Skip to main content
The King, the Queen, the Prince and Princess of Wales and their children on the balcony of Buckingham Palace during the Trooping the Colour celebrations.

The royal line of succession to the British Crown

The passing of the Crown from one sovereign to the next hasn’t always been smooth sailing with the history books telling tales of power grabs, missing heirs, and constitutional upheavals.

Image: Prince William is next in line to the throne, followed by his three children in order of age | Pete Hancock /

63 monarchs have sat on the English throne spanning a period of nearly 1,200 years. The passing of the Crown from one sovereign to the next hasn’t always been smooth sailing. Today, a royal line of succession to the British throne is laid out in law due to constitutional developments during the 17th century.

Rules on the royal line of succession

The royal line of succession is the order in which members of the British Royal Family stand in line to inherit the throne. Children of the sovereign are first in order, followed by the nearest blood relative should a ruling monarch be childless.

Once a monarch's reign ends, the line of succession promptly shifts. The heir ascends to the throne, causing those below to advance in rank. Alongside these changes, adjustments are made to royal titles, duties, and responsibilities.

This order of succession was certified in law by The Bill of Rights 1689. This Act ensured that succession to the Crown was regulated by Parliament, which also held the power to deprive a monarch of their title if they were found to be guilty of misgovernment.

The Act of Settlement 1701 then confined the line of succession to legitimate heirs of Sophia of Hanover. They must also maintain affiliation with the Church of England. The 1701 Act stipulated that the British monarch could not, by law, be a Roman Catholic.

Many of these laws remain in force today, however, some have been tweaked and updated.

Updates to the law of succession

The Succession to the Crown Act (2013) came into force in 2015 and laid out new rules on royal succession.

Under the original 17th century Acts, a younger male heir could usurp his older sister to the throne. This male bias was removed in the new rules.

The 2013 Act allowed members of the Royal Family to marry a Roman Catholic and remain in the line of succession. Previously, marrying a Roman Catholic meant disqualification from inheriting the throne.

However, even under the new rules, the sovereign must still not be a Roman Catholic themselves.

The new Act also stipulated that only the first six in line to the throne required the monarch’s consent to marry. Those from seventh onwards can marry freely.

Disruptions to the line of succession

A period of uncertainty over who should inherit the Crown is called a succession crisis. Over the past 1,200 years, the English monarchy has witnessed several of these moments, as well as other disruptions to the direct line of succession.

Britain's second-longest-reigning monarch, Queen Victoria, was never meant to rule herself. Whilst King George III had fathered 13 children, as he neared the end of his life only one of them had produced a legitimate heir, Princess Charlotte. When she died in childbirth, the King's children all scrambled to marry and produce an heir. In the end, that race was won by his fourth son, Edward, whose wife gave birth to Victoria.

Britain's longest-serving monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, was also never meant to rule but fell directly into the order of succession after her uncle, Edward VIII, abdicated the throne to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson. This meant the Crown passed to Edward's brother George VI who was the father of Elizabeth.

Further back in English history, disruptions to the line of succession usually led to violence and bloodshed. For example, when Edward the Confessor died childless in 1066, four claimants to the throne fought to wear the crown.

In the end, William of Normandy, otherwise known as William the Conqueror, won the right to claim the throne after beating the last of the Anglo-Saxon kings, Harold Godwinson, at the famous Battle of Hastings.

The current line of succession

The current ruling British monarch is King Charles III. Here is the line of succession to the throne (as of 2024):

1. The Prince of Wales (Born 1982)

The firstborn of King Charles III and Princess Diana, Prince William is the heir to the throne and currently takes official residency at Kensington Palace.

Educated at Eton College and the University of St Andrews, Prince William is married to Catherine, The Princess of Wales, and the pair have three children together - Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis.

The prince supports several charitable projects covering a range of topics from homelessness to the environment.

2. Prince George of Wales (Born 2013)

The eldest child of the Prince and Princess of Wales, George was born at St Mary’s Hospital in London. His full name was announced as George Alexander Louis.

George attended primary school at Thomas’s School in Battersea, an independent prep school, before moving to Lambrook Prep School in Berkshire.

3. Princess Charlotte of Wales (Born 2015)

The second child and only daughter of William and Catherine, Princess Charlotte was also born at St Mary’s Hospital in London. Her full name was announced as Charlotte Elizabeth Diana.

Like her brother before her, she started school at Thomas’s School in Battersea before also moving to Lambrook Prep School in Berkshire.

4. Prince Louis of Wales (Born 2018)

The youngest child of the Prince and Princess of Wales, Louis was also born at St Mary’s Hospital in London. His full name was announced as Louis Arthur Charles.

Like his older siblings, Louis attends Lambrook Prep School in Berkshire.

5. The Duke of Sussex (Born 1984)

Prince Harry is the second child of Charles and Diana and up until the birth of William’s children, Harry was second in line to the throne.

Like his brother, Harry was educated at Eton College before attending the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst to complete army officer training. He then saw active duty in Afghanistan on two separate occasions.

In 2018, Harry married American actress Meghan Markle and the pair have two children together – Prince Archie and Princess Lilibet. Two years after they married, Harry and Meghan stepped down as working royals and moved to California where they continue to reside.

6. Prince Archie of Sussex (Born 2019)

The first-born child of Harry and Meghan, Prince Archie’s full name is Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor.