The following is a list of usurpers – illegitimate or controversial claimants to the throne in a monarchy. The word usurper is a derogatory term, and as such not easily definable, as the person seizing power normally will try to legitimise his position, while denigrating that of his predecessor.


Usurper Predecessor Reign Comments
Leopold I of Belgium William I of the Netherlands 1831–1865 The southern provinces of the Netherlands declared independence from the United Kingdom of the Netherlands with Leopold I being proclaimed King and sovereign ruler of the newly established Kingdom of Belgium in 1831. King William I of the Netherlands refused to accept the illegal separation of Belgium and launched the Ten Days' Campaign, a large military offensive by the Dutch to recapture the renegade southern provinces. Although initially successful for the Dutch, the French however backed the Belgians militarily and thereby forced the Dutch to accept diplomatic mediation. In 1839, the two countries signed the Treaty of London, officially recognizing the Kingdom of Belgium as an independent and sovereign state, and Leopold I as its legitimate ruler.


Usurper Predecessor Reign Comments
Tang King Jie of Xia 1675–1646 BC Collapse of the Xia dynasty. Establishment of the Shang dynasty.
King Wu of Zhou King Zhou of Shang 1046–1043 BC Collapse of the Shang dynasty. Establishment of the Western Zhou.
King Cheng of Chu Du'ao 671–626 BC
King Mu of Chu King Cheng of Chu 625–614 BC
King Ling of Chu Jia'ao 540–529 BC
Helü Liao 514–496 BC
Duke Tai of Tian Qi Duke Kang of Jiang Qi 386–384 BC Collapse of the Jiang Qi. Establishment of the Tian Qi.
Qin Er Shi Qin Shi Huang
(rightful claimant to throne; not enthroned)
210–207 BC Known in historiography as the Shaqiu Coup.
Wang Mang Liu Ying 9–23 Collapse of the Western Han. Establishment of the Xin dynasty.
Emperor Wen of Cao Wei Emperor Xian of Han 220–226 Collapse of the Eastern Han. Establishment of the Cao Wei.
Emperor Wu of Jin Emperor Yuan of Cao Wei 266–290 Collapse of the Cao Wei. Establishment of the Western Jin.
Emperor Wudao of Huan Chu Emperor An of Jin 404 Establishment of the Huan Chu.
Emperor Wu of Liu Song Emperor Gong of Jin 420–422 Collapse of the Eastern Jin. Establishment of the Liu Song.
Liu Shao Emperor Wen of Liu Song 453
Emperor Ming of Liu Song Liu Ziye 466–472
Emperor Gao of Southern Qi Emperor Shun of Liu Song 479–482 Collapse of the Liu Song. Establishment of the Southern Qi.
Emperor Ming of Southern Qi Xiao Zhaowen 494–498
Emperor Wu of Liang Emperor He of Southern Qi 502–549 Collapse of the Southern Qi. Establishment of the Liang dynasty.
Emperor Wenxuan of Northern Qi Emperor Xiaojing of Eastern Wei 550–559 Collapse of the Eastern Wei. Establishment of the Northern Qi.
Hou Jing Xiao Dong 551–552 Establishment of the Hou Han.
Emperor Xiaomin of Northern Zhou Emperor Gong of Western Wei 557 Collapse of the Western Wei. Establishment of the Northern Zhou.
Emperor Wu of Chen Emperor Jing of Liang 557–559 Collapse of the Liang dynasty. Establishment of the Chen dynasty.
Emperor Xuan of Chen Chen Bozong 569–582
Emperor Wen of Sui Emperor Jing of Northern Zhou 581–604 Collapse of the Northern Zhou. Establishment of the Sui dynasty.
Emperor Yang of Sui Emperor Wen of Sui
Yang Yong
(rightful claimant to throne; not enthroned)
Yuwen Huaji Yang Hao 618–619 Establishment of the Xu.
Emperor Gaozu of Tang Yang You 618–626 Establishment of the Tang dynasty.
Wang Shichong Yang Tong 619–621 Collapse of the Sui dynasty. Establishment of the Zheng.
Emperor Taizong of Tang Emperor Gaozu of Tang
Li Jiancheng
(rightful claimant to throne; not enthroned)
626–649 Known in historiography as the Xuanwu Gate Incident.
Wu Zhao Emperor Ruizong of Tang 690–705 Interregnum of the Tang dynasty. Establishment of the Wu Zhou.
Emperor Zhongzong of Tang Wu Zhao 684, 705–710 Collapse of the Wu Zhou. Restoration of the Tang dynasty. Known in historiography as the Shenlong Coup.
Emperor Taizu of Later Liang Emperor Ai of Tang 907–912 Collapse of the Tang dynasty. Establishment of the Later Liang.
Zhu Yougui Emperor Taizu of Later Liang 912–913
Emperor Mingzong of Later Tang Emperor Zhuangzong of Later Tang 926–933 Known in historiography as the Xingjiao Gate Incident.
Emperor Liezu of Southern Tang Emperor Rui of Yang Wu 937–943 Collapse of the Yang Wu. Establishment of the Southern Tang.
Emperor Taizu of Later Zhou Emperor Yin of Later Han 951–954 Collapse of the Later Han. Establishment of the Later Zhou.
Emperor Taizu of Song Emperor Gong of Later Zhou 960–976 Collapse of the Later Zhou. Establishment of the Northern Song. Known in historiography as the Coup at Chen Bridge.
Emperor Taizong of Song Emperor Taizu of Song 976–997
Wanyan Liang Emperor Xizong of Jin 1150–1161
Emperor Lizong of Song Emperor Ningzong of Song
Zhao Hong
(rightful claimant to throne; not enthroned)
Yongle Emperor Jianwen Emperor 1402–1424 Known in historiography as the Jingnan Campaign.
Emperor Yingzong of Ming Jingtai Emperor 1435–1449, 1457–1464 Known in historiography as the Duomen Coup.


