Let’s face it: royal lines of succession are very confusing, especially if you’re not British. It can be difficult keeping track of who has what titles, much less who supersedes whom in the line for the Crown.
But now, with rumors that Queen Elizabeth II will step down from the throne when she turns 95 in April 2021 (rumors Buckingham Palace denies), all eyes are on Prince William. He has been a famous and charismatic royal in the eyes of the public for a long time. And he is so well-liked that many people are wondering when he will become the king of England.
So, how long will Prince William have to wait to take the throne? Here are all the answers you’ve been looking for. Let’s start with some questions about the man in line ahead of him, his father Prince Charles.
How long has Prince Charles waited to become king?
The biggest obstacle to Prince William taking the throne is, of course, Prince Charles. When Queen Elizabeth II (who is currently 94 years old) passes away, Prince Charles will automatically become king. But how long has he waited to claim the title?
Born in 1948, Prince Charles has effectively been waiting to become king since February 6, 1952. This was when his mother Elizabeth became the queen, with the death of her father King George VI.
While it’s been a long wait, Charles has ended up creating history. He is now the longest-serving heir apparent in British history, with 68 years waiting and counting!
Could the Crown skip Prince Charles and go to Prince William instead?
Prince Charles is more than the longest-serving heir apparent in British history. Even if he were to take the throne today, at 72 years old he would be the oldest king to assume the throne in all of British history.
Some people worry about him being too old to assume the throne (although age has seemingly not slowed his mother Queen Elizabeth down one bit). And because of that, there is a common question: could the Crown skip Prince Charles and go directly to Prince William?
In a word, no.
It can be frustrating for royalty and their fans alike to see this waiting game play out. But there is no realistic way for Prince William to jump in line and become the king any earlier.
The only way for the process to speed up for William would be for Charles to abdicate the throne — something he is unlikely to do — or for Parliament to step in. Parliament has the right to regulate the line of succession and deprive a monarch of the throne based on misgovernment. But this would mean Charles would have to be king for a while and do such a disastrous job he needed to be forced out. The odds of that are highly unlikely.
So, it looks like William will just have to wait patiently for the throne, the way his father has done for 68 years!
This is despite the fact that the British public would prefer for the throne to skip Charles and go to William instead. In a December 2020 poll by YouGov, 40% of respondents thought William should become king, versus 32% preferring Charles.
But, in the battle for the throne between Prince Charles and Prince William, where does that leave Prince Harry?
How likely is it that Prince Harry will become king?
When it comes to making headlines, it’s tough for anyone royal to compete with Prince Harry. From his controversial marriage to Meghan Markle to their even more controversial decision to abandon their royal duties, these two keep both the royals and the press on their toes.
Prince Harry is still a very popular figure, though, both at home and abroad. And his fans can’t help but ask the question: how likely is it that Prince Harry will eventually become king?
First of all, Harry’s decision to leave behind his royal duties for a new life in the United States makes it very clear that he is not very interested in royalty and politics.
But the biggest roadblock to Harry becoming king has to do with the way the royal line of succession works.
What is the royal line of succession?
You might be asking yourself: how can anyone determine how likely it is for one royal to take the throne over another?
The way the royal line of succession works is through primogeniture. That is, the line of succession goes through the firstborn child.
As Queen Elizabeth’s eldest child, Prince Charles is next in line. After him would be Charles’ eldest child, Prince William. After him comes William’s eldest child, Prince George.
Fourth in line comes William’s second child, Princess Charlotte. And fifth in line comes William’s third child, Prince Louis.
As Charles’ second child, Prince Harry would be sixth in line after William’s descendants. But the sheer fact that the throne would go to five other people before it went to him makes it extremely unlikely that Harry would ever serve as king.
Of course, the royal line of succession went through a major feminist change in 2013, and it was all thanks to Queen Elizabeth II.
How the queen changed the royal succession law
If you look at the royal line of succession, you might be surprised to see Princess Charlotte on the list ahead of her younger brother Prince Louis. Previously, the line of succession considered gender as a primary factor and went by male primogeniture. The law dated back to 1701, and made it so that male children went ahead of female children in the line of succession, regardless of birth order.
However, The Succession to the Crown Act of 2013 changed all of that. This law went into effect before the birth of Prince William’s first child and ensured that birth order would now determine the line of succession rather than giving preference to male heirs.
What does that mean in practice? Had Prince William’s first child been a girl, she would have been first in the line of succession after him. And while his first child was a boy, his second (Princess Charlotte) now has a secure place in line ahead of his third child (Prince Louis).
It was all part of Queen Elizabeth’s desire to create a more equitable line of succession. She brought the outdated rules into the 21st Century!