A dynasty is a sequence of rulers from the same family, usually in the context of a feudal or monarchical system, but sometimes also appearing in republics. Alternative terms for "dynasty" may include "house", "family" and "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 781 AD.
The dynastic family or lineage may be known as a "noble house", which may be styled as "imperial", "royal", "princely", "ducal", "comital", "baronial" etc., depending upon the chief or present title borne by its members.
Historians periodize the histories of many states and civilizations, such as Ancient Egypt (3100 – 30 BC) and Ancient and Imperial China (2070 BC – 1912 AD), 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.
Before the 18th century, dynasties throughout the world have traditionally been reckoned patrilineally, such as under the Frankish Salic law. In polities where it was permitted, succession through a daughter usually established a new dynasty in her husband's ruling house. This has changed in all of Europe’s remaining monarchies, where succession law and conventions have maintained dynasties 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 feudal states or monarchies were or are ruled by dynasties; modern 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.
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 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'.
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. However, 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.
Ranavalona I, from the Hova Dynasty, was Queen Regnant of Madagascar from 1828 to 1861.
Wanyan Aguda (Emperor Taizu of Jin) was the progenitor of the Jin Dynasty in China.
Dynasties lasting at least 250 years include the following. Legendary ancient lineages that cannot be historically confirmed are not included.
|Era||Dynasty||Length of rule|
|781 CE – present (attested)[a]||Yamato||1241 years +|
|300 BCE - 1279 CE||Chola Dynasty||1200 years est.|
|57 BCE – 935 CE||Silla||ca. 1000 years|
|950s CE – present
(title Tuʻi Tonga to 1865 CE)
|Tonga||ca. 1067 years|
(ca. 910 years)
|ca. 780 – 1801 CE||Bagrationi||ca. 1020 years|
|ca. 1700 BCE – 722 BCE||Adaside||ca. 978 years|
|987 – 1792 CE and 1814 – 1848||Capetian||839 years|
(military control 1046–771 BCE)
|Western Zhou and Eastern Zhou||790 years |
|37 BCE – 668 CE||Goguryeo||705 years|
|ca. 1299 – 1922 CE||Ottoman||ca. 623 years|
|1228 – 1826 CE||Ahom||598 years|
|1326 – 1884 CE||Sisodia||558 years|
|1392 – 1910 CE||Joseon||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|
|224 – 651 CE||Sassanian||427 years|
|1010 BCE – 586 BCE||Davidic||424 years|
|202 BCE – 9 CE, 25 – 220 CE||Western Han and Eastern Han||406 years|
|730 BCE – 330 BCE||Achaemenid||400 years|
|1271 – 1635 CE||Yuan and Northern Yuan||364 years|
|1428 – 1527, 1533 – 1789 CE||Lê||355 years|
|1440 – 1740, 1765 – 1806 CE||Habsburg||341 years|
|1154 – 1485 CE||Plantagenet||330 years|
|960 –1279 CE||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 dynasties ruling sovereign monarchies
Political dynasties in republics and constitutional monarchies
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.
Some non-monarchical political dynasties:
- Street family of Australia
- Family of Ziaur Rahman of Bangladesh
- Family of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman of Bangladesh
- Family of Aung San of Myanmar (Burma)
- House of Medici of Florence
- Nehru–Gandhi family of India
- Family of M. Karunanidhi of India
- Jinnah family of Pakistan and India
- Bhutto family of Pakistan
- Sharif family of Pakistan
- Chiang family of the Republic of China
- Family of Sukarno of Indonesia
- Koirala family of Nepal
- Somoza family of Nicaragua
- Lee family of Singapore
- Family of Solomon West Ridgeway Dias Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka (Ceylon)
- Trudeau family of Canada
- Mitsotakis Family of Greece
- Adams family of the United States
- Bush family of the United States
- Clinton family of the United States
- Cuomo family of the United States
- Harrison family of Virginia of the United States
- Kennedy family of the United States
- Kheshgi family of Afghanistan, India and Pakistan
- Lee family of the United States
- Long family of the United States
- Roosevelt family of the United States
- Taft family of the United States
- Udall family of the United States
Influential and wealthy families
- The Agnelli family (Italy)
- The Ambani family (India)
- The Cheongju Han clan (Korea)
- The Anheuser family (United States)
- The Arison family (United States)
- The Asper family (Canada)
- The Astor family (United States and United Kingdom)
- The Bamford family (United Kingdom)
- The Bacardi family (Cuba and United States)
- The Bancroft family (United States)
- The Baring family (United Kingdom)
- The Bazalgette family (United Kingdom)
- The Berenberg-Gossler-Seyler family (Germany)
- The Bertarelli family (Italy and Switzerland)
- The Bhutto family (Pakistan)
- The Botín family (Spain)
- The Bonnier family (Sweden)
- The Bronfman family (Canada)
