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The Usurper

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"We can't just go around knocking kings off their thrones."

There is a rightful holder of some position of authority — the throne, the presidency, the chairmanship of a company, or something else. But someone with a lesser claim, or no claim at all, in some way manages to grab the position.

How this is done varies. The Usurper might have managed to drive out the rightful holder in disgrace. He might have managed to kill the previous holder while the rightful heir is unable to respond. He might have pulled off a classical coup. However, one thing is always in common: the move to power is almost always done clandestinely, except maybe in the final phases of a coup. The main exception to the clandestine behaviour is when the rightful authority is away for some reason, and have trusted the usurper to run things.

The displaced and rightful holder may end up as Man in the Iron Mask, Noble Fugitive, The Exile. May cause a Civil War. Often appears with The Evil Prince, the Mole in Charge, or the Evil Vizier. Frequently ends in Rightful King Returns. For cases of outright killing the former holder, see Klingon Promotion.


Fiction being fiction, this is often bad, ending up as a Tyrant Takes the Helm situation, and it's usually Truth in Television as well, though for different reasons. See The Wrongful Heir to the Throne. For people who plan to usurp the villain, see The Starscream, whereas characters who are defined by not wanting to be the Usurper are called The Creon. Supertrope to Usurping Santa, when the authority figure to be overthrown is a holiday figure.

The Other Wiki has a list of historical usurpers, not all of them wholly bad.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Ren Gyokuen in Magi: Labyrinth of Magic took Kou's throne away from the heir Kouen, allegating it was the last wish from the former Emperor. Hakuryuu later does the same by killing Gyokuen, though from his point of view he's simply taking back his birthright as the son of Kou's first Emperor.
  • Several in Choukakou (also known as Chang Ge Xing, Chang Ge's Journey or Song of the Long March). The current emperor, Li Shimin, was second son and killed his brothers for the throne. Princess Yicheng of Sui considers the Tang to be this as well.
  • Code Geass: Schneizel realizes, later in the story, that his father Charles doesn't care about his empire and plans to overthrow him. However, his half-brother Lelouch beats him to it by erasing him from existence and takes the throne despite being 17th in line for succession.
  • The Heroic Legend of Arslan: King Andragoras III overthrew his brother, King Osroes V and took his lover as his queen. Years later, Osroes’ son, Hermes, comes back with vengeance, dismantled Andragoras’ army and captured him. The only person who’s stopping his ascension for the crown is Arslan.
  • Princess Charlotte in Princess Principal stated goal is to move up from being fourth in line to being the next Queen, which is why she allies herself with the enemy of her country. She's a positive portrayal of it as she's also an Internal Reformist; her reasons to get it through spywork and dirty business is to be a legitimate ruler so she doesn't destabilize the country in the process of getting the throne.

    Comic Books 
  • Doctor Doom's backstory claims that Doom's family originally was of noble birth, but due to World War II and Communism splitting the old country into bits, his bloodline was forced into the life of the Roma. Even not taking that into consideration, Doom, after his Start of Darkness came back into Latvaria as the Chancellor of the then current king. He replaced his sons with robotic duplicates, killed one, imprisoned the other, and had the king assassinated. His son then "abdicated" the throne to him. At one point the Fantastic Four helped the rightful ruler of Latveria, Prince Zorba, reclaim his throne. This turned out to be Not Quite the Right Thing, since Zorba proved himself to be an incompetent tyrant even worse than Doom.
  • Darth Krayt of Star Wars: Legacy seized control of the Galactic Empire by marching into Emperor Fel's throne room, murdering the man's body double, and declaring himself the new Emperor to the assembled Council of Moffs while seating himself in the vacant throne.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • In Wonder Woman (1987) Athena manages to usurp Zeus in Olympus, with her champion's at first hesitant aid.
    • As a follow up and continuation of Athena's plan her brother Ares kills Hades and becomes the new king of the underworld. Ares seems more interested in actually taking out Poseidon, who he can't stand, but the underworld was the next step due to more practical reasons.
    • In Wonder Woman (2011) Apollo takes the throne of Olympus after Zeus goes missing, only to be brutally killed by the First Born, who then takes the throne himself and starts slaughtering his subjects.

