the Bene Gesserit, but Leto wanted a son, and she went along with him, although it is not made clear if he wanted a son for reasons of getting an heir or just wanted a son because he wanted a male child. This is added to by the fact that the Bene Gesserit's plan was aiming for a daughter so that they could produce a male heir with a Harkonnen. Making the Bene Gesserit an Heir Club for Witches?
    • Also in the original novel, since the Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV had no sons, the throne would pass not to his eldest daughter Irulan but to the man who married her.
    • In the Prelude to Dune prequels, the Emperor's wife deliberately prevented this, probably under orders from the Reverend Mothers, who planned to bring the Kwisatz Haderach into existence within a few generations, and needed the throne empty for him to assume.
  • Earth's Children: Justified in-universe in The Clan of the Cave Bear. Since Clan women are inherently incapable of leadership, each clan is led by a man who invariably passes the leadership on to another male. The new leader is traditionally the oldest son of the previous leader, though there are exceptions. For example, Creb is the oldest son of a leader, but, because he is crippled and therefore unable to truly become a man in the eyes of the Clan, he has instead become his clan's Mog-ur (shaman), while his younger brother, Brun, is the leader of the clan.
    • On the other hand, Clan men lack the racial memories of healing plants which medicine women possess, resulting in an Heir Club for Women, in which each medicine woman passes on her knowledge only to her daughters.
  • The cause of more than a few problems in Robin Hobb's The Farseer. Chivalry, the crown prince, caused a scandal when he married who he wanted instead of for politics, and then she turned out to be too infirm to carry a child to term. When word came that Chivalry had a bastard son, Fitz, he stepped down in favor of his brother, Verity. Verity eventually marries but wrecks his health so much with using the magical Skill that he can't father children, so Verity takes over Fitz's body to have sex with his wife in hopes of continuing the royal line, even if through a bastard, since the Skill is strongest in the royal bloodline and if lost there may die out altogether.
  • In The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, the baby Tamlorn's mother is Sybel's aunt, who married King Drede. His father is either the king, in which case he's the heir, or another man, who the king killed in a fit of jealousy, which is why Tam's life is in danger, especially since in the latter case, he could be a pretender for the king's rivals to gather around.
  • In The Goblin Emperor, this drives most of the plot. The elven emperor was very dutiful in begetting sons; he not only divorced one wife for barrenness, but he also produced a total of four sons with different wives. Only because those three sons and he himself died in an airship accident does his half-goblin son Maia inherit the throne. And is then promptly told by his advisors that he has to produce a male heir. Maia agrees that arranging a marriage for him is the wisest course of action, but does not manage to get really enthusiastic about it, and at one point invalidates his own claim to the throne by calling the barren ex-wife of his father "zhasanai", a title reserved for the emperor's widow. As he already has an underage nephew who could inherit the throne after him, producing a male heir is less about securing that there is an heir, and more about making sure that those who would like to see his nephew on the throne don't just have to murder him to get there.
  • Heralds of Valdemar series:
    • Notably averted by the Valdemaran royal family; with Companions Choosing as many girls as boys, the Heralds know better than to think a Queen would be less effective a ruler than a King. Queen Selenay rules both before and during her marriages (and her husbands remain Princes), and her daughter Elspeth remains Heir even after her younger half-brother is born until she explicitly abdicates. Valdemar's nobility, however, is not so enlightened, preferring male heirs strongly.
    • A side plot in the Last Herald-Mage Trilogy is that King Randale is sterile. To hide this fact, Vanyel sires a child on Randale's lifebonded mate (at her request).
  • Honor Harrington example: The Star Kingdom of Manticore has allowed primary succession by women ever since their second monarch, Elizabeth the First. The current queen is Elizabeth the Third. Grayson has recently tweaked the law to allow women to inherit (with a grandfather clause for current heirs), especially making sense due to the population being 75% female. The Andermani had a better solution: their first female Emperor, Gustav VII, dealt with rules forbidding female inheritance by declaring herself to be a man. It helped she took control of the Imperial Fleet beforehand. "He" is considered one of the best rulers of an empire whose rulers are well known for their eccentricities.
  • In Cornelia Funke's Inkheart series, the Adderhead is terrified of death; and somehow this makes him think he needs a male heir.
  • The Interdependency: Averted in The Collapsing Empire. Not only is it perfectly acceptable for a woman to inherit a noble title, the first emperox of the Interdependency was female (who was also declared a prophet). One of the protagonists is Cardenia Wu-Patrick, the illegitimate daughter of the previous emperox. She was never supposed to rule, but then her half-brother got himself killed in a race, and her father named her as his new successor instead of any number of cousins and nephews. One of the other protagonists (the son of a nobleman) finds out that his father changed his order of succession and named his daughter the heir presumptive instead (this is just to allow his son to leave the planet without much scrutiny).
  • In Ladylord, trouble regarding a lack of male heirs makes an appearance twice in the story. The whole premise of the book is kicked off when a lord doesn't have any sons but declares his daughter to be his "son" and heir anyway. In the other case, a lord has trouble acquiring an heir due to impotence, making the pregnancy of one particular concubine particularly valuable to him. This grants said concubine more leeway in court than she would otherwise have. After the child is born, she is part of a plot to have him kidnapped by the lord's enemies, in part because this preserves her necessity - she's the only woman ever to bear the lord a son, and he can't kill her if he thinks he needs to make another one. (In fact, the first child isn't even his.)
  • In Lynda Robinson's Lord Meren mysteries, Meren is perfectly happy having his adopted son Kysen as his legal heir. His relatives, on the other hand, loathe the idea of a common-born adoptee carrying on the family name and keep badgering the widowed Meren to remarry and produce a "proper" son.
  • Also averted in Master of Formalities, where the ruler of planet Apios is Lady Joanadie Jakabitus. While her husband Frederain is referred to as "Lord Frederain", he is, in fact, only a consort (he doesn't care, his main goal is to raise their son to be a good leader). Even among the brutish Hahn, it's pointed out that Lord Kamar Hahn's son Hennik isn't the heir presumptive, as he has an older sister. But given that his sister Shimlish is also the supreme commander of the Hahn military, it's possible that she could die in battle, leaving Hennik as the heir.
  • The entire plot of the Merry Gentry series is The Fair Folk being mostly infertile, and whether Prince Cel or Merry can deliver an heir first.
  • Andre Norton examples:
    • The Jargoon Pard: Lady Heroise is determined to bear a son she can mold into her puppet and so rule Car do Prawn. Unfortunately, her child is a daughter. Luckily the expectant couple in the next room has just delivered a son. But unbeknownst to Heroise the father just happens to be her own long lost half-brother....!
    • The Crystal Gryphon and the prequel short story "Of the Shaping of Ulm's Heir" are begun by this trope. Lord Ulric of Ulmsdale had been unable to father any living children, so he divorced his second wife and married the widowed Lady Tephana because she was of proven fertility, having a son from a previous marriage. This led to a great deal of trouble starting at the end of the short story and picking up at the beginning of the novel when Lady Tephana utterly rejected her son by Ulric - Kerovan - and settled down to scheming on behalf of her first-marriage son and later her daughter by Ulric. (The latter could inherit if Kerovan died or was publicly rejected as being unqualified to rule, e.g. because of mental or physical infirmity).
    • Joisan, the female lead of The Crystal Gryphon is involved in another potential Succession Crisis. Her paternal uncle, the lord of Ithdale, has no children but two potential heirs: Joisan (his half-brother's only child) and his younger sister's son, Toross. Although Joisan has been in an Arranged Marriage since early childhood, Toross's mother keeps trying to throw her together with Toross in the hopes of securing the succession for him. And Toross goes along with it because he's genuinely in love with Joisan.
    • In Ice Crown, downplayed; Princess Ludorica says her grandfather would have preferred a prince but has used her.
    • Downplayed still more in The Zero Stone, where the only effect is that Jern's father tried to teach him and his brother but not their sister.
