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Top Wife

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Only the true queen shares the throne.

Maou: I'll take the bed, and you take the floor.
Knight: And Hero?
Maou: The bed, of course.
Knight: That's not even remotely fair!

In polygamous cultures, it's common to see one spouse (usually a wife) emerge as the leader and/or "favorite" of all others. In some societies, this status is automatically bestowed upon the first spouse or the spouse which conceives the first heir. In others, it's determined by who wields the most influence or holds the most sway over the shared spouse. And in still others, it's the spouse with the highest social status who gets to hold the highest rank.

If there's dissension amongst the harem, the spouses will fight over who gets to be the one at the top. This is usually because the top spouse enjoys privileges, authority, or prestige that is denied to their "sibling" spouses. In softer examples, the top spouse may be the one who occupies their lover's bed the most, or the only one who does so at all. In extreme cases, they may be able to boss the others around or even kick them out of the harem altogether.

Another common variation is the "Legal Wife", where only one lover is considered the true "spouse", while the rest are concubines or mistresses. This variation can be common with the Ruling Couple, and can also open the possibility of each individually having their own separate harems. This version most often comes about to avoid a Succession Crisis, since usually only the legal spouse's child can claim the inheritance.

In the Harem Genre, this trope is an evolution of the Supporting Harem, though rarely done because it hinges on marrying all of them being discussed or agreed to as an acceptable outcome. But within the industry, No Romantic Resolution or a single Official Couple are still the most common and favored outcomes. As the genre continues to evolve, however, that is slowly changing.

See Balanced Harem, where this is often avoided to keep the love interests more or less "equal".

See also our Useful Notes section on Polyamory.

Compare and Contrast to the Harem Nanny who is, usually, an unromantic counterpart in harems whose situation has yet to be resolved.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • This is ultimately the role Saki Saki settles into in Girlfriend, Girlfriend. Although she did get two-timed by the protagonist Naoya, every addition to the harem has to be approved by her, and if she ever decides that she doesn't like being multi-timed anymore, she can end the relationship in an instant. Not like they'll let her get away so easily, since the girls want her happiness as much as they want Naoya to date them.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans: Amida Arca is Naze Turbine's first, closest and most favorite wife, who also serves as his right-hand woman for the Turbines, which is entirely composed of women who are taken in by Naze and registered as his wives. Amida is also a talented pilot which also makes her the commander of the Turbines' mobile suit unit. Thus she is also considered a de facto Mama Bear figure for the Turbines, and by extension Tekkadan.
  • Played for Laughs in Kaguya-sama: Love Is War's spinoff We Want to Talk About Kaguya where Karen would be perfectly fine with the idea of Shirogane having a harem and even being a part of it just so long as Kaguya is the favorite.
  • The h-mangaka Mahiro Ootori specializes in harem stories, where the male protaginist will take a wife, and surround himself with a harem of concubines:
    • My Harem in Another World has a Salary Man being sucked into a video game, where he accrues a harem consisting of a human maid, and over a dozen other women ranging from humanoid dragons, bunny-women, cat women, angels, succubi, shinigami, etc. At the very end, when he returns to his world, he becomes a successful publisher, and while the maid becomes his legal wife, since she becomes pregnant with their child, the other women happily take turns with him.
    • In Slutty Elf Sisters Seeking a Husband, at the very end, the male protagonists, a human, ends up with a harem of four elf women, comprised of two sisters, a member of a neighboring tribe, and a middle aged matchmaker, as well as a human woman who had a crush on him. They decide that the eldest sister, since he met them first when they were transported into his world, would be his legal wife, and the other women would be his concubines. When he says that he'll make them happy for as long as he lives, the elf women respond that since elves live for so long that they sometimes end up becoming "magic trees," so the harem informs him that they'll just take a magic medicine that will shorten their lifespans to that of a human's so there's no worries of them far outliving him.
    • In My Wife Started Experimenting,a married couple reignites their marriage after his sister in law trained his wife to be more proactive in the bedroom, and at the very end, the male protagonist ends up with a harem of five women, consisting of his wife, sister in-law, two foreign exchange students, and a coworker who's had a crush on him since they were in college.
  • Sekirei: When Tsukiumi gets "winged" as Minato's Sekirei, she tries to save face and declares herself to be his wife before finding out that she's, in fact, his fourth Sekirei (in order of acquisition). Musubi and Kusano take offense to this, and declare that they're also Minato's wivesnote , and when Tsukiumi then insists that she's the true wife, they insist they are as well. The actual trope winds up averted as Minato very much seeks to avoid favoritism, and the Sekirei he's winged generally respect this, though they can ruffle each others feathers from time to time.
    Tsukiumi: Do you know what "true wife" means?!
    Musubi: No I don't!
  • In the Yuri Genre manga Yurika's Campus Life, the title heroine is a notorious womanizer, but her childhood friend and roommate Saori is known far and wide as her "legal wife" for being the closest to her (even though Yurika herself is oblivious to her feelings and in denial of her own sexuality).
  • In Yume no Shizuku, Kin no Torikago, the hierarchy of the sultan's harem is separated with this trope. The legal wife of the sultan has the highest rank and power in the harem, followed by the sultan's mothers, then the women that have given birth to the sultan's children. Since Suleiman isn't married, his mother is the queen dowager and has the highest rank in the harem, but she dislikes keeping the ladies in check and lets them duke things out themselves. Gulbahar was the bas kadin ('first wife') for the longest time, as the only one to give birth to a child of Suleiman's, until heroine Hurrem gave birth, too, and became icinci kadin ('second wife'), but even her own status is slightly above Gulbahar's because she becomes known as the haseki (personal favorite) of Suleiman.