Usurper Predecessor Reign Comments
Amasis II Apries 570 BC – 526 BC


Usurper Predecessor Reign Comments
William I Harold Godwinson 1066–1087 When Edward the Confessor died, Harold crowned himself Harold II; William then invaded England with his own army. William's army was victorious at the Battle of Hastings, during which Harold II was killed. William then crowned himself King of England.
Stephen Henry I 1135–1154 Henry I named his daughter Matilda his heir, and she was recognised as such by the barons of England. On Henry's death, Stephen took the crown before Matilda learned that her father was dead, which led to 20 years of civil war.
Henry IV Richard II 1399–1413 A period of crisis emerged in 1398–1399 under Richard II as he enacted revenge on leading nobles for a dispute ten years previously. He took action against the Lords Appellant, murdering a leader and banishing Henry Bolingbrooke. On the death of Bolingbrooke's father, John of Gaunt, the son wished to return to claim his inheritance as the Duke of Lancaster, which Richard II denied. Henry returned from his exile in France whilst Richard II was away in Ireland. With the support of prominent Northern noble families, Henry took the throne.
Edward IV Henry VI 1461–1470


After the death of his father, Richard of York at the Battle of Wakefield in 1460, Edward took over leadership of the Yorkist faction. His father had been declared the king's heir by parliament, but Edward took the further step of proclaiming himself king in March 1461. He subsequently defeated Lancastrian forces at the Battle of Towton, forcing Henry VI into exile in Scotland.
Richard III Edward V 1483–1485 When his brother King Edward IV died in April 1483, Richard was named Lord Protector of the realm for Edward's eldest son and successor, the 12-year-old Edward V. Arrangements were made for Edward's coronation on 22 June 1483; but, before the young king could be crowned, the marriage of his parents was declared bigamous and therefore invalid, making their children officially illegitimate and thus barring them from inheriting the throne. On 25 June, an assembly of Lords and commoners endorsed a declaration to this effect and proclaimed Richard the rightful king.
Henry VII Richard III 1485–1509 Forces under Henry Tudor won the Battle of Bosworth Field, during which Richard III was killed. Henry then became Henry VII and married the daughter of Edward IV, which is claimed to have ended the War of the Roses, though relatives of Richard made various attempts to remove him from power.
William III and Mary II James II 1689–1702 James II fled after the arrival of William and Mary along with their army. This became known as the Glorious Revolution.


