A princely rebellion or princely revolt is an intrastate armed conflict by a prince (or princess) against a reigning monarch of his (or her) own family, the ruling dynasty. A prince may rebel against a well-established monarch (usually his father, brother, or uncle, or sometimes mother) in order to seize the throne for himself immediately (either because he is impatient to wait for the current monarch to die or abdicate, or wants to prevent potential rivals from acceding first), to ensure his supposed right to sit on the throne in the future, or to secure other rights, privileges or interests such as appanages, alliances or sources of revenue that the monarch allegedly encroached upon, or failed to deliver or guarantee.[1]

Like wars of succession, princely rebellions were a common type of war in human history, but have seldom occurred after 1900 due to the disappearance of absolute monarchies.[2][3]


See also: War of succession § Descriptions

Princely rebellions or revolts may also be described with ambiguous terms such as 'dynastic struggles/conflicts' or 'succession struggles/conflicts/disputes', but they aren't always synonymous. Although these terms are sometimes used interchangeably with wars of succession, princely rebellions are not (necessarily) caused by succession crises, but directed against well-established monarchs which are commonly recognised as legitimate.[note 1] Scholars sometimes disagree which term fits a certain conflict best, for example the 1657–1661 Mughal dynastic conflict, which consisted of several subconflicts, phases, and factions.[note 2] Both types of conflict could have the same causes, however, such as the creation of collateral dynastic branches, which stimulated wars of succession upon a monarch's death, as well as princely revolts by cadets and cousins while they were still alive.[4]

Princely revolts are also to be distinguished from broader nobles' rebellions (such as The Fronde, the Second Barons' War, the Revolt of the Three Feudatories, or the 1626 rebellion by Mughal nobleman Mahabat Khan), which may involve participants from (only) other aristocratic families.[5]






Burmese Empire

Chinese Empire

Some examples include:


Israelite kingdom

Mughal Empire

See also: War of succession § Indian subcontinent


As a prince, Jahangir rebelled against his father Akbar; as emperor, he faced rebellions by his own sons Khusrau and Khurram.[10]

In the Mughal Empire (1526–1857), an Islamic dynasty in the Indian subcontinent, princely rebellions revolved around the tensions between the expected solemn loyalty to the supposed absolute authority of the emperor and the imperial court on the one hand, which rejected the very idea of rebellion as unacceptable disobedience, and the alleged patrimonial rights violations, imperial malice and unfair dealings by the emperor towards the princes, against which efforts to justify and conduct princely revolts were made.[11] According to Faruqui (2012), there were 'seven significant princely rebellions' from 1526 to 1707,[11] five of which took place during 'the high period of Mughal rule (1585–1680s)'.[11] From 1556 to 1606, these focused especially on the entitlement of princes to appanages (a province of the empire to govern personally as a semi-independent kingdom), and their right to rebel if the emperor broke his supposed promise of granting appanages to princes, as this was 'imperial encroachment on their territory'. However, the Mughal emperors managed to centralise and increase their powers by abolishing the system, and successfully crushed all princely rebellions (the last in 1606 by Khusrau Mirza against his father, emperor Jahangir) against its abolition.[5] The focus of princely revolts thereafter shifted towards the princes' entitlement to an equal claim upon the imperial throne and the realm's entire territory after the monarch's death.[12] This meant that the princes opposed the designation of an heir, let alone any fixation of the order of succession, and would wage war against the emperor whenever they felt that this entitlement was being undermined in some way.[12]

Major princely rebellions

  1. 1540–1552 rebellion: Kamran Mirza against his brother, emperor Humayun, over the imperial throne and Kamran's appanage of Kabul.[13]
  2. 1561–1566 (and 1581–1582) rebellion: Mirza Muhammad Hakim against his brother, emperor Akbar, over the imperial throne and Hakim's appanage of Kabul.[10]
  3. 1599–1604 rebellion: Salim (later Jahangir) against his father, emperor Akbar, over Salim's appanage of Allahabad.[14]
  4. 1606 rebellion: Khusrau Mirza against his father, emperor Jahangir, for breaking his promise to grant Khusrau the governorship of Bengal.[15]
  5. 1622–1627 rebellion: Khurram (later Shah Jahan) against his father, emperor Jahangir, over his right to imperial succession in the face of Shahryar Mirza possibly becoming the designated heir.[13]
  6. 1659 rebellion: Muhammad Sultan against his father Aurangzeb.[note 2]
  7. 1681 rebellion: Muhammad Akbar against his father, emperor Aurangzeb.[10]

Although all Mughal emperors faced opposition by princes and often princely rebellions, none of the major rebellions succeeded, and no emperor was ever killed by a prince.[10]