    Comic Books 
  • Black Moon Chronicles: After becoming emperor, Wismerhill acquires a Royal Harem of 12 wives, each of whom would qualify as the World's Most Beautiful Woman in her own right. However, Hellaynnea, who is a succubus, is the one he spends most time with. Not so incidentally, she is his only wife who bore him a son, while his others all bore him daughters. Since she arranged all these marriages for him as well, it's all but guaranteed that she engineered this.
  • Requiem Vampire Knight: Dracula is married to Elizabeth Bathory and has a huge harem of concubines. While his harem is composed of lamias, Bathory is a vampire just like him and rules by his side as his queen.
  • Silver Surfer: One-shot villain Mrrungo-Mu, better known as the Enslaver, kept an very large harem and he favored one concubine called Tnneya above all the others. Though she used to love him before and still does, she came to revile his cruelty and despotism.
  • X-Men: In X Treme X Men 2001, the alien overlord Khan has an harem of concubines from all the worlds he had conquered and when he sets his sights on Earth, he falls in love with Storm so much that he intends to make her his queen. Though Storm seemingly goes along with this (she is actually trying to undermine Khan's invasion from within), his other brides don't take kindly to this - since Khan shared them equally without playing favorites - and try to assassinate her.

    Fan Works 
  • Code Geass: The Prepared Rebellion: Britannian noblemen (as well as male commoners with enough money and/or status) are allowed to take multiple wives, although only a few actually exercise this privilege. This is because two stipulations: one; for one to qualify as a wife one needs to be a Britannian, or very high-ranking noble or royal if a foreigner (C.C. actually acknowledges that this law makes sense on a political and national security level) and two, is that Top Wife privileges do exist and said Top Wife has a sort of veto power over who becomes a wife and who is a mistress. And only a foolish man would dare ignore her. The exception to this is The Emperor of Britannia, who has no top wife and is implied to be legally prohibited from having one.
  • In Harry and the Shipgirls, it has been acknowledged in-universe that in spite of Harry having a Battle Harem of 30+ women, Natsumi Ono is the one who will be at the top of the pecking order.
  • In the Judge Dee Fan Sequel series, the first wife becomes a character in her own right, aiding him in his investigations whether she wants to or not and ruling over the judge's household with varying degrees of success (the judge's unconventional methods and lack of political ambitions leaving little room for social mobility). While she's intelligent and determined to make their Arranged Marriage work, a lot of drama comes from the fact that she never had any children, so the other wives have slightly more weight in discussions than would be permitted otherwise. Dee, however, never sees it as a sticking point, and even tells her that she'd be his only wife if they lived in a monogamous society.
  • Science: Saving Humanity without regard to Morals or Ethics, a Porn with Plot Neon Genesis Evangelion fic where Ritsuko experiments with a fertility boosting retro virus to deal with humanity suffering a fertility crash on top of the Angel attacks, has Shinji as the first test subject, which soon leads him into a relationship with multiple girls at once. Misato, who is the first one involved, takes the role of top girlfriend/wife, by whose permission Shinji is allowed to sleep around and who the others generally follow as an extension of being the superior of most of them and an adult to the others.
  • In the Discworld of A.A. Pessimal, Ruth N'Kweze reflects that her own elevation as Paramount Crown Princess - who by diktat of her father will succeed him as Paramount Queen-Regent of the Zulu Empire - is that it also clears up a nagging issue among her father's far too many many wives. By extension, Ruth's mother was also elevated to the rank of Great Wife - the first among many and effectively a non-ruling Queen. Ruth gloomily reflects that this only gives her most powerful half-brother (and his mother) another target to eliminate by assassination. She allocates at least one Ankh-Morpork trained Assassin in her service to become a Lady In Waiting To The Great Wife, so as to see her mother is bodyguarded.
  • In SV Wishes, this trope is a source of conflict in both the original timeline and the events of the story.
    • The original Shen Qingqiu was Yue Qingyuan's only spouse and had all the power to run his household and protect him. However, the Emperor disfavored him and had Shen Qingqiu demoted to Second Husband, which wouldn't have been an issue... hadn't Yue Qingyuan married another spouse, making the new spouse First Husband, and demoting Shen Qingqiu despite his seniority. In the original timeline, Shen Qingqiu constantly feuded with Liu Qingge to take back his power, which ended very badly for all involved. In the new timeline, with Shen Yuan transmigrating into Shen Qingqiu and avoiding the original conflict by ignoring the newlyweds and minding his business, Liu Qingge finds himself unable to handle the social and fiscal responsibilities of being First Husband, but has no means to renounce to his position.
    • Shang Quinghua was sold by his brother to be a male concubine for a lesbian female Lord, and thus unable to climb in the household hierarchy by traditional means. When he is bride-napped by the demonic king Mobei-Jun he becomes the First Husband by default, as Mobei-Jun has arranged his own harem to consist of brides that are more interested in each other than in him and thus uninterested in the Top Spouse position.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the 1955 Epic Movie Land Of The Pharaohs, which revolves around the building of the Great Pyramid of Cheops, Joan Collins stars as the second wife of the Pharaoh, who schemes to become top wife in the expectation of being in a position of power after he dies. In the end, her treachery uncovered, she is awarded the "honor" of being interred alive in her husband's tomb.
  • Manos: The Hands of Fate: The Master has many wives- the oldest refers to herself as "the First Wife" and seems to be in charge, although she worries that the Master is getting tired of her.
  • Van Helsing: According to her actress, Verona is the oldest of Dracula's brides and is the most dominant one of three as shown when she demands to have the first bite on Anna Valerious, the younger bride Aleera snarls but ultimately backs off.
  • In Raise the Red Lantern the protagonist is just the newest concubine, aka the Fourth Mistress. The First Mistress, who is past her child-bearing years, is implied to be the lawful consort, who rules the house in the husband's absence and in responsible for the other mistresses.
  • Bram Stoker's Dracula - Dracula is intending to make Mina his bride in addition to the three he already has. This is because in this version, she's the reincarnation of his dead wife, so she would take priority.
  • Genji monogatari: Kokoiden, senior concubine to the emperor, is extremely protective of her status. She hates younger, prettier concubine Kiritsubo because she knows the emperor likes her better
  • Mad Max: Fury Road: Immortan Joe has several captive "wives" in his harem, but it's made clear that the one named Splendid Angharad is his favorite and he grieves when she dies in front of him. She's also the only one who's visibly pregnant, driving home that he valued her fertility more than anything. The other four wives all clearly look up to her and try to live by her Actual Pacifist ideals even after her death.
  • In Parking (1985), while Orpheus loves Calais deeply, it's implied he cares for Eurydice just a bit more, as he's inconsolable without her and risks the Underworld to rescue her despite Calais loving him back.