Usurper Predecessor Reign Comments
Pepin the Short Childeric III 751–768
Napoleon Bonaparte The Directorate 1799–1814 In the Coup d'état of 18 Brumaire, (9 November 1799) Napoleon overthrew the Constitution of the Year III and established his rule as First Consul, and five years later as Emperor.
Napoleon Bonaparte Louis XVIII 1815–1815 Hundred Days
Louis Philippe I Henri V 1830–1848 Louis Philippe took the throne in the aftermath of the July Revolution, which had resulted in the abdication of King Charles X in favor of his grandson, a young child.

Gwynedd (Wales)

Usurper Predecessor Reign Comments
& Cynan
Hywel ab Owain 1170–1195 Llywelyn the Great, with the senior legitimate claim, overthrew his uncles


See also Aliʻi nui of Hawaii.
Usurper Predecessor Reign Comments
Kamaiole Kanipahu 1245–1255
Alapaʻi Nui Keaweʻīkekahialiʻiokamoku 1725–1754

Holy Roman Empire

Usurper Predecessor Reign Comments
Maria Theresa Charles VI 1745–1765 de jure; 1740–1780 de facto Her father Charles VI illegally changed his father's (Leopold I) Mutual Pact of Succession (1703) from the senior-most-in-line, being his elder brother's (Joseph I), daughter Maria Josepha, as heir to the Holy Roman Empire, to that of his own daughter, Maria Theresa, with his Pragmatic Sanction of 1713. This very act precipitated the War of the Austrian Succession (1740–1748), which continued on through and resulted into the Seven Years' War (1756–1763).


Usurper Predecessor Reign Comments
Saluva Narasimha Deva Raya Thimma Bhupala 1485–1491
Pushyamitra Shunga Brihadratha Maurya c. 185 – c. 149 BCE Pushyamitra uprooted the last existing Maurya emperor by launching a military coup, later killing the present monarch Brihadrath. Thus establishing the Shunga dynasty.

Iran (Persia)