    Fan Works 
  • The Big Bad of Perfection Is Overrated is known by this name. The Usurper lives up to this name by possessing the Obsidian Lord and (temporarily) taking over his position.
  • The Pieces Lie Where They Fell: Sunset considers herself to be Princess Celestia's rightful heir, and once she finds out her former mentor is dead, she decides to use the crown she stole to become more powerful and usurp the current ruler.
  • In the Fairy Tail fanfic Wonderland the king and queen of the Heart Kingdom were overthrown by Ur years prior to the start of the story. She also imprisoned their oldest child and wipe the memories of the youngest and made them a servant. How she was able to do this is unknown.
  • Prince Jewelius, one of Princess Celestia's nephews and Princess Cadance's younger cousin from Loved and Lost, an extended retelling of "A Canterlot Wedding". Immediately after he helps Twilight Sparkle stop the Changeling invasion herself, he denigrates the princesses as well as Twilight's brother and friends by telling to the public selective truths about the heroes' (all but Twilight) mistakes that led to the invasion happening. Thanks to everyone being shaken because of the narrowly stopped invasion and the panicked heroes' failed escape attempt making them look as guilty as Jewelius says they are, the citizens quickly believe him, allowing him to dismantle the princesses and make himself Equestria's king. He's later revealed to have resented Celestia and Cadance because he "stood in their shadows" for years, traveling a lot to find a way to usurp them. He allied with Queen Chrysalis to invade Equestria on Cadance and Shining Armor's wedding day, but once he decided he'll gain more out of seducing Twilight Sparkle, he betrayed the Changelings by helping Twilight stop them.

    Films — Animation 
  • Played with in The Emperor's New Groove. Kuzco isn't a very good ruler, and no one seems to miss him while he's gone, but Yzma isn't exactly any better.
  • Scar from The Lion King, who murders his brother Mufasa for the throne of Pride Rock.
  • In Wreck-It Ralph, King Candy from Sugar Rush is actually Turbo, a character from the old 1980 game TurboTime, who was thought to be dead. After his original game was removed from the arcade, he invaded Sugar Rush and reprogrammed it so he was its ruler while its actual ruler, Vanellope, became a glitch.
  • Prince Hans in Frozen. He only pretended to love Anna to marry into the royal family of Arendelle, after which he planned to stage an "accident" for Elsa and assume the throne. Things don't play out quite like he intended, though.
  • Prince Charming attempts to do this in Shrek the Third. Somewhat subverted in that Shrek doesn't want to be king, and is in the process of passing the crown to Fiona's cousin Arthur at the time of Charming's usurpation.
  • Jafar in Aladdin; he actually succeeds, for about two minutes.
  • Duchess Rowena in Barbie in the Twelve Dancing Princesses is after her cousin's throne, and successfully becomes queen at the start of the third act.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Tim Burton's live-action Alice in Wonderland, the Red Queen is an usurper, having wrested the throne of Wonderland from her sister, the White Queen.
  • Barbarella: Durand Durand usurps Sogo's throne from the Black Queen near the end of the film, as the first step of his plan of universal conquest.
  • The main antagonists of Baahubali are a conspiracy to usurp the government of Mahishmati for the sake of one of the rival princes. They succeed and become the acting government.
  • The main antagonists of Daimajin are a group of samurai who overthrew their daimyo and now have a cruel reign.
  • As in the original animation, Jafar in Aladdin (2019); he's even less successful in this version.
  • The Adventures of Robin Hood are entirely centered on defeating usurper Prince John.
  • The King: Discussed by Catherine when speaking with Henry, as she notes that he and her family in fact both descend from them, and so legally neither of them has a better claim, contrary to everything said from both sides.
  • The Hobbit: Smaug attacked the Dwarven kingdom of Erebor, sacked it, and drove the dwarves out. He then spent the next several years living and "ruling" in its halls. In the climax of The Desolation of Smaug, he even proclaims himself such.
    Smaug: I am King Under the Mountain!
  • Hercules: Cotys it turns out murdered the true king, his son-in-law, and took over.
  • Played with in the case of Claudius in Ophelia. Denmark is an Elective Monarchy, so Hamlet wasn't guaranteed to become king after his father, although Hamlet's father wanted his son to succeed him. Hamlet grudgingly accepts Claudius as king because he appears to have gotten the position legitimately (albeit seducing the queen helped)...until he learns Claudius murdered his father, at which point he declares that Claudius stole the throne.
  • In Godzilla: King of the Monsters, after Godzilla is seriously wounded by the Oxygen Destroyer, Ghidorah seizes power for himself as the Alpha (i.e. "king") of the Titans, and proceeds to order the other Titans to destroy the world. Dr. Serizawa even scornfully refers to him as a "false king".


