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The British Royal Family Line of Succession
Who’s in line for England’s throne?
The line of succession to the British Royal Family often seems to be misunderstood. Having grown up in the UK and studying history there I can’t understand why people don’t know how the line of succession for the British royal family works, but even my hubby gets it wrong – and I thought I’d educated him by now!!
I should add a note in here to say that this should all change on 22nd April 2013 as a new law of succession should come into play allowing first borns to trump second borns regardless of their sex - I'll explain more about it when it becomes law and will update the line of succession at the same time.
With the new rules expected to come into play you won't see much change in the first few spaces of the line of succession, but when William and Kate's child is born it will be third in line for the throne regardless of whether it's a boy or girl and whatever any future child of theirs is.
The New Rules Are Here!
Scroll down the page to see the new rules and how they impact the line of succession. I've left the 'old rules' up first so that you can understand the historic background of succession.
The Act also gave Parliament more power in the governing role.
Basically boys trump girls and Catholics, adopted children and illegitimate children are out of the running. Most of the succession rules are outlined in the 1701 Act of Succession which was basically written to keep England unified under the Church of England and to stop any more religious persecutions that had been brought about by the likes of Mary I and others
Why Boys First?
At the time that the line of succession was established women had none of the rights that they have today (at least not in England) and it was believed a woman succeeding to the throne would mean that she would need to be married and thus the future of England could be controlled by an overseas king. This was not seen as good. Let’s look at the modern Royal family to see where this comes into play.
Queen Elizabeth II has four children born in this order – Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward. Obviously Charles is first in line for the throne, he is followed by his two sons William and Harry. If something should happen to the three of them the next in line is NOT Anne because she’s a girl instead it would go to Andrew. However, if something should happen to Andrew then the next two people in line for the throne are his daughters Beatrice and Eugenie. The Queen’s 2nd born – Anne is actually number 10 in line for the throne.
Why no Catholics?
Well the British monarch is also the head of the Church of England so it’s quite understandable that this role couldn’t go to a Catholic. If someone who is in line for the throne should marry a Catholic then they have to forfeit their rights to the throne, however their children are still eligible for the throne as long as they are brought up in the Anglican faith.
Recently Peter Phillips (the Queen’s grandson and number 11 in line for the throne) married a girl who had been brought up as a Catholic. Autumn had to renounce her Catholic faith and convert to the Church of England before they were married in order for Peter to stay in line for the British throne.
Why Shouldn’t Illegitimate Children have the Right for Succession?
Well back in 1701 DNA testing was not available, in fact all royal births had to be witnessed to made sure that the baby wasn’t substituted so leaving out illegitimate children did made perfect sense.
In recent years this has meant that 2 of David Lascelles children are ineligible for succeeding to the throne as they were born out of wedlock, whereas his younger two children are eligible.
The New Rules - Succession of the British Royal Family as of 2013
On April 25th 2013 after a couple of years in the making changes were officially made to the line of succession in the British Royal Family. The piece of law that came into place was called Succession to the Crown Act 2013.
The biggest thing that this did was to provide equality of sexes which means no more of this boy trumps girl business, although it came into effect in April the law actually takes place on people born after 28th October 2011 which was the date of the Perth Agreement where the heads of the Commonwealth agreed in principle to the act being 'born.
This means that none of the immediate royal family (ie the Queen's children, grandchildren and great grandchildren) have been affected, but there has been a few movements further down the line of succession.
The other change that came into effect was that people who married Catholics wouldn't be barred from the throne although Catholics are still barred from being in the line of succession. This does open the door to their children as once you marry a Catholic you're 'supposed' to promise to raise your child a Catholic - or that's always been my understanding (not being Catholic myself I may not be correct on this matter, but I do know that it was a concern Prince Charles raised with the British cabinet.
So Explain Who’s Next in Line?
The Queen had 4 children – 3 boys and 1 girl. Before the Queen had any grandchildren the succession rights went to her sons first, in their birth order followed by her daughter because the 'old' line of succession was in effect. When anyone who was in line for the throne had children they would be next in line after them, the only difference now being that children born after 28th October 2011 take their birth order in line regardless of sex.