Usurper Predecessor Reign Comments
Mahmud Hotak Sultan Husayn 1722–1725 Mahmud, an Afghan ruler of the Hotak dynasty who overthrew the heavily declined Safavid dynasty to briefly become the Shah of Persia from 1722 until his death in 1725.
Ashraf Hotak Mahmud Hotak 1725–1729 Ashraf, also an Afghan ruler of the Hotak dynasty, who took the throne in 1725 after killing his cousin Mahmud Hotak. Ashraf himself was killed in the Battle of Damghan in 1729 thereby restoring the rule by the Safavid dynasty (Tahmasp II, son of Sultan Husayn, subsequently became Shah of Persia).
Nader Shah Afshar Abbas III 1736–1747 Nader, from humble origin and member of the Afshar tribe, became an important Persian army leader during the reign of Tahmasp II, Safavid Shah of Persia. In 1732 he forced Tahmasp III to abdicate in favour of the Shah's baby son, Abbas III, to whom Nader became regent (de facto ruler). In 1736, he proclaimed himself Shah of Persia in which Abbas III was killed. Nader Shah Afshar was founder and first Shah of the Afsharid dynasty.
Adel Shah Afshar Nader Shah Afshar 1747–1748 Adel, member of the Afsharid dynasty and nephew of Nader Shah Afshar, took the throne in 1747 after rebelling against his uncle who was killed in the process.
Ebrahim Afshar Adel Shah Afshar 1748 Ebrahim, member of the Afsharid dynasty and brother of Adel Shah Afshar, took the throne in 1748 after deposing, blinding & then killing his brother.
Shahrokh Mirza Afshar Ebrahim Afshar 1748– 1750, 1750–1796 Shahrokh, member of the Afsharid dynasty and grandson of Nader Shah Afshar, took the throne in 1748 after the deposition and murder of Ebrahim Afshar. His throne was restored in 1750, but at the end of his life, the Afsharid rule was confined to a small local state in Khorasan (with the bulk of his former empire divided between the Zand dynasty, the Qajar dynasty, and tribes from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Georgia and the Caucasus). In 1796, Shahrokh died from torture ordered by Qajar ruler Agha Mohammad Khan (who himself became Shah of Persia in 1789).
Suleiman II of Persia Shahrokh Mirza Afshar 1749–1750 Suleiman II, pretender to the former Safavid throne, took the throne in 1749 after deposing & blinding Shahrokh Afshar. Suleiman II himself was blinded and removed from the throne in 1750, whereby Shahrokh Afshar was restored to his power.
Ali Mardan Khan Bakhtiari Shahrokh Mirza Afshar 1750–1751 In 1750, Chahar Lang chieftain Ali Mardan Khan Bakhtiari and the Zand chieftain Karim Khan conquered the former Safavid capital Isfahan and installed Ismail III, the last prince of the Safavid dynasty, as a figurehead and "puppet shah of Persia" in order to legitimize their rule over Persia. Ali Mardan took the title of Vakil-e, i.e. "deputy" or "regent" of the Persian state, which ended with the overthrown of his regime in 1751.
Karim Khan Zand Ali Mardan Khan Bakhtiari 1751–1779 After killing Ali Mardan Khan Bakhtiari in 1751, Karim Khan Zand appointed himself Vakil-e (regent) of the Persian state. However, albeit de facto ruler of all of Persia (except for Khorasan which was still ruled by Shahrokh Mirza Afshar), he never officially adopted the title of Shah for himself. Although, in retrospection he can be considered founder and first Shah of the Zand dynasty. Ismail III continued to be "puppet shah of Persia" in order to legitimize Karim Khan's rule over Persia; he was kept in safe custody at the stronghold of Abadeh till his death in 1773.
Zaki Khan Zand Karim Khan Zand 1779 With the natural death in 1779 of Karim Khan Zand, ruler of the Zand dynasty, a power struggle followed. Karim Khan's brother Zaki Khan Zand installed Mohammad Ali Khan Zand, the younger son of Karim Khan who was also his son-in-law, as Shah of the Zand dynasty; although according to male primogeniture Abol-Fath Khan Zand, the eldest son of Karim Khan should have become Shah. Later on, both sons Mohammad Ali Khan and Abol-Fath Khan Zand were declared co-shahs, but they were only puppet rulers with nominal power; the real power was taken into the hands of their uncle Zaki Khan who was the de facto ruler. However, his reign was short-lived being murdered by rebellious tribal leaders after a few months.
Sadeq Khan Zand Abol-Fath Khan Zand 1779–1781 With Zaki Khan Zand being killed in June 1779 and Mohammad Ali Khan Zand died of a heart attack in the same month, Abol-Fath Khan Zand was proclaimed the sole official (3rd) Shah of the Zand dynasty by his uncle Sadeq Khan Zand. However, Sadeq held the real power with Abol-Fath only as puppet-monarch not taking part in the administration of the empire. This situation did not however suit Sadeq Khan for long; after two months he proclaimed himself Shah with deposing, blinding & later killing his nephew Abol-Fath.
Ali-Morad Khan Zand Sadeq Khan Zand 1781–1785 Ali-Morad Khan, a distant member of the Zand dynasty, took the throne in 1781 after capturing the capitol Shiraz and murdering Sadeq Khan Zand, the fifth Shah of the Zand dynasty.
Jafar Khan Zand Ali-Morad Khan Zand 1785–1789 Jafar Khan Zand, son of the fifth Shah Sadeq Khan Zand, took the throne in 1785 after murdering Ali-Morad Khan Zand, the sixth Shah of the Zand dynasty.
Sayed Morad Khan Zand Jafar Khan Zand 1789 Sayed Morad Khan, son of the sixth Shah Ali-Morad Khan Zand, took the throne in 1789 after murdering Jafar Khan Zand, the seventh Shah of the Zand dynasty.
Lotf Ali Khan Zand Sayed Morad Khan Zand 1789–1794 On hearing of the murder of his father Jafar Khan Zand, Lotf Ali Khan marched to the capital Shiraz and took the throne in 1789 after forcing to surrender and executing Sayed Morad Khan, eighth Shah of the Zand dynasty.
Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar Lotf Ali Khan Zand 1789–1797 Agha Mohammad Khan was a eunuch who served at a Persian court and was enthroned as the Shah of Persia in 1789, but was not officially crowned until March 1796, having deposed, blinded & then killed Lotf Ali Khan (9th and last Shah of the Zand dynasty) in 1794, and killing Shahrokh Mirza Afshar (last Shah of the Afsharid dynasty) in 1796. Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar was founder and first Shah of the Qajar dynasty, and with him Persia became again centralized and unified.
Reza Shah Pahlavi Ahmad Shah Qajar 1925–1941 Reza Shah Pahlavi was a former brigadier-general of the Persian Cossack Brigade who came to power after the 1921 Persian coup d'état and deposition of Ahmad Shah Qajar, the last Shah of the Qajar dynasty. Reza Pahlavi was founder and became first Shah of the Pahlavi dynasty in 1925.
Mohammad Reza Pahlavi Reza Shah Pahlavi 1941–1979 Mohammad Reza Pahlav took the throne after the forced abdication of his father Reza Shah Pahlavi during the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran on 16 September 1941. He was the second and last Shah of the Pahlavi dynasty, being himself overthrown by the Iranian Revolution on 11 February 1979.