  • The background of the One Dozen Daughters series by Mercedes Lackey is a tiny kingdom where the royal couple of a nation that practices strict primogeniture ends up producing thirteen children before they finally get an heir. Then they realize that such a small kingdom can't afford a dozen royal dowries, so it is decided that as each daughter comes of age, she has to leave the kingdom and seek her fortune somewhere else (The books themselves follow the adventures of said daughters).
  • The Ordinary Princess: All children born to a King of Phantasmarania are girls. Each King's next in line for the throne is his eldest daughter's youngest son.
  • An inverted non-royal example in Anne Rice's Queen of the Damned. Maharet, one of the first vampires, had a daughter before being turned. Since then, she has tracked all of her matrilineal descendants without regard for any descendants of males. While this made more sense in ancient times without reliable (or any kind) paternity testing (although she did assume that all women cheat), this is more of a tradition than anything in modern times.
  • The Reynard Cycle:
    • The nobility of Arcasia adhere to the Agnatic-Cognatic Succession model: Persephone is a Countess who inherited her title due to a lack of living brothers.
    • Inverted with the Telchines dynasties that preceded them, which were both matriarchies.
    • Glycon, a nation populated by the descendants of the Telchines and ruled by a theocracy made up of priestesses, also inverts the trope.
  • Male heirs are the norm in Safehold, with the Princedom of Corisande being of particular note, as Prince Hektor regards his heir as an Inadequate Inheritor, and would gladly make his daughter Irys the heir of Corisandian law allowed it. There are exceptions though, primarily with Sharleyan of Chisholm, who inherited and kept the Crown despite the shadow of a less competent queen hanging over her. She later became the co-ruler and The Lancer to Cayleb of Charis, and nobody has any doubt that Cayleb and Sharleyan's daughter Alahnah will be their heir in the fullness of time.
  • Septimus Heap has only female Queens. Men can't become rulers, and there never were any Kings; even the idea is deemed ludicrous.
  • The Silmarillion: The kingdom of Númenor had a Agnatic Primogeniture law applied to its line of Kings. Tar-Aldarion, having no male heirs and having only a daughter, changed the Law of Succession, replacing the principle of agnatic primogeniture with that of fully equal primogeniture and she (as Tar-Ancalimë) became the first Ruling Queen of Númenor. Afterward, the oldest child inherited the throne whether they were male or female.

    His legal changes were largely undone in practice, however, as only two other queens claimed the throne in the next 16 generations. The odds of this happening by pure chance are extremely low, assuming male and female royal offspring were equally likely to be born and survive to inherit.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • The nobility of Westeros practice a form of male-preference cognatic primogeniture, meaning that lordly titles are passed down from father to eldest son. A younger son could inherit if his elder brother dies without any male issuenote , and a female heir could only inherit if she has no surviving brothers and none of her brothers had any male issue. Even then, families often cast a wide net to find a male heir among the cadet branches and other distant relations rather than allow a female to hold power in her own right. This is because should a female heir marry, her husband would take power of her inheritance through her, more or less starting a new house traced through his own line and cutting out the existing family entirely. This has implications when daughters of defeated noble houses are forced into marriage with the victors, that the victor's family might lay claim to the defeated family's holdings. This also gets the obvious deconstruction that many suitable, even decent female candidates are passed over for giving power to men who are just vicious, insane and/or incompetent, with entirely predictable results.
    • This is certainly the case later on in the books. After Robb Stark's death at the Red Wedding and the presumed death of his two younger brothers, Sansa is the presumptive heir of the Stark family. Accordingly, as the spoils of war, Lord Tywin marries his son Tyrion to her; as the husband to the Stark's rightful heir, Tyrion could then rule the North in the name of House Lannister. Robb attempts to preemptively thwart this when he disinherits Sansa in his will and names another heir, thought by most fans to be Jon Snow, but if any of the witnesses to this are around, they're not in a position to press the issue.
    • Unlike the rest of Westeros, Dorne exercises absolute cognatic primogeniture, wherein the eldest child of the ruler inherits, period. Like most legal snafus, this causes trouble when the Prince of Dorne's daughter schemes to make Myrcella Baratheon/Lannister the queen of the Seven Kingdoms, as by Dorne's laws she would be the rightful heir. Part of her scheming comes from a plot by Prince Doran that (mistakenly) makes her believe that he means to scam her out of her rights in favor of her younger brother.
    • Subverted in the case of the Dothraki. Daenerys expects her unborn son to become the heir to Khal Drogo's khalasar simply by being his child after Drogo dies, but Jorah Mormont tells her that the Dothraki do not honor blood and will only follow the strongest. The khalasar is then splintered by new khals who take the remnants, while Daenerys is left with around 100, consisting of her bloodriders, handmaidens, old men, women, and children. And even then, it takes the birth of her dragons before they accept her as leader. Drogo himself is the son of a great khal, Bharbo, but did not inherit his father's armies. It is also noted that Drogo is a very young khal, leading an immense khalasar of his own before the age of 30.
    • Also subverted in much the same way with the Wildlings, as Jon Snow has to constantly explain to Stannis and Melisandre: yes, Mance Rayder is King Beyond The Wall, but that isn't the same sort of thing as Westerosi royalty, and Mance's son is not a prince - "You don't become King Beyond The Wall because your father was."
    • The laws can get confusing at times. After Lord Rickard Karstark is killed his one surviving son Harrion inherits but his uncle Arnolf tries to have his son Cregan marry Rickard's daughter Alys so that he can inherit after they get Harrion killed. Cregan can't inherit the title without marrying Alys and she realizes that so she runs away and marries a Wildling lord instead.
    • The Iron Islands ostensibly follow the same inheritance laws as the rest of the Seven Kingdoms, but when King Balon dies with all of his sons presumed dead, there is enough opposition to the idea of a woman (his daughter Asha) ruling in her own right that they revive the centuries-dead tradition of Elective Monarchy (in the form of a kingsmoot, which Asha attempts to turn into a queensmoot) instead. The crown winds up going to Balon's brother Euron, who would have been the heir under agnatic (male-only) primogeniture rather than agnatic-cognatic (male-preferred).
    • Queen Selyse is very concerned with producing a male heir for her husband, at one point claiming that their marriage bed was cursed because Robert drunkenly had sex with someone in it before they could consummate, and if Stannis burns the resulting child as a sacrifice she will be able to give him sons. Stannis himself seems far less concerned, referring to his daughter Shireen as his heir, and ordering that she be crowned queen in the event of his death.
  • Star Wars Legends gives us the matriarchal Hapans. But Ta'a Chume, the Hapan queen, never had a daughter, so her daughter-in-law, from the primitive and also matriarchal Dathomiri, becomes the new queen. But mostly she doesn't want Jedi to rule her kingdom. Three guesses what religion her granddaughter joins.
  • In the first book of Melanie Rawn's Sunrunner series, Dragon Prince, the realm is in an incredibly fragile political situation due solely to the fact High Prince Roelstra has seventeen daughters, yet no male heir; like Henry VIII in real life, Roelstra has put aside wife after wife, and his daughters (legitimate and illegitimate) are both opportunists and opportunities, politically. One of the book's key intrigues rests on ensuring (via an elaborate deception) that Roelstra's fourth and current wife bears — or appears to bear — a son.
  • The Stormlight Archive: Vorin kingdoms often insist that their views on gender are "separate but equal" (most roles in society are only allowed to either men or women, with very little overlap, and they are supposed to complement each other equally), but inheritence is where this fiction breaks down. Money, titles, and rank are passed down to firstborn sons, ignoring daughters. If daughters are supposed to inherit anything from their mothers, it's never mentioned. This is a problem with Alethkar, where Elhokar inherited the throne from his father, even though his far more capable older sister Jasnah would certainly have been a better choice. In Oathbringer, when Elhokar is killed and his cousin Adolin refuses the throne, Jasnah becomes queen after all.