  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Robert Baratheon is referred to as "The Usurper" by supporters of the Targaryens, the royal family Robert overthrew. The efforts of Daenarys, only surviving heir to the late King Aerys, to reclaim the throne she feels is rightfully hers is a major subplot of the series. However, the King Robert overthrew, Aerys II, "The Mad King", was a cruel and monstrous pyromaniac who gave Rickard and Brandon Stark a Cruel and Unusual Death, and also tried to have Robert and his best friend Ned Stark killed, so it was undeniably justified.
    • Robert's brother Stannis Baratheon considers the other four Kings in the War - his younger brother Renly, his nephew Joffrey who is in fact illegitimate and not really King Robert Baratheon's son, Robb Stark of the North, and Balon Greyjoy of the Iron Islands - to all be usurpers. Joffrey views the others as usurpers likewise. Renly knows he's a usurper but gleefully wears the title despite being Robert's youngest brother, putting on the image of The Good King to justify this, while coming across to the reader as a massive Bitch in Sheep's Clothing whose claim is basically that he has the biggest army rather then that he's actually the best choice to be King. Technically, Robb and Balon aren't really usurpers however, as they are reclaiming their former crowns as opposed to trying to claim the Iron Throne, making them closer to rebels.
    • Robert's claim to the throne did have some legitimacy, since House Baratheon was founded by Aegon the Conqueror's half-brother Orys and Robert's paternal grandmother was the daughter of Aegon V, making Robert's father Steffon Aerys' first cousin. With the only remaining members of House Targaryen on the run, Robert's claim to be next in line for the Iron Throne would arguably be a valid one. That said, only people like Ned Stark would actually care about such matters — it's one of the reasons Ned refrained from taking the Iron Throne himself. He could have, but 1) he didn't want it, and 2) House Stark wasn't directly related to the Targaryens and thus had no legitimate claim to the Iron Throne.
    • Lord Roose Bolton has basically usurped rule of the North by murdering Robb Stark, for which the Iron Throne named him Warden of the North, and having his son Ramsay marry someone forced to impersonate Robb's sister. However, most of the North despises the Boltons and their hold is actually very shaky.
    • Fire & Blood has Aegon II, who at the "suggestion" of his mother, Dowager Queen Alicent, stole the crown from his half-sister, whom their father had named the actual heir, and declared her a usurper. Curiously, despite Aegon managing to get Rhaenyra slammed forever as a pretender to the throne, an edict that still stands by the time of A Song of Ice and Fire, Aegon is also known as "the Usurper".
  • Conan the Barbarian:
    • In the novella "A Witch Shall Be Born", with Salome to Taramis.
    • Conan himself is a heroic example of a usurper, having overthrown the evil king Numedides to take the throne of Aquilonia. He is very popular among the Aquilonians, but there are more than a few people who want the old regime back, as evidenced in "The Phoenix on the Sword".
  • Chronicles of the KencyrathKenan to Randiroc, as Lord of one of the Highborn houses.
  • Dolores Umbridge in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, who gradually seizes power at Hogwarts until she finally takes over Dumbledore's position as headmaster.
  • The Lark and the Wren by Mercedes Lackey — King Charlis, but he's actually a fairly good king, who overthrew an incompetent ruler who was bankrupting the country to pay for useless luxuries for the court. The only bad thing he ever does is try to kill the rightful prince to solidify his position, but in the end he's willing to leave Sional alone in exchange for the prince (who didn't consider himself fit to rule) publicly renouncing his claim to the throne.
  • The Videssos cycle by Harry Turtledove — Ortaias Sphrantzes in An Emperor for the Legion.
  • The Prisoner of Zenda — Another subversion where the impostor/usurper is better fitted to rule than the rightful heir.
  • In Wyrd Sisters, Verence I of Lancre is murdered by his cousin Duke Leonal Felmet, who usurps the throne. Tomjon the true heir to the throne of Lancre has no interest in becoming king and wants to become an actor instead. The witches put Verence II up as an alternative, claiming that he is Tomjon's half-brother, which is true. They see no need to point out that Tomjon is the queen's illegitimate son rather than Verence the King's, and as such technically neither has any claim to the throne.
  • In 1824: The Arkansas War, Henry Clay manages to claim the presidency in ways that were not necessarily unconstitutional, but definitely unethical.
  • In Transformers Exiles Ransack wanted to be the ruler of Velocitron by any means necessary, after losing his chances in a race twice, he decides to do it by force, plunging Velocitron into civil war.
  • In Chronicles of the Necromancer, Prince Jared becomes king by murdering his father, after his father threatened to have him removed from the line of succession. In all honesty, he was in no worthy of the throne, and in less than a year nearly runs his entire kingdom to the ground.
  • In The Deptford Mice Almanack by Robin Jarvis, there is unrest among the grey squirrels, who do not approve of Audrey Scuttle being the Starwife as she is a mouse. Two black squirrels arrive in Greenwich and one of them, a maiden named Morella, grows popular with the Starwife's subjects. Ultimately, the squirrels revolt, marching into Audrey's chamber and tearing the Silver Acorn from her neck. They chase her away, referring to her as 'the usurping mouse', while Morella ascends to the throne. However, it can easily be gathered that Morella is the real usurper, as there is something unsettling about her. Audrey was chosen by the previous Starwife and the Green Mouse himself, so her right to the throne cannot be denied.
