View Full Version : Quick medieval question

09-10-2005, 07:24 PM
In a kingdom, if the king dies, and their heir is too young to take the throne, who "oversees" the kingdom (the placeholder, the guy that watches the throne) until the heir is old enough to take the throne)? Can it be done by a Chancellor (they always seem to be evil in stories like this hehe), or is it done by some nobles?

I'm already bending a lot of rules (since I have the use of magic, and the heir is a girl, but that stuff does enhance the story :)), but I would still like for it to sound somewhat reasonable as well.

09-10-2005, 08:44 PM
In many real life systems a regent would become responsible. Who the regent is would depend, but in true, historical examples, it was someone, or multiple someones, who already held a position of authority in the kingdom.

09-10-2005, 08:58 PM
There have also been religious leaders used as Regents and this sets up all sorts of conflicts of intrest and fun stuff.

09-11-2005, 03:59 AM
Yes you could use a chancellor.
Most any circumstance you can devise within reason; from relatives to stewards holding office until the heir comes of age has been historically done.

If you're a real stickler for detail, you'll want to know how it was done in your land (if you're using real historical places, disregard if you're making up your own) but in the Norse tribes for instance, kings and leaders were chosen through combat and fighting ability. Another example, England, kings were chosen by birthright / lineage.

09-11-2005, 04:04 AM
An interesting point. There is no one answer; it would depend on the customs of the kingdom and perhaps the will of the late ruler. To cite a couple of examples: when Louis XIII died, and his son was only five, the queen (Anne of Austria) became regent despite the fact that (a) she wasn't French* and (b) she was a woman in a country where no woman could be the ruler, or even transmit inheritance. This helped to provoke a civil war (the Fronde)--rather a low-level war, without much bloodshed--with nobles ambitious to get control of the future king. Anne and her supporters won and she remained regent (with her advisor, Cardinal Mazarin) until Louis XIV came of age.

When Louis XIV died, and his great-grandson (yes, his eldest son and eldest grandson predeceased him) was a boy of five (history repeats itself), the Sun King's nearest male relative, the Duke of Orleans, became regent despite the fact that (a) Louis XIV's will stated that the Duke should never be regent and (b) the Duke was a pleasure-loving playboy (he coined the word roue--sorry I can't put an accent on it--to describe himself and his friends).

When Henry VIII died and his only son, Edward VI, became king at about the age of ten, power passed to a kind of committee of powerful nobles, who spent the next five years basically trying to eliminate each other.

The key thing is that the regent, or regents, will be of noble blood, and if possible related to the king. A "Chancellor," if he is just an appointee, would not be regent in a normal country. (Of course in a work of fiction anything can happen, I suppose.)
* She wasn't Austrian, either. She was Spanish.

09-11-2005, 04:21 AM
it depends on their age, too. which child was it who became king of england, like, at age twelve or something? your chinese emperor could have been still in diapers just about. personally, i like regent. queen elizabeth, the 'virgin queen,' never needed no stinkin' king to run a country, and she was one of the best royals to ever rule. i take it this is a fantasy, so as long as it's plausible, finding a real life example for factual support should be there, and if the reader rejects it that's his ignorance coming to bear.

for example, 'star wars epI' (i like using movie examples b/c i'm sure we've all seen it and not all read the same obscure books) has the young girl as en *elected* queen. i still don't think that sounds right, but, apparently, there's some historical reference to base that on. obscure? ridiculous? yeah, i think so, but i seem to be one of the few who thinks so. evenso, i still saw that dumb movie three times in the theatres just so i could argue how awful it was, heh heh.

one thing i never cared for, though, were books with an over-complicated heirarchy. it always felt as if too much complication of any kind was an attempt to hide a weak story. not only that, it's usually pretty boring. a regent is direct and to the point and probably has the most probability of reader recognition, which is usually the way to go. (is the regent by whatever name going to really, really like being the 'temporary king' to the point where he tries to kill the real heirs? been rather done, but pretty effective a lot of times, too.)

09-11-2005, 12:01 PM
Interesting replies, thanks guys (and gals)! Yeah, it's a work of fiction, so I'm basically making up a country (this story is actually kind of interesting in that it's sort of a "prequel" or "backstory" to my main novel, although I haven't told my workshop class that I'm writing for that yet hehe).

