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King on His Deathbed

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Alexander the Great's allegedly chosen successor...

The King, The Emperor, or the high commander has become terminally ill, but lingers on his deathbed for weeks or months. His loyal retainers stand vigil at his side, mourning the loss of their leader and dreading the moment of his death... or are they? It seems the anticipated power vacuum has kicked off furious machinations among the members of the court. Heirs and aspirants to the throne are collecting as many supporters as they can beg, bribe, or threaten. There may even be whispers of Civil War.

If the monarch in power is still lucid, they may be desperately trying to prevent the looming anarchy, but hindered by their lack of trustworthy lieutenants. If the illness is such that they are senile, insane, or comatose, they will not yet have named their heir, or left standing orders that make things awkward for everyone, but no one has the authority to rescind them.

If it wasn't a Decadent Court already, it probably is now. Expect to see power plays by the Evil Chancellor, The Evil Prince, The Royal Bastard, or — God help you — The Caligula. Though strangely, you probably don't have to worry about The Baroness. If this work is Darker and Edgier, expect everyone to develop Chronic Backstabbing Disorder; if it's a more lighthearted work, watch the good guys dig up a Reluctant Ruler, or rally around The Wise Prince.

As this is a Death Trope, unmarked spoilers abound. Beware.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
    • The Emperor of Xing is dying, which is why Ling and Mei have traveled to Amestris — they're looking for the secret to immortality in order to gain the Emperor's favor.
    • What leads to Xerxes' destruction — the king wants immortality when he realizes he's dying and follows Father' instructions on creating a Nationwide Transmutation Circle.
  • As Ōoku: The Inner Chambers deals with a Gender Flip of Shogunate Japan and spans generations, this pops up a lot:
    • Strictly speaking, the Reverend Kasuga wasn't shogun, but she was the power behind the throne for much of Iemitsu the Younger's earlier reign. As her death from old age coincided with the worst outbreak of Redface Pox yet, Kasuga firmly believed Japan was doomed, and commissioned Murase to write a true account of what happened in the Ooku called 'Chronicle of a Dying Day'.
    • When it was Iemitsu the Younger's time to die (her health wrecked by numerous pregnancies and miscarriages taking their toll), she begged her senior chamberlain (and one true love, for all she had to bear other men's daughters) Arikoto to not take Buddhist vows as was tradition, but to stay on as chamberlain and advise her oldest daughter Ietsuna as a father figure.
    • As Tsunayoshi lay dying of old age, she nearly gets strangled by her husband, who for years had been unable to attend on her and forgotten about. Yoshiyasu stopped him from killing her only to kill her herself by Vorpal Pillow. Some previous scenes hint that Tsunayoshi welcomed this, as by the end of her reign she would have welcomed a kingslayer, but Yoshiyasu's words as she killed her hinted that Yoshiyasu was also jealous that Tsunayoshi didn't love her like she wanted.
    • Technically, Yoshimune was retired as a shogun, but since the councilors still came to her for advice, she was still regarded as the true ruler. On her deathbed she begged her oldest daughter and current shogun Ieshige to take Tanuma Okitsugu as her advisor.
    • Ieshige's daughter, Ieharu, is told on her deathbed that she had been poisoned the whole time with arsenic, and there was nothing that could be done, even with Western medicine. An outraged Ieharu, in a moment of rashness, denounced Western medicine, which gave her conservative councilors the impetus they needed to execute Gosaku, ban the study of Western medicine, and banish those that studied it from the Ooku, setting back a possible cure/vaccine for the Redface Pox for years.
    • Ienari confessed to his wife on his deathbed that he was the one that ordered the official records to show him as a degenerate spendthrift, in order to hide any mention of the Redface Pox, knowing if Western powers found out Japan still had an imbalanced population they'd take advantage of it.
    • Iesada, contrary to Tensho-in's initial belief, did indeed die of natural causes, specifically jaundice induced by her pregnancy. She spent it wishing she could see her husband one last time and regretting that her baby had to die with her.
    • Iemochi's death from heart failure exacerbated by beriberi was painful, and she spent her final hours crying from the pain and the knowledge that she would not live to do all she wanted to do, and begging to see her father figure and wife one last time, dying with Chikako's name on her lips.
  • In Princess Principal, the Queen of Albion isn't explicitly dying of anything, but she is in her eighties, so everyone takes it as a given that she could end up dying in the near future, of old age if nothing else. Since the protagonists are trying to put one of their own on the throne, and the villain of the Crown Handler OVAs is also seeking to influence the succession, this is important.
  • A major part of the second season of Slayers. The king of Saillune is an old man (who never actually appears on-screen), and various members of the Royal Family are trying to kill off Prince Philionel, the Heir Apparent, so that they can claim the throne.
  • Red River (1995):
    • The male lead Prince Kail Mursili is one of the biggest candidates to succeed his father, King Suppilinuma of the Hitite Empire, who is not expected to live for long. Problem is, Kail's Wicked Stepmother Nakia is desperately trying to install her own child Juda in the throne and won't stop at anything to do so. In comes Yuri, the female lead, who becomes Kail's lover and one of his strongest supporters.
    • And later the one who actually reigns is Kail's half brother Arnuwanda, who appoints Kail as his succesor. A few days later, he does die and that kicks off another succesion crisis...
  • In The Seven Deadly Sins, the Holy Knights of Liones cover up their coup by saying that King Baltra Liones had fallen ill and become bedridden.