This means that at the moment the line of succession for the British Royal family is this –
- Charles, Prince of Wales (the Queen’s eldest son)
- William, Duke of Cambridge (Charles’ eldest son)
- George of Cambridge (William's son)
- Charlotte of Cambridge (William's daughter)
- Harry (Charles’ youngest son)
- Andrew, Duke of York (the Queen’s second eldest son)
- Beatrice (Andrew’s eldest daughter – he has no sons)
- Eugenie (Andrew’s youngest daughter)
- Edward, Earl of Wessex (the Queen’s youngest son)
- James, Viscount Severn (Edward’s youngest child, but only son)
- Lady Louise Windsor (Edward’s daughter)
- Anne (the Queen’s only daughter)
- Peter Phillips (Anne’s son)
- Savannah Phillips (Peter's eldest daughter)
- Isla Phillips (Peter's second daughter)
- Zara Tindall (Anne’s daughter)
- Mia Grace Tindall (Zara's daughter)
Before her death the Queen’s sister Princess Margaret would have been next in line. The Queen and Margaret were the only children of the late King George VI. Princess Margaret had two children and so the line of succession continues through them in the same manner as above.
17. David Armstrong Jones, Viscount Linley (Margaret’s son)
18. Hon. Charles Armsrtong Jones (David’s son)
19. Margarita Armstrong Jones (David’s daughter)
20. Lady Sarah Chatto (Margaret’s daughter)
21. Samuel Chatto (Sarah’s eldest son)
22. Arthur Chatto (Sarah’s youngest son)
Now that we’ve gone through the Queen’s father King George VI’s descendants we look to his father’s descendants ie the Queen’s uncles and aunts and their off-spring. The Queen had 4 uncles and 1 aunt on her father’s side. Her eldest uncle was the former Edward VIII who abdicated, the next in line would have been Henry Duke of Gloucester who died in 1974. He had two children William and Richard. William is deceased and left no issue which leads us to Richard.
23. Richard, Duke of Gloucester
24. Alexander Windsor, Earl of Ulster (son of Richard)
25. Xan Windsor, Lord Culloden (son of Alexander)
26. Lady Cosimo Windsor (daughter of Alexander)
27. Lady Davina Lewis (daughter of Richard)
28. Senna Lewis (daughter of Davina - she moves up in line thanks to the 2013 rules)
29. Tane Lewis (son of Davina - he drops a space in line because of the 2013 changes)
30. Lady Rose Gilman (daughter of Richard)
31. Lyla Gilman (daughter of Rose - moves up above her brother in line for the throne)
32. Rufus Gilman (son of Rose, being born in 2012 he no longer frogleaps his sister in line)
The Queen’s next uncle was George, Duke of Kent who is also deceased, but who had three children – Edward, Alexandra and Michael.
33. Edward, Duke of Kent (son of George, Duke of Kent)
34. Edward’s son George, Earl of St Andrews is now back in line for the throne because he married a Catholic, but didn't convert himself.
35. Lady Marina Windsor (daughter of George, Earl of St Andrews – her brother Edward and sister Amelia both converted to Catholicism, but she hasn’t so she is still in the line of succession.)
36. Lady Helen Taylor (daughter of Edward)
37. Columbus Taylor (son of Helen)
38. Cassius Taylor (son of Helen)
39. Eloise Taylor (daughter of Helen)
40. Estella Taylor (daughter of Helen)
Edward’s son Nicholas converted to Catholicism which meant he was no longer in the line of succession.
George, Duke of Kent’s youngest son is Michael of Kent who lost his place in the line of succession when he married a Catholic. His children, however were brought up in the Church of England so are still in the line of succession. He is now back in line -
41. Prince Michael of Kent
42. Lord Frederick Windsor (Michael’s son)
43. Lady Gabriella Windsor (Michael’s daughter)
44. Alexandra, Lady Ogilvy (daughter of George, Duke of Kent)
45. James Ogilvy (son of Alexandra)
46. Alexander Ogilvy (son of James)
47. Flora Ogilvy (daughter of James)
48. Marina Mowatt (daughter of Alexandra)
49. Christian Mowatt (son of Marina)
50. Miss Zenouska Mowatt (daughter of Marina)
So there you have it the fifty people in line for the British throne at the moment and how the rule of succession works.