  • Ascendance of a Bookworm: The first wives of noblemen who have at least two of them are not only expected to produce the first heirs in the sucession line. They are also the only ones allowed to take an official part in political decisions to avoid having too many cooks spoiling the soup. For instance, if a viscount has several wives, only the first one holds the title of Viscountess. If a first wife dies, the second wife, if she exists, usually takes her place.
  • The Belgariad: This trope is in effect in the Murgo royal court. Urgit's mother doesn't mind at all that Silk killed Taur Urgas' eldest son, because he was the son of the "first wife" (who used to boast that she would have her son order the execution of all the lesser wives as soon as he took the throne). Later in the Malloreon, when the marriage arrangements between Urgit and Prala are being arranged, one line in the contract states that Prala will have the permanent rank of most favored wife. However, Prala objects to this, as she doesn't plan to share Urgit with anyone.
  • To an extent in A Brother's Price, since in their culture, the eldest living sister (in the royal family, currently Ren) does lead the family. However, the princesses' husband Jerin follows his father's advice and is scrupulous about sharing his time and attention evenly among his wives, never playing favorites in any way.
  • Campione!: Erica sees it as a Foregone Conclusion that she and Godou are destined to be together, and early on tells him that she doesn't mind him having one mistress and only one. Unfortunately for her, Godou turns out to be a Chick Magnet. Further, as his harem grows and the girls compete over who will become Godou's "legal wife" (especially since Godou has never stated he intends to romance all of them—or, in fact, any of them), Erica begins to lose some of her confidence and questions if a harem is a good idea. She does feel better about it again, later.
  • Dracula: Out of the three vampire brides in Dracula's castle, it's said that the blonde is the leader.
  • In Dune, noblemen of the Empire can have one official wife and any number of concubines. It's a plot point that Jessica—the love of Duke Leto's life and the mother of his heir—is for political reasons only a concubine and not a full wife. In turn, and again for political reasons, their son Paul takes the Emperor's daughter as his wife and the woman he really loves, Chani, as his concubine. The novel ends with Jessica commenting to Chani:
    Jessica: Think on it, Chani: the princess will have the name, yet she'll live as less than a concubine—never to know a moment of tenderness from the man to whom she's bound. While we, Chani, we who carry the name of concubine—history will call us wives.
  • The Good Earth: Played extremely realistically and dramatically as part of the protagonist's moral decline. After living for years in poverty with his devoted wife O-Lan, Wang Lung later becomes a wealthy man and uses that wealth to buy two concubines—including a former prostitute named Lotus. Lotus becomes the clear favorite to the point that Lung takes two pearls he knew O-Lan loved and fashions them into earrings for Lotus. It's only on O-Lan's deathbed that he gives her attention again. This later bites Lotus in the ass when she's grown old and her looks have faded—and the young Pear Blossom becomes Wang Lung's preferred companion.
  • Heralds of Valdemar: Among the Holderkin, men take several wives, but the first one rules over the other wives. Talia, the protagonist of the first trilogy is a Holderkin girl whose mother is dead. Right before she gets Chosen, her father's other wives are shown telling her she'll need to get married soon and to choose if she'd rather be a first wife or a secondary wife, listing the pros and cons of each option.
  • High School D×D:
    • Rias Gremory is generally acknowledged to be Issei's immutable favorite and is generally in charge in all matters outside of relationships with him, but this doesn't stop the other girls from trying to usurp the position of top wife/girlfriend from her. The most heated rivalry is between Rias and Akeno (who calls herself "Number 3"), since Akeno prefers to see herself as The Mistress. She delights in undermining Rias' authority and in claiming small victories over her (such as being the first girl to bear Issei's child). However, Asia (the Number 2) refuses to lose to either of them and tries to make up for what she lacks in sex appeal with cuteness. Regardless they all do get along fairly well and such conflicts don't get in the way of friendships or fighting enemies, usually only being a problem if one of them tries to have sex or get particularly intimate with Issei.
    • An extremely clear-cut example is Rias' mother Venelana, to the point the rest of her husband's harem isn't even seen. While nobody questions she earned her way to the top (you don't get a title like Brunette Madame of Extinction for nothing), it's heavily implied any and all dispute stopped when she was the only one to bear his children, since Pure Devils have a fertility problem.
  • His Only Wife: Afi and Eli had a traditional Ghanaian wedding. She wants to make things official by having a church wedding or going to the Civil Registry, but Eli keeps telling her not to pressure him. Eventually Afi realizes that since Eli cannot marry both Afi and Muna (the woman he would have married if it had not been for a Parental Marriage Veto) by the church, he does not make things official with either.
  • The patriarchal planet Grayson of the Honor Harrington series practices polygamy in part due to the wide disparity between women to men and because the planet is a Death World that can cause issues with births frequently. The Top Wife position is usually a simple matter of seniority between the wives, though Honor causes an unusual wrinkle when she marries a man who is already married. Graysons have no problem with the marriage itself. The wrinkle comes from that Honor is the junior wife while also holding a high ranked leadership position not normally held by women and a national hero on top of that.
  • Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere has an example where the protagonist's girlfriend is the one who wants to share him with two other women. The reasons are quite complicated to explain, but in short, Horizon knows she can't give Toori the emotional support he needs and if he ever becomes depressed, he will die because of a magical contract. Therefore, Horizon wants their friends Asama and Nate, who also love Toori but held back because he loves Horizon the most, to join in as his concubines/mistresses. Asama and Nate are reluctant when Horizon first proposes the Polyamory, but they eventually give in and Toori is more than happy to have them.
  • How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom: Liscia Elfrieden is Souma's first love, one of his closest confidants, eventually the mother of his heir, and an accomplished warrior and competent administrator. As the Crown Princess of Elfrieden, she's also the highest of his wives in social rank until Maria Euphoria and the source of his legitimacy as king. As a result, she claims the title of first primary queen, as well as veto power over further marriages. None of his other wives contest her on this, viewing her as somewhat of a big sister.
  • Hybrid × Heart Magias Academy Ataraxia: Zigzagged. While Aine is canonically acknowledged as Kizuna's favorite among the Hybrid Heart Gears, her position seems tenuous to her and the fandom, because the one he spends most of his time with is his big sister, Reiri. Which causes Aine and the rest of the harem to complain that Reiri is monopolizing Kizuna, because he has a responsibility to perform Climax Hybrid sessions with them too.
  • In Another World with My Smartphone: Invoked trope by Yumina, the first girl to propose to Touya. When she learns that the other girls in their group love Touya, she's happy about it and deliberately makes arrangements for all of them to become brides. When Touya does indeed Marry Them All later, Yumina become the chairman of the "Bride Conference". Furthermore, Yumina becomes absolutely livid when another girl steals Touya's Sacred First Kiss, shouting "Even I haven't done that!", and all of the girls still compete for Touya's immediate attention in more light-hearted fashion. Further, Yumina later tells Touya that she doesn't care if he has a handful or dozens of concubines—but he had better take care of and love all of them.
  • Isekai Cheat Magician: Discussed early in the series, when Sumella is defeated by Taichi and immediately proposes that he take her as his wife. She also states that if he is spoken for, then she would gladly accept the position of concubine, but still wants at least three children out of him.
  • The Joy Luck Club: An-Mei's mother was raped and forced to marry a wealthy man, becoming his fourth wife. In that household, An-Mei observes that the first wife has faded into the background as she's grown old and only bore daughters. It's actually the second wife who has sway because she's the one who bore the husband a son. Eventually it's revealed that the son is actually An-Mei's half-brother and, after their mother's suicide, the husband is shamed into raising An-Mei and his son with the honor accorded to the children of a first wife. The second wife, meanwhile, loses her status within the family and is reported to have aged quickly afterwards.
  • Judge Dee has three wives, the first of whom (aptly named "the First Lady" by the books) is the daughter of his father's Best Friend and generally runs the Judge's household. The other two view her as their superior, even though Dee himself does his best not to play favorites.
  • Kanokon: The end of the series establishes Chizuru as the Official Couple and girl that will marry Kouta. The Stinger, however, has Nozomu return and state that she'll settle for being The Mistress and Chizuru agrees to it.
  • A Gender Flipped example from the Mahabharata: Draupadi is married to 5 men at once (the Pandavas brothers), and though she does care for all of them one way or another, Arjuna is her favorite. This is because Arjuna is the incarnation of the god Indra, and Draupadi is the reincarnation of his wife Indrani. This comes back to bite her in the ass later, because she collapses on the mountain climb to Heaven as a result of "playing favorites."
  • Maoyu: Demon Queen and Knight quickly become friends despite their mutual feelings for Hero. During one conversation with him, Knight accidentally says that they need to settle who's the wife and the mistress. On other occasions, when a situation makes it impossible or improbable for the girls to have him exclusively, they begin to bicker over who takes priority.
  • The Master of Ragnarok & Blesser of Einherjar: Yuuto eventually brings Mitsuki back to Yggdrasil with him, but states he'll only do so if she marries him. She does. Later, the other women in his harem all becomes his concubines, but Mitsuki remains his number one and also bears his first child.
  • Overlord (2012): Albedo and Shalltear are competing over who will become Momonga/Ainz's "legal wife" since it's only natural for an Evil Overlord to have multiple wives. Never mind that Ainz is an animated skeleton who wouldn't be able to sleep with them, not to mention that as the NPCs created by his friends, he thinks of them as their children.