  • In Julie Kagawa's The Iron Daughter, Ironhorse aids Meghan against the new Iron King because he's a usurper, having no right to the throne.
  • Urfin Jus from Tales of the Magic Land usurped the throne of the Emerald City (and thus, in theory, of the entire eponymous realm) twice. It didn't make him any happier, however, so he willingly rejected no less than three chances at another coup in later books.
  • Ar-Pharazon from the Akallabeth of The Silmarillion usurped the throne of Numenor by marrying his cousin Tar-Miriel by force. He ends up destroying Numenor when, on the advice of Sauron, he attacks Valinor.
    • In the First Age Celegorm and Curufin, two of the sons of Feanor, plotted to take rule of Nargothrond from their cousin Finrod, who gives the crown to his brother Orodreth while he goes to help Beren. Though he dies as his cousins hoped he would, they are driven from Nargothrond when their deeds are revealed.
  • At the end of Dune, Paul Atreides took over the throne by marrying Princess Irulan Corrino and sending her father, the Emperor Shaddam Corrino IV, into exile. There's some legitimate claim for the throne since his father, Duke Leto, is a distant cousin of Shaddam. In the sequel, he earned a lot of enemies who conspired to get rid with a justified reason: his fanatical followers started a galactic-wide jihad in his name causing much destruction and chaos. In the Children of Dune, one of Irulan's sisters attempted to reclaim the throne by using her son, Farad'n, and tried to kill Paul's heirs, Leto II and Ghamina. In the end of the novel, Leto II still inherits the throne which he would rule for thousands of years; and because he became a human-worm hybrid, he arranged a marriage between Ghamina and Farad'n in order to produce their descendants.
  • The corrupt churchman Annias tries to do this to Queen Ehlana in The Elenium trilogy. When she falls mysteriously ill (because he poisoned her), magic is used to sustain her life; since she's incapacitated by the spell, Annias puts her only living relative, her bastard cousin Lycheas, in the role of Prince Regent. Lycheas just happens to be Annias's son, although this isn't revealed until much later.
  • Prince Caspian is the rightful heir to the throne of Narnia; when his parents die, he is raised by his uncle Miraz who serves as Regent. When Miraz has a son of his own, however, he decides to murder his nephew and seize the throne for himself and, eventually, his son.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Robert Baratheon is a much more sympathetic example than most, given the behaviour of his predecessor. He's called this in-universe by the Targaryens.
    • Cersei Lannister. Although it's her sons who get to sit on the Iron Throne, not herself, it's her actions which usurp said throne to her family. And in "The Winds of Winter" she finally seizes it for herself.
    • Out of all the contestants, Renly Baratheon has the weakest official claim to any throne. While Robb Stark and the long-ignored Balon Greyjoy want to revive their Houses' respective kingship traditions, Stannis is Robert's lawful heir, Joffrey is Robert's official heir (and actually sits on the throne) and Daenerys is the heir of the previous dynasty, Renly is an usurper from any perspective that can be taken on this issue.
  • In Pair of Kings, the Kings' cousin Prince Lanny intends to get rid of his cousins so he can become King of Kinkow. He's not very good at it.
  • Power Rangers Zeo: Louie Kaboom took advantage of King Mondo's absence to drive the Royal House of Gadgetry away and take over the Machine Empire. One episode later, Archerina tricked him into fighting the Rangers so they'd off him.
    • It should be noted that Archerina and Prince Gasket were themselves usurpers to Mondo's throne, considering he'd banished the pair after disapproving of their union. Unfortunately, Heir Apparent Prince Sprockett is too young to fill his Dad's shoes, and very much resents his elder brother's return.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the Star Fleet Universe, one of the Kzinti nobles felt he was most qualified to become the next Patriarch (Kzinti head of state), and that the previous Patriarch was still alive and well was only a technicallity, becoming known in history as The Usurper. When he was defeated (or was he, some think he won and assumed the idenity of his predecessor), he fled and attempted to destroy himself, only to find an unknown sanctuary. His grandson tried again, having proudly kept the title, as his father did before him.
  • In the BattleTech universe, there are many examples.
    • Stefan Amaris corrupted the young impressionable heir to the First Lordship of the Star League, and then eventually murdered him. He then went on an atrocity spree and was eventually put down by the Star League Defense Force. Alas, because of the opportunistic tendencies of the member states, this essentially ended the Star League.
    • In more current times, we have Katherine Steiner-Davion, a sociopathic daughter of Hanse Davion and Melissa Steiner. Her swiping the throne of the Lyran Commonwealth from her brother was all done legally (largely by dint of her brother Victor not trying to dispute it at the time due to other issues that were happening), and she leveraged her famous grandmother Katrina Steiner for popularity, even taking her first name in attempts to emulate her. But her eventual stealing of the Federated Suns throne was entirely illegal; while she had a claim to the throne, as a child of Hanse Davion, she could not assume it because she lacked the 5 years of military service required. However, while the rightful ruler was away, she managed to convince enough people to go along with her rule. For a while, anyway.
  • Martian politics being what it is in Rocket Age there are a lot of people who could classify, but the man who takes the cake is Danny Hatfield, an Earthling who walked into a succession duel with a light-saber and took the Prince's head. Considering these duels are typically staged and planned, he's made a lot of enemies.