  • The Sword of Truth series:
    • The House of Rahl takes it a step further: Not only must they have a male heir, but the heir must have the magical gift. More recent generations (particularly Darken Rahl) took to killing any female and/or non-gifted children.
    • Inverted in the case of the Confessors. Any male child of a Confessor had to be killed because they invariably ended up abusing their power.
  • In the Tales of the Branion Realm, equal primogeniture is used, possibly because the sovereign doubles as a religious avatar and the God in question neither recognizes nor cares about gender. It doesn't care about bastardy either, which drives the plot of the third book when the royal family has converted to a different faith and a woman seduces the monarch to bear his firstborn. A civil war ensues.
  • This trope is played with by Sheri S. Tepper in three novels. In Six Moon Dance the founding mothers of the planet Newholme create an artificial scarcity of female babies, and a dominant ideology that females are the stronger sex and males are the weaker, leading to the population desiring female heirs. In Raising the Stones, the power derived by males from their heirs is eradicated by legally denying the father-child relationship. Heirs are only accepted through the maternal line, and any male claiming fathership is frowned upon. And in The Gate to Women's Country the women and men of the story live in different quarters, and when a male comes of age they must choose which quarter they permanently wish to live in. If they, for example, choose the men?s quarter, then their mother can no longer claim them as an heir; if they choose the women?s quarter, then the father no longer has fathership.
  • In C. S. Lewis' Till We Have Faces, the king of Glome wants a male heir and gets three daughters. His anger about this is the source of much tension in his family and the court. In the end, his oldest daughter seizes and holds the throne after his death.
  • Tortall Universe:
    • Song of the Lioness: According to Thayet jian Wilima, a document called the Book of Glass states that this is the case for her home country of Sarain, and apparently it's magically or divinely enforced, which is why she can't take the throne despite being the only child of the late Warlord.
    • Trickster's Duet: The Copper Isles worked this way under the rule of the Rittevon family. This is in sharp contrast to the Isles under their former rulers, the raka House of Haiming, where only women could inherit the throne.
  • Averted in Trash of the Count's Family. It's never outright stated, but women are shown to be just as capable of inheriting and holding titles in this world as men are. For example, the Viscountess Ubarr is the one who holds power in her territory, not her husband, and her daughter is her heir. Inheritance seems to be mostly based on age regardless of gender with exceptions being that the oldest is an Inadequate Inheritor.
  • The Vorkosigan Saga has Emperor Gregor, last of a Royally Screwed Up line of emperors, who seemed quite averse to marriage and heir-production. Which caused no end of trouble for his Prime Minister, Aral Vorkosigan, who was arguably the most legitimate claimant to the throne but adamantly did not want the job, as well as his son, Miles.
  • Inverted in Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time. Andor is always ruled by a queen, and it's said that no man has ever survived sitting on the Lion Throne. Every so often there are minor "wars of succession" because it's unclear which woman is next in line.
  • Downplayed in The Witchlands — Vivia is the heir to the Nubrevnan throne despite having a younger brother, but the Council gives her a lot of grief for being a woman and it's quite obvious that they'd rather marry her off to have a man on the throne or somehow get Merik to be the king. Vivia also notes that while there's no formal rule about the gender of the Council members, all women eligible for a seat end up sending a male relative in their stead. At least until the end of the second book.
  • Wolf Hall covers the failure of Henry VIII's first two marriages from the perspective of Thomas Cromwell. When the Duke of Norfolk says it's impossible for a woman to lead an army, Cromwell does remind him that Mary Tudor's grandmother—Isabella of Spain—did just that and gets told to butt out. As Anne Boleyn approaches birth he also tries to get the proclamation-writers to leave enough of a gap on the drafts to write 'ss' after the word prince just in case, considering it to be Tempting Fate (with reason). And it's Anne's failure to give Henry a living son that causes Henry to fatally turn against her. The third book of the series will presumably include Jane Seymour giving birth to Edward VI.
  • Wings of Fire has a full inversion: only female dragons can inherit the throne. A mysterious assassin targeting female royal SeaWing eggs has resulted in uncountable numbers of princes, because the SeaWing royal couple keeps having children in hopes of a daughter who can inherit. There is never any consideration given to a male ruler; if the SeaWing queen dies without living daughters or sisters, her niece will take the throne.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Adventures of Shirley Holmes:
    • As revealed in the intro, Sherlock Holmes expected a "young man" to solve his puzzle. Shirley didn't seem to mind.
    • In "The Case of the Rising Moon", a Princess was being targeted because some of her subjects didn't like the idea of a woman being their ruler.
  • Attila: Emperor Valentinian sits on the Roman throne despite being something of a halfwit controlled by an Evil Matriarch. His much brighter sister Honoria laments the fact that she can't rule because she's a woman and later attempts to overthrow him in a failed plot.
  • Parodied on The Daily Show after newscasters started congratulating Kate Middleton on giving birth specifically to a boy as though this is an achievement, and preferable to giving birth to a girl, as opposed to a near fifty-fifty shot with no way to influence the process.
    John Oliver: What would your response have been if it had been a girl? "Damnation upon your cursed womb, Catherine! Burn the princess, for she hath produced a baby of the weaker sex! Burn the princess! Burn them both! Burn them!"
  • Downton Abbey has a plot related to the entail of the estate, which is a similar issue to the situation in Pride and Prejudice whereby the daughters cannot inherit and the male heir is somewhat distant to the family (he's the Earl's fifth cousin). Fortunately, the heir-presumptive is a young bachelor of an age where he could marry one of the current Earl's daughters — particularly the eldest, Lady Mary — and keep the property and title in the family. He does — marrying Mary (who, as it turns out, is perfect for him) and producing an heir — but there's a lot of drama before they get there. Previously, Mary was set to marry another cousin, who was to be the heir. Then the Titanic sunk with him on board, although a later episode reveals he may have survived.
  • A subversion occurs in Farscape. The crew lands on a Sebacean breakaway colony where succession goes to the eldest child regardless of gender, but the law states that a husband and wife must rule together. As such, the princess cannot become empress unless she finds a male who can give her children before she reaches a certain birthday (and, due to some gene poisoning by her brother, only Crichton fits the bill).
  • The episode "Heart of Gold" of Firefly has Burgess, a man who knocked up a whore and wants the child, as it is male, for an heir. And he didn't do it accidentally; rather, Burgess' wife is implied to be infertile and when he receives the news that it's a boy, his wife is present and appears to be as relieved as Burgess is.
  • Game of Thrones: Most noble families seen thus far practice male-preferential primogeniture: the eldest living son inherits, but a daughter can make do if there are no sons. However, according to Septa Mordane, the Iron Throne can only go to the closest male relative. The one kingdom in Westeros which averts this is Dorne; Dornish law provides for absolute primogeniture, meaning that the oldest child inherits, regardless of gender.
    • In spite of this, Stannis names his sickly daughter Shireen (his only child) as his heir. However, Stannis' lack of a son, and the fact that he doesn't get on with his wife (meaning that the odds of a legitimate son being born are slim) plays a big role in the tension with his wife. Book!Stannis is much less concerned (though he does make mention of it) with fathering a son.
    • Aeron is the first to cast doubt on Yara's position as heir to the Salt Throne, giving her a blunt reminder that the Ironborn have never once elected a Queen. The fact that he invoked that Yara should be elected when Balon was never elected is a further indication of his sexism. In the books, Aeron argued for an election because he disagreed with Balon's choice of Yara/Asha as an heir and also because of a genuine succession dispute between Theon, Victarion, and Euron, who had physically seized the throne upon Balon's death. The Kingsmoot hadn't been held for centuries before the Conquest, later Ironborn Kings like the Hoares were hereditary monarchy. Aegon the Conqueror did allow the Ironborn to elect their new Lord Paramount and the Greyjoys became hereditary Feudal Overlord, and Balon certainly didn't submit himself to an election, so the kingsmoot is less a case of Ironborn custom and more an instance of Moving the Goalposts to prevent a woman from making her claim. In the books, of course, he doesn't deny her right to a candidacy — he simply thinks no true Ironborn will vote for her. When she actually gets a sizable portion of the votes midway through the kingsmoot he is stunned and has no fallback plan — then Euron shows up, just as in the show, where, despite Yara having the well-deserved Undying Loyalty of her own men, the Ironborn vote for Euron even after he admits to killing Balon.