I think I'll stick with a Chancellor for now, as it sounds more familiar and just seems "cooler" than "regent". Of course, like virtually every other person ever put into a position of power, he's going to be corrupt and try to take over the throne (and gets the protagonist to unwittingly commit some pretty bad stuff along the way, including killing innocent people accidentally. There is a reason for it though, I'm not just killing people for the sake of a high body count. And yeah, the hero won't like it either).

09-11-2005, 09:46 PM
sure, the chancellor can become the regent, but by doing so, he would probably be henceforth called 'regent' and not 'chancellor' as that job as secretary to the king would have to be restaffed. too, regent up from chancellor would be a better title, one a corrupt person would be quick to make sure everyone knew about and be sure they knew the distinction.

i agree, chancellor is a cooler name than regent. at the same time, i'm not sure people would still go around calling him 'chancellor biff,' either. worth looking into? if the historic presidence is there for the title change, i'd be compelled to write towards the character and situation and nevermind my personal taste as the cost of foregoing accuracy. fantasy or not, if you're going to base the heirarchy on historic fact, it had better be reasonably accuracte.

i think you could have him become chancellor *after* the royal family is destroyed, or if the king went by the term chancellor himself for some reason, but in your example, i think the currently titled chancellor would be the secretary to the king, and the 'succession' makes him a regent. i'd imagine there's a title change involved. theoretically, i think, the regent would return to being a chancellor after a new king was put in place.

chancellor a more familiar term? i disagree. i bet if you polled twenty random americans in real life, you'd find far more accurate definitions of what a regent is than a chancellor.

09-11-2005, 11:18 PM
it depends on their age, too. which child was it who became king of england, like, at age twelve or something?

queen elizabeth, the 'virgin queen,' never needed no stinkin' king to run a country, and she was one of the best royals to ever rule.

the young girl as en *elected* queen. i still don't think that sounds right, but, apparently, there's some historical reference to base that on. )

1) See Edward VI, in my post above.

2) In Europe at this time, it was possible for women to be ruling queens in England and Russia. It would be possible in Austria after 1739. It would never be possible in France or any of the (many) Germanic states. Elizabeth inherited the throne at the age of 25, old enough to need no regent. (Her older sister, Mary, had also ruled alone--her marriage to Philip II of Spain was with an absentee husband.)

3) The only elected monarchy I know of is Poland. It didn't work. (The whole Star Wars business is just silly. I doubt that Mr. Lucas was drawing on any historical examples. He just wanted a "queen" but couldn't give up his PC notion of democracy as the only suiteble government for "good" people.)

09-11-2005, 11:41 PM
certainly, lucas' version is silly. honestly, who in their right mind would elect a queen (giving GL the benefit of the doubt, 'queen' must just be their word for president or whatever, as the 'queen' has no right to transfer inheritence of her throne to her heirs, or so it would seem), but a 'queen' of, what, about 16 years of age? only in fiction would i say that naboo deserved to be overrun if those people are that damn dumb. it reminds me of the old comic book 'teen president.' GL's sense of fantastic gov'ts are there from the first draft of 'the star wars,' where the absurdity makes it virtually unreadable. at the same time, yeah, i think GL knows there is *some* history that would bear him out at least tenuously on this. (in the first draft, the princess leia becomes queen through the assassination of her family.)

i say the chancellor *could* be a good option for regent. i'm not saying he'd be anyone's first pick just cuz. however, as an appointee, and one who would have such a close relationship to the king, ostensibly, then it's a possibility. whether or not the chancellor in this case is of noble blood might have a lot to do with it. it might be presumed that the king would pick his chancellor based not so much on his qualifications as much as, say, doing a favour for a noble friend. i wonder, though, if some distant royal could come in and claim regency over a loyal noble servant?

09-12-2005, 05:41 AM
Poland wasn't the only country with an elected monarchy. It occurred at various times in France, Sweden, Hawaii, and probably some others that I'm unaware of. Apparently, the idea worked well enough since some of them managed to go through several successions before other problems forced a change. In fact, one was overthrown by the US in 1893.