    Fairy Tales 
  • The Death of Koschei the Deathless opens with the king and queen of an unnamed country being on their deathbed, surrounded by their children. Before dying, they make Prince Ivan promise he will let his sisters marry whoever they wish.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Empath: The Luckiest Smurf story series, Papa Smurf's death is played out like this, with Empath being named as the successor to the role of the village leader. In a mini-story, Papa Smurf has been confined to his bed for years, with the point that he finally dies as the moment Empath from 165 years ago "sees" during his Mental Time Travel in "Days Of Future Smurfed".
  • As Queens of Mewni is presented as the true Book of Spells In-Universe, naturally quite a few queens are discussed on their deathbeds. This is downplayed, though, as many of them had already abdicated and their successor (or successor's successor) is on the throne.
    • Urania the First One, in one of her final acts before perishing, knights Glossaryck for all his help in teaching her magic.
    • Estelaria the First Star predicted that when all the stars in her hair went out, she would pass on, a prediction that came true.
    • Crescenta the Eager, the first queen to die while still ruling, spent her final years ravaged by venereal diseases passed to her by her philandering husband, Hawk. Reportedly, though, she continued to smile until her dying day.
    • Asteria the Mother of Stars, having long lived with a condition that already took her fertility, finds out she only has months to live once it becomes terminal, and spends the final months of her reign ensuring the transition of power to her daughter Etheria is as smooth as possible, as well as rekindling her relationship with her husband, long strained thanks to the aforementioned condition.
    • After using her White Vision spell goes wrong when she sees a destructive future, Galaxia the Clairvoyant falls unconscious and never wakes up. Her heiress Venus, seeing that Galaxia would never recover and was for all intents and purposes dead already, Mercy Kills her via Vorpal Pillow so the kingdom and her siblings could move on.
    • Sky the Weaver, dying to a combination of childbirth and despair, in her final act names her youngest sister Comet regent for her infant daughter Moon, in a bid to ensure the middle sister Etheria didn't try to seize either the regency or the throne.