    • Daenerys' own claim to the Iron Throne is derived from the fact that she is literally the last Targaryen after Viserys' death; she wouldn't be considered for the throne by Targaryen loyalists otherwise. This is why she is so upset to learn that her lover Jon Snow is actually the trueborn son of her older brother Rhaegar and Lyanna Stark. As a trueborn male Targaryen, born of the loins of the previous Crown Prince, his claim supersedes hers, and if it were to get out, it's very likely the majority of Westeros will support him over her.
  • Parodied in Garth Marenghis Darkplace, where Garth at one point mopes and monologues about his wife "denying him an heir" by only having daughters before she went through menopause. Garth isn't royalty of any sort, just a mundane horror writer (and not an especially good one either); he's a rather pathetic bigot with a laughably overblown ego, so he continues to subscribe to beliefs like this long after they died out, even when they wouldn't really apply to him anyway.
  • This is the only reason Lipstick Lesbian Margot Verger sleeps with Will Graham in Hannibal: the only way she could get control of her family's company is if she produced a male heir, otherwise it'd go to a church when her brother Mason dies. When Mason finds out what she is planning, he arranges a car 'accident' to get her in an operating room and sterilizes her, aborting her child in the process. He... doesn't like Margot much. This doesn't stop Margot however since in season 3 with Hannibal's help she gets hold of Mason's sperm and her wife Alana uses it to become pregnant and give birth to a son.
  • Merlin: When Uther couldn't get an heir, he turned to magic, and it gave him one, but cost him the life of his queen, Ygraine.
  • Midsomer Murders: The murders in "The Sword of Guillaume" ultimately stem from a bizarre attempt to secure an heir for her son, who a brain-damaged, quadriplegic confined to a wheelchair following an accident. The plan involved arranging a marriage then extracting sperm to impregnate the wife.
  • The NCIS episode "Newborn King" features a Marine who was sent home after she got pregnant from a fling with a soldier from Afghanistan. The father turned out to be the only heir to a tribe that owned a valuable piece of land, and when he died, his family became very interested in getting their hands on that baby, sending a trio of Russian mercenaries after the Marine. It all ends up for naught, as not only does Team Gibbs subdue the mercenaries, but the Marine gives birth to a girl, who is ineligible to inherit.
  • The Outpost: Prince Anton, despite being younger than her, would have the rightful claim to the throne ahead of Rosmund as he's male.
  • The Palace featured a haughty princess scheming to dethrone her younger brother by destroying his reputation. (There was also another brother in line before her, but getting rid of him would be a piece of cake — assuming the public even let him become king in the first place.)
  • In Robin Hood, Guy of Gisborne makes it very clear on a couple of occasions that he expects Marian to provide him with an heir as soon as possible. He even uses it as a pick up line after the death of her father.
    What better way to grieve than to create new life?
  • A version that pops up in Smallville has to count. Lionel Luthor might not have been all that concerned with his son, but when his Alternate Universe counterpart comes to the regular world to take the dead-Lionel's place, he makes it clear that he wants Lex to carry on his legacy and be the heir to the Luthor "kingdom". He actually ousts his daughter from the exact position that he wants a Luthor heir in, because she's not his son. (Though her earlier Heel–Face Turn might also have been a contributing factor.) Lionel is so obsessed with bringing his son back to take his place that he's also completely willing to kill said daughter to make it happen.
  • The Tudors has this in spades, not surprising considering that it's a show about Henry VIII.
  • An episode of The West Wing features a muck-raking and inaccurate "exposé" memoir from a former staffer fired for incompetence which, amongst other things, alleges that the President wore special undergarments in order to produce a male heir when conceiving the child that ended up being his youngest daughter. The President is bemused, to say the least.
  • Wolf Hall, adapted from the first two books in the Cromwell trilogy, has this. When Anne delivers a girl, all Henry can manage is an almost angry "call her Elizabeth" and stalks out of the room without even asking how his wife is after the birth.note  He only shows affection towards the baby when Anne is pregnant again, assuming as blithely as he did the first time that it'll be a boy. When that pregnancy and her third end in miscarriage, he decides he's been "bewitched" so he can get a new wife.

    Myths & Religion 
  • In the book of Numbers, the daughters of Zelophehad come to Moses with a problem. Their wealthy father has just died, and they have no brothers and are not married, but it's accepted in this society that women cannot inherit property or titles. Moses takes this issue to God, and God comes up with a solution that's pretty Fair for Its Day: they can inherit their father's property, but they must marry men from their own tribe. (Note that this only applied in cases like the above, where there were no sons or sons-in-law to be the inheritors; if they had a brother, or if these women were married, the property would go to their brothers or to their husbands, not them.) And if they had sons later, the property would be passed onto them.
    • Even earlier than that, this was the idea behind the custom of levirate marriage: that is, if a man died without any heirs, his widow was to be married off to his brother (whether she wanted to or not), and their first son would carry on the deceased man's lineage.
      • This becomes a major plot point in the Book of Genesis, when Tamar's husband dies. She marries his brother Onan (as per custom), but he always pulls out because he doesn't want to do his duty, and diesnote . Next in line is a boy named Shelah, who is conveniently not old enough for marriage yet. Her father-in-law Judah, believing Tamar to be cursed, tells her to move back in with her parents and wait until Shelah is old enough, which she does. Eventually, as Shelah gets older, Tamar realizes Judah has no intention of marrying her to Shelah, and there are no other brothers Tamar can marry. So, in response, Tamar disguises herself as a shrine prostitute, and sleeps with Judah, making sure to take his seal, cord, and staff as collateral. Three months later, when her pregnancy begins to show, and Judah sentences her to be burned to death for engaging in illicit sex (thus shaming the family), she reveals that the father is the owner of these items. Judah recognizes what she did, and spares her life.
    • Archaeological troves of marriage contracts (including lists of which property each person brought into the marriage, which would be jointly owned, and which would not) and other legal documents show that, in Ancient Israel under the Law of Moses, women could and did own, purchase, sell, inherit, and pass down property to/from both male and female members of the family (as well as, in the case of buying and selling, unrelated people). The issue with Zelophehad's daughters was that they would be the sole inheritors of the entire family property, which included land that was the inheritance of their entire tribe, hence the decision that they could only do so as long as they married within their tribe; the child's Hebrew/Jewish status comes from the mother, and tribe from the father, so they needed children who were members of their tribe to inherit their tribal land. In the Bible itself, there are several examples of women owning/inheriting land, like Caleb's daughter and the "virtuous woman" of Proverbs 31.
  • Albanian folk heroine Nora of Kelmendi was the daughter of an Albanian Christian warrior that wanted a son so that he could raise him to fight against the Ottoman Empire. He abandoned her in an orphanage when she was born, but she was adopted by her aunt, who, knowing what her brother did, raised her as a boy. Nora's biological father still wanted to train a young man to become a fighter so he chose to train his sister's adopted "son" and unknowingly made Nora an Action Girl.
  • In Classical Mythology, Atalanta's father was a king who had her abandoned on a mountaintop because he wanted a son instead. She was found by a bear, then some hunters and grew up to be the rare mortal Action Girl.
