The royal family has certainly been making headlines lately. In April, 2018, Prince William and Kate Middleton welcomed baby Louis Arthur Charles to the world. Now, the media is buzzing about the upcoming royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. All this news about the royal family has also led to questions on how these events impact British throne succession. Who is next in line to be king or queen anyway?
British Throne Succession
First, let’s get to the British throne basics.
The government of the United Kingdom is considered a constitutional monarchy. In this system, monarchs (kings and queens) do not hold absolute power, but rather, exert their authority within the confines of a written constitution or established legal framework. The current monarch and head of state of the UK is Queen Elizabeth II, who became queen upon the death of her father, King George VI, on February 6th, 1952. Queen Elizabeth II is the longest-reigning British monarch.
Queen Elizabeth II and the royal family are responsible for many duties, mostly ceremonial and diplomatic, but some that are more official. The British monarch, for example, is the commander-in-chief of the British Armed Forces. Still, in modern times, the role of monarch in the UK has changed quite a bit. While the Queen holds formal executive power over the government of the United Kingdom, her actions are still bound by the constraints of laws enacted in Parliament.
History of the British Throne
In the past, there were no real rules that governed succession to the throne in Britain. A person could become monarch through a variety of ways, including inheritance, election, or conquest. Oftentimes, it was those with the most political or military power that would ascend to the throne. However, over time, more clear guidelines for British throne succession would develop.
Current British throne succession laws are based on those from the small Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of the past, which would eventually consolidate into the kingdoms of England and Scotland in the 10th century. In 1066, William the Conqueror would launch the Norman conquest of England, eventually passing the English monarchy to himself and then to his descendants.
In 1603, the Scottish King James VI ascended to the English throne as James I, beginning a period when the kingdoms of England and Scotland were ruled by a single person. The monarchy was abolished following the formation of the republican Commonwealth of England, but this change was short-lived, lasting from 1649-1660.
In 1707, the kingdoms of England and Scotland merged to form the Kingdom of Great Britain. In 1801, the Kingdom of Ireland would join. Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, the British monarch would take on more responsibilities and power as the leader of the British Empire, which reached its greatest extent in 1921. By the end of World War II, however, many former British colonies and territories had began to gain independence, and the British Empire would ultimately cease to exist.
Today, Queen Elizabeth II is the monarch of the United Kingdom and the 15 other Commonwealth monarchies that make up the Commonwealth realm.
Who is Next in Line to the British Throne?
So what lies next for the British throne? Today, succession still takes into account descent, legitimacy, religion, and gender. However, due to unforeseeable circumstances and the fact that things can change, there is no official and complete version of the line of succession. We do have a pretty good idea of who is next in line though.
1. The Prince of Wales
Prince Charles, from Britain, is first in line. He is the first child of Queen Elizabeth II.
2. The Duke of Cambridge
Prince William is second in line. He is the oldest of Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales.
3. Prince George of Cambridge
Prince George is the oldest son of Prince William and Catherine (Kate Middleton), Duchess of Cambridge. He is third in the line of succession.
4. Princess Charlotte of Cambridge
Princess Charlotte is Prince William and Catherine’s second child, and she is fourth in line.
5. Prince Louis Arthur Charles of Cambridge
Prince Louis is the third child of Catherine and Prince William, and he is the fifth in line.
6. Prince Henry of Wales
Britain’s own Prince Harry is sixth in line to the throne. He is currently engaged to actress Meghan Markle.
7. Duke of York
Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, is Queen Elizabeth II’s second son, and third child.
8. Princess Beatrice of York
Princess Beatrice, who is 29, is the oldest daughter of Prince Andrew. She is 8th in line.
9. Princess Eugenie of York
Prince Andrew’s youngest daughter, Princess Eugenie is ninth in the line of succession. She is 28 years old.
10. The Earl of Wessex
This is Queen Elizabeth’s third son. Prince Edward is 10th in line to the throne.
11. Viscount Severn
James, Viscount Severn, is only 10 years old he is 11th in line for the Crown. He is the only son of Prince Edward, Queen Elizabeth’s third son.
12. The Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor
The oldest child of Prince Edward, Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor is 12th in line.
13. The Princess Royal
Princess Anne is Queen Elizabeth II’s only daughter and is 13th to take the throne.
14. Peter Phillips
No fancy title here. Peter Phillips is the only son of Princess Anne and 14th in line.
15. Savannah Phillips
The first child of Peter Phillips, she is 15th in line. Savannah Phillips is also the first great-grandchild of Queen Elizabeth II.
When it comes to British throne succession, things can change in a heartbeat. For now though, we can stick with this list.