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Succession to the British throne explained

With Buckingham Palace announcing that doctors are concerned for the health of Queen Elizabeth II, here’s the line of succession,

The next in line for the British throne is Queen Elizabeth II’s eldest child, Charles the Prince of Wales, aged 73.

He would become Charles III. After him is Charles’ first child William, the Duke of Cambridge, whose mother was Diana, Princess of Wales. Next would be William’s first child, Prince George of Cambridge, then George’s siblings, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, both of Cambridge.

Sixth in line is Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, who is Prince Charle’s second son and William’s brother.

However, succession is decided not only through descent — the first born of the first born, then the second etc — but also by Parliamentary statute.

This protocol was established more than 300 year ago. After James II fled the country in 1688, Parliament offered the crown not to his first son but to his daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange to rule jointly.

As the Royal Family website explains: “It therefore came to be established not only that the Sovereign rules through Parliament, but that the succession to the throne can be regulated by Parliament, and that a Sovereign can be deprived of his/her title through misgovernment. The Act of Settlement confirmed that it was for Parliament to determine the title to the throne.”

In more recent times Parliament has changed the laws of succession to remove some historical prejudices.

For example the Succession to the Crown Act in 2013 ditched the rule that ensured what is known as male primogeniture, the systen under which a younger son takes preference over his elder sister. That is why Princess Charlotte is fourth in line and not the younger Prince Louis, who is fifth.

The same act also abandoned the rule that those who married Roman Catholics were removed from the line of succession. Still, because Parliament states that the Sovereign must swear to preserve the Church’s of England and Scotland, and uphold the Protestant succession, a Roman Catholic is excluded from succession to the throne.



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