  • Gender-Inverted Trope in the Epic of Mwindo, from Congo's Nyanga people. Shemwindo wants daughters so that he can bring in lots of bride-prices without ever having to pay one out. Six of his wives have girls, but his seventh and favorite has the titular Mwindo, who is both male and inexplicably magical.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Averted in BattleTech. The Successor States don't seem to care what gender their rulers are, so long as they have the right last name. Famously, Katrina Steiner was one of the Lyran Commonwealth's best and most beloved leaders, and her daughter Melissa inherited the title (though she also married Hanse Davion, ruler of the Federated Suns, making them joint rulers of the combined Federated Commonwealth). Hanse and Melissa name their eldest son, Victor Ian-Steiner Davion, as their heir, but that has more to do with him being firstborn. Their eldest daughter, Katherine (who later changed her name to Katrina) eventually takes the Lyran half of the Federated Commonwealth independent and rules it for several years before sneaking in behind Victor's back and ruling the Suns half as well, which is technically illegal. Not because she's a woman, but because she didn't undergo the five years of military service required for anyone to assume the title of First Prince of the Federated Suns.
    • Thomas Marik also recognized his illegitimate daughter Isis as a potential heir when his legitimate, male heir developed severe leukemia. While his son's eventually terminal illness forced his hand, his reasons for keeping Isis illegitimate as long as possible had nothing to do with her gender.
    • The Celestial Throne of the Capellan Confederation came to Romano Liao after Maxmillian Liao's death, even though Romano was Maxmillian's younger daughter. His older daughter, Candace, left the Confederation to rule the St. Ives' Compact, an independent state carved out of the Confederation by the Federated Commonwealth's trouncing of the Confederation in the Fourth Succession War.
    • The Draconis Combine seems to play this straight, which is fitting since they are generally portrayed as the most conservative and tradition-bound realm in the setting. Theodore Kurita's son, Hohiro, is set to rule the Combine after his father's (and grandfather's) death, while his sister, Omi, is set to become Keeper of the House Honor. It's not a true leadership position, but does grant a measure of political power, including advising the actual (male) ruler.
      • The BattleTech Expanded Universe shows that while male succession is preferred, it isn't set in stone; there have been three women who have ruled the Combine and they were among the best rulers in the Combine's history.

  • Subverted in William Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale. His courtiers want Leontes to remarry, to provide an heir, but the oracle had said that he would live without an heir unless his lost daughter was found, and so he refused.
  • In Anne of the Thousand Days, Anne promises to give Henry "boys in plenty" if and only if he makes her his queen. When Anne has a daughter, she becomes determined to have Elizabeth succeed him as queen. Henry agrees to order the necessary murders on the condition that she give him a son—which she proves unable to do. Anne later asks him why a daughter won't do, and he replies, "This country's never been ruled by a queen."
  • Westeros: An American Musical: A few cases from the original story get a nod. To wit:
    • When Walder Frey accepts to marry off one of his daughters to Robb, he gets enthusiastic about a yet-to-be born grandson eventually becoming a ruler.
    • After Sansa gets married, there is a discussion about the fact that if Robb dies, her husband will be his effective heir.
    • During a I Want Grandkids moment, Tywin expressly asks for a grandson.

    Video Games 
  • Fire Emblem:
    • Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light and its sequels play this straight. It is never used as a focal point, but it's made clear that males are the preferred heirs in several conversations. Marth is the younger brother of Elice, yet he's clearly established as the heir of Altea, and the same applies for Jubelo of Grust; he has an older sister, Yuliya. In addition, Nyna enters a political marriage with Hardin after Shadow Dragon to put a king on the Archanean throne. That doesn't mean women can't inherit; both Minerva and Sheena become queens after the previous kings of their countries die without male heirs.
    • In Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War, Manfroy pesters Arvis, the heir apparent of Velthomer, to have a son with his wife Deirdre (stolen away from Sigurd of Chalphy). This is more in line with Manfroy's plan to make a Soul Jar for the dark dragon god Loptyr, but since he demands a son, it still applies. Also, at the very end, when Seliph is dividing up territories for the rest of his party to rule, if a female is married, then she will go by her husband's side, and he will be the regnant of whatever land he owns, regardless of whether or not the female in question has the right to rule on her own. Even if she is unmarried, the territory will only go to her if her brother is deceased.
    • In Fire Emblem: Thracia 776's ending, Finn mentions that Leif is the only male heir across the four main territories of the Manster District (Princess Miranda is the only heiress of Conote, and was up for a possible arranged marriage with Leif), and is more than likely going to wind up as Leonster's king. This is despite the fact that not only does he have an older sister, said sister is the inheritor of Major Noba Blood and the wielder of the Gae Bolg lance from their father Quan; Leif has two types of minor blood (Noba from Quan, and Baldur from Quan's wife Ethlyn). However, this one is justified since Altena was kidnapped at a young age and raised as a princess of Thracia. Even though Altena does find out that she's Leif's older sister, the people of Leonster would certainly be very leery of a woman who is for all practical purposes a princess of Leonster's hated enemy taking the throne.
    • Gender inverted by the dual office of Empress and Apostle of Begnion in Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance and Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn. The two offices are inadvertently separated when the first-born female of the current generation is thought to have been assassinated, leaving an Empress who cannot hear the Goddess's voice. The true apostle isn't dead, though.
    • Averted in Fire Emblem Awakening. The countries of Ferox and Plegia do not have a dynastic line; Ferox has leaders based on strength and Plegia appears to have an elected monarchy (Gangrel became king through trickery and Validar was a priest of the Grimleal). Rosanne appears to be a dynastic line, but the only character mentioned is the male Virion. Justified aversion in Ylisse. Emmeryn became Exalt because she was the eldest— at the age of nine. Her younger brother Chrom does not ascend the throne when he is old enough, he only does after she dies, and even if you do the Spotpass Paralogue that reveals she's still alive, she's no longer in a state where she can rule. Also averted and justified in the Future Past; only Lucina can become Exalt because only she can use the Falchion to kill Grima, and whether she has a younger brother or not doesn't has any effect on the plot.
      • The exact inheritance law for Ylisse appears to be "Eldest child of the previous ruler who bears the mark of Naga". That last point factors into Lissa's character during supports: by all accounts, she's Emmeryn and Chrom's full-sibling and completely legitimate, yet doesn't have the mark, which would make it incredibly difficult for her to press a claim if something happened to Chrom. Her son Owain inherits the mark, proving her bloodline once and for all, but by the time this is learned it's become a moot point.
    • Fire Emblem Fates plays this straight in Hoshido and averts it in Nohr. In Birthright, you learn that since heir apparent Xander died at the end of the war, Camilla is nominally next in line for the Nohrian throne, but she chooses to Abdicate the Throne, and Leo becomes king.note  In Conquest, when Hinoka becomes queen of Hoshido, she admits that she never expected to become queen since she always assumed heir apparent Ryoma or, God forbid something happened to him, her younger brother Takumi would become king. Too bad they both die late in the war.
    • Discussed in Fire Emblem Warriors in Lianna and Leo's support conversation. Leo assumes that Lianna is Aytolis' heir apparent due to her slight age advantage over Rowan, but she informs him that since Rowan is a male and she is not, he still has a legitimate claim to the throne. It's further complicated by the fact that neither sibling actually wants the throne.
  • Gender inverted... Again: In Suikoden V, the country of Falerna is ruled by a royal house who practice female inheritance of the throne. The Queen rules the country and takes a male consort (decided by an Inevitable Tournament between the country's various noble houses and other competitors), who becomes commander of the country's armies and Knight Commander of the Queen's royal knights. The main character, who is the eldest-born prince, has no right of succession and is groomed to becoming a statesman or a general in the armies, while his younger sister is groomed to be Queen.
  • Persona 4 has the odd example of Naoto Shirogane. As a female born into a long family of detectives she's convinced that she'll never be able to continue the family tradition as a girl and tries to pass herself off as male until she's exposed. Interestingly, this does not seem to be her family's view at all. We never meet her grandfather, only one of his servants, but from the message he delivers it's clear he has no doubt that his granddaughter will make a fine detective and in fact was concerned that she wasn't being true to herself by faking being male.
