This Is Actually How Far Each Royal Is From The Throne
At the time of this writing, the royal family has a lot going on. Between the death of Prince Philip, Meghan Markle’s pregnancy, and the Sussexes’ bombshell Oprah Winfrey interview, it’s brought up a bevvy of questions about the line of succession. Most people already know that — should something happen to Queen Elizabeth II — Prince Charles is next in line, but it starts to get a little murkier when you begin trickling down the family tree. For example, after Prince Harry rejected his royal title, are he or any of his children (both born and unborn) still ultimately eligible?
Barring a catastrophic tragedy, the lower echelons of the line of succession aren’t really a concern. It’s the reason most media chooses to focus on Prince Charles and Prince William. Nonetheless, there are some perks to being closest to the queen. We already know that royals towards the top of the line of succession are more likely to receive taxpayer-funded security (a major gripe held by Duchess Meghan). It’s also more likely that they’ll have to take on official royal duties rather than working a normal job like, say, Princess Eugenie (she’s even had to endure the lowly internship, an average citizen’s right of passage).
So, what exactly is the British line of succession? Here’s a look at how far each royal is from the queen’s throne.
Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor
Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor is the eldest child of Prince Edward, Queen Elizabeth’s youngest son. As such, she’s actually the queen’s youngest granddaughter. At the time of this writing, she’s just 17 years old, but her place in the line of succession was, by all accounts, quite unlucky.
Lady Louise stands as the 14th in line to the throne even though she’s older than her brother, James, Viscount Severn (we’ll get into his title later). This is because she was born a decade before the passing of the Succession to the Crown Act of 2013. Prior to the act, younger brothers always overtook their older sisters in the line of succession. Parliament removed the gender bias by voting the act into law in 2013 ahead of the birth of Prince George, and it finally came into force two years later. The act, which replaced the Royal Marriages Act 1772, also removed another antiquated stipulation which prohibited monarchs from marrying Roman Catholics. To this day, the king or queen cannot be a Roman Catholic (though they can marry one), and the first six people in line to the throne still need to ask the queen’s permission to tie the knot.
Lady Louise doesn’t seem to be sweating her low standing in succession. The royal has largely grown up out of the public eye and is so far from the throne that it’s unlikely she’ll ever become queen.
James, Viscount Severn
Lady Louise’s younger brother, James Alexander Philip Theo Mountbatten-Windsor (who happens to be 13 years old, at the time of this writing), is lucky No. 13 in the line of succession. If you haven’t heard his name before, that’s because Queen Elizabeth’s youngest grandchild typically goes by the title of Viscount Severn. Now, most Americans unfamiliar with royal titles are probably raising their eyebrows, but the seemingly unique name ultimately comes down to a decision made by his parents.
According to Tatler, Prince Edward (the Earl of Wessex) and Sophie (the Countess of Wessex) decided they wanted to forgo HRH titles and style their children’s names like an earl’s offspring to provide them with some semblance of normalcy. “We try to bring them up with the understanding that they are very likely to have to work for a living … Hence we made the decision not to use HRH titles,” Sophie told The Times in 2020. “They have them and can decide to use them from 18, but it’s highly unlikely.” James’ title is also a nod to his mother’s Welsh roots, as the Severn River is in Wales.
Admittedly, it’d be weird to call your future unpaid intern His Royal Highness, but we’re enjoying the possibility. Either way, it’s likely that James will nix his subsidiary title and become the Earl of Wessex since his father is supposed to become the Duke of Edinburgh following Prince Philip’s death (though, as of this writing, there’s speculation that title might go to Prince Charles).
Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex
Queen Elizabeth’s youngest son, Prince Edward, clocks in at 12th in the line of succession. Both him and his children have a spot above his older sister, Princess Anne, since the siblings were born well before the Succession to the Crown Act. Though he’s expected to become the Duke of Edinburgh after his father’s death, that royal title is a long time coming.
According to Express, it was widely believed that Edward would’ve achieved dukedom at his wedding in 1999, like his older brother, Prince Andrew. This is typical for the child of a monarch, and it’s the highest rank aside from king or queen among British royals. Instead, Edward was bestowed the lesser title of Earl of Wessex, a place that doesn’t even actually still exist (hundreds of years ago, it encompassed the counties of Hampshire, Dorset, Wiltshire, and Somerset).
