A pretender is someone who claims to be the rightful ruler of a country although not recognized as such by the current government.[1] The term is often used to suggest that a claim is not legitimate.[2][3] The word may refer to a former monarch or a descendant of a deposed monarchy, although this type of claimant is also referred to as a head of a house.[4]

"The Young Pretender", Charles Edward Stuart (1720 – 1788), was head of the House of Stuart and claimed the thrones of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland.

The word was popularized by Queen Anne, who used it to refer to James Edward Stuart, the Jacobite heir, in an address to parliament in 1708: “The French fleet sailed from Dunkirk [...] with the Pretender on board.”[5]

In 1807, French Emperor Napoleon complained that Almanach de Gotha continued to list German princes that he had deposed.[6] This episode established Gotha as an authority on the titles of deposed monarchs and nobility, many of which were restored in 1815 at the end of Napoleon's reign.