    Film — Animated 
  • In the beginning of Shrek the Third, Fiona's father, the king of Far Far Away, is on his deathbed (in frog form), and is trying to get a message about an heir to the throne to Shrek and Fiona. He seems to die three times before croaking out the end of the message, then finally dying.
  • Near the end of Atlantis: The Lost Empire, King Kashekim is fatally injured by Rourke, who then steals the Heart of Atlantis crystal by having Kashekim's daughter Kida merge with it due to her having Royal Blood, with the intent of having Atlantis destroyed once the crystal is removed. After Rourke and Helga escape with the crystallized Kida and leave Milo and his friends to die with the Atlanteans, Dr. Sweet (who previously witnessed Rourke kill the King) reveals to Milo that King Kashekim is now already about to die. As Kashekim lays on his deathbed, he reveals to Milo that back when he was younger, he out of arrogance mistreated the Heart of Atlantis by turning it into a weapon of destruction, which ultimately backfired due to the crystal's sentience, resulting in Atlantis being destroyed and his wife the former Queen to die by sacrificing herself, causing Kashekim to hide the crystal underneath the palace to prevent Kida from suffering the same fate as her mother. Kashekim then warns Milo that Kida and the crystal must both be returned to Atlantis immediately or else not only will Atlantis be destroyed permanently, Kida if she remains bonded to the crystal too long will die the same way how her mother died as well. Before Kashekim finally dies, he removes his crystal pendant and gives it Milo, essentially making him the new King with the task of saving Kida and Atlantis from being destroyed by Rourke, setting the scene for the final battle. The epilogue shows Kida have now becoming the next Queen as well.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In The Dark Crystal it serves as an Establishing Character Moment for the two main Skeksis characters. While the other Skeksis are hovering around their Emperor like vultures waiting for him to die, SkekUng demands everyone bow to show respect to their dying leader. SkekSil the Chamberlain however tries to take the Scepter of Office for himself, and the dying Emperor musters enough force to snarl at him that he's still Emperor before he's Reduced to Dust. SkekUng and SkekSil then do a Trial by Combat for the right to become the next Emperor.
  • In Gladiator, Emperor Marcus Aurelius isn't on his deathbed, but knows he's old and dying, and so names the hero his heir. This, combined with telling his psychotic son before telling anyone else who could confirm it, leads to him passing the deathbed stage and going straight to all the way dead.
  • The Princess Bride: Prince Humperdinck's father is old and frail; however, the scene in which he actually passes away turns out to be All Just a Dream that Buttercup had.
  • Kicks off the plot in Stardust. The King of Stormhold summons his four remaining sons to his deathbed, watches approvingly as one of them kills another, and tells the three who are left that, since they couldn't manage to whittle their numbers down to just one before his passing, he's sending his magical ruby flying off into the land and whoever finds it is his heir. He expires immediately, with an earlier line implying that he was keeping himself alive through sheer willpower.
  • The King's Speech: The film begins with an ailing King George V urging his son Albert to overcome his stutter and become an effective communicator, as the king's imminent death and concerns over the suitability of the heir apparent will likely result in Albert being crowned.
  • King Stefan's predecessor in Maleficent.
  • This kicks off the plot of The Death of Stalin. The events recounted in the Real Life section entry on the death of Stalin below are (essentially) a summary of the plot of the film, except the film has more (dark) jokes.