    • This is less about inheritance and more a statement about Japan's wide gender gap, despite it being a first world country. Naoto emulates the male sleuths of her favorite detective novels by cross-dressing because she feels as if she wouldn't be taken as seriously if she acted more openly female. This in itself is made worse by the fact that Naoto has no problem with femininity at all, but it all returns to gender inequality.
    • Averted with the Amagi Inn; Yukiko is the heiress, and has spent a large chunk of her youth receiving training for things such as practicing business management. Her Valentine's Day date in Golden even has her mention that if she and the protagonist were to get married, he'd likely be the one taking her last name rather than the other way around.
  • In The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, one of the triggers that start the events of the game is that king Foltest has a lack of proper male heirs: He has a bastard son, who is still technically higher on the succession line than Foltest's acknowledged daughternote . The poor boy is assassinated halfway through the game, leaving his other sister (Foltest's youngest, a bastard daughter) as their incumbent. Geralt's actions may end up helping to legitimize her claim.
  • An integral part of Sengoku is ensuring you have male heirs. If you don't, and your clan leader dies, you lose.
  • In World of Warcraft, it's indicated that Magni was disappointed because his only child Moira was not a male heir. As a result, Moira became quite bitter and eventually fell in love with the Dark Iron Dwarves' emperor, before returning to Ironforge to claim her throne after her father turned into diamond in a ritual gone wrong.
  • Crusader Kings II has three gender inheritance laws. Agnatic inheritance only allows men to rise to power, Agnatic-Cognatic allows women to inherit if there are no valid male inheritorsnote  (but still prefers women with male issue to ones without), and Absolute Cognatic is gender-neutral (but can only be enacted if your ruler is of the Basque culture or follows Catharism, or if you add the Conclave DLC and enact laws to expand women's rights). However, if you pick a less traditional inheritance law (such as Elective Monarchy), it's possible for women to inherit fairly easily. Rulers with female heirs get a relation penalty to all their male vassals, as do all female rulers. The game also has two more gender inheritance laws coded in: Enatic, which allows only women to rise to power, and Enatic-Cognatic, which allows men to inherit only if there are no valid female heirs. Neither of these are actually implemented in the game, obviously, but they can be modded in if one wants.
    • The Holy Fury DLC later allowed for pagans to reform their religions and choose Enatic succession laws as one of the reformation beliefs, turning their Kingdom/Empire into a Matriarchy.
  • In those Total War games, where you have a royal family, only male heirs can inherit. Females can only be married off. However, there is nothing stopping you from adopting an able commander into your family. Some players have even gone so far as to adopt a capable and respected commander and then send the inept biological heir to fight an unwinnable battle. Thus, the adopted son becomes next in line, and all is well.
  • In Sangheili society in Halo, only the male children can inherit the title of kaidon (feudal lord) of their clan. Females technically serve as advisors or rule the keep as scions, not the clan, and on the occasions where all her brothers are dead, she is expected to marry another male, be they a lesser kaidon or one of their sons. That said, being a Sangheili, it isn't uncommon for scions to refuse and fight for the right to rule alongside loyal vassals, and some have even managed to rule this way for their entire lives.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 2: In the backstory, the Empire of Mor Ardain has passed the crown from father to son for its entire history. For the first time ever, there were no male heirs available, so Mòrag was raised to be Empress. Before she could take the throne, her younger brother Niall was born, and he became the heir apparent. Mòrag stepped aside without complaint, but Niall spends much of his time worrying that she could do a better job than him. Of course, it doesn't help that he had to take the throne at a young age.
  • Subverted in the GUDAGUDA Meiji Revival event of Fate/Grand Order. Oda Nobunaga (in this universe, a girl)'s profile in the Fate/Grand Order Material I book states that her father originally planned to have her younger brother Nobukatsu head of the Oda clan. However, Nobukatsu was deemed as lacking in the ability to protect the Oda clan while Nobunaga showed great potential, so she ended up becoming the heir after all.
  • Horizon Zero Dawn: The Carja have been ruled by the Radiant Line of the Sun-Kings since time immemorial. When Aloy asks if there has ever been a Sun-Queen, she is informed that the Sun only chooses male heirs—because "the Sun is masculine, of course."
    Aloy: Um, it's a ball of light in the sky. I've never seen anything dangling from it.
  • Yes, Your Grace: King Eryk is considered to have no heir despite having three daughters. One of the requirements to get the Golden Ending is to finally produce one, a task which is made more complicated by the fact that Queen Aurelea was cursed to have trouble having children, and to produce only daughters if she got pregnant at all.

    Visual Novels 
  • In The Confines of the Crown, succession works a bit differently: the ruler is the King, but the King is the man who marries the firstborn princess. This means that a realm needs to have a female heir; princes are sent wife-hunting. Which means, when one kingdom found itself without a princess, they had to turn to a farmakeist to make one.
  • Gender inverted: the Fey Clan in Ace Attorney values females over males because only women can be spirit mediums. This means that if a couple has a daughter, the father gets pressed out of the light from both directions. End result: Kurain Village, home of the Fey Clan, has an extremely disproportionate divorce rate for its size.
  • Poor Eva Ushiromiya from Umineko: When They Cry. She and her father knew she was more competent and a better fit as the heir than her older brother, but their father refused to allow her to be the heir. But then she married before Krauss, had a child before Natsuhi (and Natsuhi never had a son whereas Eva did), and groomed him to be the perfect heir to steal the title from the incompetent Krauss. Oh, and when she solves the epitaph...

    Web Comics 
  • Shortpacked!:
    • Galasso in keeps trying to get people to breed with his daughter Conquest, even though she is a decent heir herself. What's particularly weird, as Conquest points out, is that Galasso has some weird inability to tell the difference between males and females, so his chauvinism is based on labels that he doesn't even understand.
    • Connie also mentioned to Ethan (after they had sex at Galasso's command) that she was "on the pill", indicating that she may be a bit more assertive than she lets on. She eventually gets sick of this and starts her own business, which appears to be more successful than Galasso's own.
  • Gender inverted in Drowtales due to a matriarchal society. Thanks to an injury from an enemy, Quain'tana has been unable to produce a suitable female heir for her clan despite having several daughters. The first hates her and mingles freely with the enemy, the second is possessed by a demon, and her adopted daughter was disowned after being tainted and generally considered a failure. She eventually resorts to stealing her eldest daughter's first child to solve this.
  • Girl Genius: The need to produce a suitable heir to the title of Storm King was central to the plans of the Knights of Jove to reclaim Europa (due to the fact that the Fifty Royal Families care a great deal about succession as security to their power; the Sparks aren't really all that bothered about it). Gil guesses that it was complicated by a long line of fops, idiots, madmen, and women. Apparently, Lucrezia Mongfish solved their problem with the aid of genetic engineering.
  • This seems to be the reason (or at best one of the reasons) the Erlkönig tries very hard to reconnect with his only son Jareth despite having an older daughter in Roommates. Made harder by the facts that the boy hates his guts for abandoning him, already founded his own kingdom and the king has some very strange ideas about how to do reconnecting ("An Offer You Can't Refuse", to date he could).
  • In Latchkey Kingdom, Princess Rosaline Lanistark poisoned her parents, the King and Queen of the Angelonian Empire, into a coma for trying to concieve a male heir.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
    • The fifth season episode "Burns' Heir" is Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
    • And "I don't know what phallocentric means, but no girls!"
    • The story of King Henry VIII from "Margical History Tour":
      Marge: Sweetie, sometimes a daddy and a mommy decide to live apart. It's not your fault. It's just that you came out the wrong sex and ruined everything.
      Homer: So grow a penis or get lost.
      Lisa: (grunts and struggles) I can't.
      Homer: Bye-bye!
