Kingmaker is a term originally applied to the activities of Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick — "Warwick the Kingmaker" — during the Wars of the Roses in England. The term has come to be applied more generally to a person or group that has great influence in a royal or political succession, without being a viable candidate. Kingmakers may use political, monetary, religious, and/or military means to interfere in the succession. They may also be assigned as Minister of State without Portfolio. Examples include:
- Chanakya in the Mauryan Empire.
- Sayyid Brothers in the Mughal Empire.
- Vidyaranya in the Vijayanagara Empire.
- Ricimer in the Late Western Roman Empire.
- Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick in the Wars of the Roses.
- Nogai, Mamai, and Edigu in the Golden Horde.
- Baron Carl Otto Mörner in the House of Bernadotte (King of Sweden).
- Godwin, Earl of Wessex in late Anglo-Saxon England.
- Wiremu Tamihana in the Māori King Movement.
- Citizens of West Africa's sub-national monarchies often use the word kingmaker to refer to the members of the electoral colleges that choose their sovereigns because they also usually officiate during the coronation rituals and rites of purification, the word in this particular case taking on a literal meaning i.e.: a Maker of the king.
In game theory 
In game theory, a kingmaker is a player who lacks sufficient resources or position to win at a given game, but possesses enough remaining resources to decide which of the remaining viable players will eventually win.
Contemporary usage 
By analogy, "Kingmaker" is also used in some countries to refer to those individuals with the ability to influence the selection of political leaders. The term though always unofficial, has tended to gain more importance in places of power struggle e.g. politics, sports organizations etc. Consequently, bestowement of such a title is looked upon significantly and more often as a means of indirect gratification for individuals wanting to silently dictate the affairs of the organization. The term is also occasionally used in a pejorative sense during elections, where a small number of independent political candidate(s) who hold a sizeable sway in the 'vote bank', can most likely decide the course of an outcome.
Instead of referring to an individual, the term can also be applied to an institution or think tank(s) whose opinions are held in great regard by the interested organization. The influence of the religious orders like the Roman Catholic Church in running the affairs of the state during medieval times (through the King) is a well-known example. Kingdoms and Empires in the Indian sub-continent often relied on their religious heads. Besides religious orders, even countries can fit into this terminology when they can dicate the affairs of the other country (either directly or indirectly). In current political scenarios across the world the term can expand its scope to include powerful lobbying groups, whose role is often seen as a defining factor on major issues.
Modern Kingmakers 
Modern politicians known as "Kingmaker" include:
- Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi - a pre-eminent political and ideological leader of India during the Indian independence movement under whose influence were all the major political leaders of the Indian freedom struggle including Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhai Patel.
- James Farley - orchestrated the gubernatorial and presidential elections of Franklin D. Roosevelt (1928–1940).
- K. Kamaraj - instrumental in making Lal Bahadur Shastri and Indira Gandhi as Prime Ministers of India in 1964 and 1966 respectively.
- Sonia Gandhi - seen to many the de facto Prime Minister of India; named as a kingmaker on numerous occasions, Time magazine named her as such and called her India's leader in all but title.
- Dick Morris - orchestrated the gubernatorial and presidential elections of Bill Clinton.
- Girija Prasad Koirala - described as a kingmaker in Nepal with the election of Madhav Kumar Nepal.
- Fred Malek - described as a kingmaker for the Republican Party in the United States.
- David Axelrod - described by U.S. News and World Reports as a "reporter turned kingmaker" with respect to the ascendancy of Barack Obama.
- Bakili Muluzi - described as a kingmaker in Malawi.
- Stefan Cardinal Wyszyński - was highly instrumental in the papal election in 1978 of Karol Wojtyła, Archbishop of Kraków, as John Paul II.
- Rupert Murdoch - a successful media tycoon who has consistently backed every winning United Kingdom Prime Minister since 1979.
- Nick Clegg - described as a kingmaker in the 2010 UK general election as the leader of the Liberal Democrats following a hung parliament result.
- Sarah Palin - During the 2010 midterm elections, Sarah Palin endorsed 64 Republicans nationwide. Out of 64 Palin-endorsed politicians, 33 won the republican nomination and later the general election. Along with this, her endorsement helped fx. Karen Handel and Nikki Haley to take the lead in the Republican gubernatorial primaries in Georgia and South Carolina. This trend, that a candidate went from being in obscurity to leading the primary polls through Sarah Palins endorsement, caused some to claim that Palin is a kingmaker in Republican politics.
- Richard J. Daley as Mayor of Chicago and Chairman of the Democratic Party of Cook County was the leading figure in the Illinois Democratic Party. As such, he controlled a large bloc of delegates at Democratic National Conventions and provided crucial support to Democratic Presidential nominees, including Adlai Stevenson, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Baines Johnson, and Hubert Humphrey.
In fiction 
- The character Leon Fortunato from the Left Behind series of novels is often described as a kingmaker.
- Marcus Jefferson Wall, the antagonist of much of the Matador series by Steve Perry is called the Kingmaker, and controls the President of the Galactic Federation
- The character Mayvar Kingmaker from the The Saga of the Exiles series of novels tests the ability of aspirants before they can be proclaimed king of the Tanu.
- Ser Criston Cole, a character from George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series is commonly referred to as "The kingmaker".
- BBC News: "What is a 'kingmaker'?"
- "Kingmaker". Tititudorancea.com. 2009-05-19. Retrieved 2012-04-14.
- "The King Maker Kamaraj , Former Chief Minister of Tamilnadu and Former President of All India Congress Committee". Kamaraj.com. Retrieved 2012-04-14.
- Name (required). "Sonia Gandhi, the king-maker of India « Sumangal's space". Sumangalgenius.wordpress.com. Retrieved 2012-04-14.
- Over-50 (2010-09-25). "Dick Morris: Kingmaker - Over-50". Over-50.typepad.com. Retrieved 2012-04-14.
- Zee news
- U.S. News and World Reports
- Nyasa Times
- "Nick Clegg 'will not be a post-election king-maker'". BBC News. 2010-01-05. Retrieved 2012-04-14.
- "Palin Endorsements Tracker". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2012-04-14.
- Christina Bellantoni August 26, 2010, 12:27 pm (2010-08-26). "Kingmaker: Why Sarah Palin’s Endorsements Really Are That Big A Deal | TPMDC". Tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com. Retrieved 2012-04-14.
- Defrank, Thomas (2009-11-25). "Sarah Palin, Kingmaker? GOP elder says ex-gov. will never be president, but could help in 2012 - New York Daily News". Articles.nydailynews.com. Retrieved 2012-04-14.