  • Claudius of Shakespeare's Hamlet, who murdered his brother, the old King Hamlet, for the throne. Or not, depending on the interpretation you watch. Sometimes Claudius is the typical evil despot and Hamlet is the rightful heir, fighting for the powers of decency. Other interpretations imply that Claudius is a decent ruler with a semi-legitimate claim to the throne (being the dead king's brother) and that rule of Denmark is elective (which it still was when the play was written), and further that Hamlet would be a terrible ruler, since he might actually just be insane.
  • Westeros: An American Musical:
    • Renly's claim to the throne is much less legitimate than that of Stannis, his older brother. He's mostly taking advantage of the fact that there is Succession Crisis going on anyway along with the convenient situation of his lover's family having both a large army and an ambitious daughter looking for a good marriage.
    • Daenerys mentions an usurper she's pleased to know to be dead in "The Storm's End". Canonically, she's speaking of Stannis and Renly's older brother Robert whose death resulted in the Succession Crisis.

    Video Games 
  • Discussed in Kingdom Hearts II, when Sora and his friends visit the Pride Lands. Nala explains that things have gotten bad since Scar took the throne, causing Sora to gain the idea on dethroning Scar and becoming the next King (he'd have to refuse, of course). Of course, Rafiki knows that Sora would not make a good King, much to his disappointment. Of course, they would help Simba usurp the throne, anyway. Sora also plays with this trope, considering that he's managed to dethrone other rulers before and after, and foiled another attempt.
  • In Tears to Tiara 2, prior to the start of the story, Hasdrubal, father of The Hero rose up in rebellion against The Empire. Izebel, his subordinate and student, defected to the Empire and drove him to his death. She then takes over his position of Governor-General of Hispania.
  • In Bravely Default, the Templar who overthrew the Corrupt Church ruling Eternia consistently insisted on being referred to as "the Usurper," despite the fact that he was putting the rightful ruler back on the throne. Part of this might be because said ruler was an eighteen-hundred year-old immortal who never particularly wanted to rule the country in the first place. He only took back control at the Templar's insistence, and to make up for the fact that he was the one who allowed the church to gain too much power in the first place all those centuries ago.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • In A Link to the Past, Agahnim tricks of the King of Hyrule into making him his advisor. Then Agahnim gets rid of the king and makes Hyrule Castle his base of operations.
    • Zant, the Usurper King from Twilight Princess, as his Boss Subtitles would imply, took the throne of the Twilight Realm from the rightful heir (Midna) when he was passed over for the position, probably because of his insanity.
  • Usurping titles by pressing claims in war is the single most common way of expanding your realm in Crusader Kings. Titles can also be usurped peacefully if you control at least 51% of their de jure territory. The second game will even give you the sobriquet "the Usurper" if you successfully press a claim on your liege, or if your liege presses a claim you have on a foreign title.
  • Dark Souls III:
  • Dragon Age: Origins:
    • After the death of King Cailan, his father-in-law Loghain basically usurps his own daughter, the widowed Queen Anora (whose claim to the throne, as a queen-consort, is that she was the one really running things anyway), and declares himself regent of Ferelden. One of his emissaries to Orzammar even calls him "King Loghain," and in one sidequest he's having a crown made for himself.
    • In the same game, the Dwarven succession crisis is due to Prince Bhelen attempting a power grab by eliminating his siblings and attempting to supplant his dying father, with the only person in his way being his father's adviser. However, if he becomes king, he becomes a benevolent dictator who makes progressive reforms while also destroying any perceived threat to his power.
  • In Dragon Age: Inquisition Duke Gaspard of Orlais is attempting to steal the throne of his cousin Empress Celene and instigates a Civil War. However, Gaspard was originally next in line for the throne until Celene had their uncle Emperor Florian assassinated in order to steal the throne for herself. In addition, Celene's lover/spymaster Briala is actively trying to manipulate whoever gains the throne and run the empire from the shadows. It's left up to the player to decide which of the three is the lesser evil.