      Lisa: Well, why can't your heir be female? Or why can't we elect our leaders?
      Homer: I wonder if I could canonize a child?
      Lisa: Leaving!
  • On Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Ra's al-Ghul (see under Comic Books above) tries to convince Robin to join his side, noting that as effective as Talia is, she can't compete with a male heir. Talia is not pleased, and helps Robin and his companions escape R'as' Death Trap.
  • Gender-Inverted in W.I.T.C.H., where succession to the throne of Meridian/Metamoor is traditionally female, which is why the younger Elyon Brown is the rightful heir to the throne, over her older brother, Prince Phobos. Then again, considering he probably killed their parents, that's a good thing.
  • Daria has this as a minor plot point: Andrew Landon all but admits that after raising two girls, his infant son Evan is his favorite. Unfortunately, he seems to have divided up the "heir" duties so that Evan will become a football player, while Jodie still has to slave in her school work.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil: Gender-inverted for the matriarchal Kingdom of Mewni. The title of the ruling monarch is "Queen" and the line of succession prioritizes female heirs. The defictionalized Magic Book of Spells reveals one chapter written by Jushtin the Uncalculated, Skywynne's son and heir. Skywynne genuinely wanted him to become queen but was ultimately pressured by her people into trying for a daughter note  and succeeding, cutting his chapter short.

    Real Life 
  • Examples from Europe:
    • Seven European countries have done away with this all together: Sweden, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Belgium, Denmark, and the United Kingdom. In other words, these countries provide that a woman can inherit the throne even if she has younger brothers (sometimes known as "absolute primogeniture"). The first of these changes was passed in Sweden effective January 1, 1980, and so far no woman has actually inherited a crown via absolute primogeniture; Sweden's Crown Princess Victoria is likely to eventually become the first woman in the modern world to inherit a crown despite having a living brother.
    • The British example is, as usual, a little bit odd, in that it was only passed in 2013 but would not make a difference to the current succession as Prince George, the first royal child born after the law change, is the oldest child and thus would've had the same place in the succession under the old laws (Though it does mean that his sister will inherit before their younger brother should anything happen to George).note  In fact, none of the British monarchs since 1910 (George V, Edward VIII, George VI, Elizabeth II, and the future (presumably) Charles III,note  William V, and George VIInote ) would have been or would be affected by the change. You have to go back to 1841 when the future Edward VII was born a year after his older sister supplanting her as heir to Queen Victoria.
    • Of the other European countries that still have monarchies, Spain and Monaco have succession laws like the UK had until 2014, i.e. male-preference primogeniture (younger brothers inherit the crown before their older sisters), although Spain has some vague plans to adopt absolute primogeniture for the successors of current King Felipe VI (not that it really matters; the King has only daughters). Liechtenstein follows what's known as "semi-Salic law", in which a woman can only inherit the crown if the entire royal family runs out of male heirs, including her own sons. Another once-common succession law was the "Salic law" (the non-"semi" version), in which only male descendants in male line could inherit the crown at all; this was applied in France and some other countries, but none of the extant European monarchies still follow it.
      • While Spain tries to get absolute primogeniture, there is already a law that states that when a new King ascends and a new Prince of Asturias (heir apparent) is appointed, nothing can move them from there. So, once a Princess of Asturias is appointed, she is the heir even if new brothers appear later on (which is still possible with the young King Felipe VI).
    • The Disunited Kingdom:
      • It was this issue that started a period in English history known as The Anarchy, when Henry I named his lone surviving child, Matilda, his heir. It was a bit more complicated, in that not only were the Anglo-Norman barons wary of having a woman on the throne, but her husband was from Anjou, Normandy's rival. A faction of barons helped Stephen of Blois onto the throne, which plunged England into 19 years of civil war until a resolution was reached where Stephen's own sons would be bypassed for succession in favor of Matilda's son, the future Henry II, who was the founder of England's Plantagenet dynasty, which of course produced some of England's most famous kings, like Richard the Lionheart, Edward I 'Longshanks', and Edward III.
      • Matilda's son Henry II profited from this when French king Louis VII grew so worried over his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine so far only bearing daughters that he had his marriage annulled (officially on grounds of consanguinity) even though that meant losing control over Aquitaine. To make matters worse from Louis' point of view, Eleanor then married Henry II (handing over Aquitaine to England) and bore him four sons, including Richard the Lionheart and John Lackland. Of course from Henry Plantagenet's point of view that may have been too much of a good thing because his sons kept conspiring and fighting against each other as well as against their father.
      • Henry VIII of England divorced his first wife because of this. He even went so far as to reject the Roman Catholic Church because they wouldn't annul his first marriage. He had some justification — his father was an upstart who'd taken the throne after a long civil war, and he couldn't be sure a daughter would be accepted. To make matters worse, enemies could make a very good case that each of his daughters was illegitimate — and in the case of Elizabeth, that she wasn't even his daughter. See The House of Tudor for more on him and his family, including Elizabeth I.
      • To be clear, Elizabeth and Mary were both legitimate at birth, but the marriages of both of their mothers were later invalidated and they were thus declared illegitimate for a time. And Elizabeth was almost certainly Henry's daughter (he himself noted similarities between them) but her mother's alleged adultery meant that her legitimacy could be questioned.
      • In a clever compromise to get around this trope, the later Mary II and her husband/cousin William of Orange, a Dutch nobleman who was the quasi-hereditary chief magistrate of the Dutch Republic, were appointed as equal co-monarchs. This was seen as the best of both worlds: William was the first male in line to the throne in his own right, and despite being a foreigner he was more importantly at the time a Protestant (and as an added bonus was comfortable with the idea of an assembly placing constitutional limits on his authority, which was another major interest for Parliament); meanwhile, Mary was a woman, but she was also a direct descendant of the established dynasty and the first Protestant in line for the throne (if women weren't barred). As a further bonus, theirs also seems to have been a Perfectly Arranged Marriage. The only minor hiccup was that Mary's father James II was still alive at the time, and being deposed for Catholic sympathies. (Ultimately, William and Mary had no surviving children, so after they both died Mary's sister Anne succeeded them, ruling in her own right.)
      • Nowadays, the UK is moving beyond this: Until recently, women could inherit if they had no living brothers (male-preference primogeniture), but on the announcement of the Duchess of Cambridge's pregnancy a new law was passed so that her children (and any future generations) will inherit in age order regardless of gender. No such luck for Princess Anne, though, who is still stuck behind her two younger brothers and all their children. Since the Duchess' three children (as of 2018) were born male - female - male, this law prevented Princess Charlotte from being dropped below her younger brother Prince Louis in the succession, even though neither will ever sit the throne unless something happens to their older brother Prince George.
    • Germany and nearby areas:
      • The Kingdom of Hannover was once in a personal union with the United Kingdom, but they followed the Salic Law (forbidding women to take the throne) while Britain did not; this caused a split when Victoria became Queen (her uncle Ernest Augustus became King of Hannover instead). This was generally regarded as a good riddance in Britain, where many saw the monarch's German territories as an unwanted Continental entanglement, leaving Britain with less of a free hand to mess with the Balance of Power (which had been English and then British policy, enabled by its island status, since at least Tudor times).
      • The House of Hapsburg lucked into Castile/Aragon/Burgundy/the Low Countries because the Houses of Valois and Trastámara married a princess into their dynasty and failed to pop out a male heir. To avoid being on the receiving end of this the two branches of their house swapped most of their princesses between the Spanish and Austrian courts. The long term effects of this policy... did not work out too well for the Madrid branch, and the male line of the Vienna branch puttered to a halt not long afterward with predictable results (luckily for them, the line continued through Maria Theresa and her children were content to take the Hapsburg name).
