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)
- Louis of Cambridge (William's son)
- Harry, Duke of Sussex (Charles’ youngest son)
- Archie (Prince Harry's 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)
- Lena Elizabeth 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.
21. David Armstrong Jones, Viscount Linley (Margaret’s son)
22. Hon. Charles Armsrtong Jones (David’s son)
23. Margarita Armstrong Jones (David’s daughter)
24. Lady Sarah Chatto (Margaret’s daughter)
25. Samuel Chatto (Sarah’s eldest son)
26. 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.
27. Richard, Duke of Gloucester
28. Alexander Windsor, Earl of Ulster (son of Richard)
29. Xan Windsor, Lord Culloden (son of Alexander)
30. Lady Cosimo Windsor (daughter of Alexander)
31. Lady Davina Lewis (daughter of Richard)
32. Senna Lewis (daughter of Davina - she moves up in line thanks to the 2013 rules)
33. Tane Lewis (son of Davina - he drops a space in line because of the 2013 changes)
34. Lady Rose Gilman (daughter of Richard)
35. Lyla Gilman (daughter of Rose - moves up above her brother in line for the throne)
36. 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.
37. Edward, Duke of Kent (son of George, Duke of Kent)
38. 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.
39. Lady Amelia Windsor (daughter of George, Earl of St Andrews – her brother Edward and sister Marina both converted to Catholicism, but she hasn’t so she is still in the line of succession.)
40. Lady Helen Taylor (daughter of Edward)
41. Columbus Taylor (son of Helen)
42. Cassius Taylor (son of Helen)
43. Eloise Taylor (daughter of Helen)
44. 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 -
45. Prince Michael of Kent
46. Lord Frederick Windsor (Michael’s son)
47. Maud Windsor (Frederick's daughter)
48. Isabella Windsor (Frederick's daughter)
49. Lady Gabriella Windsor (Michael’s daughter)
50. Alexandra, Lady Ogilvy (daughter of George, Duke of Kent)
So there you have it the fifty people in line for the British throne at the moment and how the rule of succession works.
lou16 (author) on December 04, 2019:
I'm not sure that they would strike him off the list, he's number 8 so not likely to take the throne. If I'm proven wrong and he was struck off it would just move his daughters up the list, they wouldn't be penalized at all.
Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on November 22, 2019:
Hello Lou, I suppose you've kept abreast with events lately, with Andrew's antics spread across the front pages of just about every newspaper?
He's tested the patience of his family, friends and staff as well as put his charity work in jeopardy. What do you reckon, struck off the list of succession? It wouldn't surprise me if that were the case. We won't know yet, perhaps not before his mother dies. It's an invidious position to put his brother in, just as his great uncle pushed the patience of Archbishop John Fisher in 1936... I'm not that much of a 'royal watcher', just that I chanced on your article at this peculiar time. Taking him from the list would push the rest up a rung. I couldn't see Andrew contest his older brother's decision - and how would that affect the status of his daughters?
Liz Westwood from UK on November 04, 2018:
This is an interesting line of succession. I tend to go with the first few direct in line and forget about the queen's cousins. As both Charles and William have an heir and a spare (or 2) I think it's unlikely that the succession will deviate much from the direct line. You might have to update your article again next spring though.
Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on May 20, 2018:
You really know your monarchy, and apt with the wedding yesterday. Wasn't it amazing? I loved it. Your article was really useful and informative to read, thankyou.
Jenafran from Tampa Bay Florida on November 25, 2011:
Very well explained. Very informational. Voted Up.
lou16 (author) on September 28, 2011:
@Jackie - When the oldest son takes the throne and becomes King his wife becomes Queen then and his mother becomes the Dowager Queen.
Jackie on September 27, 2011:
Ok so i kinda understand it but i was wandering what happens if a king marries and has 2 sons, and i kno the oldest takes the throne. Once the oldest takes the throne and becomes king and his mother dies does the women he marries become the queen or is she just the princess?
lou16 (author) on May 13, 2011:
@Robert Ulsrud - I don't believe that James, Viscount Severn was at the wedding and as 8th in line to the throne it would've been him. As he is only a child then someone would have to be his regent and I don't know who that would be.
Robert Ulsrud on May 12, 2011:
Who was at the Wedding of William and Kate, that if something horrendous would have happened to all in attendance, who would have ascended to the throne?
deblipp on May 03, 2011:
Very clear explanation. Lately I've seen lists of the succession, but no explanation, so thanks.
lou16 (author) on May 02, 2011:
If Charles decided to abdicate his place as heir to the throne then William would be next in line and after William it would be Harry before Andrew got a look in.
Maciek on May 02, 2011:
I have one question. Let's discuss following situation. Queen Elizabeth II dies. Her eldest son, Charles, rejects the throne and never becomes a king. In that situation who is next heir to throne? His eldest son William or his brother Andrew ?
lou16 (author) on March 22, 2011:
Thanks Vernpaulwriter and Trish.
