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Cadet branch

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In history and heraldry, a cadet branch consists of the male-line descendants of a monarch or patriarch's younger sons (cadets). In the ruling dynasties and noble families of much of Europe and Asia, the family's major assets—realm, titles, fiefs, property and income—have historically been passed from a father to his firstborn son in what is known as primogeniture; younger sons—cadets—inherited less wealth and authority to pass to future generations of descendants.

In families and cultures in which this was not the custom or law, as in the feudal Holy Roman Empire, equal distribution of the family's holdings among male members was eventually apt to so fragment the inheritance as to render it too small to sustain the descendants at the socio-economic level of their forefather. Moreover, brothers and their descendants sometimes quarreled over their allocations, or even became estranged. While agnatic primogeniture became a common way of keeping the family's wealth intact and reducing familial disputes, it did so at the expense of younger sons and their descendants. Both before and after a state legal default of inheritance by primogeniture, younger brothers sometimes vied with older brothers to be chosen their father's heir or, after the choice was made, sought to usurp the elder's birthright.

Status[edit]

In such cases, primary responsibility for promoting the family's prestige, aggrandizement, and fortune fell upon the senior branch for future generations. A cadet, having less means, was not expected to produce a family. If a cadet chose to raise a family, its members were expected to maintain the family's social status by avoiding derogation, but could pursue endeavors too demeaning or too risky for the senior branch, such as emigration to another sovereign's realm, engagement in commerce, or a profession such as law, religion, academia, military service or government office.

Some cadet branches came to inherit the crown of the senior line, e.g. the Bourbon Counts of Vendôme mounted the throne of France (after civil war) in 1593; the House of Savoy-Carignan succeeded to the kingdoms of Sardinia (1831) and Italy (1861); the Counts Palatine of Zweibrücken obtained the Palatine Electorate by the Rhein (1799) and the Kingdom of Bavaria (1806); and a deposed Duke of Nassau was restored to sovereignty in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (1890).

In other cases, a junior branch came to eclipse more senior lines in rank and power, e.g. the Kings of Prussia and German Emperors who were junior by primogeniture to the Counts and Princes of Hohenzollern, and the Electors and Kings of Saxony who were a younger branch of the House of Wettin than the Grand Dukes of Saxe-Weimar.

A still more junior branch of the Wettins, headed by the rulers of the small Duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, would, through diplomacy or marriage in the 19th and 20th centuries, obtain or consort and sire the royal crowns of, successively, Belgium, Portugal, Bulgaria and the Commonwealth realms. Also, marriage to cadet males of the Houses of Oldenburg (Holstein-Gottorp), Polignac, and Bourbon-Parma brought those dynasties patrilineally to the thrones of Russia, Monaco, and Luxembourg, respectively. The Dutch royal house has, at different times, been a cadet branch of Mecklenburg and Lippe(-Biesterfeld). In the Commonwealth realms, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and his male-line descendants are cadet members of the House of Glücksburg.

It was a risk that cadet branches maintaining legal heirs could sink in status. This could be due to shrunken wealth too meagre to survive shifting political upheavals (e.g. legal mechanisms in factionalism or revolution of attainder, capital offences and show trials) as much as unpopularity or distance from the reigning line.

Notable cadet branches[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Poore, Benjamin Perley (1848). The Rise and Fall of Louis Philippe, Ex-king of the French: Giving a History of the French Revolution, from Its Commencement, in 1789. W.D. Ticknor & company. p. 299. Retrieved 2009-03-06.
  2. ^ a b Amos, Deborah (1991). "Sheikh to Chic". Mother Jones. p. 28. Retrieved 12 July 2016.
  3. ^ a b "Saudi Arabia: HRH or HH? | American Bedu". Web.archive.org. Retrieved 2018-06-27.
  4. ^ "Family Tree". www.datarabia.com. Retrieved 1 April 2018.