Many changes are taking place in the line of succession to the British throne in the coming months. Not only did Prince George’s arrival make everyone below move down a place, but the Succession to the Crown Act will change many people’s place, and indeed in some people’s case their presence, in the line of succession.
Here are five things you may not know about the line of succession to the British throne.
1. ‘Where does it end?’
The line of succession to the British throne is calculated from descendants of Electress Sophia of Hanover (this provision was set out in the 1701 Act of Settlement). This means the line of succession is limited (i.e. not everyone is in it), but because of the number of generations there have been since Electress Sophia’s time, there are over 5,750 people from all over the world in the line of succession to the British throne.
The full line of succession has been calculated by someone, but hasn’t been updated since 2011 and also doesn’t include Prince George. Click here to see that.
The last person in the line of succession is Karin Vogel from Germany, who is approximately 5,754th in line to the throne.
In the United Kingdom, if the reigning Monarch is incapacitated or is too young to reign alone, then the first person in the line of succession (if they themselves are not incapacitated) is appointed regent.
Also, if the Monarch is temporarily absent from the country or temporarily incapacitated, the Monarch’s spouse and the first four adults in line to the throne form the Counsellors of State, who act collectively as Monarch. At the moment, these are The Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales, Prince William, Prince Harry and Prince Andrew.
Special provisions were made in a 1953 regency act that should The Queen die (at the time Prince Charles was a child), the Duke of Edinburgh would act as regent.
Should Elizabeth II become incapacitated, Prince Charles would become Prince Regent.
3. The Right to Marry
As it stands, the Royal Marriages Act 1772 states that no descendant of George II can marry without the reigning Monarch’s consent. If a descendant of George II does not seek or have the consent of the Monarch to marry, their marriage is void (i.e. it’s as if they never married).
Because there have since been many descendants of George II, there are estimated to be possibly hundreds of married couples in the United Kingdom whose marriages are actually void.
Fortunately, the Succession to the Crown Act 2013 will change this. When it is brought into effect, only the first six in line to the throne will need the Monarch’s permission to marry. If they marry without consent, they will be excluded from the line of succession, but won’t have their marriages voided.
The act is retrospective and states that marriages of descendants of George II are ‘unvoided’ if they were not one of the six in line to the throne who now are required to seek the Monarch’s consent to marry, in order to keep their place in line to the throne.
4. Male Preference
The British line of succession is one of the few in Europe which still operates a male preference line of succession. The system is called ‘male preference primogeniture’ and it means that females may only succeed to the throne if they have no brothers. The primogeniture part means that the eldest child succeeds.
Under the Succession to the Crown Act 2013, when the laws are effected, the British throne’s male preference will change to ‘absolute primogeniture’, which means that the eldest child succeeds, regardless of gender. This, however, only applies retrospectively to people born after 28th October 2011, so it won’t affect the current immediate line of succession.
The nearest people in proximity to the throne who will be affected by this are the 26th and 27th in line to the throne: Tāne Lewis (male) and Senna Lewis (female) respectively would have their places reversed because Tāne was born after 28 October 2011 and therefore loses his position of Male Preference over his older sister.
5. Renouncing the Right
There is no way that one can ‘renounce’ their right in the line of succession. Theoretically, the only way this could be done prior to the Succession to the Crown Act being introduced is to convert to Catholicism or marry a Catholic.
Once the Succession to the Crown Act has been introduced, one could also marry without the Monarch’s consent if in the first 6 in line and become excluded.
Once reigning, a Monarch can, however, abdicate from the throne ‘renouncing’ their right to be King or Queen. This was the case with King Edward VIII who abdicated in 1936 to marry twice-divorced American lover Wallis Simpson (as head of the Church of England, the King wasn’t allowed to marry Simpson because she was divorced).