A dynasty is a sequence of rulers from the same family, usually in the context of a monarchical system, but sometimes also appearing in republics. A dynasty may also be referred to as a "house", "family" or "clan", among others. The longest surviving dynasty in the world is the Imperial House of Japan, otherwise known as the Yamato dynasty, whose reign is traditionally dated to 660 BC and historically attested from AD 781.
Historians periodize the histories of many states and civilizations, such as Ancient Iran (3200 - 539 BC), Ancient Egypt (3100 – 30 BC) and Ancient and Imperial China (2070 BC – AD 1912), using a framework of successive dynasties. As such, the term "dynasty" may be used to delimit the era during which a family reigned.
Before the 18th century, most dynasties throughout the world have traditionally been reckoned patrilineally, such as those that follow the Frankish Salic law. In polities where it was permitted, succession through a daughter usually established a new dynasty in her husband's family name. This has changed in all of Europe's remaining monarchies, where succession law and conventions have maintained dynastic names de jure through a female.
Dynastic politics has declined over time, owing to a decline in monarchy as a form of government, a rise in democracy, and a reduction within democracies of elected members from dynastic families.
The word dynasty derives from Latin dynastia, which comes from Ancient Greek δυναστεία (dynastéia), where it referred to 'power', 'dominion', and 'rule' itself. It was the abstract noun of δυνάστης (dynástēs), the agent noun of δύναμις (dynamis) 'power" or 'ability', from δύναμαι (dýnamai) 'to be able'.
The word "dynasty" is sometimes used informally for people who are not rulers but are, for example, members of a family with influence and power in other areas, such as a series of successive owners of a major company. It is also extended to unrelated people, such as major poets of the same school or various rosters of a single sports team.
The dynastic family or lineage may be known as a "noble house", which may be styled as "imperial", "royal", "princely", "ducal", "comital" or "baronial", depending upon the chief or present title borne by its members.
A ruler from 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 a right to succeed to a throne. For example, King Edward VIII ceased to be a dynast of the House of Windsor following his abdication.
In historical and monarchist references to formerly reigning families, a "dynast" is a family member who would have had succession rights, were the monarchy's rules still in force. For example, after the 1914 assassinations of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his morganatic wife, their son Maximilian, Duke of Hohenberg, was bypassed for the Austro-Hungarian throne because he was not a Habsburg dynast. Even after the abolition of the Austrian monarchy, Duke Maximilian 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 only to refer to agnatic descendants of a realm's monarchs, and sometimes to include 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, 2nd Earl of Snowdon, a nephew of Queen Elizabeth II, is in the line of succession to the British crown; making him a British dynast. On the other hand, since he is not a patrilineal member of the British royal family, he is therefore not a dynast of the House of Windsor.
Comparatively, the German aristocrat Prince Ernst August of Hanover, a male-line descendant of King George III, possesses no legal British name, titles or styles (although he is entitled to reclaim the former royal dukedom of Cumberland). He was born in the line of succession to the British throne and was bound by Britain's Royal Marriages Act 1772 until it was repealed when the Succession to the Crown Act 2013 took effect on 26 March 2015. Thus, he requested and obtained formal permission from Queen Elizabeth II to marry the Roman Catholic Princess Caroline of Monaco in 1999. Yet, a clause of the English Act of Settlement 1701 remained in effect at that time, stipulating that dynasts who marry Roman Catholics are considered "dead" for the purpose of succession to the British throne. That exclusion, too, ceased to apply on 26 March 2015, with retroactive effect for those who had been dynasts before triggering it by marriage to a Roman Catholic.
A "dynastic marriage" is one that complies with monarchical house law restrictions, so that the descendants are eligible to inherit the throne or other royal privileges. For example, the marriage of King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands to Máxima Zorreguieta in 2002 was dynastic, making their eldest child, Princess Catharina-Amalia, the heir apparent to the Crown of the Netherlands. The marriage of his younger brother, Prince Friso of Orange-Nassau, in 2003 lacked government support and parliamentary approval. Thus, Prince Friso forfeited his place in the order of succession to the Dutch throne, and consequently lost his title as a "Prince of the Netherlands", and left his children without dynastic rights.
Historians periodize the histories of many states and civilizations, such as Ancient Iran (3200 - 539 BC), Ancient Egypt (3100 – 30 BC) and Ancient and Imperial China (2070 BC – AD 1912), using a framework of successive dynasties. As such, the term "dynasty" may be used to delimit the era during which a family reigned, and also to describe events, trends and artifacts of that period (e.g., "a Ming dynasty vase"). Until the 19th century, it was taken for granted that a legitimate function of a monarch was to aggrandize his dynasty: that is, to expand the wealth and power of his family members.
