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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 using something embarrassing. 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 d'état. However, one thing is always in common: the plotting to seize power are almost always done clandestinely, except maybe in the final bloody phases of a coup. The main exception to the clandestine behaviour is when the rightful authority is away for some reason, and has trusted the usurper to run things.

The displaced and rightful holder may end up as Man in the Iron Mask, Noble Fugitive, or 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 unabashed 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 and Benevolent Dictator for cases where the usurper is actually the better option, and Succession Crisis for when it's not clear who's the usurper and who's the rightful heir. 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 
  • 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.
  • Doraemon: Nobita and the Haunts of Evil have the gang befriending Prince Kuntakku of the Kingdom of Bauwan, who was cast from his kingdom after the King's ruthless advisor, Daburanda, poisoned him, had the prince captured alive and cast into a river, crowns himself the new king and is now ruling Bauwan with an iron fist.
  • 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.
  • Ren Gyokuen in Magi: Labyrinth of Magic took Kou's throne away from the heir Kouen, alleging 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.
  • 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 Latveria 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 (who's a very competent tyrant and despite his ego and brutality usually cares about and protects the Latverian people).
  • 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 
  • 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.
  • The Night Unfurls:
    • Vault usurps Olga's position as Evil Overlord in control of the North, the Black Fortress and the orcs after her defeat, even sitting on her vacant throne as she is ousted. Soon, he invokes this trope as he makes his intention to conquer the South to build his Sex Slave Empire, an outcome that the protagonists strive to avert.
    • Discussed in the remastered version. Kyril learns from the books in Celestine's archives that Olga is described as a usurper. On the other hand, the story never reveals how exactly Olga inherited the power of Garan and became the Dark Queen, making this notion an Informed Attribute. Even Kyril himself notes that the history there is a bit sketchy.
  • 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.

    Films — Animation 
  • Jafar in Aladdin; he actually succeeds, for about two minutes.
  • Duchess Rowena in Barbie in the 12 Dancing Princesses is after her cousin's throne, and successfully becomes queen at the start of the third act.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Scar from The Lion King, who murders his brother Mufasa for the throne of Pride Rock.
  • 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.
  • In Turning Red, Ming believes the character Siu-Jyu in the Jade Palace Diaries to be this.
    Ming: She's just using him to get to the throne.
  • 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.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Adventures of Galgameth: El El starts off as a knight in service to King Henryk, but his ambitions lead him to assassinate the king, name himself regent, and rule the kingdom of Donnegold with an iron fist — though he's careful to do so in Prince Davin's name.
  • The Adventures of Robin Hood are entirely centered on defeating usurper Prince John.
  • As in the original animation, Jafar in Aladdin (2019); he's even less successful in this version.
  • In Tim Burton's live-action Alice in Wonderland, the Red Queen is a usurper, having wrested the throne of Wonderland from her sister, the White Queen.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Cruz Diablo: Diego de la Barrera murders the Count of Luna and takes his title, his palace and his daughter.
  • The main antagonists of Daimajin are a group of samurai who overthrew their daimyo and now have a cruel reign.
  • In Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019), 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".
  • Hercules: Cotys it turns out murdered the true king, his son-in-law, and took over.
  • 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 (where he has no subjects to rule over but does have a whole lot of treasure). In the climax of The Desolation of Smaug, he even proclaims himself such.
    Smaug: I am King Under the Mountain!
  • Kaamelott: Premier Volet: the film is set ten years after King Arthur abdicated (at the end of the series) and Lancelot took the throne for himself. The kingdom of Logres is now in bad shape, the people don't see Lancelot as the legitimate king and he has enforced a Reign of Terror.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Princess: After the princess wouldn't go through with marrying him as her father arranged, Julius took control of the royal castle including taking her prisoner along with her family and tries to coerce her into the marriage to legitimize this. When she fights back, he continues coercing the king and her to obey.
  • Willow: The novelization explained that Bavmorda used Mind Control on the prince to have him marry her, and once she was queen and had established her power base, she sealed the king and his entire capitol city in suspended animation, killing his parents while she was at it.