According to Faruqui (2012), official court chroniclers showed a strong tendency to engage in what he termed 'post-rebellion apologetics', in an effort to downplay the seriousness of dynastic conflicts to the harmony within the royal family, the impact on the political and socio-economic stability of the empire, and to minimise or deflect the blame away from the main players in order to exonerate them. In attempts to restore the sense of quasi-infallibility of the emperor, and the princely loyalty to him, blame is placed on the bad or malicious influences of advisers and allies around the princes and the emperor. It was, after all, only ever other people who deceived and manipulated the 'young and impressionable' prince, led him astray, and forced him to reluctantly rebel against his own father, the wise and mighty emperor who represented the cosmic order. On the other hand, the ill advice of unfaithful courtiers are to be held responsible for the emperor's failure to prevent the rebellion, with the emperor's inexperience or 'simple nature' (in the case of Akbar) providing further mitigating circumstances.[16]

Even linguistically, the official chronicles took care to avoid controversial words like fitna ("internal/civil war", "intra-Muslim war/strife"), preferring instead mukhalafat ("opposition"), fasad ("mischief/corruption"), and shorish ("rebellion/revolt"), and thus be lenient in their criticism of princely-imperial conflicts.[5] No such care was taken when describing noble-led rebellions, however, such as the 1626 failed rebellion by nobleman Mahabat Khan, which is frequently labelled a fitna and other more incendiary and powerfully negative terms of condemnation in order to stress how completely unacceptable such heretical disobedience to the emperor supposedly was. By contrast, princely rebellions were tacitly permitted as a justifiable option of last resort in certain situations.[17]

Empire of Trebizond


Byzantine Empire


Francia and Kingdom of France

Holy Roman Empire

Kievan Rus'





See also


  1. ^ The monarch doesn't have to be widely popular at the start of the princely rebellion, but their legitimacy needs to be broadly recognised. If their legitimacy is commonly questioned if they recently began their reign, however, the situation is commonly described as a succession crisis in which the monarch has acceded to the throne, or is trying to, without broad support. If a prince starts a war against this newly acceded/acceding monarch, it is more aptly described as a 'war of succession' than as a 'princely rebellion', because the word 'rebellion' implies that the current monarch enjoys broadly supported legitimacy and the prince does not (yet), and because the war is motivated by challenging the acceding monarch's very right to rule itself rather than securing the prince's interests during the remainder of that monarch's rule.
  2. ^ a b Faruqui (2012) decided 'not to count the conflict between Aurangzeb and his brothers (1657–9) as a rebellion. This is an arguable choice since the conflict started out as a rebellion against Shah Jahan but then morphed into a succession struggle once Shah Jahan had been forced to abdicate his throne in the summer of 1658.' He regarded it as a 'war of succession', while noting that S. M. Azizuddin Husain (2002) did characterise it as a 'rebellion'.[10]


  1. ^ Faruqui 2012, p. 186–189.
  2. ^ Holsti 1991, p. 308.
  3. ^ Braumoeller 2019, p. 160–163.
  4. ^ Sandberg 2016, p. 179.
  5. ^ a b c Faruqui 2012, p. 189–190.
  6. ^ Lea, David; Rowe, Annamarie (2003). A Political Chronology of Africa. Abingdon: Routledge. p. 239. ISBN 9781135356668. Retrieved 7 April 2022.
  7. ^ Flint 1975, p. 216.
  8. ^ Ooi 2004, p. 735.
  9. ^ Ooi 2004, p. 692–693.
  10. ^ a b c d e Faruqui 2012, p. 182.
  11. ^ a b c Faruqui 2012, p. 189.
  12. ^ a b Faruqui 2012, p. 190.
  13. ^ a b Faruqui 2012, p. 182, 187.
  14. ^ Faruqui 2012, p. 182, 186.
  15. ^ Faruqui 2012, p. 182, 189.
  16. ^ Faruqui 2012, p. 187–188.
  17. ^ Faruqui 2012, p. 190–191.
  18. ^ David-Chapy, Aubrée (2022). Anne de France: Gouverner au féminin à la Renaissance (in French). Paris: Humensis. p. 21. ISBN 9782379332784. Retrieved 6 December 2022. Bien qu'issu d'une lignée relativement fidèle au pouvoir royal, Pierre participe néanmoins, comme ses frères, à la guerre du Bien public, rébellion princière dirigée contre Louis XI en 1465. ("Although he came from a line that was relatively loyal to the royal power, Pierre, like his brothers, took part in the War of the Public Good, a princely rebellion against Louis XI in 1465.")
  19. ^ Martin 2007, p. 26.
  20. ^ Martin 1995, p. 28–29.
  21. ^ Martin 2007, p. 31.
  22. ^ Upton, Anthony F. (2001). "3. Politics: Protest, rebellion, revolution: a mid-century crisis?". The Seventeenth Century: Europe 1598–1715. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 88–90. ISBN 9780198731689. Retrieved 30 September 2021.
  23. ^ (Appendix) Kokkonen & Sundell 2017, p. 23.