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The Inheritance screen

Alert succession.png Succession is the distribution of a ruler's titles upon his death based on succession and gender laws of each title.

It is one of the most important concepts in Crusader Kings II, as it controls what character you play as the heir to the primary title. It also affects the opinion your vassals and dynasty have of you.

Succession Law[edit]

Upon a ruler's death, his titles will be distributed to other characters based upon what succession law they use. This is not necessarily the same for each title; multiple titles can follow different succession laws.
To access and see these succession laws, go to the Laws tab - Inheritance and click on the coat of arms of each title on the top.

However, it should be noted that only the succession laws of de jure titles on the highest tier you hold matter; everything below that will be given out together with the title it is bound to.
Titles without a higher de jure title in your current possession will stay with your primary title.

There are several different succession laws in the game, each with different requirements and effects. There is no 'best' succession law; which you'll want depends upon your goals for the campaign. Below is a list of all succession laws. Succession laws consist of a type of succession and a gender law.

At duchy level and lower, a single succession law covers all of a character's titles. However, if a character holds multiple kingdom or empire titles, these will each have their own succession law, which may lead to different heirs for each kingdom title.

Succession Types[edit]

Be cautious of succession laws that allow non-dynasty members to inherit, as this can result in Game over. If you are a vassal with your eyes on your liege's title, these succession laws can work in your favor. Expect AI lieges to change their succession laws as soon as a non-dynasty member or a dynasty member with a non-dynastic marriage (e.g. matrilineal if the member is male) stands to inherit. Certain succession types have Crown Authority requirements (without Conclave) or Administration requirements (with Conclave).

Descriptions in italics are quotes from the in-game descriptions of the law, current as of patch version 2.3.5.


Law Effect Opinion Requirements
Oldest child Other child Youngest child Dynasty Vassal
Gavelkind Titles distributed between all children. +30% demesne limit -5 +15 +5 +5 Not Muslim or tribal unreformed pagan
Elective gavelkind Titles distributed between children and primary heir, who is elected from among the members of the ruling dynasty. Primary titles may be created for younger children if enough of their land is held. +30% demesne limit (mix of Tanistry and Gavelkind) +15 +5 Not Muslim
Feudal elective

(AKA Elective Monarchy)

The ruler and vassals are given votes equal to the number of qualified titles that character holds. A successor is then voted on from among themselves and legitimate children and siblings of the ruler. Electors are happier in this system unless their liege personally holds too many elective titles.

Since non dynastic characters can be eligible nominees, it is possible to lose your top title to a non-dynasty member.

-15 -5 -5 +10 Not unreformed pagan.

If Muslim or Dharmic, must have Conclave DLC and the council law "full council authority" to enact elective succession. However, elective succession does not become invalid after you revoke council authority, so the law not revert after succession.
Chosen successor will have +25 relations with those who've nominated them.

Primogeniture The oldest child of the ruler inherits all titles. Your successor will like the law, but other members of your dynasty will slightly disapprove.

As long as the marriage preserves the dynasty of the rule (i.e. matrilineal if the ruler is female), the dynasty will retain power of the selected title.

+10 -20 -5

Not Muslim nor unreformed pagan. High Crown Authority (without Conclave) or Late Feudal Administration (with Conclave)
Not Elective Monarchy (Feudal Elective)

Ultimogeniture This succession law is the opposite of the far more common Primogeniture. With Ultimogeniture, the youngest child inherits. -30 -20 +20 -5

Not pagan (except Mongol and Zunist) or Muslim. Limited Crown Authority (without Conclave) or Late Feudal Administration (with Conclave)

Seniority The oldest member of the dynasty inherits all titles. Your oldest child will greatly disapprove of this law, but all other members of the dynasty will approve.

Guaranteed to retain dynastic control of the title until there are no living members of the dynasty.

-30 -20 +10 -10 Not Patrician, or Patrician family.