Though the title might seem like a bizarre insult, Edward actually personally requested it. Per The Sunday Telegraph (via Express), he was all set to become the Duke of Cambridge (a title that now belongs to Prince William, along with “world’s sexiest bald man”), but changed his mind after watching “Shakespeare in Love,” in which a character held the Earl of Wessex title. Since Wessex doesn’t technically exist, no higher title involving the region exists. This is actually a very rare title that’s only been used twice before Edward (as opposed to the list of banned royal titles that can never be used again).
August Philip Hawke Brooksbank
At the time of this writing, Princess Eugenie and husband Jack Brooksbank’s son, August Philip Hawke Brooksbank, who’s 11th in line to the throne, is the newest addition to the royal family. He arrived in February 2021 in the midst of the nation’s sweeping coronavirus lockdown, and while the newborn does not yet qualify for an HRH title, his name has a very deep meaning.
As Eugenie described in an Instagram Story (captured by Insider, before it was deleted), her son is “named after his great-grandfather [Prince Philip] and both of his great x5 grandfathers.” Eugenie was particularly close to her grandfather. Following Prince Philip’s death that April, she described their tight-knit bond in an Instagram post. “I remember learning how to cook, how to paint, what to read,” she wrote in part. “I remember laughing at your jokes and asking about your spectacular life and service in the navy. I remember incinerating the sausages and you swooping in to save the day. I remember your hands and your laugh and your favourite beer. I will remember you in your children, your grandchildren and great grandchildren.”
Though August is highly unlikely to ever become king, he does serve as a joyful reminder of the royals that came before him.
Princess Eugenie, Mrs. Jack Brooksbank
Princess Eugenie is 10th in line to the throne. Though she’s unlikely to ever become queen, she’s certainly endured the downside of the crown — mainly the tabloid frenzy that sent Meghan Markle running back to the U.S. So, how bad was it?
Eugenie grew up far enough away from the throne that she had to build a life outside of it, but that’s at odds with the onslaught of media attention given to her family. Both her and her sister, Princess Beatrice, are in a unique position. They’re working women, but they’re also two of the most famous people in Britain, and they still struggle with how they’re portrayed in the press. “There was a horrible article that had been written about Beatrice and she got really upset,” Eugenie told Vogue (via Express) of an incident at a garden party. “… She had a bit of a wobble and cried. I was looking after her. And then about an hour later, I had a wobble and started crying and Bea was there for me.”
As the youngest daughter of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, Eugenie was also forced to watch her parents’ 1996 divorce play out in a stream of salacious headlines, lest we forget the toe-sucking incident heard around the world. Given her treatment in the press and her distance from the crown, it’s not surprising that Eugenie reportedly chose to raise her son without a royal title, according to Vanity Fair.
Princess Beatrice, Mrs. Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi
Princess Beatrice, who’s the eldest daughter of the Duke and Duchess of York, is a step above her sister in the line of succession, as she holds the ninth spot. Per her distance from the crown, Beatrice has some freedom that other royals don’t: She can marry whoever she wants without Queen Elizabeth’s approval. Nonetheless, that didn’t stop the queen from giving her approval, anyway — which was officially cemented into the very serious doctrine of a Christmas invite.
According to Express, the queen allowed Beatrice’s then-fiancé, Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi, to attend her infamous Christmas gathering at Sandringham in 2019, a couple months after the duo got engaged. Previously, Meghan Markle was allegedly the only other outsider who’s been let in without officially saying her vows. Typically, the festivities are for those with royal blood and their spouses only (it was rumored that Meghan’s mom was also reportedly extended the rare invite in 2018, but she didn’t appear to be in attendance).
Princess Beatrice and Mapelli Mozzi ultimately tied the knot in a secret July 2020 ceremony, after their first round of nuptials was postponed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Prince Andrew, Duke of York
Prince Andrew, Queen Elizabeth’s third child, is eighth in line to the throne. Per BBC News, he was the first child born to a reigning monarch in 103 years, and like his younger brother, Prince Edward, he’s also ahead of his sister, Princess Anne in the line of succession — even though she’s about a decade older than him. All of the queen’s children were born before the Succession to the Crown Act of 2013, which took gender out of the equation.
