A dynasty is a succession of people belonging to the same family, who, through various means and forms maintain power, influence or authority over the course of generations. Most commonly the term is used specifically in reference to royal houses and imperial dynasties — their authority manifests itself as the sovereign of a state or territory. Usually in much of the world, such dynasties and noble houses are defined patrilineally, with inheritance and kinship being predominantly viewed and legally calculated through descent from a common ancestor in the male line. The female line is normally only considered once the male lineage has died out. Other forms of dynasties include political families in republics and also with the rise of mercantilism prominent business and financial dynasties, such as the Rothschild family. These do not carry the public prestige of a monarch but are influential.

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