The Fire Lord is the supreme leader of the Fire Nation, wielding great power within both government and state. Unrestricted by gender, the Fire Lord resides in the Royal Palace, located in the Fire Nation Capital, and is usually a powerful firebender. The title has been held by Izumi since 167 AG, after her father, Zuko, abdicated the throne.
Historically, the role and position of the Fire Lords has shifted in regards to their power and importance. The early Fire Lords were the Fire Nation's foremost spiritual and temporal authorities but governed the country alongside the Fire Sages and noble clans. Later, Fire Lords became purely secular rulers with theoretically absolute powers but were often influenced or even controlled by the mightiest clans. From the 3rd century BG onward, the Fire Lords gradually broke the nobles' influence. By 0 AG, they had become actual autocrats and had total control of the Fire Nation.
Prior to the formation of the Fire Nation, the disaggregated Fire Islands were united by the first Fire Lord, who ushered in a prolonged era of peace under religious rule with himself as head of the Fire Sages. The power of the early Fire Lords was limited, as they ruled alongside a council of Fire Sages, while many noble clans who descended from the old warlords were allowed autonomy as well as armed household troops. Eventually, the Fire Lords took state power for themselves and reduced the Fire Sages' influence on the government, turning the Fire Nation into a hereditary monarchy controlled by the Fire Nation Royal Family. Afterward, the positions of Great Sage and High Sage were established to replace the Fire Lord's original role as head of the Fire Sages.
Despite the nominal empowerment of the Fire Lords and their theoretically absolute power, their position remained highly unstable due to the lasting might of the noble clans as well as infighting within the royal family. The noble clans often married into the royal family, and the ruler's consorts would then empower their own clan, causing resentment and feuds by rival nobles. Economic crisis, natural disasters, and political conspiracies could greatly weaken the position of individual Fire Lords, and the Fire Nation often suffered from civil wars. In these times, Fire Lords could become completely powerless. Under Fire Lord Yosor, the Fire Nation collapsed almost completely into separate states until Avatar Szeto restabilized the central government and strengthened the Fire Lord's position with political and economical reforms.
In the early 3rd century BG, the position of Fire Lord Zoryu was assailed by his half-brother Chaejin, resulting in a crisis known as the Camellia-Peony War. This succession conflict exposed once again the clans' great influence as well as weakness of the central government. Zoryu and his successors consequently worked to finally disempower the nobles and gradually transformed the Fire Nation into a centralist autocracy. By the time of Fire Lord Sozin, the Fire Sages and nobles were completely subjugated to the Fire Lord's rule. As he could use the resources of the Fire Nation as he saw fit, Sozin greatly empowered his military and eventually started the Hundred Year War in an attempt to unite the world under the Fire Lords' reign.
During Fire Lord Azulon's rule, Prince Iroh was first in line to the throne. After Iroh's only son, Lu Ten, was killed during the Siege of Ba Sing Se, Iroh abandoned the mission and returned home. Prince Ozai, the second born son, called a meeting with Azulon during which he attempted to persuade his father to name him as heir and strip Iroh of his birthright. According to Azula, Azulon became furious at this suggestion and told Ozai that he would have to "know the pain of losing a first-born son", as Iroh did, by killing his own son, Zuko. However, due to Ursa's interference, Ozai instead killed his father with a poison concocted by her and was subsequently crowned Fire Lord, which was said to be Azulon's dying wish.
As Fire Lord, Ozai carried on the established custom, upholding the Fire Lord's absolute rule over the nation and his ability to dictate military decisions. Near the Hundred Year War's conclusion, however, Fire Lord Ozai broke with this tradition by establishing a personal position known as the Phoenix King, crowning himself the supreme ruler of the world. Having passed over his first born son, Prince Zuko, he granted the position of Fire Lord to his daughter, Princess Azula, entrusting her to lead the Fire Nation in his absence. However, upon the arrival of Sozin's Comet, Zuko and Katara interrupted Azula's coronation, and Zuko declared his intention to be crowned Fire Lord, provoking Azula to challenge him to an Agni Kai for the throne that resulted in his victory.
After Phoenix King Ozai's defeat at the hands of Avatar Aang, and Zuko and Katara's victory over Azula, Zuko was crowned the new Fire Lord, becoming the youngest known individual to achieve this status. He vowed to begin an era of peace and love, in which he strove to restore the Fire Nation's honor and to rebuild the war-torn world. In an effort to accomplish his goals, he formed the Harmony Restoration Movement along with the Avatar and Earth King Kuei in order to return the Fire Nation colonials in the Earth Kingdom back to the Fire Nation. Afterward, with the assistance of Avatar Aang, Fire Lord Zuko also founded Republic City. He remained the leader of the Fire Nation until 167 AG, when he abdicated in favor of his daughter, Izumi.
Position and powers
The Fire Lord wields absolute power over the Fire Nation's policies, and their orders are to be carried out immediately and without question. The Fire Lord is a central player in the workings of government and is intimately involved in affairs of state. In order to keep this great influence over politics, Fire Lords have often resorted to ruling through intimidation, although there were exceptions such as Zuko.
During the Hundred Year War, the Fire Lords took an active part in the military conquests of their nation, either by direct service or involvement in strategic planning. Fire Lords Sozin and Azulon were considered to be particularly effective tacticians.
