Has there ever been a true rebel in the higher Royal or noble society who charged against a regime or a kingdom that is run by his own family, for altruistic reasons?.

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    All the sons of Henry II of England, repeatedly: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_II_of_England Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 7:44
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    @PieterGeerkens, I don't think Henry's children qualify on the last part, i.e. "without any personal gain". They were all trying to improve their own position and power.
    – Steve Bird
    Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 8:12
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    It is hard to define "without personal" gain, but it is very common that part of nobility is supporting a revolution or revolutionary movements. They often do it for moral considerations (well-being of others) or recognizing that present regime is dysfunctional. Also, you shouldn't forget that most revolutions are not simply and purely about the clash of classes in a Marxist-Leninist sense, i.e. there may be many other agendas. In Europe revolutions are often tied to independence movements, supporting certain reforms or were against a specific regime, but not against feudalism in general.
    – Greg
    Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 12:22
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    Has there ever been an act by anyone that was (a) treasonous and punishable by torture and death, (b) the punishment extended to family members, and (c) involved no possibility of personal gain? Sure there are examples, but they are rare (and generally foolish).
    – MCW
    Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 14:52
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    The personal gain clause is a bit silly - why is the gain from having the revolution win not considered personal gain? It is a major goal that works out for you.
    – Oldcat
    Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 23:52

4 Answers 4


Louis Philippe II the Duke of Orléans, who avidly supported the French Revolution - arguably, the quintessential revolution of the modern era. As First Prince of the Blood, he was one of the most senior members of the ruling Bourbon dynasty. In fact his son would assume the French throne in 1830. I think he qualifies both as a royal and member of the high nobility.

Despite his lofty birth, Louis Philippe believed in the ideals of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and championed the cause of enlightenment and liberalism. He was a vocal critic of the monarchy in the Assembly of Notables and led a defection of a few nobles to join the Third Estate. He even voted to execute his own cousin, the King of France, in early 1793.

Ironically, Louis Philippe himself was guillotined under the Reign of Terror before the year was out. Given that he sought to abolish the nobility (i.e. by extension, his own privileges) and lost his head when the revolution was "successful", I'd argue he fits the no-personal-gain criterion.

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    Well, no permanent personal gain, at least... Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 11:42

In 1822, Dom Pedro I led a revolution of Brazil against its mother country, Portugal, that was (nominally) headed by his father.

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    and became the Emperor afterwards? Sounds like personal gain to me.. The OP specifically asks for cases without personal gain
    – user69715
    Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 8:26
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    Gain, compared to what? Peter I was the heir to the Portuguese throne, and would have inherited both Portugal and Brazil, if there was no independence. Maybe taking half an empire now qualifies as a gain compared to inheriting the whole thing a few years later - and it certainly beats being expelled back to Portugal by a succesful rebellion, but how do we calculate such things? Commented Jul 28, 2016 at 19:41
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    @user69715: Unlike say, a second son, Pedro I didn't "gain" anything he wouldn't have been entitled to anyway. You can say that he "lost" on balance because he gave up Portugal.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Jul 28, 2016 at 21:11

The Glorious Revolution in England, where Mary II (although mostly by her husband William of Orange, later William III) deposed her brother, James II & VII.

I'm not entirely sure if it fulfils your criteria, there was not much more than a skirmish during the actual revolution, but it did result in the Jacobite uprising in Scotland and the Williamite war in Ireland. James being a Catholic meant he had more support in both Scotland and Ireland than his Protestant successors.

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    Mary and William became the monarchs after this revolution, right? The OP asked for cases without personal gain to the revolting nobles
    – user69715
    Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 8:24
  • I don't think that at the time being monarch was better than being the younger sibling of the monarch - it was quite tumultuous. Mary and James' father had been executed. If it wasn't that parliament was so keen to get rid of the Catholic James, I believe Mary would have been content to not be queen. Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 9:02
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    Good call on the edit @Semaphore, I didn't spot that as I was writing it. Commented Jan 31, 2018 at 9:50

Prince Souphanouvong (a minor member of the Laotian royal family) headed the Pathet Lao faction during the Laotian civil war and later became president of the communist republic after the overthrow of the monarchy

Prince Daoud Khan (a minor member of the Afghani royal family) was involved in overthrowing his cousin, King Mohammed Zahir Shah, and rather than declare himself King, proclaimed a republic

Prince (and former, and later, King - its complicated) Norodom Sihanouk was involved in the overthrow of the US-backed Khmer republic by the communist Khmer Rouge and was later Head of State of the communist Democratic Kampuchea during the first year of its existence

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    Welcome to History:SE. A good answer that would be improved if you added sources to support your assertions. :) Commented Jan 28, 2018 at 17:44

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