The English royalty of modern times is a complex system that has developed and evolved over many centuries and many generations of kings and queens, princes and princesses.
The current British Royal Family is a relatively large group of individuals, and there are strict rules and traditions about the various roles and ranks of its members.
While these ranks are based on ancient rules about precedence and status, they are nevertheless vitally important in many of the formal events and social occasions where a member of royalty is present.
These finer details of royal rank become even more important when there are multiple members of royalty present, as it’s deemed a requirement of etiquette to address the most high-ranking royals first.
The places assigned to the royals as they sit, stand or walk are also a carefully choreographed arrangement that takes into account the many complex rules about rank and precedence within the royal family.
What Are The English Royalty Ranks?
The English Royalty Ranks are the positions of importance, honour, esteem and respect (known as precedence) assigned to members of the British Royal Family.
These positions and ranks are based on the role and title of the person within the English royal hierarchy.
Who Is The Highest-Ranking English Royal?
As with many royal families around the world, in the English system of royalty, the highest-ranking royal is the reigning sovereign, which can be either a king or a queen.
For over seventy years, the highest-ranking English royal was Queen Elizabeth II, who was known around the world as the Queen of England.
After her death in September 2022, her son and heir, the former Prince of Wales, succeeded to the British throne and became the King of England. Known as King Charles III, he is now the highest-ranking English royal.
Who Is The Highest-Ranking Female Royal?
Her Majesty Camilla, The Queen Consort, formerly known as HRH Duchess of Cornwall is currently the highest-ranking female royal in the British Royal Family.
Camilla’s royal rank and place within the order of precedence is a result of her marriage to the current king.
Traditionally, the wife of a king is known as a queen consort, or sometimes, simply as queen – it’s believed that in time the current queen consort will become known as Queen Camilla. Even though she didn’t inherit the role in her own right – rather as a result of her marriage – Camilla’s rank is similar to that of a queen and makes her the highest-ranking female in the order of precedence.
The Ranks Of Royal Princes
While the roles of king and queen are traditionally the highest ranks within the English royal hierarchy, the next level in the order of precedence is the children of the reigning monarch.
As the current King of England, Charles III, has two sons, they are considered to be high-ranking royals, with their position regarded as higher than that of other royal princes and princesses.
For example, Prince William and Prince Harry outrank their cousins Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie. As sons of the sovereign, they also outrank their uncles, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward.
This is because the official order of precedence gives a higher ranking to the children of the sovereign than to the siblings, nieces and nephews of the sovereign.
Such an elevated rank is a reflection of the line of succession, which decrees that the throne will be inherited by the son or daughter of the monarch, rather than a brother or sister.
As a result, one of the highest-ranking positions within the British Royal Family is that of the son or daughter of the king or queen.
What Royal Rank Is The Prince Of Wales?
While all the children of a monarch rank highly within the system of English royalty ranks, there is one position that is historically regarded as the ultimate top spot and that’s the position of heir apparent.
Within the British Royal Family, it has long been a tradition to grant the title of Prince of Wales to the eldest son of the monarch.
During the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, her firstborn child and eldest son Charles was granted the rank and title of the Prince of Wales. Although he was the heir apparent as soon as his mother became queen in 1952, he did not receive the title of Prince of Wales until he was older.
Irrespective of the Prince of Wales title, however, Prince Charles was regarded as the highest-ranking male royal – as heir to the throne.
Now that England has a new Prince of Wales – Prince William, the former Duke of Cambridge, he is now regarded as the highest-ranking male royal after his father the king.
Birth Order & Royalty Ranks
Within the English royalty ranks, as with many of the systems of royal hierarchy around the world, there’s one factor that places a crucial role in the order of precedence and that is birth order.
Historically, the heir to the throne has been the eldest child, for many centuries this was also limited to the eldest son rather than a firstborn daughter. In recent years, the laws of male primogeniture have been changed to allow for firstborn females to inherit ahead of their younger brothers, but traditionally the throne has been passed to the eldest son, making them the heir apparent and one of the highest-ranking royals.
(This position is sometimes called the Crown Prince in some royal families, or the Dauphin within French royalty.)
The order of precedence regarding birth order typically dictates that an elder son outranks a younger son. This is the case with the current British Royal Family as Prince William outranks Prince Harry.
The matter of birth order also applies with female children. For example, the crown was passed to the late Queen Elizabeth rather than her sister, the late Princess Margeret, because Elizabeth was the elder daughter.
This ancient tradition was deemed more important than suitability for the role of sovereign, as it’s widely regarded that Margaret would have relished the rank and role of Queen of England, whereas Elizabeth was a more reluctant monarch.
The English royalty ranks are subject to some archaic rules and centuries-old traditions that dictate who’s who in the British Royal Family and which rank gets precedence. This makes for an intriguing and fascinating royal hierarchy that, despite its complexities, captures the interest and imagination of people all around the world who love to learn more about Who’s Who within the English royalty ranks.