Even though it’s highly unlikely that Andrew would ever get the chance to become king (it would take a historic national tragedy), it’s unclear if he’d even be allowed to actually take the throne in the first place. In 2019, he stepped back from his royal duties after a disastrous BBC interview, in which he opened up about his ties with convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein. Though the prince claimed that he sought to end their friendship in 2010, after the financier was convicted of “soliciting and procuring a minor for prostitution,” he also admitted that he didn’t have any regrets, because his friendship with Epstein had “some seriously beneficial outcomes.” Earlier that year, Epstein had died by suicide while “awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.”
According to The Times, Andrew’s reprieve from royal duties was only thought to be temporary, but as of May 2020, the royal family decided he would retire from public life for good. Prince Charles ended up taking over some of his duties.
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Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s first child, Archie Mountbatten-Windsor, is seventh in line to the throne, but his place in the line of succession has been a bit of a hot topic ever since the Sussexes’ bombshell Oprah Winfrey interview. In the February 2021 tell-all, Meghan alleged that Archie was robbed of a royal title, presumably because of his race. “They didn’t want him to be a prince … which would be different from protocol,” she said (via People).
The duchess’ comments sparked some serious debate about what the protocol actually was. In some respects, Meghan was correct about the royal family having no “right to take away” Archie’s HRH status — but only because you can’t take away a title someone doesn’t have in the first place. As reports from People and CBS News point out, the only royals born with a title are the children and grandchildren of monarchs. Even then, the grandchildren must come from a monarch’s son, which is the reason why Princess Anne’s children were not given a title at birth. This protocol was enacted by King George V all the way back in 1917.
Archie is Queen Elizabeth’s great-grandson. As such, he’ll presumably automatically receive a title when his actual grandfather, Prince Charles, takes the throne. Per Express, he did get a courtesy title, but it wasn’t the same “prince” and “princess” as the great-grandkids in direct line to the throne. Instead, he’s the Earl of Dumbarton. One day, his prince will come.
Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex
Prince Harry, Queen Elizabeth’s grandson and the current Duke of Sussex, is sixth in line to the throne — but he’s made the decision to give up his HRH title. Ever wish you could quit your own family? It seems Prince Harry actually went for it. Considering the ginger prince referred to his royal family as “The Firm” during his and Meghan Markle’s Oprah Winfrey interview, we’re guessing holidays were probably not that fun, anyway.
All in all, this was a drama-fueled exit (or Megxit, if you will) from the duties bestowed upon Princess Diana’s youngest son at birth. You can’t choose your family, but you can choose how much you want to be chased by paparazzi. This was reportedly what partially fueled Harry’s decision to leave: He saw the role the media played in his mother’s tragic death, and in his infamous Oprah tell-all (via NBC News), the prince admitted that he feared “history repeating itself.”
Despite the fact that Harry is no longer considered a senior royal, he still could step up and become king should a bizarre circumstance prevent the five people in front of him from taking the throne. Per The U.S. Sun, the most feasible scenario would be if his father and brother tragically died before his nephew, Prince George, turned 18. In this case, he’d have the title of Regent, serving on behalf of the king (and not actually being the king), but only until George was old enough to have free reign.
Prince Louis of Cambridge
Prince Louis — or, as he’s officially titled, His Royal Highness Prince Louis of Cambridge — is Prince William and Kate Middleton’s youngest child. That’s a mouthful for a three-year-old, at the time of this writing, but such is the life of a tot who’s fifth in line to throne. He’s actually got a bit more nobility than some of Queen Elizabeth’s other great grandchildren.
Like his cousin, Archie, Prince Louis wasn’t obliged to have a royal title at birth — at least, if we’re going by the protocol set in 1917. Instead, his royal status all comes down to grandma. According to Express, the queen intervened to give Louis (as well as his older siblings, Prince George and Princess Charlotte) an HRH title, because they’re so far up there in the line of succession. Without the courtesy, Prince Louis would officially be Master Louis Cambridge (a play on his father’s status as the Duke of Cambridge) or Master Louis Windsor (after the House of Windsor). Things get complicated when you don’t have an official surname, but a prince doesn’t need one.