09-12-2005, 06:47 AM
the biggest flaw of lucas' system is having the queen serve terms. by definition, a monarch, regardless of how he or she achieves office, is ruler for life. (btw, amidala was supposed to be 14 in epI.)

lest it be thought that elective monarchies are some sort of preferred gov't system, those elective monarchies were in some cases established in hopes of it becoming a hereditary monarchy. in a way, elective monarchies may have been the most common form of monarchy... just the only people allowed to vote as a successor to the deceased king were the king's family. that's why, i think, the hereditary succession came to pass, to diffuse potentially disasterous power plays (which was a good theory, i guess, lol, though i can't say it worked great all the time) and create continuity. the hereditary monarchy was usually preferred over the elected monarchy, though, as the latter bred all sorts of problems with coups and such.

there are still in current operation elective monarchies, vatican city being probably the most well-known to us. so is cambodia, i think, and a few others.

is this an appropriate thread to note the differences between nobles and royalty?

09-12-2005, 01:05 PM
Lucas wanted the coolness of royalty, and the ethical comfort blanket of democracy - just like with the midichlorians(sp?) he was undercutting his own universe. [Descriptive expletive deleted]!

As regards the original question:

There's no standard rule for picking the Regent. It may well be the Mother, if she's alive and politically powerful enough. Otherwise, king's uncle was common. Failing that, a handy Archbishop. There's usually some sort of Council representing the main court factions, and sometimes the main aristo social classes (Peer, Baron, Knight).

In general, minorities suck. The Regent doesn't have the long-term power of the King, so isn't really feared. Worse, everybody's trying to influence the young king, or even seize his person.

The classice English instance is of course Richard II.

09-12-2005, 08:02 PM
therein lies a potential problem with her story if she doesn't specify who, how and why a regent takes over. it can be a chancellor, an archbishop, the king's uncle nephew's second cousin's roommate twice removed to the power of three... really whoever you want it to be, i guess. *but*... there should be a theory there. doesn't have to be anything complicated, just a mention of how it was arrived at that so-and-so becomes the top dawg. or it can be incredibly convoluted. (duh. i mention this only for the sake of thoroughness.)

i think you're absolutely right, Z: lucas was trying to stuff the romance of a monarchy down the throat of democracy. whether it worked is subjective (i found myself embarrassed to be a big 'star wars' fan at times). i think it's worth mentioning that you can have it somewhat both ways, monarchy and democracy, depending on how you handle it, the level of sophistication you want to put into it, and what your audience will bear to read. (i'm waiting for someone to say, 'america isn't a true democracy, it's a republic.')

personally, if you're going for mass appeal, i'd consider the position of regent (if you want to call it a chancellorly/ship, you'd probably be technically wrong and would have to explain that) as being one that's an elected office. there's plenty of room for commentary here. who puts the votes in? that polish system, if i remember right, was voted on by any noble who physically attended the vote, which, if they all did, could have been upwards of half a million people! now, in your world, it's unlikely all the peasants will have a vote for obvious reasons. i'd be like me voting for the mayor of your town. that is, the average dirt farmer has no idea who the candidates are. so, at best, what you'd have is a represenative vote, the nobility casting their ballots. that's essentially pretty americanized, at least enough so to where you've got a much more idealized version of how it should be than crass power plays and back-room politics to arrive at the temporary king. unless someone comes up with something better, i think this is a good system that's simple and yet has an innocence that sets itself up as being able to fall from grace. i feel a lot of it depends on the chancellor's attitude before being regent: does he manipulate his way into the seat or does he become corrupted by the power? that's very important to me as i feel it's got profound implications on the rest of the story's gov't situation.

the problem there is, as mentioned, historically, the church had an incredible influence. and lest we forget, the vatican could have been every bit as corrupt and brutal as any warlord or dictatorship. how these things are in your world i don't know, just yet more to consider.

short answer, yes, a chancellor can be regent. i think you've got enough evidence here to swing it given the idea you explain it at least a little bit. being fiction, it's not necessarily wide open, but you've got a lot of ways you can go and still be able to argue it's 'correct.' i don't know the level of intrigue you want. for me, i always had a problem writing these kinds of stories because once i start looking for a fact, i get caught up in all the history and the story starts becoming something else than i intended, lol.

09-12-2005, 08:13 PM
personally, if you're going for mass appeal, i'd consider the position of regent

Not if you're going for a medieval feel. Mass elections are very unmedieval.

