I have recently played EU4 (a Strategy game) and noticed that if you play as one of the remnants of the Mongol Empire which still has Khans/Khagans, your heir can't rule until their 15th birthday and will instead be replaced by a random clan-member.

I searched the internet and couldn't really dig anything up on the topic, so I'd like to know whether this has any historical background or if the developers just invented that mechanism for the game.

TL;DR: What was the age requirement to rule a Khanate/Khaganate? Or was there even any?

Thanks in advance!

  • 1
    It's called regency: the office or period of government by a regent. Oct 22, 2017 at 13:45
  • @PieterGeerkens My question is solely based upon the 'facts' represented in the game in which Khanates/Khaganates don't allow for regencies and instead replace the underage heir with another relative. Is this historically accurate or not? Oct 22, 2017 at 13:48
  • Good luck for your Great Khan achievement :)
    – zurk
    Oct 23, 2017 at 12:22
  • I'm not sure that there was such a simple monarchy, but instead a mature relative, the best fit, was elected.
    – John Dee
    Dec 3, 2017 at 22:00

3 Answers 3


In the Mongol Empire, males could be conscripted into the army at age 15. It therefore follows that men could be qualified for other important duties, such as being Khan, at that age.

As far as I know, there were no Mongol laws against children succeeding at a younger age without having full powers, but they tended not to survive under the severe Mongol infighting. One "Khan," aged 7 or 8, was killed after troops loyal to him were defeated. Genghis Khan himself was orphaned as a teenager, and barely managed to survive the resulting intrigues. The rules of the game may reflect this fact.

To take another example, Sweden had an age of succession of 16 that applied to Queen Christina in the 17th century.


If you look at the list of the Great Khans you will see it begins like this:

There's a regent every other time so at first glance you might think that the regents were always stepping in for under-age rulers, but that is not the case. It's possible that that game designers were led astray by this different use of "regency". These three regents (two of of them widows) are not holding place due to youth of the successor rather for lack of consensus via election.

Taking each regent/successor in turn:

  • Ögedei (3rd son of Genghis) was already around 41 years old when his father Genghis Khan died. Tolui (4th son of Genghis) served as regent at least in part because as commander of the largest army he could best hold the empire together until the election of the Khagan confirmed the late Genghis's selection of Ögedei.
  • Güyük (first son of Ögedei) was already around 35 when his father died, nevertheless it was his mother Töregene the second wife of Ögedei (but first to bear sons) who ruled (as regent) after the death of Ögedei. Eventually (after almost 5 years) she was able to maneuver Güyük's election to become the 3rd Great Khan.
  • Möngke was already around 42 when Güyük died. He succeeded the regency of Oghul "principal wife" of Güyük. But being from another branch of the family (Tolui's), he did so despite the efforts of the regent Oghul. She too tried to maneuver to have her sons or grandson into power via election and when thwarted took up arms. Ultimately she was summoned to the to court, stripped naked, questioned, tortured and finally rolled up in felt and thrown into a river.

It's interesting to note that a widow's succession is still a common occurrence in politics.

In addition to the wikipedia citations here, some background comes from Dan Carlin's delightful podcast series (8+ hours!) Hardcore History: Wrath of the Khans


Among the heirs of Kublai Khan who ruled as both Chinese emperors and Mongol Kakhans, there were several who ascended the throne a lot younger than 15.

After they were overthrown in China by the Ming they remained Mongol Kakhans. One of the most famous of them, Dayan Khan, was put on the throne by the widow of the previous Kakhan when he was 5. She married him when he was a teenager and had many sets of twin boys with him. Dayan Khan had a long and successful reign.

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