  • In The Belgariad, Emperor Ran Borune XXIII began the process of slowly dying of old age. Since he had no sons, the various great houses of Tolnedra started squabbling over the throne in advance in anticipation of the latest Borune dynasty dying with him. This mainly is relevant in one section of the second book, but the matter keeps cropping up until the Emperor finally dies in the first book of the sequel series, by which time the Emperor had resolved the succession issue by adopting a very competent General from an lesser house aligned with the Borunes as his son and heir.
  • There was no literal death-bed involved (in fact he ultimately got to pull off an epic Heroic Sacrifice) but the plot of the first half of the Codex Alera sextet is driven by the First Lord's failing health, and the Succession Crisis arising from it since his only son died in battle without an heir. Or so everyone thought.
  • Discworld:
    • In The Colour of Magic, the ruler of the dragon riders gets poisoned by his daughter. However, since she is still in a power struggle with her two brothers, he refuses to pass on, lingering as a lich until he makes sure she is fit to rule on her own.
    • In Interesting Times, the old Emperor is on his deathbed, but still clinging on (and as murderously insane as he ever was) and all the armies of the other lords are massed outside the city waiting for the civil war to start. The Evil Chancellor naturally decides to help things along a little.
  • Fire & Blood:
    • After the death of his beloved wife, King Jaehaerys I unravels badly, becoming senile and bedridden. His Hand takes over most of the running of the kingdom until Jaehaerys finally passes.
    • In the last few years of his life, Viserys I was so massively out of shape he couldn't walk anywhere. He remained in possession of all his wits until the end of his days, but was ignoring a very blatantly brewing conflict between his second wife and her children and his daughter and her side of the family. According to the history books, one day he took a nap and just never woke up.
      Archmaester Gyldayn: Then the storm broke, and the dragons dance.
  • King Guslav in The First Law is nearly catatonic and not in control of his bodily functions by the time the series begins. He's not expected to last much longer.
  • The Hallowed Hunt: The king falls ill before a successor has been elected. Everyone in the kingdom plots to advance themselves or their candidate, all the while the true immortal king of the Weald, at last completes his incredibly complex Gambit Roulette to reclaim the hallow kingship.
  • In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, it's mentioned that the Emperor of the Galaxy has been on his deathbed for thousands of years, having been placed in temporal stasis because nobody really wanted any of the people who would have inherited the throne when he died. After all his heirs died out, the galaxy became a popularly-elected democracy with the Emperor as a figurehead.
  • Happens twice in Julian: Once with Constantius, then later with the titular Julian.
  • Ponniyin Selvan : The emperor of the Chola dynasty - Arulmozhivarman's and Aditya Karalikaran's father - is said be suffering from a deteriorating sickness.
  • The second Redwall book, Mossflower has Lord Verdauga the wildcat in this state, while his son Ginguivere and daughter Tsarmina tend to him. It doesn't end well, because Tsarmina is secretly poisoning him to frame her brother.
  • Shards of Honor: The Emperor is terminally ill, but still as lucid and conniving as ever. He actually uses his own illness and rumors about it to draw out and counter various attempted power plays, in order to ensure that the Empire will be in good shape for his grandson.
  • In the backstory of Tanya Huff's Sing the Four Quarters, the young princess-protagonist wants to become a bard. Against her older brother's wishes (he wants to marry her off to a neighboring monarch) she asks her father on his deathbed to release her from her royal obligations. He does so, and the moment he dies her brother banishes her.
  • Occurs in A Song of Ice and Fire halfway through the first book when King Robert is gutted by a boar while hunting and, as he lies dying, his wife immediately starts plotting to secure the throne for her son. She is opposed by The Good Chancellor (who knows that the queen's children are not her husband's), setting off the Succession Crisis and Civil War that fills subsequent novels.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise Relaunch: In Live by the Code, the Chancellor of the Klingon Empire is dying, and Klingons being Klingons, everyone's getting ready for the civil war to kick off afterward. Phlox is called in not to save him, but just to figure out what he's dying of. Turns out he was poisoned by a genetically engineered virus designed by a smooth-headed Klingon. Sure enough, the Chancellor does die, and a civil war very nearly kicks off.
  • Tigana: this is going on in the background in the Empire of Barbadior. We never actually see the machinations, but they're part of Alberico's motivation.
  • Till We Have Faces: When the King of Glome falls and breaks his leg, the severity of the injury and his ensuing sickness has the palace and the temple convinced that he'll never recover. Without a son, the crown will go to the oldest princess, Orual. Bardia, Fox, and the newest head priest of Ungit all recognize her authority and pledge to work with her. Orual takes over the management of the kingdom while her father is bedridden and dying, even navigating the country through a tricky little political crisis with the neighboring country of Phars when she duels a claimant to the throne as the old king's body is cooling.
  • In the second Warrior Cats series, WindClan leader Tallstar is ill for a long time, and his deputy Mudclaw has been doing most of the leader's duties, and looks forward to becoming leader himself. When Tallstar dies, naming Onewhisker his successor, Mudclaw thinks that some scheming has been going on behind his back, not believing Tallstar would have wished that.