  • Similar to the Inquisition example above, Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords has the Onderon Civil War in which General Vaklu tries to seize control of the planet Onderon from his cousin Queen Talia in order to secede from the Republic with the help of the Sith. The Light Side route has you support Talia alongside Jedi Master Kavar, while the Dark Side route has you support Vaklu and help him betray the Sith.
  • Happens all the time in Imperium Nova; the Capricorn galaxy in particular is infamous for serial revolutions.
  • The protagonist of Fable III has to usurp the throne from their elder brother, King Logan. The situation is more complicated than they realize, though.
  • The backstory for the Jak and Daxter games involves Baron Praxis disposing the King of Haven City and banishing him to the Wasteland, while taking over the city as a dictator. One of the plot points of Jak II: Renegade involves overthrowing him and putting the Prince of Haven City, a toddler who happens to be a young Jak, on the thronenote . Jak 3: Wastelander involves the disposed King as a major character who dies during the climax.
  • In Megadimension Neptunia VII, the second arc of the game, G-Arc, starts when Gold Third crashes the tournament and challenges the CPUs to a match just to test their powers. They didn't expect to win nor the fact that they ended up usurping the nations themselves.
  • A rare heroic example can be seen with Kotal Kahn of Mortal Kombat X, who led a rebellion against Mileena after growing disillusioned with the chaotic nature of her reign, and by all means is shown to run things pretty efficiently and justly.
    • Prominent Big Bad Shao Kahn himself also fits this trope. While by the time of the games he's unquestionably in charge of Outworld, enough so for Mileena to be a proper heir to him after his death, it should be noted he only got the positon of Kahn after he poisoned his former boss and Kahn, Onaga.
  • Shovel Knight has King Knight, a member of the Order of No Quarter who usurped Pridemoor Keep's rightful ruler before the game starts. After the Enchantress' defeat, the credits show him now stuck cleaning the floors while the rightful ruler looks on, the former clearly not happy about it.
  • Showing how complicated this kind of thing can be, both sides accuse the other of (attempted) usurpation in Heroes of Might and Magic II, and not entirely without cause — Archibald Ironfist cites that he was chosen by the royal seer, as per tradition (he was), while Roland Ironfist cites that Archibald being chosen wasn't legitimate as Archibald was only chosen after murdering several royal seers in succession, forcing Roland to flee to safeguard his life, and then using bribery and threats to force the new royal seer into choosing him as the new king (entirely true).
  • Dishonored 2 has Delilah Copperspoon who usurs the throne of the Isles from her niece, Emily.
  • BattleTech's main story deals with your mercenary company helping Lady Kamea Arano regain her throne in the Aurigan Reach after her uncle Santiago Espinosa overthrew her in a Military Coup on the day of her coronation.
  • In Crying Suns, House Kosh-Buendia was originally ruled by a group called the Seven. When the Shutdown occurred and the Empire’s technology stopped working, General Vivar took advantage of the chaos by murdering them all and seizing power for himself. He further plans to overthrow Emperor Oberon and become undisputed leader of the galaxy.
  • The Big Bad of Bug Fables, the Wasp King, is actually an usurper who took the throne from the rightful ruler, Queen Vanessa II, through the use of the magical crown that allowed him to brainwash every wasp in the Wasp Kingdom with few exceptions, and he's not even a real wasp, but a wasp-mimic fly who passes as one. Lampshaded in the official soundtrack, which names his leitmotif "The Usurper".
  • The Big Bad of Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, Gadflow, was originally the court jester of the Winter Court of the Seelie. After hearing the whispers of the imprisoned Tirnoch promising him power, Gadflow did something completely unprecedented for the Fae: he changed (and not for the better). One day, he took the Winter King's crown from his head and put it on his own, claiming it was just another jest. Then he drew his sword, and with one swing betrayed the Winter Court and seized the throne.