Patrician family, or else not Muslim, Indian nor unreformed pagan. Medium Crown Authority (without Conclave)

Open Child (or grandchild) with best titles inherits -10 Muslim
Tanistry The ruler and all elector vassals can nominate an heir — the Tanist — from among members of the ruler's dynasty. Vassals will tend to favor older members from other branches of the family, especially claimants

Similar to Feudal elective but with a few significant differences: candidates must be dynastic, more electors

-20 -10 +5 +5

Celtic culture
Not Muslim

*If you are about to create a kingdom title, it may be advantageous to change succession laws before the creation. So if you're to create Vassal level kings as the Byzantine empire your subject kingdoms will possess the laws the empire has. (Since newly created kingdoms start with the same laws as your duchies, kingdom, or empire).


Law Effect Requirements
Open elective The courtier with the highest sum of (age + prestige) inherits. To be eligible, a courtier must be an adult male, same religion, not heir to any other titles, and not imprisoned.

If there are no eligible courtiers with positive election scores, a new character is generated with:

  • the religion of his top liege,
  • either the culture of his province or of his direct liege (50% chance each).

For religious head titles such as The Church of Zun, courtiers are ineligible, and the title always goes to a newly generated character. For the Varangian Guard, Orthodox characters are eligible(?) even though the initial holder is Germanic pagan.

Holy orders, mercenaries, republics, and most theocracies.

Fallback for independent feudal rulers with no heir and no feudal vassals.
Patrician elective Only used by merchant republics, person with most 'respect' is elected Merchant republic

If the liege lord has nominated a successor under the free investiture law, the nominee succeeds.
If the liege has bribed the pope to nominate a bishop, the nominee succeeds.
Otherwise, the Pope nominates a generated character.

Catholic theocracy
Appointment Title reverts to liege. Vassals of holy orders

Viceroyalty vassals of empires.

Fallback for feudal vassals with no heir.
Papal succession The College of Cardinals elects the new Pope. Only for the Papacy
Nomad succession
  • Khan: The son or brother with the most Prestige inherits the clan title.
  • Khagan: Usually goes to the dynastic heir of the previous khagan. However, another clan chief (khan) can inherit based on population ratio and difference in prestige. Children cannot inherit the khagan title, so if the dying khagan has no adult sons nor brothers, another khan inherits the title.
Nomadic hordes

Gender Laws[edit]

Inheritance Other effects Requirements
Agnatic Only males can inherit
Agnatic-Cognatic Women can only inherit if there are no eligible males

Women with sons have priority over women without sons
Enables matrilineal marriage (if not already enabled)
  • Not a primary-type title (mercenary bands, holy orders, and most religious heads) or a landless-type title (Aztec Empire and Mongol Empires).
  • Not a vassal of a holy order
  • Not Muslim, Aztec religion, horde culture, tribal, nomadic, or patrician

Enacting at least Notable Status of Women overrides the last bullet (but there are still issues for patricians).

Absolute Cognatic Women inherit on equal terms with men May grant titles to women
  • Not a primary-type title (mercenary bands, holy orders, and most religious heads) or a landless-type title (Aztec Empire and Mongol Empires).
  • Not a vassal of a holy order
  • Not Muslim, Aztec religion, horde culture, tribal, nomadic, or patrician
  • Basque culture, Cathar religion, or Messalian religion

Enacting Full Status of Women overrides the last two bullets.

Enatic-Cognatic Males can only inherit if there are no eligible women Unavailable by default, can be modded in, but basic code support exists
Enatic Only women can inherit Unavailable by default, can be modded in, but basic code support exists

Changing succession law[edit]

Succession laws can only be changed once in a lifetime per kingdom/empire, by a ruler who:

  • is at peace
  • is not in a regency
  • has ruled in the current capacity for 10 years. A count who has ruled for fifteen years before creating, inheriting or being granted a dukedom (or simply changing primary title) will need to wait ten more years after getting the new primary title before being allowed to change succession law.
  • has no direct vassals (for counts and dukes) or direct vassals of count rank or higher (for kings and emperors) in the territory affected by the change who with non-positive opinion. Since this only applies to direct vassals, a particularly troublesome vassal can sometimes be dealt with by transferring that vassal to a higher-ranked subordinate.
  • does not have two or more direct vassals who are at war with each other. This can be difficult in sprawling empires. Medium crown authority helps, but does not prevent rebellions or attacks by some vassal kings. You can intervene in a prolonged war between vassals by granting one side more land. You can also stop a war immediately by revoking all counties from one combatant, or by forcing them to rebel against you.