    Live Action Television 
  • Game of Thrones: In the seventh of Season 1, King Robert Baratheon is fatally wounded by a wild boar in a literal Hunting "Accident" and dictates his Last Requests to his Hand Ned Stark while agonizing in his couch.
    • House of the Dragon: By Episode 8 of Season 1, King Viserys is clearly dying (from a condition that makes most of his body rot prematurely), spending most of the day in bed dulled with milk of the poppy. In his place, Ser Otto and Alicent rule the realm, though he still finds enough strength to drag himself to the Iron Throne and preside over the trial to solve the Velaryon Succession Crisis in favor of his grandchild. He eventually passes away at the end of the episode.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: Númenor is currently under the rule of Queen Regent Míriel in place of her father who is sequestered in a tower. Most of the public believes Tar-Palantír was removed from the throne for sympathizing with Elves, but it's actually because he's deathly ill. Míriel keeps his condition hidden because she's aware of the power struggles that can arise when a ruler is weak or vulnerable.


    Myth & Religion 
  • Happens at least twice in The Bible:
    • With King David on his deathbed, the royal court brings the beauty Abishag to warm him up. This does nothing. In the meantime, his son Adonijah attempts to take the throne; his court prophet Nathan and his favored wife Bathsheba inform him of this in such a way that David orders that Bathsheba's son Solomon becomes king. Solomon takes the throne upon David's death, and after a short period orders the execution of Adonijah (he had asked for the hand of Abishag, which would give him a claim on the throne...or so goes the theory).
    • With King Solomon in his deathbed, years later, his successor is clear (his son Rehoboam), but whether his successor would be accepted is another matter entirely, with rumblings of discontent across the land. Things come to a head when Jeroboam, a rival claimant, comes up and asks Rehoboam, more or less, if he would be an improvement on Solomon. Rehoboam famously replies, "My father flogged you with whips, but I will flog you with scorpions." To which Jeroboam replied, "To your tents, O Israel!" and ten of the 12 tribes split off to form the northern Kingdom of Israel; the tribes of Benjamin and Judah remain loyal to Rehoboam.
    • Even before those, in the Book of Genesis, Isaac is nearing the end of his life, and knows he doesn't have much time left. So he wants to give his eldest son Esau his blessing and inheritance. His wife, however, favors her younger son, Jacob. (Partly because Jacob stayed close by and helped her with domestic stuff while Esau went off on hunting trips, and partly because by this time Esau had married some local pagan women, who "vexed" her, mainly because they worshipped their own gods and goddesses instead of the Abrahamic God.) So she doesn't want Esau to get the family inheritance. She enlists Jacob to help: first, Jacob tricks Esau into trading his inheritance for a bowl of lentil soup. Then Rebekah covered Jacob in goat skins to simulate Esau's hairiness (Isaac had gone blind in his old age), and cooked the goat meat and had Jacob pass it off as some of Esau's wild game. The result was that Jacob got the family blessing and the inheritance normally reserved for the firstborn son. When Esau found out, he was (understandably) upset, and Jacob headed East to escape his wrath and find an appropriate wife. (Or, actually four of them.) Many years later, Esau forgives Jacob, and has almost as much wealth and status anyway.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Warhammer 40,000 the Emperor of Mankind has been on life support for ten thousand years, while all around him the "High Lords" politic and scheme. In this case there's no question of succession — if he ever finishes dying the entire Imperium will probably collapse and die — but otherwise it fits this trope to a tee.
    • Something similar played out with his rebel son Konrad Curze, whose descent into crippling madness tore his legion apart long before he died. His assassination by a Calidus assassin was more of an excuse for the Night Lords to dissolve than an actual reason to do so.
  • Exalted has an interesting variation; the Scarlet Empress is merely missing, rather than dying, and speculation among her Dynasty includes factors not only related to the possibility of her confirmed death but also of her potential entirely healthy return (which would include her easily resuming control of the empire's superweapon network).