    Web Comics 
  • Charby the Vampirate: The current Demon King Samirck, who is the King most of the other kingdoms in Kellwood are subservient, usurped the throne from the previous king who fled to Eshanival.
    Samrick: Sometimes... little fish are piranhas waiting to bite.
  • Girl Genius:
    • The Knights of Jove conspirators consider Klaus Wulfenbach a "jumped-up usurper" who stole the throne from the Storm King. Nevermind the fact that there hasn't been a Storm King in over two hundred years and Klaus' rule has nothing to do with that dynasty.
    • Zola tries to usurp the title of Heterodyne from Agatha before Agatha can properly claim it. When that plan fails, Zola is unconcerned, and instead usurps Agatha's mother Lucrezia's title as "the Other" by tricking Lucrezia into copying her mind into Zola's head, inside a neural trap that leaves Zola in complete control. After the time skip, Zola has positioned herself as the unquestioned head of the Other's forces, and is using her mind control to conquer the north of Europa and then slowly move on down south.
    • Martellus von Blitzengaard usurps the title of Storm King from Tarvek Sturmvoraus. Tarvek was in the midst of the Sturmhalten Incident, where the Knights of Jove had their entire conspiracy plans blown open by interference from Baron Klaus Wulfenbach discovering it, and by Agatha Heterodyne revealing herself to the entire world in the middle of it all. Note that no one wants Martellus to be Storm King; he only keeps his grip on the throne by killing anyone who tries to take it from him. Pretty much every single other faction in the world, including several that would prefer there be no Storm King at all, scheme to put Tarvek back in power because there's no way he can be worse than Martellus.
    • Later Played for Laughs when Larana Chroma usurps her father's throne to go to war against the Other before it can destroy Paris and the Incorruptible Library... and invokes the "Ancient Right of Filial Usurpation" to do so.
  • In Gosu the Four Heavenly Kings betrayed the Heavenly Destroyer, leaving him for dead. However, they ended up fighting amongst themselves and killed each other, sparking the eventual end of the Heavenly Destruction Sect. At least, that's what they wanted everyone to believe.
  • Princess Princess: Their father the king left his kingdom to Sadie and Claire jointly. However, Sadie wasn't keen on ruling, and Claire immediately seized it from her.

