The Wars of Cairhienin Succession refer to the internal realignments of power within the kingdom of Cairhien. There have been five such wars since the War of the Hundred Years, although the Cairhienin prefer not to discuss them with outsiders. These conflicts should not be confused with the Succession Wars of neighboring Andor.
Cairhien was founded by an alliance of convenience between several noble families in the early stages of the War of the Hundred Years. Unlike in Mayene or Andor where the ruler must be a direct descendant of the founder, Cairhien has no such strictures. As a result, all of Cairhien's numerous noble houses plot and scheme incessantly to take and hold the Sun Throne.
The preferred method to win the throne is Daes Dae'mar, the Game of Houses. The noble houses conspire with and against one another, forming power blocs along the way. When one such bloc becomes powerful enough, it is possible to take the throne without bloodshed. Sometimes blocs of comparable strength come together and fight. It is presumed the the first three such wars were fought in this manner, but their details have been lost to history.
Fourth War of Cairhienin Succession
In 965 NE, Laman Damodred became King. It is unclear if he inherited the Sun Throne, or if he seized it as part of the Game of Houses. After fighting an aborted war with Andor, he allied with that nation and schemed to make his nephew Taringail King of Andor, so he could form the most powerful kingdom on the continent as a result of the union of the two nations. However, the disappearance of Taringail's weak, easily-manipulated wife Tigraine Mantear disrupted this plan, especially when Taringail's new wife, Queen Morgase Trakand proved far too willful to be led and controlled. Aware that Laman's plans had failed, his rivals maneuvered to challenged him. Laman's next act—to cut down the sapling of the Tree of Life given to Cairhien by the Aiel—led directly to the Aiel War and the Battle of the Shining Walls in 978 NE, where Laman and his surviving brothers were killed.
After the battle it became clear that Laman had brought the ruin of Cairhien down upon the nation. The rival houses banded together and deposed House Damodred from the throne in a short but bitter and bloody conflict. Galldrian Riatin became King of Cairhien. While deposed, House Damodred moved under its new leader, Lord Barthanes, to regain some of its damaged prestige and power over the next twenty years.
Fifth War of Cairhienin Succession
Although Galldrian had won the war and become king, his rule was not as strong as it could have been, and House Damodred regained a lot of its former power over the following two decades. In mid-998 NE Lord Barthanes Damodred and King Galldrian Riatin sent assassins against one another on the same night. Both died, their families began fighting, and several other families as well began maneuvering for the throne.
The Fifth War of Cairhienin Succession was a bloodbath by comparison to the earlier conflicts. No one family was strong enough to take the Sun Throne, resulting in utter chaos. The common people of Cairhien suffered tremendously, with a severe danger of starvation resulting from the prolonged period that troops were kept in the field and away from the harvest. This danger was averted when Tear began shipping grain and other supplies into Cairhien in the name of the Dragon Reborn, Rand al'Thor, after he seized control of that nation the following spring.
While the fighting continued, the Shaido Aiel unexpectedly launched an invasion of Cairhien, with the other Aiel clans hot on their trail under the leadership of the Dragon Reborn. Al'Thor defeated the Shaido, who had laid siege to the capital, in the Second Battle of Cairhien. Al'Thor declared peace in Cairhien, announcing that he would hold the Sun Throne in trust for Elayne Trakand, the Daughter-Heir of Andor who had a claim to the throne through her grandfather, Laman Damodred. However, while the fighting stopped in public, in private the scheming and conspiring went on, encouraged by some of the Aes Sedai loyal to the Amyrlin Seat Elaida do Avriny a'Roihan.
This conspiring culminated in late 999 NE, when the Dragon Reborn was captured by the Aes Sedai and taken towards Tar Valon as a prisoner. Forces loyal to al'Thor pursued the Aes Sedai force. While the forces loyal to the Dragon Reborn were absent, Lady Colavaere Saighan seized the Sun Throne and was crowned Queen of Cairhien. Unfortunately for Saighan, the Dragon Reborn was rescued from the Aes Sedai at the Battle of Dumai's Wells. Upon his return to Cairhien, al'Thor stripped Saighan of the crown of Cairhien and arrested her on charges of murder and treason. She was exiled to a farm, but killed herself before she could depart.
Al'Thor reiterated his commitment for Elayne Trakand to have the throne of Cairhien, and in her continued absence he named Dobraine Taborwin as the Lord Steward of Cairhien, a position Dobraine maintains despite being injured in an assassination attempt a few months later.
While some hold that the Fifth War of Cairhienin Succession is now over, others maintain that it will not be so until Elayne Trakand is crowned Queen of Cairhien and accepted.