A ruler cannot change both the succession type and the gender law.

All direct vassals and direct family members will have a large penalty or moderate bonus temporary but long-lasting opinion modifier as a reaction to a succession change, whether it be gender or succession method itself. This appears to be hardcoded (unmoddable) and largely arbitrary, as for example female family members will be outraged at a change to true cognatic even if it makes them the new heir, and includes baron-level vassals who in theory should have little if any opinion about it.

Note that Muslims can only use Agnatic Open (Turkish) succession (Muslim patricians follow the succession used in merchant republics), while tribes can only use elective gavelkind, and unreformed Pagans can only use Gavelkind (except Mongols, who can also use Ultimogeniture).

Restrictions for Mongols and Aztecs[edit]

As of, some titles of Hordes are locked in a specific inheritance type which overwrite all other conditions and cannot be changed.

  • Emperor of Mongol Empire is always Agnatic Gavelkind if Horse Lords DLC is not active even when he is Muslim or Republic.
  • Emperor of Aztec Empire is always Agnatic Gavelkind even when he is Muslim.


Characters cannot inherit any titles if they are:

Disqualification Method
Clergy Granting a temple, or through investiture
Only works for Christians (except feminist heresies) and Indians
Monk  or nun  Order to take the vows, or by event.
Members of holy orders Order to take the vows, or by event (for men with 5+ martial skill). Requires SoA.
Bastard Bastard.png Born out of wedlock and not legitimized Legitimized bastard.png
Eunuch  Castrate prisoner or by event
Blinded  (if Byzantine) Blind prisoner or by event
Concubine Take concubine

Furthermore, there are restrictions on inheritance between merchant republic titles and feudal titles. Patricians cannot inherit feudal titles, and a patrician's heir must be a courtier.

As of 2.4, a courtier who is potential heir to conflicting titles (such as a merchant republic and a feudal duchy) will choose one or the other, rather than inheriting the title whose holder dies first. Restarting the game, and thus recalculating succession for all characters, may change these choices.

Regulated inheritance law (or high crown authority) disqualifies foreign rulers, regardless of rank.

Born in the Purple[edit]

Succession in the Byzantine Empire is further influenced by the Born in the purple.png Born in the Purple trait and the Despot honorary title. Characters who have either of these attributes are considered higher in the succession line than those without.

  • With primogeniture or gavelkind, BitP offspring take precedence over older children who were born before their parent ascended to the throne.
  • With seniority, BitP characters take precedence over other dynasty members as soon as they reach adulthood.

Inheritance Conflict[edit]

Alert vassal inheritance.png When a character is already landed but inherits a new title, a conflict could occur that is indicated in the game as an alert Vassal inheritance warning.

For example, if an English count inherits a French title from his mother upon her death, either the French or the English realm will expand as the game does not allow a character to be vassal to two different lieges.

If Crown Authority is not high enough to play a role, these conflicts are resolved as follows:

  • The vassal contract that goes with the primary title stays intact. So if an English count (vassal to the King of England) inherits a French duchy (vassal to the King of France), this ducal title will be his primary title. He will become a French duke and his county will become part of France.
  • Note that the inherited title cannot be the primary title if it is of equal or lower rank, because the heir simply never had the time to change it. Therefore, if an English count (vassal to the King of England) inherits a French county (vassal to the King of France), his English county will stay his primary title and his county in France will become part of England.

You can take advantage of inheritance conflicts by arranging for your vassals to inherit foreign territory.

Fallbacks for feudal rulers with no heir[edit]

A sequence of contingency plans is used until one finds a qualified heir:

  1. (The ruler's succession law)
  2. Primogeniture
  3. Liege (as if succession type were Appointment)
  4. Feudal vassal (highest rank, with ties broken by order in landed_titles.txt ??)
  5. Open Elective

You may be able to take advantage of #3 to inherit your vassals' titles, or #4 to inherit the title of an independent liege.

Personal attributes