Wars of succession can be either completely internal affairs for a country, but in some case the candidates for the throne are foreign nobles with claims on the vacant throne. These claims can come from many sources: marriages and kinship, ancient legacies for dead titles or from just simple ambitions of conquest against a weakened country.
In our history, some of the bloodiest and influential wars started as wars of inheritance between factions within countries without clear heirs. The war of Spanish succession changed the political landscape of Europe radically as two factions fought for dominance and called their foreign allies in too. The French Bourbon and Austrian Hapsburg dynasties fought for the control of the Spanish Throne. The conflict and the many smaller wars it caused lasted for over a decade and battles were fought all across Europe, Americas and the European colonies in Asia. In China, the numerous dynastic wars were turning points in the country’s long and storied history.
Wars of succession can be useful plot devices in creative projects. The combination of external powers and internal factions presents many possibilities for story-telling. On some worlds extra-complications may arise from factors not present on Earth.
The Heir of the Dog
The old king’s nickname, The Hound of Eastlands, had been well-earned. His never-ending pursuit and harassment of those he saw as the perpetrators of his family’s downfall. The constant wars against neighboring nobles and the strict taxation of the trade route going through his lands did not win him many friends or allies. However, the commander of the largest army in Eastlands has certain advantages, like bullying his neighbors around.
When the king died without a male heir, his eldest daughter and her husband were the rightful heirs according to the law. However, the middle daughter, married to the old king’s staunchest ally protested the arrangement, since her elder sister’s husband had fallen out of the king’s favor. Both sides have their supporters. The elder daughter’s supporters are the more moderate noblemen, willing to mend fences with the neighboring states, while the middle daughter’s husband favors the strong expansionist politics of the old king.
To make the matter even more complicated the youngest daughter had been married to a young nobleman far away from her home. Now that nobleman had become the king of his ow country and while his borders are far, his navy is large and his purse big.
Now the country faces a long and bloody war of sister against sister. And the neighbors that the old king bullied for so long are also waiting for their chance to reclaim their old lands.