  • Re:Zero: The woman Subaru loves first and foremost is Emilia. Later in the series, he develops romantic feelings for the maid Rem while retaining his love for Emilia. Subaru then admits equally loving both girls and intends to marry both of them if Emilia gives him permission. However, the story continues to position Emilia as the only main female heroine and Subaru's One True Love. Also, Rem spends a chunk of the series in a coma and her romantic involvement with Subaru gets seriously downplayed as a result.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Aegon the Conqueror married both his sisters, Rhaenys and Visenya. However, he favored Rhaenys because he married her out of love, and Visenya because custom demanded he marry the oldest. Of course, both of them competed for Aegon's affection. You'd think Visenya might come out ahead after Rhaenys died, but no. After her death, Aegon became sad and withdrawn and his relationship with Visenya deteriorated as well. In the end, Visenya birthed only one successor to Aegon, the infamously cruel Maegor I, with every Targaryen king after him descending from Rhaenys' line.
    • In Ironborn custom, men can have as many "salt-wives" (women captured in their raids to serve as concubines) as they want, but they are allowed to keep only one "rock wife" (a female Ironborn native). Salt-wives have lower status in Ironborn society, while rock wives are considered an ironborn's true spouse, whose children are supposed to be their legitimate heirs. King Euron Greyjoy intends to break tradition by having a non-Ironborn such as Daenerys Targaryen as his rock wife, not only because of her legendary and highly sought beauty but also the political influence he would gain from such union.
  • Strike the Blood: In the OVA, La Folia is the first girl to propose to Kojou and claims to have no issues at all with Kojou's relationships with other women. However, when the subject of polygamy is raised, she brazenly offers Yukina the position of "second wife". In reality, Yukina is without a doubt at the top of the food chain to the point that the audience could assume a First Girl Wins ending was imminent, if we didn't have prior knowledge that Kojou hooks up with multiple women in the future. It becomes complicated later, however; Yukina sure enough becomes his "blood partner" after being bitten one too many times vampirizes her and gives her a fraction of his power...making them bonded for life. After this, most competition to "outdo" Yukina ceases, save for his Childhood Friend Asagi who refuses to back down. As it turns out, both she and Yukina are mutually jealous of each other's irreplaceable importance to Kojou and each reluctantly sees the other as being "closer" to him. Meanwhile, La Folia takes it upon herself to help push Kojou into becoming a sovereign ruler of his own nation, as well as securing him a harem of wives (which, of course, includes herself).
  • Things Fall Apart is a somewhat darker example considering that the main character Okonkwo—despite working very hard to provide for his family—has an explosive temper and becomes abusive to his wives and his children when provoked. He has three wives: Nwoye's unnamed mother, Ekwefi, and Ojiugo. Though Ekwefi is the second wife, she's Okonkwo's favorite; she was once the village beauty who fell in love with him when he won a wrestling match, and it's implied he wanted to marry her too, but was too poor to pay her dowry, so she was married to someone else until she ran away to be with him years later. And despite her fertility issues and many miscarriages, the one child they do have together, her daughter Ezinma, is also her husband's favorite child despite his sexism. By contrast to them being confirmed to have married out of desire for each other, we see next to nothing about Okonkwo's relationships with his other two wives, nor is he shown having any warm moments with them one-on-one, leaving the natures of these marriages more ambiguous.
  • In A Thousand Splendid Suns, Rasheed blatantly favours his second wife Laila over his first Mariam, as she's younger, prettier and more likely to give him the son he wants (Mariam was never able to carry a pregnancy to term). Rasheed even sells off Mariam's wedding band to buy a better one for Laila. Mariam initially resents Laila for this, not because she has any affection for Rasheed but because after spending years being abused and belittled by Rasheed she's now expected to wait hand and foot on his new wife. However, things change when Laila gives birth to a daughter instead of a son and spends all her time doting upon the baby, all but ignoring Rasheed. When Laila stops Rasheed from beating Mariam, the two wives become increasingly close, with Laila confiding she only married Rasheed to give her unborn child a home and she never wanted to supplant Mariam. Rasheed grows to despise both his wives, though ironically it is Laila who bears the brunt of his abuse because she frequently stands up to him or tries to fight back, while Mariam tries to keep her head down.
  • Trapped in a Dating Sim: The World of Otome Games is Tough for Mobs: When Leon officially gets engaged to Angelica and Olivia, it's agreed that the former will be the official wife and the latter The Mistress, due to Angie's status as a duke's daughter. As they both love Leon and are close friends with each other, they're fine with the arrangement.
  • Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle: Once all the principal love interests are established, the women reluctantly resign themselves to the fact that they must share Lux between each other. That doesn't mean they don't want to be his favorite, or seek to gain some sort of advantage/claim over the other (such as Lux being their fiance, knight, master, etc.).
  • World Break: Aria of Curse for a Holy Swordsman:
    • A very odd variation occurs between Ranjou and Elena, who both want the special status of "little sister" to Moroha. The title may not matter much to the rest of the harem, but between the two of them, it's Serious Business.
    • Another variation occurs with Maya, who (as Moroha's roommate) granted herself the title of his "body pillow". She's very protective of that status and is upset if Moroha sleeps beside anyone but her.
    • Angela considers Sir Edward to be her top love, but admits that Moroha is easily her "Number 2".

