AskDefine | Define dynasty

Dictionary Definition

dynasty n : a sequence of powerful leaders in the same family

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. A series of rulers or dynasts from one family.


A series of rulers or dynasts from one family

Derived terms

Extensive Definition

A dynasty is a succession of rulers who belong to the same family for generations. A dynasty is also often called a "house", e.g. the House of Saud or House of Habsburg. In the histories of Europe, much of Asia and some of Africa, ruling and noble houses have usually been patrilineal; inheritance and kinship being predominantly viewed and legally calculated through descent from a common ancestor in the male line. Often, however, if the male lineage died out, descendants through females (and sometimes the females themselves) were recognized as entitled to inherit the dynasty's realms and/or wealth.
The term "dynasty" is also used to describe the era during which a family reigned, as well as events, trends and artifacts of that period, e.g. "Ming dynasty vase". In such cases, often the "dynasty" is dropped but the name may be used adjectively, e.g. "Tudor style", "Ottoman expansion", "Romanov decadence". Historians traditionally consider a state's history within a framework of successive dynasties, particularly with such nations as China, Ancient Egypt and the Persian Empire. Much of European political history was dominated, successively and together, by dynasties such as the Carolingians, the Capetians, the Habsburgs, the Stuarts, the Hohenzollerns and the Romanovs. Until the nineteenth century, it was taken for granted that a legitimate function of a monarch was to aggrandize his dynasty, that is, to increase the territory, wealth and power of family members.
Dynastic names may not be the same as individual surnames, in that titles are customarily used instead. Or the name of the dynasty may follow the throne by descending through females, e.g. the current heads of the dynasties of Grimaldi, Habsburg, Orange and Romanov actually descend paternally from, respectively, the houses of Polignac (Chalençon), Lorraine, Lippe and Oldenburg. Also, often a new dynastic name does not signal an altogether different family, so much as a new branch of the dynasty that has obtained the throne: kings of the House of Anjou, Bourbon, Valois and Burgundy dynasties were all male-line descendants of Hugh Capet of France and are collectively called Capetians. Thus, by a royal decree of 1960 the British ruling dynasty remains the House of Windsor, despite the present Queen having married Philip Mountbatten, who is by birth a prince of the reigning Danish dynasty of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, itself a branch of the House of Oldenburg, of which the Romanovs descended from Peter III were also agnatic descendants.
Dynasties may change due to war, but also when a king fails to produce an heir, sometimes resulting in a maternal relative's succession. The dynasty usually then takes the name of that successor's paternal family name.


A ruler in a dynasty is sometimes referred to as a dynast, but this term is also used to describe any member of a reigning family who retains succession rights to a throne. For example, following his abdication, Edward VIII of the United Kingdom ceased to be a dynastic member of the House of Windsor.
A "dynastic marriage" is one that complies with monarchical house law restrictions, so that the descendants are eligible to inherit the throne and/or other royal privileges. For instance, the 2002 marriage of Willem-Alexander, Prince of Orange to Máxima Zorreguieta was dynastic, and their eldest child is expected to eventually inherit the Dutch crown. But the marriage of his younger brother Prince Friso to Mabel Wisse Smit in 2003 lacked government support and parliamentary approval. Thus Friso forfeited his place in the order of succession, lost his title as a Prince of the Netherlands, and his children have no dynastic rights.
In historical and monarchist references to formerly reigning families, dynastic describes a family member who would have succession rights if the monarchy's rules were still in force. For example, after the 1914 assassinations of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his morganatic wife Sophie von Hohenberg, their son Max was bypassed for the Austrian throne because he was not a Habsburg dynast. Even since abolition of the Austrian monarchy, Max and his descendants have not been considered the rightful pretenders by Austrian monarchists, nor have they claimed that position.
The term "dynast" is sometimes used to refer to agnatic descendants of a realm's monarchs, and sometimes to those who hold succession rights through cognatic royal descent. The term can therefore describe overlapping but distinct sets of people. For example, David Armstrong-Jones, Viscount Linley, a nephew of Queen Elizabeth II through her late sister, Princess Margaret, is in the line of succession to the British crown, and in that sense is a British dynast. Yet he is not a male-line member of the royal family, and is therefore not a dynast of the House of Windsor.
On the other hand, the German aristocrat Ernst August, Prince of Hanover (born 1954), although a male-line descendant of George III of the United Kingdom, is a remote descendant with no legal British titles and styles (although he is entitled to re-claim the once-royal dukedom of Cumberland). Yet he was born in the line of succession to the British crown and is bound by the Royal Marriages Act 1772. Thus, in 1999 he requested and obtained formal permission from Elizabeth II to marry Princess Caroline of Monaco. But immediately upon marriage he forfeited his (remote) claim to the British throne because she is a Roman Catholic and Ernst August is also bound by the English Act of Settlement 1701 which permanently deprives dynasts of succession rights upon marriage to a Roman Catholic. However, the couple's daughter, Princess Alexandra of Hanover (born 1999), remains a legal dynast of both the United Kingdom and Monaco, not to mention her father's claim to dynasticity as pretender to the former royal crown of Hanover (although she cannot succeed as a female).

Dynasties by region






Inca Empire



India (including parts thereof)



The next house after the death of Queen Elizabeth II will be the House of Mountbatten-Windsor



Political families in Republics

Main article: Political families of the world
Though in elected governments rule does not pass automatically by inheritance, political power often accrues to generations of related individuals even in Republics. Eminence, Influence, familiarity, tradition, genetics, and even nepotism may contribute to this phenomenon.
Some political dynasties:


dynasty in Tosk Albanian: Dynastie
dynasty in Bosnian: Dinastija
dynasty in Breton: Tierniezh
dynasty in Bulgarian: Династия
dynasty in Catalan: Dinastia
dynasty in Czech: Dynastie
dynasty in Danish: Dynasti
dynasty in German: Dynastie
dynasty in Spanish: Dinastía
dynasty in Esperanto: Dinastio
dynasty in French: Dynastie
dynasty in Croatian: Dinastija
dynasty in Italian: Dinastia
dynasty in Hebrew: שושלת
dynasty in Lithuanian: Dinastija
dynasty in Hungarian: Dinasztia
dynasty in Dutch: Dynastie
dynasty in Japanese: 王朝
dynasty in Norwegian: Dynasti
dynasty in Polish: Dynastia
dynasty in Portuguese: Dinastia
dynasty in Russian: Династия
dynasty in Simple English: Dynasty
dynasty in Slovak: Dynastia
dynasty in Finnish: Hallitsijasuku
dynasty in Swedish: Dynasti
dynasty in Thai: ราชวงศ์
dynasty in Ukrainian: Династія
dynasty in Chinese: 朝代
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