The position of Fire Lord is hereditary, traditionally passed from parent to eldest child when the reigning Fire Lord dies or steps down. In order to prevent wars of succession between rival siblings, many Fire Lords designated one child as Crown Prince or Princess while living, thus confirming their choice of successor. In this way, a Fire Lord could also pass over an elder child in the succesion. Even though such declarations by the Fire Lords were usually taken as law, they were not unassailable. If the designated successor or ruling Fire Lord was regarded as incapable or as being rejected by the spirits, their siblings could step forward to claim the throne. Before the noble clans were disempowered, claimants to the throne often sought out supporters among the nobles in their bid to become Fire Lord. To strength to their own position as well as the legitimacy of their children, Fire Lords often took wives from powerful clans or from auspicious lineages.
In addition, some heirs have not become Fire Lord due to intrigues within the royal house; Crown Prince Iroh was passed over after his younger brother, Ozai, poisoned Fire Lord Azulon, and Crown Prince Zuko was passed over by his father in favor of his younger sister, Azula.
In case all else fails and there is no way to negotiate or mediate anymore, succession conflicts in the Fire Nation are traditionally solved with violence. According to one custom, rival claimants fight an Agni Kai for the throne. The winner will be crowned official Fire Lord and the loser has to step down. In other cases, claimants have taken the throne by launching an open rebellion against their rivals.
- Main article: Fire Nation Royal Family
The Royal Family includes its head, the Fire Lord; a spouse, if present; and their children. The wife of the Fire Lord is known as the Fire Lady. The children of the Fire Lord are referred to as 'Prince' or 'Princess', as is anyone married to the Fire Lord's children.
Known Fire Lords
This list includes all known recognized Fire Lords who were officially crowned.
- Yosor - Years unknown, ally to Avatar Szeto
- Chaeryu - fl. 4th century BG
- Zoryu - fl. 295 BG
- Sozin's father – Unknown ~ 58 BG
- Sozin – 58 BG ~ 20 AG
- Azulon – 20 ~ 95 AG
- Ozai – 95 ~ 100 AG
- Zuko – 100 ~ 167 AG
- Izumi – 167 AG ~ present
Known Fire Nation regents and claimants
Even though only recognized Fire Lords are the official rulers of the Fire Nation, their rule has not been unchallenged over the centuries. There were fights over the succession, usurpation, and temporary representatives who led the nation when the Fire Lord was absent. This list includes unrecognized Fire Lords, claimants to the throne, as well as those who were not Fire Lords but still ruled the Fire Nation for a certain time.
- Chaejin – c. 295 BG, as claimant. He attempted to usurp power from his brother Zoryu, but failed.
- Azula – 100 AG, as Princess Regent: appointed successor of Fire Lord Ozai, but challenged and defeated by her elder brother, Zuko.
- Iroh – 101/102 AG, as Interim Fire Lord: appointed regent by Fire Lord Zuko during his search for Ursa until his return to the capital.
The Fire Lord's most common set of clothing are robes. These robes contain multiple shades of red and black, as well as ornate gold trimmings and are supposed to be worn in conjunction with the Fire Lord headpiece.
The Fire Lord has always worn a set of ornate robes, but the design has changed slightly throughout the generations. Fire Lords Zuko, Ozai, Azulon, Sozin, and Sozin's father all wore a similar set of robes. Fire Lord Sozin's grandfather, however, wore a less ornate set of robes, as seen in his official portrait.
Fire Lord Zuko has worn multiple varying versions of the ornate robes.
During his temporary reign over the Fire Nation while Zuko was out looking for his mother, Iroh wore another slightly less ornate version of the robes.
During his later reign, Zuko opted to wear a less ornate but regal set of robes, featuring gray pants, black boots with gold trimming, black bracers, black shoulder pauldrons, a gold belt inscribed with the Fire Nation insignia, and an elegant tunic in red along with a set of dual broadswords.
- Main article: Royal Gallery
Located within the Fire Nation Royal Palace is a hallway that contains portraits of each Fire Lord. Each portrait depicts the Fire Lord in a way that emphasizes the advancements made during that respective Fire Lord's rule. Azulon's portrait, for example, depicts him standing on top of a turtle-like creature, symbolizing the many victories the Fire Nation had against the Earth Kingdom and Water Tribes during Azulon's rule. More portraits of past Fire Lords, down to the first one, were discovered in 102 AG in a part of the Dragonbone Catacombs that was sealed under Sozin's orders.
- In official sources, both "Fire Lord" and "Firelord" are used; either spelling is acceptable.
- The "Fire Lord" title is written in Chinese as  .
- Sozin served the longest known term as Fire Lord, spanning seventy-eight years.
- Ozai served the shortest known term as Fire Lord, and he is also the only known Fire Lord who was deposed.
- Zuko is the only known Fire Lord to willingly retire from his position, as Chaeryu, Sozin, and Azulon ruled until their deaths and Ozai was forcibly removed from power.
- Izumi is the only known Fire Lord not to be confirmed to be a firebender, as well as the only known female Fire Lord.
- Iroh served as interim Fire Lord for a short period of time while Zuko went to search for his mother Ursa. During his rule, he declared a "National Tea Appreciation Day".
- The Fire Lord has the authority to banish Fire Nation citizens, as Ozai did to Prince Zuko following the latter's refusal to fight his father in an Agni Kai.