Before the 18th century, most dynasties throughout the world have traditionally been reckoned patrilineally, such as those that follow the Frankish Salic law. In polities where it was permitted, succession through a daughter usually established a new dynasty in her husband's family name. This has changed in all of Europe's remaining monarchies, where succession law and conventions have maintained dynastic names de jure through a female. For instance, the House of Windsor will be maintained through the children of Queen Elizabeth II, as it did with the monarchy of the Netherlands, whose dynasty remained the House of Orange-Nassau through three successive queens regnant. The earliest such example among major European monarchies was in the Russian Empire in the 18th century, where the name of the House of Romanov was maintained through Grand Duchess Anna Petrovna. This also happened in the case of Queen Maria II of Portugal, who married Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha-Koháry, but whose descendants remained members of the House of Braganza, per Portuguese law; in fact, since the 1800s, the only female monarch in Europe who had children belonging to a different house was Queen Victoria and that was due to disagreements over how to choose a non German house. In Limpopo Province of South Africa, Balobedu determined descent matrilineally, while rulers have at other times adopted the name of their mother's dynasty when coming into her inheritance. Less frequently, a monarchy has alternated or been rotated, in a multi-dynastic (or polydynastic) system—that is, the most senior living members of parallel dynasties, at any point in time, constitute the line of succession.
Dynasties lasting at least 250 years include the following. Legendary lineages that cannot be historically confirmed are not included.
|Era||Dynasty||Length of rule|
|781 CE – present (attested)[a]||Yamato||2803 years|
|4th Century BCE - 1618 CE||Pandya||2018 years est.|
|3rd Century BCE - 1279 CE||Chola||1579 years est.|
|57 BCE – 935 CE||Silla||c. 1000 years|
|950s CE – present
(title Tuʻi Tonga to 1865 CE)
(c. 910 years)
|c. 780 – 1812 CE||Bagrationi||c. 1032 years|
|c. 1700 BCE – 722 BCE||Adaside||c. 978 years|
|665 – 1598 CE||Baduspanids||933 years|
|987 – 1792 CE and 1814 – 1848||Capetian||839 years|
|1046–256 BCE||Zhou (Western Zhou and Eastern Zhou)||790 years|
|37 BCE – 668 CE||Goguryeo||705 years|
|1270 – 1974 CE||Solomon||704 years|
|651 – 1349 CE||Bavand dynasty||698 years|
|1299 – 1922 CE||Ottoman||c. 623 years|
|1228 – 1826 CE||Ahom||598 years|
|1326 – 1884 CE||Sisodia||558 years|
|1392 – 1910 CE||Joseon and Korean Empire||518 years|
|750 – 1258 CE||Abbasid||508 years|
|1370 – 1857 CE||Timurid||487 years|
|918 – 1392 CE||Goryeo||474 years|
|247 BCE – 224 CE||Arsacid||471 years|
|202 BCE – 9 CE, 25 – 220 CE||Han (Western Han and Eastern Han) and Shu Han||448 years|
|858 - 1301 CE||Árpád||443 years|
|224 – 651 CE||Sassanian||427 years|
|1010 BCE – 586 BCE||Davidic||424 years|
|730 BCE – 330 BCE||Achaemenid||400 years|
|1271 – 1635 CE||Yuan and Northern Yuan||364 years|
|1428 – 1527, 1533 – 1789 CE||Later Lê (Primitive Lê and Revival Lê)||355 years|
|1440 – 1740, 1765 – 1806 CE||Habsburg||341 years|
|1154 – 1485 CE||Plantagenet||330 years|
|1699 – present||Bendahara||323 years|
|960 –1279 CE||Song (Northern Song and Southern Song)||319 years|
|1613 – 1917 CE||Romanov||304 years|
|916 – 1218 CE||Liao and Western Liao||302 years|
|1616 – 1912 CE||Later Jin and Qing||296 years|
|1368 – 1662 CE||Ming and Southern Ming||294 years|
|305 – 30 BCE||Ptolemaic||275 years|
|618 – 690, 705 – 907 CE||Tang||274 years|
|1550 – 1292 BCE||Thutmosid||258 years|
Extant sovereign dynastiesEdit
Though in elected governments, rule does not pass automatically by inheritance, political power often accrues to generations of related individuals in the elected positions of republics, and constitutional monarchies. Eminence, influence, tradition, genetics, and nepotism may contribute to the phenomenon.
Family dictatorships are a different concept in which political power passes within a family because of the overwhelming authority of the leader, rather than informal power accrued to the family.
Influential wealthy familiesEdit
Ranavalona I, from the Hova Dynasty, was Queen Regnant of Madagascar from 1828 to 1861.
- Cadet branch
- Commonwealth realm
- Conquest dynasty
- Dynastic cycle
- Dynastic order
- Dynastic union
- Elective monarchy
- Family seat
- Heads of former ruling families
- Hereditary monarchy
- Iranian Intermezzo
- List of current constituent monarchs
- List of current monarchies
- List of current monarchs of sovereign states
- List of dynasties
- List of empires
- List of family trees
- List of kingdoms and royal dynasties
- List of largest empires
- List of monarchies
- List of noble houses
- Non-sovereign monarchy
- Royal family
- Royal household
- Royal intermarriage
- Self-proclaimed monarchy
- The claimed founding date of 660 BCE is not counted in this table due to its unattested nature.