    Web Original 
  • Questden is a website that combines Dungeons & Dragons with Twitch Plays Pokémon. As such, there are some games that involve usurpation:
    • Dive Quest is the story of a deposed prince who seeks to take back his kingdom from the king who usurped his father. Violently. All requests to end this without directly murdering the new king and queen have been put down. Played With, as Muschio went from trying to become The Antichrist to trying to become The Emperor, so he doesn't want to usurp them from their position - he wants to take over the continent and then execute the king and queen himself.
    • Usurper Princess [1] is the story of the 15th in line to Mossland (and others, including the 4th in line to Ramshead and a multibillionaire's daughter) who intend to plot, murder, and slaughter their way to the top, or at least mostly to the top.

    Western Animation 
  • My Little Pony:
    • My Little Pony 'n Friends: In "The Prince and the Ponies", the Duchess was originally just the palace cook, but had Prince Phillip imprisoned so that she could take over his rule.
    • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
      • When Luna because Nightmare Moon, she attempted to overthrow her sister Celestia in order to make herself Equestria's sole ruler.
      • In "Twilight's Kingdom – Part 2", after he finds out that Celestia, Luna, and Cadance have hidden their magic from him, we see Tirek sitting on Celestia's throne. He then sends the Princesses to Tartarus to ensure that nopony can challenge his claim to the throne. Having drained Shining Armor as well, and Shining Armor being a Prince, Tirek thought he had removed the Royal Family completely from power. He assumes his claim as the new King of Equestria is secured for good once he drains Twilight of the Princesses' magic, but his claim is short-lived once he is hit with Rainbow Power, re-imprisoned in Tartarus, and Celestia, Luna, Cadance, Shining Armor, and Twilight, are restored to their places as Equestria's true Royal Family and sovereigns.
      • "School Raze": Cozy Glow turns out to be this in a nutshell. She declared herself "Empress of Friendship", usurping Twilight's position as Princess of Friendship, and used a collection of magical artifacts to drain everypony of their magic like a magnet to send said magic to another dimension, even the other Princesses, intending to overthrow Celestia and Luna as sovereigns of Equestria itself, who, without their magic, would be powerless to stop her. However, it is downplayed in that none of the ponies treat the takeover part of her plans as being at all possible (what they take seriously is the threat that she could succeed at draining their realm of magic), since even with magic gone Cozy would still be just one little pony with naught but other students for support and a forged letter as her sole evidence that she has any authority at all.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil: Downplayed. Pony Head's sisters all want her place as heir to the throne, but their plan to do so is to have one of the sisters (Teta) fake her murder and frame Pony Head, since doing so would automatically forfeit her right to the throne. According to Pony Head, such schemes happen on a regular basis, but fundamentally they all love each other.
  • Infinity Train: Amelia took over the train from the real conductor after learning the train's purpose is to help people move on from their personal problems, which she didn't agree with as she did not want to move on from her husband's death, and spends years trying to make a train-car that recreates her life with her lover.
  • Fire Lord Ozai from Avatar: The Last Airbender had his wife assassinate his father, so that he could take the throne from the actual Crown Prince, his older brother Iroh. (Iroh, having lost his son, was too devastated to fight back). At the end of the series, Iroh has the chance to take his rightful place as Fire Lord, but he isn't interested, and feels his time for that is long past. Ozai's son Zuko takes the position.
  • In Season 4 of The Legend of Korra, Kuvira publicly usurps the Crown Prince of the Earth Kingdom at his own coronation and declares herself The Emperor of the newly forged Earth Empire. The crowd cheers for her.
  • Lemongrab of Adventure Time is an inversion of this. He's played straight in that he's a tyrannical buttmunch who takes the throne to the Candy Kingdom and imposes rigid laws that make everyone miserable- and the actual ruler of the kingdom tries to get rid of him. Inverted in that Lemongrab is actually the rightful heir to the throne in the event that something happens to the princess (she was transformed into a 13-year-old, and therefore too young to rule the kingdom). Also inverted in that he hates the kingdom, his job, and the people he rules over, and is more Lawful Neutral or Lawful Stupid than the typical "evil tyrant" trope.
  • Alfred J. Kwak: In the "Crows Party" arc, Dolf uses his new fascist party to throw King Franz Ferdinand out of his palace and declare himself Emperor Dolf I.
  • Recess: The episode "Prince Randall" involves Randall blackmailing King Bob and taking over the playground.
  • In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Shredder is this, as Splinter's exposition reveals that Shredder usurped Splinter's leadership of the Foot Clan by framing him for an assassination attempt.
  • Wakfu: Played with by Qilby, as when first introduced he declares himself the King of the Eliatropes to an unaware audience, including the actual king Yugo, but all the Eliatropes who do know the truth clearly do not view him as such. Where it gets interesting is that Qilby is (or at least was before all the horrible shit he pulled came out) one of the leaders of the Eliatrope race as one of the Six Original Eliatrope/Dragon paired siblings of their kind, and some rotation of the proper "king" or "queen" of the Eliatropes had occurred amongst them in the past (in fact, Yugo himself was named king in a previous life by his brother Chibi shortly before he himself passed on to be reincarnated within his Dofus). Of course, claims of legitimacy or public approval aside, Qilby is fully willing to strong-arm them along whether they like it or not, but Yugo is able to lead his people against him and (with the aid of Qilby's Dragon sibling Shinonome), they defeat him.


Video Example(s):



After betraying Grace and leaving her for dead, Simon becomes the de facto leader of the Apex. Under his rule, the group is even more cruel and merciless than before.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / TheUsurper

Media sources:

Main / TheUsurper