A pretender is a claimant to an abolished throne or to a throne already occupied by somebody else. The English word "" comes from the French word "prétendre", meaning "to put forward, to profess or claim". The term pretender is also applied to those persons on whose behalf a claim to a throne is advanced, regardless of whether that person himself actually makes an active claim.Fact|date=August 2007 Significantly, the word pretender applies both to claimants with genuine rights to the throne (such as the various pretenders of the Wars of the Roses), and to those with fabricated claims (such as the pretender to Henry VII's throne Lambert Simnel). The papal equivalent of a pretender is an antipope.

Modern pretenders

The following list contains current pretenders. During the monarchical period of some countries listed here, there was no reigning house as it is known in the European sense – those are for example Tibet or the Central African Empire. These countries have a — in the column "House".




Satara, Surat, Alwar, Balasinor, Banganapalle, Baroda, Bhopal, Gwalior, Hyderabad, Idar, Indore, Jodhpur Kolhapur Mysore and Udaipur do not mean the Indian cities but the former states on the territory of present-day's India.


Pretenders in the Roman Empire

Ancient Rome knew many pretenders to the office of Roman Emperor, especially during the crisis of the Third Century.

These are customarily referred to as the Thirty Tyrants, which was an allusion to the Thirty Tyrants at Athens some five hundred years earlier; although the comparison is questionable, and the Romans were separate aspirants, not (as the Athenians were) a Committee of Public Safety. The Loeb translation of the appropriate chapter of the Augustan History therefore represents the Latin "triginta tyranni" by "Thirty Pretenders" to avoid this artificial and confusing parallel. Not all of them were afterwards considered "pretenders"; several were actually successful in becoming Emperor in at least in part of the Empire for a brief period.

The Byzantine Empire

Disputed successions to the Empire continued at Constantinople. Most seriously, after the fall of Constantinople to the Fourth Crusade in 1204, and its eventual recovery by Michael VIII Palaeologus, there came to be three Byzantine successor states, each of which claimed to be the Roman Empire, and several Latin claimants (including the Republic of Venice and the houses of Montferrat and Courtenay) to the Latin Empire the Crusaders had set up in its place. There were sometimes multiple claimants to some of the inheritances, as well.

Cypriot pretenders

Following the defeat and death of King Jacques III of Cyprus in 1474, his younger and illegitimate brother, Eugene Matteo de Armenia (c1485-1523) had moved to Sicily, then Malta. He was acknowledged as Heir to Cyprus, Armenia, Jerusalem and Antioch, though never took it seriously. From a genealogical point, Eugene Matteo (de Lusignan) de Armenia was created a Sicilian title and worked as a Jurat in Malta and in Sicily.

French pretenders

Following the death of the childless legitimist pretender "Henry V", Comte de Chambord, grandson of King Charles X of France in the 1880s, the majority of French monarchists accepted his distant relative, the Orleanist pretender, the Comte de Paris, grandson of King Louis-Philippe (who descends from King Louis XIII) as the pretender to the French throne. A small minority refused to accept this designation, and chose instead a descendant of Louis XIV and the Spanish line.

The arguments are, on one side, that Philip V of Spain renounced any future claim to the French throne when he became King of Spain, and that the Dukes of Orleans were therefore recognized as the next heirs before the French Revolution. On the other side, that this renunciation was invalid and impossible, and (in some cases) that Philippe Égalité and Louis-Philippe forfeited any remaining right to the crown for disloyalty. Hence there are two pretenders to the French throne; though the Orleanist pretender, the present Comte de Paris, is accepted by most French monarchists as "the" pretender, as the list above shows.

There is also a pretender to the imperial throne of France, in the person of Charles Napoléon, descendant of the Prince Napoléon.

