I read this interesting passage in Wikipedia:

when Queen Victoria succeeded her uncle King William IV, the wording of the proclamation even gave as a caveat:

"...saving the rights of any issue of his late Majesty King William IV, which may be born of his late Majesty's consort."

This provided for the possibility that William's wife, Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen, was pregnant at the moment of his death—since such a (so-named posthumous) child, if born and regardless of the gender of the child, would have displaced Victoria from the throne.

Has a such hypothetical scenario happened in any hereditary monarchy? Was there anyone who took the throne "temporarily", only to be later displaced by a better heir who were born after his/her predecessor's death?

4 Answers 4


Alexander the Great may be the most famous example. His son Alexander IV was born after his death.

What is typically supposed to be done in this case is that the duties of the new monarch are carried out on his (usually not a "her") behalf by someone else until the rightful heir is of legal age in their country to fully assume the throne. This is called a regency.

The problem is that the regents have a tendency to get comfortable on the throne, and thereafter have a woeful track record of keeping their charges alive.

In Alexander's case, there was a regency, then a civil war to control the regency, followed by Alexander's assassination by the regent when it was set to expire (Alexander's 14th birthday).

Happy Birthday to him.


It is called a "posthumous heir". One example was Alexander Ross. A very similar example was John I, son of Louis X, who only lived a few days. A reputed ancient king of Kashmir named Gonanda II is described as being a posthumous heir in the Rajatarangini. The only successful European monarch I know of who was a posthumous heir was Alfonso XIII of Spain.

  • Ah, I see. Looks like they were either short lived or the pregnancy was anticipated. I was hoping for some uncle or cousin taking the throne then found out "shoot, the widowed queen is pregnant" and ended up having to give up the throne :)
    – user69715
    Commented Oct 27, 2015 at 23:57
  • Posthumous "error"?
    – macraf
    Commented Oct 29, 2015 at 2:02
  • @macraf Oops, Freudian slip. Commented Oct 29, 2015 at 4:31

The most famous example of a posthumous monarch is Shapor II the Great, "King of Kings of Iran and of Non Iran, Child of the Sun and Moon and Cousin of the Stars" reigned 309-379 AD, who allegedly reigned before he was born (and of course a couple of decades before he ruled). The story is that despite having older half brothers, astrologers luckily predicted he would be male, and he was crowned while still in the womb.

His successor was his older half brother Ardashir II, who reigned from 379-383, and then Shapor II's son Shapor III (383-388).

And there was Ladislaus Posthumous (22 February 1440 – 23 November 1457), King of Hungary & Croatia 1440 and 1444-1453 King of Bohemia and Duke of Austria, Son of Albert II (1397-27 October 1439), King of the Romans, King of Hungary & Bohemia and Duke of Austria.

In most cases when a deceased king's widow was believed to be pregnant, a regent was appointed until such time as the child was either born or not. I don't think that I have ever heard of a monarch having to step down when a posthumous child was born.

Wikipedia says:

A posthumous birth[clarification needed] has special significance in the case of hereditary monarchies following primogeniture. In this system, a monarch's own child precedes that monarch's sibling in the order of succession. In cases where the widow of a childless king is pregnant at the time of his death, the next-in-line is not permitted to assume the throne,[citation needed] but must yield place to the unborn child, or ascends and reigns until the child is born.[citation needed] In monarchies that follow male-preference cognatic primogeniture, the situation is similar where the dead monarch was not childless but left a daughter as the next-in-line, as well as a pregnant widow. A posthumous brother would supplant that daughter in the succession, whereas a posthumous sister, being younger, would not. Similarly, in monarchies that follow agnatic primogeniture, the sex of the unborn child determines the succession; a posthumous male child would himself succeed, whereas the next-in-line would succeed upon the birth of a posthumous female child.


But they don't give any examples of a monarch who started to reign and then had to give up the throne to a posthumous child of the previous monarch. I think in most cases an interregnum would be preferable to enthroning a king and then making him step down in a few months.

Bohemia had a interregnum of 14 years between the death of Albert and the accession of Ladislaus Posthumous, so an interregnum of less than nine months waiting for a posthumous child to be born would not be too long.

This discussion of the accession proclamation of Queen Victoria in 1837 points out that according to UK law Victoria had to succeed immediately because the throne can never be vacant for an instant. And thus the paradox that she might have been dethroned if her uncle's widow gave birth to a posthumous child with superior succession rights to her.


They mention that in France a regent ruled for 163 days between the death of Louis X and the birth of his son John I. They say that can't happen in the UK because a regent must rule in the name of some monarch in the UK.

I suggest that the solution could be to select an eternal monarch (or set) of the UK that the living monarch would do homage to once a year. thus they could have a regency in the name of the eternal monarch during any period when a posthumous heir might be born. And if a posthumous heir is born they can continue the regency in his or her name until her majority.

Norway had an eternal monarch for centuries during the Middle Ages.

Saint Olaf II Haraldsson (995-1030), king of Norway from 1015 to 1028, was killed at the Battle of Stiklestad on 29 July 1030. He was later granted the title of Rex Perpetuus Norvegiae, Eternal of Norway. According to the Norwegian La of succession of 1163 every king of Norway since St. Olaf's son Magnus II was a vassal of St. Olaf.

So maybe the UK should create a college of joint eternal soverigns that the King or Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland can be the theoretical vassal of.

For Northern Ireland the monarch of the UK could do homage once a year in Belfast to Edward V, King of England and Lord of Ireland (and heir of the Earls of Ulster), who was probably murdered by one of the monarch's predecessors and/or ancestors.

For England, the monarch of the UK could do homage once a year to Edward V (1470-1483?) and Arthur Duke of Brittany (1187-1203?) probably murdered by one of the monarch's predecessors and/or ancestors, and Arthur's sister Eleanor of Brittany (c.1184-1241) imprisoned by one of the monarch's predecessors and ancestors. Note Arthur of Brittany as born posthumously.

For Scotland the monarch of the UK could do homage to William Douglas (c. 1424-1440) 6th Earl of Douglas and his younger brother David, treacherously murdered at the Black Dinner in the name of one of the monarch's predecessors and ancestors, and to the unnamed heiress of the Meic Uilleim claimants of the Scottish throne who was brutally murdered in 1229 or 1230 by officials of one of the monarch's predecessors and ancestors.

And so, if a monarch of the UK dies with the possibility of having a posthumous child, a regent can perform the monarch's duties in the name of the eternal monarchs of England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, until such time as the posthumous child is or is not born.

Anyway, I have not found any examples of monarchs who had to abdicate when a posthumous child of a previous monarch was born.

  • @MAGolding I can't see this working in the UK! The whole constitution is based on the theory that the Monarch in Parliament is sovereign and supreme, can't see the Windsors doing homage to anyone else, alive or dead! Besides, we do have a plentiful supply of heirs-in-line at the moment...... ;-)
    – TheHonRose
    Commented Sep 5, 2018 at 10:09

King Alfonso XIII of Spain was born as King of Spain, as his father King Alfonso XII of Spain died on November 25th, 1885 and he was born on May 17th, 1886. So from November 1885 until May 1886 the heir to the spanish throne was unborn.

  • 3
    Sources would improve this answer.
    – MCW
    Commented Sep 4, 2018 at 21:10
  • A question on whether Alphonse XIII was born king would be closed as too obvious with the argument that a simple Wikipedia check would answer it. If such known facts are too obvious to be asked, they are too obvious to need sources.
    – Pere
    Commented May 2, 2020 at 6:58

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