    Live-Action TV 
  • Big Love has a polygamous off-shoot Mormon marriage. Of the three wives, Barbara is definitely number one, both by seniority and personality. It shows other polygamous marriages, some ordered and happy, others where newer and younger wives try to use that to gain status.
  • The Brown family in the reality show Sister Wives seeks to avert this trope, and yet falls into it all the same. Despite claims otherwise, the head wife is clearly Robin. She is the husband's favorite by virtue of being the most recent wife.
  • Waco: Rachel, as the first and legal wife of the leader of a Cult Colony, has a little of this attitude when she talks down to Judy, who has recently given birth to one of her husband David Koresh's children. She tuts that Judy, as the mother of one of Koresh's children, now has his ear, so she should follow Rachel's lead more.

    Religion and Mythology 
  • The Bible:
    • In the Book of Genesis, God promised Abraham a child when his wife Sarah was well into menopause. Sarah decided to help God out by giving Abraham one of her servants, Hagar, as a second wife with whom he conceived Ishmael, but God kept His original promise and Sarah also bore a son named Isaac. Jealousy set in between the two women and their sons, ending with Hagar and Ishmael banished from the house. And the descendants of Sarah and Hagar still fight each other to this day.
    • Abraham's grandson Jacob had two wives, Leah and Rachel, and two handmaids/concubines, Bilhah and Zilpah. The latter two are automatically lower than the others, and while Leah and Rachel seem to be officially equal, Rachel was Jacob's clear favorite. (Indeed, she was the only one Jacob really wanted to marry—he was tricked into marrying Leah.) Unfortunately, Rachel gets a roadside burial when she dies in childbirth while Leah, the surviving wife, gets the honor of being buried along with Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Rebekah in the tomb at the cave of Machpelah.
    • In 1st Samuel chapter 1, Elkanah had two wives, Hannah and Penninah. Hannah was the wife he loved, even though she was unable to conceive, while Penninah was just for bearing children. Penninah somehow gets jealous and starts causing trouble with Hannah, making her so upset that she goes into the temple of God and prays for Him to give her a son, and if He does, she would give him to the Lord as part of a Nazarite vow. God grants her request, and soon Hannah is the one who is singing and smiling as she conceives and gives birth to her first son, Samuel the prophet.
    • King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines, but one, known only as Pharaoh's Daughter, seems to have stood out above the others as his favorite as she was granted a palace of her own. However, there is also another wife who could be the candidate for this position: Princess Naamah the Ammonite, who bore Solomon a son and later his successor called Rehoboam. Unfortunately, the two of them along with some other wives led him into building pagan temples and thus offending God
    • In the Book of Esther, this role is first held by Vashti, until she refused her husband Ahasuerus's drunken request to parade before his party guests in her crown, and his advisors talked him into banishing her. Ahasuerus feels bad about that, but since he can't take it back, he holds a Beauty Contest (read: Casting Couch) to find a new queen. Young girls are brought to the palace, treated for a year with cosmetics and essential oils, and presented to him. Whichever one he likes best will be the Replacement Goldfish for Vashti, and everyone else stays in the Royal Harem (seeing as they're now unavailable to anyone else). It so happened that the one chosen was the eponymous Esther.
  • Classical Mythology: King Priam of Troy had multiple wives, but the highest-ranked of them all was his queen consort, Hecuba.