Russian pretenders

There is much debate over who is the legitimate heir to the Russian throne. Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna is considered by some to be the legitimate heir. She is the daughter of Grand Duke Vladimir who some considered the last male dynast. Supporters of Prince Nicholas' claim believe she is born of a morganatic marriage and therefore not entitled to inherit the throne under strict Russian succession law. Unequal marriages have made tracking a legitimate heir to the Russian throne very difficult, and some believe there is no legitimate heir at all. Nicholas Romanov, Prince of Russia a descendant of Emperor Nicholas I and president of Romanov Family Association believes himself to be Grand Duke Vladimir's successor. He is regarded by some as the head of the family, [ [ Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark] ] but supporters of Grand Duchess Maria's claim believe he is born of a morganatic marriage and therefore not entitled to inherit the throne under strict Russian succession law, Prince Nicholas disputes this and considers himself a Russian dynast. Those who impersonated the murdered daughters of Nicholas II were not pretenders to the throne, as women could not succeed to the Russian throne while a male dynast was alive. Anna Anderson attempted to prove she was the lost daughter of Nicholas II, Anastasia, but DNA testing on her remains proved her claim false.

English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh and British pretenders

England and Scotland

Pretenders to the thrones of the United Kingdom and its predecessor realms, as well as the other historical jurisdictions that are modernly England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, have existed from time to time, though there are now very few. Ireland declared itself a republic in 1949, essentially rendering the discussion of modern Irish pretenders a moot point. Among those who have been pretenders to the thrones of the United Kingdom and/or its predecessor or constituent nations are:

*James Francis Edward Stuart, the Roman Catholic son of the deposed King James VII and II, was barred from the succession to the throne by the Act of Settlement 1701. Notwithstanding the Act of Union 1707, he claimed the separate thrones of Scotland, as James VIII, and of England and Ireland, as James III, until his death in 1766. In Jacobite terms, Acts of Parliament (of England or Scotland) after 1688, (including the Acts of Union) did not receive the required Royal Assent of the legitimate Jacobite monarch and, therefore, were without legal effect.

*Charles Edward Stuart, James' elder son, the would-be Charles III, known as "Bonnie Prince Charlie", died in 1788. His younger brother, Henry Benedict Stuart, took up the claim to the throne as the would-be Henry IX of England, though he was the final Jacobite heir to publicly do so. He died in 1807.

The current Jacobite pretender is Franz, Duke of Bavaria, though he himself does not claim the title.


Owain Glyndŵr (1349-1416) is probably the best-known Welsh pretender, though whether he was pretender or Prince of Wales depends upon your source of information. Officially, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, who died in 1282, was the last native and arguably greatest Prince of Wales. Since 1301, the Prince of Wales has been the eldest living son of the King or Queen Regnant of England (subsequently of Great Britain, 1707, and of United Kingdom, 1801). The word "living" is important. Upon the death of Arthur, Prince of Wales, Henry VII invested his second son, the future Henry VIII, with the title. The title is not automatic, however, but merges into the Crown when a prince dies or accedes to the throne, and has to be re-conferred by the sovereign.

Nevertheless, it is Glyndŵr whom many remember as the last native Prince of Wales. He was indeed proclaimed Prince of Wales by his supporters on 16 September 1400, and his revolt in quest of Welsh independence was not quashed by Henry IV until 1409. Later, however, one of Glyndŵr's cousins, Owain Tudor, would marry the widow of Henry V, and their grandson would become Henry VII, from whom the current British monarch is descended (through his daughter Margaret Tudor, who was married off to James IV of Scotland). So, in a way, Glyndŵr might be said to have had the last laugh.


The business of Irish pretenders is rather more complicated because of the nature of kingship in Ireland before the Norman take-over of 1171. In both Ireland and Scotland, succession to kingship was elective, often (if not usually) by contest, according to matrilineal descent. That is, the head of state of any kingdom, sub-kingdom, high kingdom, etc., was always a king, but the king always inherited the crown through his mother, as a ranking princess royal, not through his father. (See, e.g., "The Lion in the North: A Personal View of Scotland's History", by John Prebble ISBN 0-14-003652-0 ; among other works.)

Thus, you, as king, would not be succeeded by your own son but would normally be succeeded by your mother's other sons; then by your sisters' sons; then, your maternal aunt's sons; and so on, traveling through the female line of the royal house. This combination of male succession through matrilineal descent produced a cumbersome system under which the throne passed cyclically from brother to brother, then uncle to nephew, and then cousin to cousin, before starting over as brother to brother, uncle to nephew, etc. {See, e.g., "The Lion in the North: A Personal View of Scotland's History", by John Prebble; among other works.} In Ireland, however, the high king from the time of Maelsheachlainn I (died 862) exercised a measure of control over the country. He belonged to the Ui Neill dynasty and under the Brehon laws, succession was open to any kinsman up to and including second cousin. His dynasty is today represented by the O'Neill family who would regard their head as the pretender. The O Conor dynasty provided two high kings and the head of the family, the O Conor Don, would also be considered a pretender to the Irish throne. The descendants of Brian Boroimhe are represented by Lord Inchiquin, who is also regarded as a claimant. In addition, pretenders or claimants exist to the localised kingdoms of Breifne, Fermanagh, Tyrconnel and Leinster. The O'Neills would also be regarded as claimants to the throne of Aileach and Lord Inchiquin to the throne of Thomond.

In Scotland, Malcolm II tried to get around this system by killing off all of the heirs between himself and his grandson, Duncan; except for Prince Lulach of Moray, who was just five years old at the time and - more importantly - was successfully rumoured to be half-witted (thus, he survived). Duncan I did become king, but Lulach's stepfather, Maelbeth - rendered "Macbeth" in English - successfully claimed the throne in his own right and on Lulach's behalf.

Duncan I's son, Malcolm III 'Canmore', ultimately returned from exile in England and took the throne from Maelbeth and Lulach (the latter reigning 1057-1058, after the death of Maelbeth in battle against Malcolm). Malcolm was succeeded by his brother, as Duncan II, but then by four of his own sons - one of whom, Edgar (1097-1107), changed the official language of Scotland from Gàidhlig (then, still a Scottish dialect of Old Irish) to Scots (then, a language similar to English but missing the Saxon element that has always been part of standard English). Gaelic dominance of Scotland ended during the reign of Alexander I (1107-1124), and the old Celtic system of matrilineal kingship finally ended and was replaced by a system of primogeniture.

Such a transition never happened in Ireland, but civil war and the imposition of Anglo-Norman rule intervened. Although Ireland had been culturally unified for centuries, it was not politically unified, even as a tribal nation. The Romans having ignored the big green island west of Britain, the Gaels themselves were the last people to successfully invade Ireland and, notwithstanding 750 years of English rule, it is very arguable whether the Norman English ever truly "conquered" Ireland. (They controlled Ireland, certainly, but that is not all there is to conquest.) So, even serious coastal encroachments by the Vikings a millennium after their arrival did not prompt the Gaels of Ireland to see a need for political unity even to build a concerted national defence.

The High King of Ireland was essentially a ceremonial, pseudo-federal overlord (where his over-lordship was even recognised), who exercised actual power only within the realm of which he was actually king. In the case of the southern branch of the Uí Niall, this would have been the Kingdom of Meath (modernly the counties of Meath, West Meath and part of County Dublin). High Kings from the northern branch of the family ruled various kingdoms in what eventually became the province of Ulster.

Nevertheless, the Uí Niall were apparently powerful in ceremony if not in politic, so that political unification of Ireland was not aided by the usurpation of the high kingship from Mael Sechnaill II and the southern Uí Niall in 1002 by "Briain ‘Boruma’ mac Cennédig", of the Kingdom of Munster. This was the third of the so-called "Three Usurpations of Brian Boru."

Brian Boru was a strong king who could have unified Ireland politically, and there is some suggestion he intended to make himself High King of Scotland as well. But he was killed in the Battle of Contarf in 1014, and twelve years as High King was not long enough to unify the island politically. Mael Sechnaill II was restored to the High Kingship but "he" died in 1022, too soon to undo the damage done by Brian's "coup." From 1022 through the Norman take-over of 1171, the High Kingship was held by "Kings with Opposition" - that is, whoever was strong enough to overthrow the High King of the day and take the Hill of Tara simply did so. This 150-year period of regnal unrest between families now called O'Brian, O'Conner, McLoughlin/O'Melaghlin, and others, was eventually immortalised in the children's game called "King of the Hill." The game is still popular among American children, who take turns trying to push each other off a low stool, chair, or other make-shift hill while arguing, "I'm king of the hill!" "No! I'm king!"