- Existing sovereign entities ruled by non-dynastic monarchs include:
- The founder of a dynasty need not necessarily equate to the first monarch of a particular realm. For example, while William I was the dynastic founder of the House of Orange-Nassau which currently rules over the Kingdom of the Netherlands, he was never a monarch of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
- Not to be confused with dynastic seat.
- The House of Windsor is descended from the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, which is a branch of the House of Wettin. The dynastic name was changed from "Saxe-Coburg and Gotha" to "Windsor" in AD 1917.
- A sovereign state with Charles III as its monarch and head of state is known as a Commonwealth realm.
- George V was formerly a member of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha before AD 1917.
- The Realm of New Zealand consists of:
- Bailiwick of Guernsey (Crown dependency)
- Bailiwick of Jersey (Crown dependency)
- British Antarctic Territory
- British Indian Ocean Territory
- Cayman Islands
- Falkland Islands
- Isle of Man (Crown dependency)
- Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands
- Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
- South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
- Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia
- Turks and Caicos Islands
- Virgin Islands
- The House of Belgium is descended from the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, which is a branch of the House of Wettin. The dynastic name was changed from "Saxe-Coburg and Gotha" to "Belgium" in AD 1920.
- Albert I was formerly a member of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha before AD 1920.
- Claimed by the royal house, but the historicity is questionable.
- The House of Norodom is a branch of the Varman dynasty.
- The House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg is a branch of the House of Oldenburg.
- The Imperial House of Japan, or the Yamato dynasty, is the world's oldest continuous dynasty. The dynasty has produced an unbroken succession of Japanese monarchs since the legendary founding year of 660 BC.
- Most historians regard Emperor Jimmu to have been a mythical ruler. Emperor Ōjin, traditionally considered the 15th emperor, is the first who is generally thought to have existed, while Emperor Kinmei, the 29th emperor according to traditional historiography, is the first monarch for whom verifiable regnal dates can be assigned.
- The House of Hashim is descended from Banu Qatada, which was a branch of the House of Ali.
- The House of Luxembourg-Nassau is descended from the House of Nassau-Weilburg, which is a branch of the House of Nassau and the House of Bourbon-Parma.
- The Bendahara dynasty is the ruling dynasty of Pahang Darul Makmur and Terengganu. The Sultan of Pahang is the reigning Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia.
- The throne of Malaysia rotates among the nine constituent monarchies of Malaysia, each ruled by a dynasty. The Yang di-Pertuan Agong is elected by the Conference of Rulers.
- The House of Orange-Nassau is a branch of the House of Nassau. Additionally, Willem-Alexander is also linked to the House of Lippe through Beatrix of the Netherlands.
- The Kingdom of the Netherlands consists of:
- The House of Bourbon-Anjou is a branch of the House of Bourbon.
- The House of Nahyan is the ruling dynasty of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. The Emir of Abu Dhabi is the incumbent President of the United Arab Emirates.
- The President of the United Arab Emirates is elected by the Federal Supreme Council. The office has been held by the Emir of Abu Dhabi since the formation of the United Arab Emirates in AD 1971.
- Oxford English Dictionary, 1st ed. "dynasty, n." Oxford University Press (Oxford), 1897.
- Van Coppennolle, Brenda; Smith, Daniel (2023). "Dynasties in Historical Political Economy" (PDF). The Oxford Handbook of Historical Political Economy.
- Liddell, Henry George & al. A Greek–English Lexicon: "δυναστεία". Hosted by Tufts University's Perseus Project.
- Liddell & al. A Greek–English Lexicon: "δυνάστης".
- Liddell & al. A Greek–English Lexicon: "δύναμις".
- Liddell & al. "δύναμαι".
- Oxford English Dictionary, 3rd ed. "house, n.¹ and int, 10. b." Oxford University Press (Oxford), 2011.
- Statement by Nick Clegg MP, UK parliament website, 26 March 2015 (retrieved on same date).
- "Monaco royal taken seriously ill". BBC News. London. 8 April 2005. Archived from the original on 12 March 2010. Retrieved 27 January 2013.
- Thomson, David (1961). "The Institutions of Monarchy". Europe Since Napoleon. New York: Knopf. pp. 79–80.
The basic idea of monarchy was the idea that hereditary right gave the best title to political power...The dangers of disputed succession were best avoided by hereditary succession: ruling families had a natural interest in passing on to their descendants enhanced power and prestige...Frederick the Great of Prussia, Catherine the Great of Russia, Maria Theresa of Austria, were alike infatuated with the idea of strengthening their power, centralizing government in their own hands as against local and feudal privileges, and so acquiring more absolute authority in the state. Moreover, the very dynastic rivalries and conflicts between these eighteenth-century monarchs drove them to look for ever more efficient methods of government
- Harman, William. P (1992). The sacred marriage of a Hindu goddess. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 30–6. ISBN 978-81-208-0810-2.
- Sathayanatha Iyer (1924). History of the Nayaks of Madura. p. 58.