What is the royal line of succession, how does it work and who is next in line for the throne?

All your questions, answered.
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  • The British royal line of succession is a unique and complicated system.

    While it’s common knowledge that Prince Charles is heir to the throne, what would happens if the Queen outlived him? Where do Princess Anne and Princess Charlotte fit into the royal line of succession? And, is Harry still in line despite stepping down from royal duties?

    If you want to know more about how the royal line of succession works in the UK, then read on. We answer all your royal succession questions below. Such as, if the Queen abdicates or dies, who will take her place? And what happens if the person after the Queen isn’t able to take her place?

    How does the royal line of succession work?

    To be considered in line to the throne, you must be a member of the royal family. Other factors such as legitimacy, religion and sex also are considered important factors in the line of succession.

    The original law stated that younger male heirs would be considered for the throne before their older, female siblings. However, in 2013 this changed and now any older female sibling born after 28 October 2011 can be considered first for the throne.

    A monarch must not be a Roman Catholic, as they have to be in communion with the Church of England and must promise to uphold the Protestant succession.

    Who is next in line for the throne?

     The Prince of Wales, Prince Charles, is currently next in line for the throne. He will become king when his mother, the Queen gives up the throne or dies.

    The Queen and Prince Charles, the heir to the throne

    Credit: Getty

    What happens if Prince Charles dies before the Queen?

    In the event that Prince Charles dies before the Queen, his son Prince William will take the throne as he is next in line. The same process would then happen again if something happened to Prince William.

    What happens if someone from the royal family were to abdicate?

    If someone abdicates the throne, a similar process occurs as if they had died. However, there is more involvement from Parliament in the succession.

    The last person to abdicate from the throne was King Edward VIII, who stepped down from the throne in 1936 and left his brother, the Queen’s father, to take his place.

    MORE: What happens if the Queen retires?

    Is Prince Harry still in the royal succession?

    Queen Elizabeth II speaks with Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex

    Even though Prince Harry has stepped back from royal duties, he remains sixth in line for the throne. However, the chances of him becoming monarch are pretty low as Prince William’s three children are all considered before him.

    If the eldest heir is female, will she be Queen?

    Since The Succession to the Crown Act (2013), which changed the law around succession to the throne, regardless of gender, the oldest female heirs are allowed to become monarch before their younger male siblings.

    Princess Charlotte

    Credit: Getty

    This means that Princess Charlotte will become queen before her younger brother, Prince Louis. However, the Duchess of Cornwall won’t become Queen and neither will the Duchess of Cambridge – as they are only married to a future king, rather than an direct heir in the royal line of succession themselves.

    The current royal line of succession

    Following the Queen, the royal line of succession goes as follows…

    1. Prince Charles – Prince of Wales
    2. Prince William – The Duke of Cambridge
    3. Prince George of Cambridge
    4. Princess Charlotte of Cambridge
    5. Prince Louis of Cambridge
    6. Prince Harry – The Duke of Sussex
    7. Master Archie Mountbatten-Windsor
    8. Prince Andrew, The Duke of York
    9. Princess Beatrice of York
    10. Princess Eugenie of York
    11. Prince Edward, The Earl of Wessex
    12. James, Viscount Severn
    13. Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor
    14. Princess Anne, The Princess Royal
    15. Peter Phillips
    16. Savannah Phillips
    17. Isla Phillips
    18. Zara Tindall