  • Chronicles of the KencyrathKenan to Randiroc, as Lord of one of the Highborn houses.
  • 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 way worthy of the throne, and in less than a year nearly runs his entire kingdom to the ground.
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • Discworld:
    • 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.
    • Mort also has a theme of a rulership being usurped: Mort, Death's apprentice, refuses to stand by when the heiress to Sto Helit is about to be killed by an Assassin. He saves her life despite the fact that as Death, he is there strictly to observe and collect her soul. Hilarity Ensues as Mort realises he has to deal with the usurper. The true Death is not amused, but readjusts reality to cover up for the embarrassment caused.
  • 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 to 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 of him 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 Ghanima. At 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 Ghanima 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.
  • In Grent's Fall, this is how the rebels view Osbert Grent; naturally, Osbert's faction accepts him as a valid king.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Prisoner of Zenda — Another subversion where the impostor/usurper is better fitted to rule than the rightful heir.
  • The Silmarillion:
    • Celegorm and Curufin, two of the sons of Fëanor, 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.
    • Túrin accidentally takes over the small woodland realm of Brethil, where the natives find his martial prowess and bold style of leadership preferable to their own lord.
    • Ar-Pharazôn from the Akallabêth usurped the throne of Númenor by marrying his cousin Tar-Míriel by force. He ends up destroying Númenor when, on the advice of Sauron, he attacks Valinor.
  • 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".
    • There's also from Fire and Blood Hard Hugh Hammer, who fought for Rhaenyra, then Aegon, then tried to claim the Iron Throne himself by virtue of his warrior skill and his powerful dragon. A group of outraged nobles loyal to Aegon promptly assassinate Hugh for his presumption.
    • Maegor I Targaryen (better known by his sobriquet of Maegor the Cruel) usurped the throne from his nephew Aegon following the death of King Aenys I Targaryen. When Grand Master Gawen protested Maegor's flouting of the laws of succession, Maegor retorted the Iron Throne would go to whoever had the strength to claim it, then beheaded Gawen on the spot.
    • After Aegon the Conqueror's death, his ruling Lord of the Vale, Ronnel Arryn, is deposed, imprisoned and later murdered by his younger brother Jonos, who usurps the rule of the Vale and declares it independent from the Iron Throne. Maegor Targaryen promptly arrives to crush the rebellion, and Jonos's co-conspirators turn on and kill him in the hopes Maegor will be merciful to them. He wasn't.
    • This is also what Catelyn thinks that Jon Snow will be with her son Robb, and that he will seize the Lordship of Winterfell away from him. It does not help that Jon looks like a Stark whereas Robb looks more like a Tully.
  • So This is Ever After: The Vile One seized the throne, killing most of the royal family while also imprisoning the princess who he needed (temporarily) alive.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Videssos cycle by Harry Turtledove — Ortaias Sphrantzes in An Emperor for the Legion.

    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 that 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 rightful heir, Joffrey is Robert's official heir (and actually sits on the throne), and Daenerys is the heir of the previous dynasty, Renly is a usurper from any perspective that can be taken on this issue. Renly's only (rather flimsy) claim is that Robert's children are bastards and Stannis is no longer eligible as he converted away from the Faith of the Seven.
    Olenna Tyrell: "It was treason. I warned them. Robert has two sons and Renly has an older brother. How can he possibly have any claim to that ugly iron chair?"
  • Moon Lovers: Wang Yo becomes king by marching his army into the palace and killing the rightful king.
  • 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. A few episodes later, Archerina tricked him into fighting the Rangers (by shooting her love arrow at him) 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.
  • The Princess Wei Young: Tuoba Yu steals the throne after his father dies.

    Tabletop Games 
  • 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 the present day of the setting, hundreds of years later, he is still known as "Amaris the Usurper", the man who destroyed the closest thing the galaxy ever had to a Golden Age.
    • 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.
  • 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 technicality, becoming known in history as The Usurper. When he was defeated (or was he, some think he won and assumed the identity 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.