Usurper Predecessor Reign Comments
Emperor Tenmu Emperor Kōbun 672–686


Usurper Predecessor Reign Comments
Taejo of Goryeo Gung Ye 918–943
Taejo of Joseon Gongyang of Goryeo 1392–1398


Usurper Predecessor Reign Comments
Tiglath-Pileser III Shalmeneser III 745–727 BCE Neo-Asssyrian. Ended a civil war, reformed the military, and reignited the Neo-Assyrian campaigns of conquest.


Usurper Predecessor Reign Comments
William I, Prince of Orange Philip II of Spain 1572–1584 With the "Act of Abjuration" (Plakkaat van Verlatinghe) during the Dutch Revolt, the northern provinces of the Netherlands declared them-self independent from the rule of King Philip II of Spain, who also was Lord of the Netherlands. Prince William I of Orange, leader of the Dutch Revolt, was proclaimed Stadtholder (thereby de facto ruler) of the renegade Netherlands in 1572. This intensified the Eighty Years' War in which Philip II deployed his armies and tried to regain control over most of these provinces. William of Orange was assassinated in 1584 by Balthasar Gérard, a loyalist to Philip II.
Maurice, Prince of Orange Philip III of Spain 1585–1625 In 1585, Prince Maurice of Orange was proclaimed Stadtholder (thereby de facto ruler) of the renegade Netherlands after the death of his father William of Orange. During this period, King Philip III of Spain was the de jure Lord of the Netherlands.
Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange Philip IV of Spain 1625–1647 In 1625, Prince Frederick Henry of Orange was proclaimed Stadtholder (thereby de facto ruler) of the renegade Netherlands after the natural death of his brother Maurice of Orange. During this period, King Philip IV of Spain was the de jure Lord of the Netherlands.
William II, Prince of Orange Philip IV of Spain 1647–1650 In 1647, Prince William II of Orange was proclaimed Stadtholder (thereby de facto ruler) of the renegade Netherlands after the natural death of his father Frederick Henry of Orange. With the Peace of Münster in 1648, the Dutch republic was recognized as an independent and sovereign state, herewith officially legitimizing and solidifying the rule of William II in this country.


Usurper Predecessor Reign Comments
Sverre Sigurdsson Magnus Erlingsson 1184–1202

Roman Empire

Main article: List of Roman usurpers


Usurper Predecessor Reign Comments
Marina Mniszech and False Dmitry I Feodor II 1605–1606
Elizabeth Ivan VI 1741–1762
Catherine the Great Peter III 1762–1796


Usurper Predecessor Reign Comments
Eric the Saint Sverker the Elder 1156–1160 Involvement in Sverker's murder is uncertain.
Magnus Henriksen Eric the Saint 1160–1161
Charles Sverkerson Magnus Henriksen 1161–1168
Canute Ericson Boleslas Sverkerson 1168–1195
Erik Knutsson Sverker the Younger 1208–1216
Canute the Tall Eric the Lisp and Lame 1229–1234
Charles IX Sigismund 1604–1611 As regent 1599–1604.
Charles XIII Gustaf IV Adolf 1809–1818 As regent March–May 1809


Usurper Predecessor Reign Comments
Worawongsathirat Yodfa 1548 His kingship is not accepted by most traditional historians.


Usurper Predecessor Reign Comments
Dương Tam Kha Ngô Quyền 944–950
Ngô Xương Văn Dương Tam Kha 951–965
Mạc Đăng Dung Le Chieu Tong 1527–1529