Splitting-Heirs

the-queen-of-bithynia  asked:

What are the comparative pros and cons of elective monarchy vs primogeniture? The idealist in me wants to say that the elective monarchy results in the best person being chosen for the job, the cynic in me thinks that it results in bitter politicking and weak rulers being chosen by the powerful nobility so they can keep central authority off their backs.

Well, primogeniture keeps the familial holdings together. Partible inheritance means that the family holdings are split up among all the heirs, which splits large estates and reduces the power of each individual member, though since each member gets something, they’re less likely to scheme against each other to take it all (in theory). It’s also very simple. The heir is very clearly apparent, there’s no mistaking who is going to inherit the lands and titles. Of course, primogeniture offers no safeguard for quality, so it’s essential a dice roll for your next heir. While families could (and did) try to insure the success of their family with education and training, there’s no objective criteria for fitness.

As for elective monarchy, well, elections don’t necessarily produce good candidates. Big thing to note is that universal suffrage is a relatively recent concept, commonly the right to vote in an elective monarchy was reserved for powerful nobles with vast holdings. Typically the advantage of an elective monarchy is that the electors feel more invested in the candidate and thus, more invested in the success of the monarchy. Good elected candidates have the faith of much of the electorate, poor candidates devolve into politicking and factionalism. This happened in Poland, when the wealthy nobles elected weak kings to cement their regional authority and avoid powerful state-building. Obviously, one of the biggest disadvantages from a dynastic standpoint is that there’s no guarantee that your dynasty will get in power or remain there.

Well, unless you’re a Habsburg.

Thanks for the question, Bith.

SomethingLikeALawyer, Hand of the King