  • Exit the King does this as both a literal situation and as a metaphor, with the titular king's kingdom in tatters and a shell of what it once was reflecting his advanced age and senility. The rest of the play has him deal with his impending doom, with the final scene taking place on his deathbed.
  • Edward IV's illness creates this situation at the beginning of Shakespeare's Richard III, since Edward's son is too young to be an effective ruler, and Richard not-yet-III devotes a great deal of his energy to knocking off everyone who'd be a more respectable regent than himself.
  • Henry IV's deathbed scene in Henry IV, Part Two involves a slightly panicky Prince Hal contemplating the responsibility of the crown, the dying king dressing his son down for his truant ways, then giving him the crown. Hal accepts it and, contrary to all expectations, rises to the kingship in magnificent fashion.

    Video Games 
  • In Arzette: The Jewel of Faramore, the titular princess returns to the castle upon lighting a sacred beacon. After lighting the second beacon, the king shows signs of worsening health. After the third, he's on his deathbed and says his farewells before passing.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics: This situation kicks off the War of The Lions.
  • In King's Quest I: Quest For The Crown, the main catalyst for the eponymous quest is that King Edward of Daventry is near death without an heir. He thus sends Sir Graham to reclaim the kingdom's three stolen treasures before he dies with the promise that he'll reward the knight with his kingdom.
    • Kings Quest (2015) turns this into Book Ends, with Graham himself taking the role of the ailing king. While there is a debate over which of his grandchildren will inherit the throne, it mostly falls by the wayside because both kids are more concerned about the idea that their beloved grandfather is going to die soon.
  • In Crusader Kings II, rulers who are rendered Incapable get a regent appointed on their behalf, with all the court intrigues and power plays that that implies. They also usually don't last very long.
    • Though sometimes regencies can last for years or even decades, forcing the player to watch helplessly as their regent undoes everything they worked for.
    • Somewhat subverted if you pick a decent (read unambitious) regent in advance who can hold on to their position.
  • The New Order: Last Days of Europe is set in a world where Nazi Germany won WWII, and Adolf Hitler plays this role when the game starts in the 1960s. Party officials bicker around the dying Führer, and when he eventually dies, Civil War erupts in Germany.

  • The end of Cariadoc of the Bow's first 'William Marshal' poem take place at the deathbed of King Henry II.