Tricia Mason from The English Midlands on March 22, 2011:
I knew the basics of the line of succession, but you have really given us exhaustive information ~ it left me feeling quite breathless! :) :) :)
Vernpaulwriter from backwoods of Nevada on March 08, 2011:
Very informative, so much so that it makes your head spin. Love the info though and the history of it. Thanks for a great hub.
lou16 (author) on January 11, 2011:
Joe, Camilla isn't a catholic, her first husband was a catholic which is why her children were raised catholic, but she remained Church of England.
I've answered the divorce question above.
I think the media like to read things into comments and take them out of context as I would be extremely surprised if the Queen ever tried to get William to ascend the throne over Charles. I also don't think that Charles agree to abdicate in favor of William which would be the only way (unless he dies before the Queen that is)that William would ascend to the throne after his grandmother. I would also be surprised if William would go along with any plans to push in front of his father - he's in no hurry to be king.
Joe of Bury (USA) on January 11, 2011:
Lou 16: Do you know of any reason or can you think of any reason that Prince Charles would be ineligible to ascend to the throne like Lady Camilla being divorced or being Catholic or having had an affair with the Prince prior to his divorce from Princess Diana or he hinself converting to Catholic Religion or he having outside entanglements, etc etc. My reason for asking if that I have noticed that HRM Queen Elizabeth II has made reference (mentioned in supermarket tabloids) that she intends to pass the throne to Prince William for several reasons. With that being said, could the Queen do that and wouldn't she need backing from Parliament? I am under the impression that the 1701 Rules both declare and support "rightful succession" provided next in line hasn't violated any of the rules of qualification leading to sucsession. Can you think of any rules that have been violated or any reason that Parliament may wish to support the Queen's preference? Thank you.
lou16 (author) on January 11, 2011:
Technically Edward VIII could have married Wallis Simpson and remained King as the 1701 Rules of Succession didn't cover divorce. In the 1930s however divorce was still seen as a scandal and Wallis was divorced twice so he abdicated under the advice of his advisors. I don't think the monarchy would have survived the scandal if he had attempted to make Wallis his queen especially as his affair with her had started before she was divorced.
During the present time divorce isn't seen as such a large stigma (plus the fact that Diana is no longer alive) which is why the Queen allowed Charles to marry. Technically Camilla could be made Queen Consort if Charles ascends to the throne, but he was quite clear when they announced that they were marrying that she will not get this title - because of public perception.
Joe of Bury (USA) on January 11, 2011:
Question: When King Edward VIII abdicated his throne to marry divorcee Wallis Simpson could he have married her and remained King or would rhe 1701 Rules of Succession apply? I am also leading up to Prince Charles #1 in line to the throne, who divorced Princess Diana and married divorcee Camilla Parker Bowls. Would King Edward VIII rules apply to Prince Charles thus making him ineligible to ascend to the throne? Would Lady Camilla's religion hinder his sucession also? Is it also true that if Prince Charles became King, Lady Camilla could never become Queen because of her divorce? Based on the information I have researched and found and based on the 1701 Rules of Sucession, Prince William should be 1st in line to ascend the throne.
lou16 (author) on November 18, 2010:
You're right in your thinking Pam, if Edward had remained childless the line of succession would've been George followed by Elizabeth.
Pam on November 18, 2010:
This is an hypethetical question but, if Edward VIII hadn't abdicated would Queen Elizabeth II still have become Queen but in 1972 (instead of the 1950s) when Edward died? Guess I'm asking what the line of succession was for Edward had he not abdicated (or even married), continued his reign but remained childless. My thinking is that his heir to the throne would still have been his brother, the Queens father and that the line would have been the same, just the dateline would have altered and George would never have been King.
lou16 (author) on November 16, 2010:
Although we refered to King George VI's wife as Queen Elizabeth while she was alive (the current Queen's parents) her actual title was Queen Consort as her husband was the King. When a Queen comes to the throne their husband is a Prince Consort.
The only time that I can recall when there was an actual King and Queen of England at the same time was during the reign of William and Mary in the late 1600s. This was unprecedented but the only way that Parliament could get Mary (the then King's eldest daughter) to ascend to the throne (upon a 'forced' abdication of her father) was by agreeing to her husband being made King and ruling as a joint monarch.
Queen Victoria wanted her husband to become a King, but it wasn't allowed so although we will call Kate a Queen when the time comes her 'actual' title will be Queen consort.
mallen on November 16, 2010:
Can you explain how and when a royals spouse becomes king or queen and when they do not? Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip (not King)...Charles and Diana (would she have become a queen or stayed a princess?) and William and Kate (which they already said will become the 6th Queen Catherine. Please explain.
Thanks so much.
EverythingMouse on September 09, 2010:
One of my favorite subjects is the history of the Royal family with The Tudors being my favorite. I have never written online about it though. This is a great hub with a lot of useful information.
Gloria Siess from Wrightwood, California on July 02, 2010:
Loved this--Please read my Hub on the Death of King Charles I of England-I would value your comments.
Amanda Severn from UK on May 28, 2010:
That was fascinating. There's some great names in that lot. Imagine a King Columbus! Thanks for the info. A well-researched and thorough hub.
DeeDee on March 26, 2010:
thanks for explaining! interesting reading
lou16 (author) on January 02, 2010:
Thank you jayjay.
jayjay40 from Bristol England on January 02, 2010:
Interesting hub-you have done a lot of research and written it so well even i understood it