List of usurpers

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The following is a list of usurpers – illegitimate or controversial claimants to the throne in a monarchy. The word usurper is a derogatory term, and as such not easily definable, as the person seizing power normally will try to legitimise his position, while denigrating that of his predecessor. For the sake of this list, however, the term is defined as anyone who forcefully takes power from an established ruler, without consideration to that ruler’s legitimacy.


Usurper Predecessor Reign Comments
Wang Mang Ruzi Ying 9–23
Cao Pi Emperor Xian of Han 220–226
Emperor Wu of Jìn Cao Huan 265–290
Huan Xuan Emperor An of Jin 404
Emperor Wu of Liu Song Emperor Gong of Jin 420–422
Emperor Gao of Southern Qi Emperor Shun of Liu Song 479–482
Emperor Wu of Liang Emperor He of Southern Qi 502–549
Emperor Wenxuan of Northern Qi Emperor Xiaojing of Eastern Wei 550–559
Emperor Wu of Chen Emperor Jing of Liang 557–559
Emperor Wen of Sui Emperor Jing of Northern Zhou 581–604
Yuwen Huaji Yang Hao (Sui Dynasty) 618–619
Wu Zetian Emperor Ruizong of Tang 690–705
Taizu of Later Liang Emperor Ai of Tang 907–912
Emperor Taizu of Song Emperor Gongdi of Later Zhou 960–976


Usurper Predecessor Reign Comments
Amasis II Apries 570 BC – 526 BC


Usurper Predecessor Reign Comments
William I Harold Godwinson 1066–1087 When Edward the Confessor died Harold crowned himself Harold II so William then invaded England with his own army. William victored at the Battle of Hastings during which Harold II was killed. William then crowned himself King of England.
Stephen Henry I 1135–1154 Henry I named his daughter Matilda his heir, and she was recognised as such by the barons of England. On Henry's death, Stephen took the crown before Matilda knew her father was dead, leading to 20 years of civil war.
Henry IV Richard II 1399–1413
Henry VII Richard III 1485–1509 Forces under Henry Tudor won the Battle of Bosworth Field during which Richard III was killed. Henry then became Henry VII and married the daughter of Edward IV ending the War of the Roses.
William III and Mary II James II 1689–1702 James II fled after the arrival of William and Mary along with their army. This became known as the Glorious Revolution.


Usurper Predecessor Reign Comments
Pippin the Younger Childeric III 751–768
Napoleon Bonaparte The Directorate 1799–1814 In the Coup d'état of 18 Brumaire, (9 November 1799) Napoleon overthrew the Constitution of the Year III and established his rule as First Consul, and five years later as Emperor.
Napoleon Bonaparte Louis XVIII 1815–1815 Hundred Days
Louis Philippe I Charles X 1830–1848 Louis Philippe took the throne in the aftermath of the July Revolution, which had resulted in the abdication of King Charles X in favor of his grandson, a young child.


Usurper Predecessor Reign Comments
Emperor Temmu Emperor Kōbun 672–686

Jin Dynasty (Jurchen)[edit]

Usurper Predecessor Reign Comments
Emperor Hailingwang of Jin Emperor Xizong of Jin 1150–1161


Usurper Predecessor Reign Comments
Sverre Sigurdsson Magnus Erlingsson 1184–1202


Usurper Predecessor Reign Comments
Miguel Maria II 1828–1834 Was himself deposed by his brother Pedro I of Brazil, Maria's father, who reinstated Maria.
João IV Felipe III 1640–1656 Tired of the dual monarchy, the Portuguese elite, decided restore the independence of kingdom, more enthroning John, they ended betraying the king Felipe III; more as the new king was good, the designation of usurper, never was determined for the new sovereign.

Roman Empires[edit]

See List of Roman usurpers.


Usurper Predecessor Reign Comments
Eric the Saint Sverker the Elder 1156–1160 Involvement in Sverker's murder is uncertain.
Magnus Henriksen Eric the Saint 1160–1161
Charles Sverkerson Magnus Henriksen 1161–1168
Canute Ericson Boleslas Sverkerson 1168–1195
Erik Knutsson Sverker the Younger 1208–1216
Canute the Tall Eric the Lisp and Lame 1229–1234
Charles IX Sigismund III Vasa 1604–1611 As regent from 1599 – 1611.
Charles XIII Gustav IV Adolf 1809–1818 initially as regent after his nephew's deposition


Usurper Predecessor Reign Comments
Worawongsathirat Yodfa 1548 His kingship is not accepted by most traditional historians


Usurper Predecessor Reign Comments
Dương Tam Kha Ngô Quyền 944–950
Ngô Xương Văn Dương Tam Kha 951–965
Mạc Đăng Dung Le Chieu Tong 1527–1529

Gwynedd (Wales)[edit]

Usurper Predecessor Reign Comments
& Cynan
Hywel ab Owain 1170–1195 Llywelyn the Great, with the senior legitimate claim, overthrew his uncles