Because the native Irish high kingship never transitioned to a system of nation-state kingship primogeniture but simply faded into an oblivion of civil war between competing Irish royal families, there are literally as many as a million or more people who can make a claim to the ancient high kingship of Tara that is as equally valid as anybody else's under the old system disrupted by what may be called Brian Boru's "coup de tribe." Indeed, as a reputed descendant of Brian Boru and of the Uí Niall Dynasty both through his late grandmother, the current heir to the statutory throne that includes Northern Ireland, Prince Charles, could be considered a viable pretender to the high kingship of Ireland, especially as he "would" be making the claim through the female line of his ancestry. {The British Royal Family has publicly claimed descent from Brian Boru through the late Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, and from other ancestors associated with the Ui Niall Dynasty - usually via marriage through the Royal Family's Scottish ancestry; see the history section of the Royal Family's website for bloodlines and timelines.) But see the remarks above regarding existing native dynasties, whose claims are more valid than those of the current British royal family.

The claims of the British House of Windsor to the Tara Throne of the High Kings of Ireland are baseless since the Irish provincial royal thrones, as well as that of the High Kings can only be claimed strictly through the agnatic male line. Of all the former or reigning European royal houses, none have adhered more strictly to the agnatic principle than those of Ireland. Only recently, the Provincial Throne of Leinster was declared dormant, despite the existence of legitimate female line heirs. The claims by modern royal genealogists-most notably the late Lord Lyon, Sir Thomas Innes of Learney- that the Celtic monarchies of Ireland and Scotland relied heavily on the right of female line of succession is a complete fallacy, and one which has been used to attempt to justify the claims of the House of Windsor. Only the Pictish monarchy of Eastern and northern Scotland embraced this form of succession. The Scottish monarchy adhered strictly to the elective agnatic male-line, until the accession of MalColm II in 1005. This monarch first introduced the concept of hereditary monarchy in Scotland, mainly to end the strife between rival elective claimants. MalColm's new law allowed for both male and female line succession, but not without great conflict and strife which carried on for generations in Scotland. The Irish monarchies never at any stage allowed the introduction of female line succession.

Interestingly, some Irish rebels discussed offering the Irish throne to Prince Joachim of Prussia (son of Kaiser Wilhelm II) before the 1916 Easter Rising. This was obviously anti-English sentiment following the execution of the leaders of the rebellion. After the failure of the Rising (whose leaders established an Irish "republic"; the royalists were a minority among the rebels), the offer was, of course, never made. But had he been crowned, and Ireland had subsequently became a republic, Joachim's son, Franz Wilhelm, would be an Irish pretender; and, afterward, his son, George of Russia, would be an Irish as well as a Russian pretender.

Ottoman pretenders

Eldest son during the reign of his father, Mehmet the Conqueror claimed the Sultanate although he was defeated in battle months later by his eldest brother (by birth) Bayezid II. He fled to Rhodes Island then eventually to the Papal Territories. His descendants claimed Cem rights until Malta defeated the Ottomans in the 16th century. After the Ottoman empire was abolished, and the Republic of Turkey came into power, the successive heads of the Ottoman family claimed the throne of the Turkish empire.

Kingdom of Jerusalem

Since the fall of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, many European rulers have claimed to be its rightful heir. None of these, however, have actually ruled over a part of the former Kingdom. Today there are several potential European claimants on the basis of the inheritance of the title. None of the claimants have any power in the area of the former Kingdom. See the article Kings of Jerusalem for a list of potential claimants.

Outside of Europe, the Emperors of Ethiopia held the title of "King of Zion" through their claim of decent from the Biblical House of David through his son King Solomon. Menelik II dropped the use of this title. The Ethiopian Emperors continued to use the honorific of "Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah" up until the monarchy ended with the fall of Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974.