    Real Life 
  • When Edward the Confessor died childless in 1066, the throne of England passed to his brother-in-law Harold Godwinson, who'd likely been pulling the strings for years. However, Edward also had ties to Duke William of Normandy via his Norman mothernote  and may have promised the throne to William during a falling-out with the Godwinsons. Meanwhile, Harold had recently driven out his brother Tostig, who sought the aid of King Harald Hardrada of Norway who could claim the throne based on his predecessor's deal with Edward the Confessor's predecessor to inherit each other's kingdoms if either died without heirs. In the ensuing war, Harold Godwinson defeated Harald Hardrada but was defeated at the Battle of Hastings by William, who went on to become William the Conqueror.
  • Generalissimo Francisco Franco of Spain. His death was so prolonged and important to Spain that Saturday Night Live constantly joked that he was still dead for years.
  • Vladimir Lenin's long, drawn-out death and the struggle for his position ensued amongst several high-ranking Bolsheviks.
  • When Henry VI of England fell into a catatonic stupor for 16 months in 1453-54, a power struggle broke out between his French wife Margaret of Anjou and his cousin Richard, Duke of York, over control of the government, which sparked an escalating feud even Henry's sudden recovery couldn't quell, effectively creating a Succession Crisis while he was still alive that eventually devolved into the Wars of the Roses.
  • Henry VIII's death was so protracted that the courtiers surrounding him had time to rewrite his will completely. Unfortunately, they didn't finish in time for Henry to sign it himself so they used a signature stamp on it, which caused all kinds of headaches for both Edward VI and Mary I.
  • This happened in the long and lingering final illness of Elizabeth I of England, as she hesitated to name a successor. Finally, some gestures she made were interpreted as naming James VI of Scotland, who succeeded her as James I of England.
  • China's first emperor Qin Shi Huang was this during his last days, obsessing about acquiring the elixir of life. Reportedly, he died from the pills that were supposed to make him immortal, which unfortunately contained mercury. Some Chinese adaptations of his life depicts him having any newborns heard within his vicinity immediately executed.
  • Alexander the Great: The story goes that when asked who rule of his empire would fall to, he responded "tôi kratistôi." ("To the strongest.") Unfortunately, there was severe disagreement as to who this meant. An alternate theory is that he said "To Craterus," one of his generals who was not present and the others conveniently misheard. Another version holds that he was unable to speak and thus didn't actually give the iconic response at all, but gave his signet ring to another general, Perdiccas, implying endorsement of him.
    • Alexander actually had heirs in his mentally-challenged half-brother Arrhidaeus (Philip III) and eventually his infant son Alexander IV (born several months after his death), but since neither could rule for themselves, his chancellor Perdiccas became regent. However, Perdiccas's attempts to maintain central authority upset the other self-interested generals and he was soon killed invading Egypt after Ptolemy absconded with Alexander's body, thus destroying central authority and allowing the mighty empire to fragment into warring factions.
  • Josef Stalin's death in 1953 was very much like this, as even as his magnates surrounded his bedside they were plotting against each other, but everyone was particularly terrified of his police chief Lavrentiy Beria. When Stalin finally expired, Beria sprung forward, making sure he was the first to kiss Stalin's hand, an act one historian called the equivalent of "wrenching a dead King's ring off his finger," before sweeping out of the room and triumphantly calling for his car. Historians to this day debate whether it was Beria who had actually poisoned Stalin. One magnate said to another, "He's off to seize power," and they all quickly followed after him, calling for their own limousines.
    • Later this resulted in everyone joining forces against Beria; Nikita Khruschev and Nikolai Bulganin, two of the less pro-Stalinist magnates won with help of Marshal Georgy Zhukov, the Soviet Union's top military commander (of questionable competence as a strategist, but with exactly zilch political ambition). Beria himself was executed in 1953.
  • The inbred King Carlos II of Spain was so sickly that arguably his entire life was spent close to the deathbed. When he was clearly fading, it spawned an international crisis, since Carlos II as the very last of his dynasty had no clear heirs. Both the Hapsburgs in Austria and the Bourbons of France had strong claims, while King William III of England and others, afraid of France and Spain being united under one monarchy, wanted to at least make sure that Spain and its territories in Italy and the Americas were split among the various claimants. Carlos II willed everything to his Bourbon grand-nephew, Philippe, and to ease tensions King Louis XIV of France passed a decree barring Philippe from inheriting the French crown, but a thirteen-year-long war, the War of the Spanish Succession, broke out anyway.
  • This is what the War of the Eight Princes in the Chinese Jin dynasty boiled down to: eight princes as well as several members of the Imperial court vying for the regency over the developmentally disabled second Emperor Hui of Jin, born Sima Zhong. The eight princes, all relatives of the Sima clan, battled each other intermittently from 291 to 307—the net result was several dead members of the Sima clan, two dead empresses, and quite a number of dead ministers, and one Sima Yue as the eventual winner for a few years.
  • The deathbed of King Louis XIII is a classic example as the courtiers and his devious brother Gaston of Orléans were wondering whether first minister Cardinal Mazarin would manage to retain his position (in the end, the answer was yes) and who would become the regent during the successor's minority (Louis' widow, Anne of Austria). The deathbed is also well remembered because St. Vincent of Paul was on hand to lend his spiritual support and for the exchange that occurred when the five-year-old Dauphin was brought to see his dying father:
    Louis XIII: What is your name?
    Dauphin: Louis XIV.
    Louis XIII: Not yet, not yet...