  • In Duke Bluebeard's Castle, while Bluebeard loves all his wives in their own ways, he praises Judith as the best of them all.

    Video Games 
  • Catherine: In the "True Chaos Ending", Vincent decides to marry the succubus Catherine and travel with her back to the underworld. In The Stinger, we see that Vincent has conquered the entire underworld, with Catherine as his queen and several succubi as his concubines. Catherine is the only one who shares his throne.
  • Crusader Kings II:
    • Muslims and Reformed Pagans with the Polygamy Doctrine can take up to four wives; said wives will sometimes compete for the position of First Wife, sometimes to the extreme of trying to murder one another or another wife's children.
    • Zoroastrians, most unreformed pagans, tribal Christians, and followers of the Indian religions can take up to three concubines in addition to their wife; the concubines don't compete with each other or with the wife, but they can be set aside at any time and their children face minor social stigma.
  • Fallout 3: Within the Republic of Dave, the player finds that President Dave has two wives—his original one, and another he picked up from wandering the wasteland. While Dave never indicates that he has a favorite, it's clear that the original wife isn't happy with the arrangement and that the second wife not only thinks she's the favorite, but that she should be Dave's only spouse.
  • Fire Emblem Fates: It's a plot point that King Garon had many concubines due to having taken the Marry Them All route, but also a legitimate wife. The first one, Katerina, was adored by the concubines. She died and got replaced by Arete, who was viewed as a Replacement Scrappy and greatly disliked.
  • Love of Magic: Emily is MC's official wife, and all the other members of MC's harem acknowledge Emily as having first claim, even the Chosen who are magically bound to him.
  • In Overlord II the player gets multiple mistresses over the course of the game and can choose one as First Mistress. Aside from determining who gets to walk around in your headquarters this also determines the mounts that you get access to in the final level.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Project JPDE, while the protagonist automatically has a polyamorous relationship, Evelyn insists during Ruby's route that she has to be top bunny. She continues to reference herself as such through the rest of the game.