09-12-2005, 09:28 PM
true. the polish system lasted from, what, the 16th to 18th century? something like that. i got the impression she was going for something a bit more modern feeling. still, the medieval age, from 1066 when william the conqueror took england to 1500, those monarchy systems could be pretty sophisticated towards the end. maybe i was wrong to assume this had a rather tudor-era feel, though i'm no historian to be able to describe right off-hand the subtle differences between the two as far as courtly relationships were handled.

in england, the first step towards constitutional monarchy happened way back in 1215 when the magna carta was signed limiting the king's control. that lasted awhile, until the petition of right in the early 1600's tried to redress certain issues and abuses of the monarchy. charles I was in power at the time, if i recall. the idea here is that even in the medieval age, monarchies weren't necessarily always just wing-dinging it. at least on paper, they didn't have an absolute monarchy, i.e. dictatorship. it's was my impression the story was somewhere between a magna carta type of setting but more towards the petition of right. not exactly where they were ready to set up a parliament, but not slapping themselves in the face with mud for entertainment, either.

while the term 'chancellor' arises from countries borne of the roman empire, it's not really much of a term a lot of people associate with medieval times. that may be wrong, just my opinion on that. since we're talking about a 'feel' of medieval times, a chancellry doesn't pop into most people's minds, and if it did they might think of oxford or cambridge before placing a chancellor in the position to be regent, and certainly that notion is a far distance away from any generic method of succession that would be a more popular choice for a lot of writers.

so, i agree, mass elections is very un-medieval feeling, but so does a chancellry have that same feeling. while the archbishop of canterbury was a chancellor, i believe, his power came from being an archbishop, i'd say, and not as a chancellor. correct me if i'm wrong on that. for us average readers, fancy names like that, i feel, envoke a certain setting, right or wrong, and to me that setting is a sophisticated, complex system that lends itself more towards the end of the medieval era which still has a rough-hewn feel around the edges, but far from decorating the top of your throne with antlers, lol.

09-13-2005, 12:29 AM

in england, the first step towards constitutional monarchy happened way back in 1215 when the magna carta was signed limiting the king's control.

That was more about the balance between the nobles and the king. Commoners didn't really get a look in. It always was about balance of power, rather than principal.

monarchies weren't necessarily always just wing-dinging

Indeed not. There was a lot of "divine right" rhetoric about, but it only really applied when you were a powerful king anyway. Both Edward II, Richard II and Henry VI (of England) followed on from powerful monarchs, and assumed divine right applied to them. Turned out it didn't - all were deposed and done away with.

I agree that we must bear in mind the conceptions of our average readers. If you're going to put in the details of government offices, you have to handle it with care. However, Raymond Feist made it work.

09-13-2005, 01:36 AM
There was a lot of "divine right" rhetoric about, but it only really applied when you were a powerful king anyway. Both Edward II, Richard II and Henry VI (of England) followed on from powerful monarchs, and assumed divine right applied to them. Turned out it didn't - all were deposed and done away with.

But the theory gained strength, partly to avoid the kind of mess often resulting from affairs like Henry VI. By 1648 (or so) the principle of divine right was pretty well established, and kings did not have to worry about being overthrown by their nobles. (Of course Charles I in England had a little trouble with certain commoners...)

Of course, in a novel, anything can happen--but as others have said, there should be some principle established as to what should happen, even if something else actually does.

09-13-2005, 02:35 AM
Yes, but that's post-medieval when (some) kings had the theoretical monopoly of force. Even so, it didn't do the Stewarts much good in England.

Christine N.
09-13-2005, 03:10 AM
Tamora Pierce does a great job with this in Trickster's Queen. The king died ( I think he had a stroke) and women couldn't rule. The king had two children - a grown daughter and an toddler son. Since the daughter couldn't rule, and the baby was too young, the daughter and her husband were then made regent. Of course they bumped off the little king, along with a bunch of his friends, one of whom would have been successor to the throne after him - STILL not the daughter.

Fascinating stuff. It was her own made up world, but it was very well done.

09-13-2005, 04:28 AM
simple question, indeed.

i tried to get in the whole peter the great thing, just never seem to remember to delve into it for some reason. what little i know of him is pretty interesting, though, and yet another whole thing itself in a way.

one could spend a lifetime studying this stuff. personally, i think that's what wikipedia.com is for, lol.

maybe feist made it work, but i'm not getting the idea that that kind of details is what's being called for.

does any of this give you any ideas, ivonia?

09-13-2005, 07:32 AM
Yeah, these replies are helping. It was originally just for a short story, but I can always expand it later too :)

I'll probably make the regent a high ranking religious guy, since I figure they'll probably be corrupt anyway (well, in a good story they usually are hehe). And he's obviously going to misuse his powers, although he thinks he's doing good with it (can't stand "black & white cardboard" characters, who are good or evil for the sake of being good or evil).