Dynasty

A dynasty is a sequence of rulers from the same family,[1] 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.[citation needed]

Charles I of England and his son, the future James II of England, from the House of Stuart.
The Qing dynasty was the final imperial dynasty of China. It was established in 1636 and collapsed in 1912.

The dynastic family or lineage may be known as a "noble house",[2] which may be styled as "imperial", "royal", "princely", "ducal", "comital" or "baronial", depending upon the chief or present title borne by its members.

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"). The word "dynasty" itself is often dropped from such adjectival references (e.g., "a Ming 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.[3]

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.

Not all monarchies were or are ruled by dynasties; modern-day examples are the Vatican City State, the Principality of Andorra, and the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta. Throughout history, there were monarchs that did not belong to any dynasty; non-dynastic rulers include King Arioald of the Lombards and Emperor Phocas of the Byzantine Empire. Dynasties ruling subnational monarchies do not possess sovereign rights; two modern examples are the monarchies of Malaysia and the royal families of the United Arab Emirates.

It is a common practice to attach the name of the dynasty before the common name of the state in reference to a state during which a dynasty was in power. For example, "Song China" refers to the Chinese state under the Song dynasty; "Habsburg Spain" for the Spanish realm ruled by the House of Habsburg; and "Pahlavi Iran" for the Iranian domain during which the Pahlavi dynasty reigned.

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.[1]


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