So, in my Primer on Politics for Writers, I said:
If you make the [inheritance] systems any more complex than that, you risk (a) spending all your time explaining it, or (b) confusing readers over something that doesn’t drive the plot anyway. Trust me, I know this from personal experience.
In some ways, when I said “from personal experience” here, I was thinking of the succession rules in Deusetats, which are based on real-world cultures, but not the ones that are called easily to mind. Although for me as writer it’s a fun challenge to think about how this pivots the political landscape, I’m aware that for readers it is sometimes a little difficult to track. I think/hope the story reads fine even if you’re not 100% across the details, and think/hope also that watching the characters navigate the twisted roads to power might inspire readers to get more interested in politics generally, but I am also aware that it might be a bit hard to track. So, I have written this post to provide more info to those that want it, in the hope that it is not necessary to enjoying the story. 🙂
Like in the real world, there are three methods by which power is passed on from one generation to the next in Deusetats: by will, by succession, and by election.
The first thing to note is that succession in Deusetats is strictly gender neutral. It is all based on primogeniture (i.e. birth order). So regardless of whether the eldest child is a daughter or son, they will be treated the same for the purpose of inheritance and succession.
First thing’s first: the majority of land, goods, chattels and wealth flow based on the wishes of the possessor. When someone dies, their will is read, and their possessions divided up according to that will. In the absence of a will, possessions are assumed to flow in the following order: (1) spouse; (2) eldest child then following children; (3) eldest sibling then following siblings. If no close relative can be found, and there is no valid will, then goods and wealth revert to the crown.
The Deusetatsan baronies are old estates that were created and granted to families by the Kings of the Teuta and Cimbra (and then, after the formation of Deusetats, by the King of Deusetats). The Deed of Creation for each Barony specifies the rules by which the title of Baron and its associated lands are inherited.
In Deusetats, Baronies are inherited through uterine primogeniture. This means that basically, heredity flows through the female line. All successors to the title must have been born from a woman biologically connected to the family line. For a Baroness, this is straightforward; her children are her heirs in birth order. For a Baron, this is less straightforward. His children were not born from a woman biologically connected to the title and cannot inherit it. Instead, a baron will be succeeded, by his siblings in order of their birth, then by the children of his eldest sister, in order of birth, then the children of any younger sisters. If he has no sisters, then it is necessary to search among the female-line offspring of his grandmother to find the next baron. (This is, by the way, similar to the way heirs are ordered in most old European monarchies, with the exception that the focus is on the female, rather than the male, line.)
The Lesser King of the Teuta is the Baron of Reuz; the Lesser King of the Cimbra is the Baron of Traumwald.
If a Baron is found guilty of a serious crime (a felony or treason, for example), then his title and lands are considered attainted; i.e. there is a stain on the honour of his family, and he loses the right to hold the title or pass it on to his heirs. The Crown takes back the title and lands and can assign them to someone else via a new Deed of Creation.
It’s worth noting that this is not the succession rule that applies in most of the rest of the continent: both Jovan and Merot have succession by absolute primogeniture; i.e. the eldest child of the current monarch (regardless of gender) is the heir apparent. This is why Queen Agneja (who is from Merot) believes that Maldwyn should be king; in Merot, as in most other parts of Aea, he would be Godfrey’s heir.
The Lesser Kingships of the Teuta and the Cimbra are hereditary titles that flow in the same lines as the baronies of Reuz and Traumwald. The Kingship of Deusetats is by election. Every ten years during a King’s reign–or within a year of his death, or at times agreed by the monarch and Barons–the Barons convene for the Kingmoot (“moot” here is an old term for council, assembly or court) where they vote on who will be King of Deusetats. In practice there are more Teuta barons than Cimbra, and Teuta barons will always vote for the Lesser King of the Teuta, so this is basically a rubber-stamp that confirms the Lesser King of the Teuta as King of Deusetats. But in theory whoever is voted as king by a majority of the barons will be King, regardless of their other titles.