  • 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 a 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 
  • In Baldur's Gate III, the Scary Dogmatic Aliens known as the Githyanki believe that their empire's founder Gith performed a Heroic Sacrifice in a Deal with the Devil to protect her people, and ceded the throne to her Evil Chancellor Vlaakith. However, it's heavily implied that this was not the case and Vlaakith I betrayed Gith to seize the throne before branding her rightful heir Orpheus as a traitor, with her even worse descendant Vlaakith CLVII trying to finish him off.
  • 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.
  • Battle for Wesnoth: In the backstory of Heir to the Throne, Prince Eldred kills his father to become the king, although Delfador kills him before he could actually rule. However, Eldred's mother Asheviere is just as ambitious and still kicking, so she usurps the throne by ordering her guards to kill all male heirs. Delfador only managed to save the baby Prince Konrad and took him away so they can pull off Rightful King Returns.
  • 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 a 1800-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 Big Bad of Bug Fables, the Wasp King, is actually a 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".
  • Command & Conquer

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Dark Souls III:
  • In Devil May Cry 5, following the Demon King Mundus' defeat and sealing by Dante in the first game, his empty position is hijacked by Urizen (a.k.a. Vergil). Urizen's Boss Subtitles even call him the "Nefarious Usurper".
  • Dishonored 2 has Delilah Copperspoon who usurs the throne of the Isles from her niece, Emily.
  • 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.
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • The Elder Scrolls: Arena: Emperor Uriel Septim VII is usurped and imprisoned by Jagar Tharn, his Court Advisor. Tharn then proceeded to impersonate the Emperor and rule in his place for ten years (it is mentioned that enchantments were in place that would warn the Elder Council if the Emperor died, so Tharn's ruse required keeping the Emperor alive).
    • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Though treated in-game as a matter of perspective both in practise and in justification, Imperial loyalists regard Ulfric Stormcloak's defeat of High King Torygg and subsequent war against Jarl Elisef the Fair both as Usurpations. The Stormcloaks and their supporters inversely regard both as legitimate means of establishing a High King.
  • 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 plot of the first Galaxy Angel videogame kicks off with the exiled Prince Eonia usurping the throne of the Transbaal Empire, after killing off the entire royal family (except for Shiva, who was in the White Moon at the time) via Orbital Bombardment.
  • 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).
  • Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom: The story begins with the Usurpation of the Throne of Ding Dong Dell by Otto Mausinger, the royal advisor. In a rare twist, Mausinger both has a change of heart AND gets the blessing of Former King Evan to continue ruling the Kingdom as an Ally of Evermore.
  • Happens all the time in Imperium Nova; the Capricorn galaxy in particular is infamous for serial revolutions.
  • 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 involves overthrowing him and putting the Prince of Haven City, a toddler who happens to be a young Jak, on the thronenote . Jak 3 involves the disposed King as a major character who dies during the climax.
  • 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 of 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • In The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Agahnim tricks 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 The Legend of Zelda: 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. Midna uses the Mirror of Twilight as proof that he is a false King: with all of his power, Zant was only able to fragment the Mirror into four pieces, whereas the true ruler of the Twili would have been able to destroy it completely. After Link returns the Sols to their pedestals, their light is infused into the Master Sword; Midna takes this as a sign that even the guardian deities worshipped by the Twili are on their side.
  • 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 position 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. The theme for his stage even lampshades it, being called "In the Halls of the Usurper". 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.
  • 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.

    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.
  • Modest Medusa: Prince Dragul was originally one of the King's generals. However after the King died he was able to seal away the Princess and had enough of the other generals backing him to declare himself the Prince.
  • 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 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Recess: The episode "Prince Randall" involves Randall blackmailing King Bob and taking over the playground.
  • 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.
  • 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):


The Supreme AI overthrew Anna

After hearing about the loss of an infantry crew, Scotty immediately tries contacting Linux Anna, only to find that she's been overthrown by the Supreme AI of the Internet. She simply hit Anna with a plastic spoon which made her break down in a panic, and then finished her off with a bioweapon version of Windows Vista. Scotty immediately panics about it and says that it's the epic war with ROFL-9000 all over again, and that he's "totally not advertising the series by Akriloth2160", and he says that he got only a 0.5% in history class.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / TheUsurper

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