      • Maria Theresa of Austria had her father's approval but not anyone else's. When a series of unfortunate events killed all available male heirs, her father issued a pragmatic sanction that left the Habsburg domains to her. He paid many rulers to accept it and not contest her claim to the throne once she would succeed him. Of course, when he did die, many thought this was a prime opportunity to go back on their word and grab some land. It mostly didn't work out (Silesia was lost to Prussia, the Habsburgs almost gained Bavaria, but otherwise Maria Theresa went on to rule the Habsburg domains for 40 years).
      • Much like the Kingdom of Hanover decades earlier, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg was obliged to break off a Personal Union in 1890 due to Salic Law. King Willem III of the Netherlands was succeeded upon his death by his 10-year-old daughter, while Grand Duke Guillaume III of Luxembourg was succeeded by his 73-year-old 17th cousin once removed Adolf/Adolphe (the dispossessed Duke of Nassau). Of course, when Adolph's only surviving son Guillaume IV had nothing but daughters he chucked Salic Succession anyway leaving his throne to 17-year-old Marie-Adélaïde in 1912.
    • France through history:
      • The Frankish Salic Law that prohibits females from inheriting noble titles in their own right dates from the 6th century, although until the end of the 14th century it applied only to the inheritance of property. It was first invoked with reference to the succession to the throne in the 15th century, half-way through the Hundred Years' War. In the succession crises after the deaths of Philip IV the Fair and his youngest son Charles IV the Fair, the French greats and their legal experts had excluded females from the succession without mentioning the Salic Law. In both cases, other aspects — a notorious case of marital infidelity on the part of several princesses and the fact that the greats of France did not want an English king — played a part. Up until Charles IV, the Capetian kings and their queens had, almost incredibly, always managed to produce one or more male heirs in every generation.
      • When France still had a monarchy there were laws against women inheriting the throne. It wasn't that the French considered women unfit to rule — women acting as regents was permissible, as shown by the example of Blanche of Castile, who ruled France during the minority of her son Louis IX (Saint Louis) and also during his absences for his two Crusades. It was just the contention of French lawyers and theologians that the French King was too holy and sacrosanct for that office to be held by a woman.
    • In ancient Rome, if you weren't able to produce a biological heir, adopting one worked just as fine. In fact, the majority of Roman emperors inherited the empire after having been adopted by the previous emperor. Some even disregarded their biological children in favour of an heir of their choosing. Julius Caesar, for example, had a son by Cleopatra VII, but chose to adopt his sister's grandson as his firstborn son and made him his heir instead. This adopted son later became known as Emperor Augustus, who in turn adopted his wife's first son (fathered by her previous husband) as his heir. This proved to be a smart tactic, as often the person who seemed best suited to take over the empire would be adopted by the emperor, instead of trusting that pure biology would make someone a great leader.
  • Much like Ancient Rome, the royals of the many kingdoms of India had similar rules. It was quite common to adopt or nominate an heir to the throne if none were to be had through procreation (they did mostly tend to be male, though women rulers were not uncommon). The British were, understandably enough, none too pleased with the situation when they landed up, since it took away a major exploit they'd used in Europe for their power plays, and promptly introduced a much-despised "law" known as the Doctrine of Lapse.
  • As of 2011, The Commonwealth of Nations has begun the process of changing to equal primogeniturenote  and the Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth Realms have all agreed in principle to the modification. However, as the Commonwealth monarchy is governed by separate but identical laws in all the Commonwealth Realms, the change requires parliamentary approval in all Realms save New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. Canada and Australia create further problems: it will require the approval of all ten provincial parliaments and all six state parliaments, as well: the Canadian provinces and Australian states are legally distinct monarchies, so their separate but identical laws would also need to be changed. Some feared that Quebec might hold up the process as a means of getting long-desired concessions from Ottawa, particularly as that the sovereigntist Parti Quebecois was in power at the time the agreement was reached, but as it turns out the main hurdle in Canada has been court challenges over arcane points of Canadian constitutional law (and Canadian constitutional law can be incredibly arcane—it makes American constitutional law seem downright straightforward),note  while the jurisdiction that has delayed passing the legislation the longest was Western Australia, which simply took a very long time in getting around to holding the vote (a senior WA MLA has basically admitted that their reason for the delay was "erm, we forgot").
  • Parodied in this article in The Onion.
  • The implications of China's One Child Policy is that, since families want male heirs because of Chinese tradition, they've been having (or keeping) too many sons and not enough daughters, which means not enough wives to go around once they grow up (which anyone could tell you is what happens when it's only acceptable to have sons!). Oops! The government eventually had to compromise by allowing girls to inherit their family name and giving families "incentives" (read: money) to have baby girls before just ditching it altogether in early 2016, but 35 years of the policy (even with the numerous exceptions that meant it only applied to about half of all Chinese couples) means that by about 2020 there will be somewhere between 24 and 36 million more Chinese men than women of marriageable age (the lower-bound estimate comes from the Chinese government themselves).
  • In Hong Kong, according to Small House Policy, the indigenous villagers can build small houses in the New Territories, which is known as the "Ding House", each owner has the "Ding Right", a right to construct and pass the lands to their male heirs, this right cannot be passed to their daughters since by Chinese tradition, a clan's legacy can only be succeeded by the male heirs.
  • India has not been immune to the same pressures: despite the absence of a policy requiring that families limit their size, increasing prosperity and a government awareness campaign on overpopulation have caused many Indians to want to limit the size of their families (typically 2-3 children). However, the traditional attitudes remain, and many Indian women selectively abort female children, although this is technically illegal. While the gender ratios in India are nowhere nearly as skewed as in China, it is a problem that the Indian government is taking quite seriously.
  • In Japan, there was a decades-long controversy about there not being a suitable male heir to inherit the Imperial Throne, to the point that a constitutional amendment was in the works to allow at least partial female inheritance. Fortunately(?) Princess Akishino gave birth to Prince Hisahito in 2006, meaning that the question was staved off for at least another generation. The Empress was not seen in the public from 2002 to 2019 to seek treatment for adjustment disorder with her husband Emperor Naruhito issuing statements that he's concerned with the health of his wife. The remarks, unfortunately, earned the crown prince rebukes from the then Emperor Akihito and Prince Akishino while the comments became part of the debate on whether females can really ascend the throne.
    • The laws barring women from ascending to the throne are Newer Than They Think, only dating back to the 19th century. The issue was furthermore compounded thanks to the American occupation; seeking to curtail an extension imperial family, women upon marriage are officially reduced to commoner status. Throughout Japan's history, eight women ruled when there were no eligible men.
    • It's not just a question of whether women can ascend to the throne but whether women can even pass on the right at all. According to current laws, any princess must renounce all titles upon marriage and is no longer considered to be a part of the imperial family. None of their sons are eligible to become emperor. This is supposedly done to keep the unbroken line of patrilinieal succession. One proposal on the table is to permit married princesses to remain in the imperial family and thus provide more opportunity for heirs.
  • In Russia Peter I the Great had set down a house law that monarchs could appoint their own successors, as a consequence of which his throne was first inherited by his widow Catherine I and which probably contributed to the succession being settled by palace coup a number of times during the 18th century. After a period that saw three more ruling Czarizas, Czar Paul I, who bore a grudge against his mother Catherine the Great for deposing his (supposed?) father Peter III and allowing him to be murdered (and also because she possibly wrote a will that removed him from the line of succession and gave the crown to Paul's eldest son, Alexander), then enacted a new house law that henceforth excluded women from the succession. The Pauline Law was technically semi-Salic and did not exclude women from succession totally, but any male heir was preferred to any female. Since then, there were no regnant Empresses / Czarizas in Russia. The last Czar's only son was hemophiliac (which prompted Rasputin the Mad Monk to enter the picture), and a decade or two later, this became a moot point anyway.
  • In Korea, a father who's had multiple daughters in a row is referred to as being "rich" as a way of gently needling him for continuing to try for a son without due consideration of the financial burden of supporting the children he already has. Bonus points if the man does have a son who's much younger than his eldest sister.


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