In 2022, after more than seventy years on the British throne, Queen Elizabeth II died, at the age of 96.
With her death, many questions arose around the next in line to the British throne and what the new order would mean for all the other members of the royal family and their position in the regal hierarchy.
Up until the death of Queen Elizabeth, the heir to the crown, i.e. the first in line to the throne, was the then Prince of Wales, Charles who was the eldest son and firstborn child of the queen and her husband Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
When the queen passed away, her son Charles immediately became the new sovereign, to be styled as King Charles III, and his wife became the new royal consort, to be styled as Her Majesty Camilla, Queen Consort of the United Kingdom, at least during the initial period of their positions at the head of the monarchy. (It’s believed that the use of the term Consort may be dropped over time.)
So, now England has a new king on the throne, the patient Prince of Wales who spent the majority of his life waiting in the wings as his mother served a record-breaking tenure as queen.
After so many years of Prince Charles being the next in line to the throne, now that he has ascended to his role as the sovereign, it gives rise to questions about who are the new heirs and who’s who in the line of succession.
Prince William – Heir To The British Throne
With King Charles III as the reigning sovereign, his eldest son and firstborn child, Prince William, is his heir and becomes the next in line to the British throne.
As one of his first official acts as king, Charles III granted the title of Prince of Wales (his own former title) to his son William. This title is customarily granted to the heir to the throne, the eldest son and the next in the line of succession.
The swift appointment of William as the Prince of Wales appeared to be a clear signal that he would be the next King of England in due course, most likely with his wife Catherine, the newly appointed Princess of Wales, at his side.
Who’s Next In Line: Prince Harry Or Prince George?
The role of Prince William as heir to the throne is quite clear – as the firstborn child and eldest son of the current king, there is no question that he is the next in line.
However, beyond the role of the current heir, the issue of who would be the subsequent heir can be a cause for some confusion.
It may be natural to think that Prince Harry, as the king’s second son, would be the next in line to the throne, but this is not the case.
In the British tradition, as with many royal families around the world, the line of succession goes from parent to child, in this case father to son, and not from sibling to sibling, in this case, brother to brother. This is the order when there are subsequent generations – if William had no children or heirs, then Harry would be the next in line.
As William has a son, the next in line to the throne after Prince William is not Prince Harry, but rather his son, Prince George.
The Longer Line Of Succession
As the line of succession goes from parent to child, the more children the heir to the throne has, the further away from the line of succession all the other members of the royal family move.
For example, before Prince William had a child, Prince Harry would have been the next in line to the British throne (after William), and any children of Harry’s would also have been in the line of succession.
When Prince George was born, Prince Harry lost his position in the line of succession to his nephew. When Princess Charlotte was born, now that the rules about gender-equal succession have been changed (updating the traditional laws of male primogeniture), the new princess became the next in line to the throne, after her older brother George. This once again put Prince Harry’s position in the line of succession one more place further down the line.
As Prince William now has a third child, Prince Louis, it is increasingly unlikely that Prince Harry, even though he’s the king’s second son, will become an heir to the British throne
However, if all of Prince William’s children did not inherit the throne for some reason, Prince Harry would be the heir after Prince William. In this scenario, the future heirs would be Prince Harry’s children, Archie and Lilibet.
This scenario is unlikely, because even if just one of Prince William’s children had their own offspring, the line of succession would continue along that line, rather than transferring across to Prince Harry.
Where Are Queen Elizabeth’s Other Children In The Line Of Succession?
In the same way that Prince Harry has become increasingly further removed from the line of succession as nieces and nephews are born, so too are the siblings of the current king, along with their own children.
Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, second child of the late Queen Elizabeth, may seem like a strong candidate for the line of succession, after all, she is the king’s sister.
Yet her place in the royal line was moved further away with the arrival of each of her brother Charles’ children. And with the birth of King Charles’ grandchildren, her place in the line is moved down even further.
The same is even more true for Princess Anne’s younger siblings, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward.
If King Charles had not had any children, then his siblings may have been strong contenders for the British throne at some point in the future.
But with the birth of every new royal baby in the direct lines of succession, the chances of any of the other offspring of Queen Elizabeth inheriting the throne becomes less and less likely.
The line of succession within monarchies can be notoriously complex and at times, controversial. But with the current arrangements of heirs and their children, there are unlikely to be too many surprises in the future kings and queens of Great Britain, at least for a generation or two.