Princess Charlotte of Cambridge
Prince William and Kate Middleton’s daughter, Princess Charlotte, is fourth in line to the throne, but she’s the first royal to actually benefit from the Succession to the Crown Act of 2013. Born in 2015, the young royal no longer had to surrender her place in the line to her younger brother, which put Prince Louis at his rightful spot behind her, per BBC News.
Charlotte is just five years old, at the time of this writing, but decades down the line, there’s real potential for her to become the future queen should something tragically happen to her brother, Prince George, before he’s old enough to have children of his own. While she definitely not going to go full “Game of Thrones” anytime soon, she has been practicing for the part should the opportunity unfortunately arise. According to Us Weekly (as excerpted by Marie Claire), Charlotte is well aware that she’s a princess and “already has a toy tiara, which she loves wearing.”
Prince George of Cambridge
The Cambridges’ first child, Prince George, may only be seven years old, at the time of this writing, but he’s third in line to the throne. In other words: he will become king after his father, barring some kind of freak tragedy. What kind of freak tragedy? Well, Kate Middleton and Prince William consistently break a long-standing travel rule meant to protect the crown.
According to Business Insider, senior members of the royal family aren’t supposed to travel on the same plane in the extreme unlikelihood that there’s an accident. Think about it: if all of the Cambridges were unlucky enough to be in the same plane crash, that could theoretically wipe out four people in the line of succession. Considering the age of Prince William’s children, it’s not exactly feasible to shove them all on separate planes, which is perhaps why the Cambridges have not been following this unofficial rule (though William should probably, at least, still travel solo). Ultimately, Queen Elizabeth reportedly has final say, and she doesn’t seem all that concerned.
Prince William, Duke of Cambridge
As the eldest son of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, Prince William — who’s second in line to the throne — will almost undoubtedly become king. As such, he’s not exactly supposed to be lax about the rules. In the infamous words of his younger brother, Wills is supposedly “trapped” within “the system” and “can’t leave,” but such is life when you’re the firstborn heir to the British monarchy.
Since William is so high up, there are a lot — and we mean a lot — of things he can’t do. According to Insider, he needed to get Queen Elizabeth’s approval before proposing to Kate Middleton (she was, after all, going to contribute her DNA to the throne’s future heirs). He also can’t vote or express political views (something that got Meghan Markle in trouble when she guest-edited Vogue). Nor is he supposed to eat seafood, because of the elevated risk of food poisoning, according to Woman & Home, though he does allegedly occasionally sneak sushi.
Beyond the massive rulebook, Kate and William still do normal things. According to E!, they cook dinner, take their children to school, and walk the dog. They even have hush-hush spats with their frenemies (allegedly) and very public ones with their family. Just don’t expect any PDA.
Prince Charles, Prince of Wales
At the time of this writing, Queen Elizabeth is 95 years old. She’s led the country through national tragedies — including the novel coronavirus pandemic — with a firm hand (and typically, a well-coordinated pastel outfit), but she’s not going to live forever. When the long-standing monarch does eventually die, her eldest son, Prince Charles, will ultimately take the throne.
According to The Wall Street Journal, no British heir has waited as long to become king as the Prince of Wales. In the meantime, he’s made himself useful. Charles campaigned about environmental issues (a notable departure from the royal’s propensity to remain apolitical) and managed the House of Windsor’s private affairs (which have, in more recent years, been littered with scandal). His approach hasn’t always been popular, landing him a spot behind most other senior royals in opinion polls, but the monarchy isn’t a democracy. It’s a happenstance of birth order, and all he has to do to become king is stay alive (which should, presumably, be easier than getting an entire nation to like you).
Per Woman & Home, Charles gave up the lease to Home Farm, a plot of farmland near his country estate that he’s had for 35 years, in 2020 to prepare for his future role, as he couldn’t commit to a 20-year lease. For the time being, Prince Charles has stepped up to handle some of brother Prince Andrew’s duties in the wake of the Jeffrey Epstein scandal.
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