False pretenders

A number of individuals have claimed to be princes who disappeared or died under somewhat mysterious circumstances:
* Anna Anderson, who was one of several persons who claimed to be Grand Duchess Anastasia of Russia
* Bertrand of Rais, who claimed to be Baldwin I of Constantinople
* Lambert Simnel, who claimed to be Edward Plantagenet, 17th Earl of Warwick
* Perkin Warbeck, who claimed to be Richard of Shrewsbury, 1st Duke of York
* Yemelyan Pugachev, who claimed to be Peter III of Russia
* The three false Dimitris of Russia
** False Dmitriy I
** False Dmitriy II
** False Dmitriy III
* Karl Wilhelm Naundorff, who was one of over thirty persons who claimed to be Louis XVII of France

There have also been individuals who claimed to be descendants of royalty:
* Eugenio Lascorz, who claimed descent from the Lascaris of Byzantium
* Alexis Brimeyer, who claimed connections to various European royal houses
* Pierre Plantard, who claimed descent from Merovingian king Dagobert II
* Michel Roger Lafosse, who claims descent from Charles Edward Stuart
* Hiromichi Kumazawa (so-called "The Kumazawa Tenno"), who claimed descent from the last Tenno of Nancho (the Southern Court) of Japan
* Obren Christic, claimed illegitimate son of Milan I of Serbia.
* Hilda Toledano, claimed adulterine (illegitimate with no chance for legitimation) daughter of Carlos I of Portugal.
* Rosario Poidimani, designated, non-related heir of Hilda Toledano.

Japanese descendants of Chinese emperors

Japanese clans like the Hata clan were descended from the first emperor of china, Qin Shi Huang. See foreign clans in article Japanese clans for other descendants of Chinese emperors in Japan.

ee also

*List of Royal Houses
*Royal House
*List of Indian Princely States


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  • pretender — [prē ten′dər, priten′dər] n. 1. a person who pretends 2. a claimant to a throne 3. an aspirant 4. [P ] in English history, the son or the grandson of James II: see OLD PRETENDER, YOUNG PRETENDER …   English World dictionary

  • Pretender — Pre*tend er, n. 1. One who lays claim, or asserts a title (to something); a claimant. Specifically, The pretender (Eng. Hist.), the son or the grandson of James II., the heir of the royal family of Stuart, who laid claim to the throne of Great… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • pretender — Se conjuga como: temer Infinitivo: Gerundio: Participio: pretender pretendiendo pretendido     Indicativo   presente imperfecto pretérito futuro condicional yo tú él, ella, Ud. nosotros vosotros ellos, ellas, Uds. pretendo pretendes pretende… …   Wordreference Spanish Conjugations Dictionary

  • pretender — index fake, pedant Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • pretender — |ê| v. tr. 1. Reclamar (alguma coisa) como um direito. 2. Solicitar; requerer. 3. Desejar, querer; apetecer. 4. Exigir. 5. Intentar, diligenciar. 6. Afirmar, sustentar ou asseverar (sem fundamento). • v. intr. 7. Empregar diligências, tratar de.… …   Dicionário da Língua Portuguesa

  • pretender — (Del lat. praetendĕre). 1. tr. Querer ser o conseguir algo. 2. Hacer diligencias para conseguir algo. 3. Dicho de una persona: Cortejar a otra …   Diccionario de la lengua española

  • pretender — ► NOUN ▪ a person who claims or aspires to a title or position …   English terms dictionary

  • Pretender — Seriendaten Deutscher Titel Pretender Originaltitel The Pretender Produkti …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • pretender — n. a pretender to (a pretender to a throne) * * * [prɪ tendə] a pretender to (a pretender to a throne) …   Combinatory dictionary

  • pretender — (Del lat. praetendere, tender por delante.) ► verbo transitivo 1 Desear hacer o conseguir una cosa: ■ pretende comprarse ese abrigo tan caro. IRREG. participio .tb: pretenso SINÓNIMO procurar 2 Intentar aparentar una cosa que no es verdad: ■ …   Enciclopedia Universal

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