  • The ultimate goal for all the Men Of The Harem in this gender-inverted Royal Harem. All five men chosen to be Emperor Latrasil’s consorts are determined to win her heart and be named her Royal Consort.
  • In the in-universe titular game of Concubine Walkthrough, the plot is about an imperial harem where the position of Empress is currently empty; the deposed empress is imprisoned, and no one has been promoted to fill her place. Doing so is the ultimate goal of the players.

    Western Animation 
  • American Dad!: The 2-part episode "Stan of Arabia" has Stan defect from the USA and convert to Islam, whereupon he takes a second wife for himself whom he nicknames "Thundercat." Thundercat makes it very clear that she plans to usurp Francine's position as "#1 wife", and does as much as she can to butter up Stan while undermining Francine. At one point, Stan starts a "point system" to needle Francine.

    Real Life 
  • The pharaohs of Ancient Egypt typically had a Great Royal Wife, who held the highest status of all the wives.
  • Some contemporary African polygynous societies have what's known as a "Great Wife".
  • Chinese polygamy legally worked like this as well; the status of the main wife is above that of concubines and maid-mistresses. Family laws from the Tang to Qing dynasties dictated that the status of a wife, concubines and maid-mistresses couldn't be altered.
  • Inca men of enough status could marry multiple wives. If they did, one woman served as the principal wife while any and all others were considered secondary.
  • Börte was the first and senior wife of Genghis Khan. During his campaigns, she served as "Grand Empress" and de-facto ruler of Mongolia, while the other wives typically accompanied him. Her four sons were also the only candidates considered for succeeding Genghis as Khan.
  • In Japanese culture, only monogamy was technically allowed and thus the term "Legal Wife" became common. Most wealthy or powerful men had also at least one concubine or mistress, though, who were secondary wives in all but name.
  • The Ottoman Empire under Suleyman the Magnificent had established the official title of haseki sultan (which means "chief consort" or "single favorite") in honor of his favorite harem girl Roxelana. It fell out of use after the 17th century when the ladies now where referred to as "hatun" or "kadin" (roughly "lady") instead.
  • Timur the Lame had 18 wives and 24 concubines, but his chief consort was Saray Mulk Khanum, a Mongol princess and direct descendant of Genghis Khan. While she didn't have any children with him (at least not any that survived into adulthood), she was his first and most important wife, since she gave legitimacy to him as a Khan.
  • Kamehameha the Great, founder and first ruler of the Kingdom of Hawaii, had at least thirty wives. But the highest-ranked of them was Keōpūolani, and his children by her became his successors.
    • This trope gets a little more complicated in the case of Kamehameha's court overall. Keōpūolani was married off to him (at age 11) following his conquest of Maui, as a peace offering. Her lineage made her an incredibly valuable marriage partner, but she wielded little political power on her own. By all accounts, it was another of Kamehameha's wives, Queen Ka'ahumanu, who most held his favor, and wielded the most influence both before and after his death. When he passed, Keōpūolani's eldest son Liholiho succeeded as Kamehameha II, but Ka'ahumanu convinced the rest of the court that Kamehameha's dying wish had been for them to share power, and created the position of "kuhina nui" (roughly, regent) for herself. Scholars generally agree she was for all intents and purposes the real power behind the throne for all of Liholiho's reign.
  • Celtic society allowed a man to take a second wife under Brehon Law. One of them would be known as the 'Chief Wife' and was actually allowed to abuse the second if she wished.
  • Jean-Bédel Bokassa, dictator of the Central African Republic, had seventeen wives, but the highest-ranked among them was Catherine Denguiadé. When Bokassa declared himself emperor, she became empress and his son with her was named crown prince.