A kingmaker is a person or group that has great influence on a royal or political succession, without themselves being a viable candidate. Kingmakers may use political, monetary, religious, and military means to influence the succession. Originally, the term applied to the activities of Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick—"Warwick the Kingmaker"—during the Wars of the Roses (1455–1487) in England.[1]


In game theory

In game theory, a kingmaker is a player who lacks sufficient resources or position to win at a given game, but possesses enough remaining resources to decide which of the remaining viable players will eventually win.

Contemporary usage

The term "kingmaker", though always unofficial, has tended to gain more importance in places of power struggle—e.g., politics, sports organizations etc. Consequently, bestowal of such a title is looked upon significantly and more often as a means of indirect gratification for individuals wanting to silently dictate the affairs of the organization. The term is also occasionally used in a pejorative sense during elections where a small number of independent political candidate(s) who hold a sizeable sway in the "vote bank" can most likely decide the course of an outcome.

As well as referring to an individual, the term can also be applied to institutions or think tanks whose opinions are held in great regard by the interested organization. The influence of the religious orders like the Roman Catholic Church in running the affairs of the state during medieval times (through the king) is a well-known example. Kingdoms and empires in the Indian sub-continent often relied on their religious heads. Besides religious orders, even countries can fit into this terminology when they can dictate the affairs of the other country (either directly or indirectly). In current political scenarios across the world the term can expand its scope to include powerful lobbying groups, whose role is often seen as a defining factor on major issues.

Citizens of West African sub-national monarchies often use the word kingmaker to refer to the members of the electoral colleges that choose their sovereigns because they also usually officiate during the coronation rituals and rites of purification, the word in this particular case taking on a literal meaning i.e. a maker of the king.

The term "kingmaker" is also used to describe situations in multi-player games where a player is either unable to win or has claimed an unassailable lead, but, in either case, plays a strong role in determining the outcome for other players.

In fiction

  • The character Leon Fortunato from the Left Behind series of novels is often described as a kingmaker.
  • Marcus Jefferson Wall, the antagonist of much of the Matador series by Steve Perry is called the Kingmaker, and controls the President of the Galactic Federation
  • The character Mayvar Kingmaker from the Saga of the Exiles series of novels tests the ability of aspirants before they can be proclaimed king of the Tanu.
  • Ser Criston Cole, a character from George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, is commonly referred to as "the kingmaker". In the story in which he appears The Dance of Dragons (The Blacks and the Greens,) the king dies while his eldest child and designated heir is absent from the castle, and Ser Criston, the head of the king's bodyguard, immediately plots with other like-minded individuals to crown the king's second child, because the king's younger child is male, whereas the heir is female. This triggers a nationwide civil war. The Dance of Dragons draws inspiration from both The Anarchy and The War of the Roses, events in British history that each contained kingmaker figures (Henry of Blois and Richard Neville, respectively.)
  • Minato Yoko, a character from Kamen Rider Gaim, considers herself a kingmaker, wanting to see who has what it takes to take the Forbidden Fruit, a fruit of great power that can essentially make a person a king. Likewise, another character, Mitsuzane Kureshima, also has traits of a kingmaker, hanging around with and manipulating events so as to put the ruler in his favor.
  • Harry Leong, the ultra-rich, secretive billionaire from Crazy Rich Asians, is revealed to be one of the kingmakers in the government of Singapore.
  • One of the villains in the NBC TV series The Blacklist went under the alias The Kingmaker.
  • Uhtred of Bebbanburg, from Bernard Cornwell's The Saxon Stories and the Netflix Adaptation The Last Kingdom, was considered a kingmaker during the succession of King Edward of Wessex after the death of Alfred the Great.


  1. BBC News: "What is a 'kingmaker'?"
  2. Roderic H. Davison (1963). Reform in the Ottoman Empire, 1856-1876. p. 397.
  3. "وارونه نویسی در تاریخ" [Inversion in history]. پرتال جامع علوم انسانی (in Persian). Retrieved 26 October 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. Amanat, Abbas (30 August 2020), "EBRĀHĪM KALĀNTAR ŠĪRĀZĪ", Encyclopaedia Iranica Online, Brill, retrieved 26 October 2021
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  15. "Kiwis react to Winston Peters, the kingmaker".
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  17. "Albaner als Königsmacher". 16 July 2020.
  18. "Week in Review: The Show Must Go On". 15 July 2020.
  19. "The Middle East's Newest Kingmakers". Archived from the original on 5 June 2016. Retrieved 10 May 2016. the Kurds in Iraq, Syria and Turkey now have a chance to become the Middle East's most unlikely power brokers
  20. Walsh, Declan (22 May 2020). "In Stunning Reversal, Turkey Emerges as Libya Kingmaker". The New York Times.
  21. Ghana’s Hung Parliament Sets President Up for Tough Term
  22. Chazan, Guy (27 September 2021). "Greens and FDP emerge as kingmakers in bid to succeed Merkel". Financial Times. Archived from the original on 10 December 2022. Retrieved 29 September 2021.
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