- The Bulgari family (Italy)
- The Bush family (United States)
- The Busch family (United States)
- The Cabot family (United States)
- The Cadbury family (United Kingdom)
- The Carnegie family (United States)
- The Cholmondeley family (United Kingdom)
- The Churchill family / The Spencer-Churchill family (United Kingdom)
- The Chung family (South Korea)
- The Cojuangco family (Philippines)
- The Conran family (United Kingdom)
- The Curzon family (United Kingdom)
- The Darwin–Wedgwood family (United Kingdom)
- The Desmarais family (Canada)
- The Disney family (United States)
- The Du Pont family (United States)
- The Egerton family (United Kingdom)
- The Faber-Castell family (Germany)
- The Fabergé family (Russia and United Kingdom)
- The Fleming family (United Kingdom)
- The Florio family (Italy)
- The Forbes family (United States)
- The Forbes family (publishers) (United States)
- The Ford family (United States)
- The Forte family (United Kingdom)
- The Freud family (Austria and United Kingdom)
- The Fugger family (Germany)
- The Getty family (United States)
- The Goldsmith family (Sweden and United Kingdom)
- The Gooderham family (Canada)
- The Gough-Calthorpe family (United Kingdom)
- The Grosvenor family (United Kingdom)
- The Guggenheim family (United States)
- The Guinness family (Ireland)
- The Gyllenhaal family (Sweden and United States)
- The Hearst family (United States)
- The Heinz family (United States)
- The Harmsworth family (United Kingdom)
- The Hilton family (United States)
- The Howard family (United Kingdom)
- The Irving family (Canada)
- The Jinnah family (India and Pakistan)
- The Kennedy family (United States)
- The Keswick family (East Asia and United Kingdom)
- The Kheshgi family (South Asia)
- The Kim family (North Korea)
- The Koç family (Turkey)
- The Koo family (Republic of Korea)
- The Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach family (Germany)
- The Lascelles family (United Kingdom)
- The Latsis family (Greece)
- The Lee family (Republic of Korea)
- The Lee family (United States)
- The Lehman family (United States)
- The Li family (China)
- The Livingston family (United States)
- The Loredan family (Italy)
- The Louis-Dreyfus family (France and United States)
- The Mason family (United States)
- The McCormick family (United States)
- The Medici family (Italy)
- The Mellon family (United States)
- The Mendelssohn family (Europe)
- The Merck family (Germany and United States)
- The Mirvish family (Canada)
- The Mittal family (United Kingdom and India)
- The Molson family (Canada)
- The Molyneux family (United Kingdom)
- The Montefiore family (Morocco, Italy and United Kingdom)
- The Morgan family (United States)
- The Murdoch family (Australia and United States)
- The Newhouse family (United States)
- The Oppenheim family (Germany)
- The Oppenheimer family (South Africa)
- The Packer Family (Australia)
- The Pattison family (Canada)
- The Peugeot family (France)
- The Porsche–Piëch family (Austria)
- The Premji family (India)
- The Pritzker family (United States)
- The Rausing family (Sweden and United Kingdom)
- The Redpath family (Canada)
- The Romanov family (Russian Federation)
- The Roosevelt family (United States)
- The Rothschild family (France and United Kingdom)
- The Rockefeller family (United States)
- The Rupert family (South Africa)
- The Sackler family (United States)
- The Sainsbury family (United Kingdom)
- The Sassoon family (Iraq, India, China and United Kingdom)
- The Sawiris family (Egypt)
- The Schröder family (United Kingdom)
- The Shinawatra family (Thailand)
- The Spencer family (United Kingdom)
- The Stroganov family (Russia and Eastern Europe)
- The Sulzberger family (United States)
- The Swire family (East Asia and United Kingdom)
- The Taft family (United States)
- The Taittinger family (France)
- The Tata family (India)
- The Thomson family (Canada)
- The Thynne family (United Kingdom)
- The Thyssen family (Germany)
- The Tjin-A-Djie family (Suriname)
- The Tolstoy family (Russia and United Kingdom)
- The Toyoda family (Japan)
- The Trump family (United States)
- The Vanderbilt family (United States)
- The Villiers family (United Kingdom)
- The Wallenberg family (Sweden)
- The Walton family (United States)
- The Warburg family (Germany)
- The Welser family (Germany)
- The Weston family (Canada)
- The Windsor family (United Kingdom)
- The Whitney family (United States)
- The Wittgenstein family (Austria)
- The Zardari family (Pakistan)
- The Zobel de Ayala family (Philippines)
- The Orkanifamily (East Asia and United Kingdom)
- 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 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 Elizabeth II 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.
- Oxford English Dictionary, 3rd ed. "house, n.¹ and int, 10. b." Oxford University Press (Oxford), 2011.
- 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
- 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".
- 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. Retrieved 27 January 2013.