But in the past, the unexpected succession of younger sons was a common occurrence, in various ways --
1) Mother nature: poor medicine and high death rates -- affecting not just children and infants but also, adults. The man we know in history as King George V of Great Britain was born in the exact same position as Prince Harry: third in line to the throne, as the second son of the Prince of Wales -- yet succeeded.
2) Fighting succession wars: this is no time to chronicle the various instances of killing and usurping to acquire thrones.
3) Flukes: the prime example is the 1701 Act of Settlement, which settled the British crown upon the person of the Electress Sophia of Hanover and the heirs of her body (being Protestant), in the event that the daughters of King James VII/II and his nephew (William of Orange), between them, should fail to produce surviving issue. I believe that some 48 persons with better genealogical claims on the throne got displaced as a result.
Abdication would also count as a fluke factor -- that is, when a throne passed to a collateral line within the house (e.g. 1919 Luxembourg, 1936 UK). When a throne passes laterally (e.g. father to son), it doesn't really count as a fluke, since the reigning monarch is succeeded by by an heir apparent -- i.e. a dynast direct in line to the throne, who expects to eventually inherit it, anyway (e.g. 1848 Bavaria, 1918 Bulgaria, 2013 Belgium, 2014 Spain).
4) Branching out of the house: we have seen this happen with the Habsburgs, Coburgs, Bourbons, and Glücksburgs (among others). The various foreign thrones that these dynasties reigned over include Tuscany, Modena, Belgium, Bulgaria, Portugal, Spain, Parma, the Two Sicilies, Greece and Norway. It's not for no reason that King Christian IX of Denmark is called the "Father-in-law of Europe".
What are other ways in which younger sons have acquired thrones?
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