The Tangled Line of Succession to the British Throne

Several members of the British royal family celebrate the Trooping the Colour on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, in honor of the Queen's birthday (L-R): the Duchess of Cornwall, wife of Prince Charles; Prince Charles; Princess Eugenie, Queen Elizabeth II, Timothy Laurence, Princess Anne's husband; Princess Beatrice, Prince Philip; Princess Anne (partially hidden); the Duchess of Cambridge; Princess Charlotte; Prince George and Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge. Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images

The British royal family never fails to fascinate, and has recaptured the world's attention with swoon-worthy Prince Harry's engagement to successful American actress Meghan Markle. Now that everyone's favorite redhead is betrothed, the line of royal succession to the crown is likely to change once the couple starts having children. But even before that, Prince William and Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge delivered a baby boy on April 23, 2018, and he will slide just ahead of Uncle Harry (known formally as Prince Henry of Wales) and bump everyone else back a spot.

Still following? The royal line of succession may be confusing to some but it's gotten a lot more straightforward. Before the Succession to the Crown Act, passed in 2013, males were always given priority over females. So, although Princess Anne was the second of Queen Elizabeth's four children, she was in line for the throne behind Prince Edward, the third son and youngest child. However, the Act ended the system of "male primogeniture" so the monarchy is equally available to both sexes — the oldest child is now next in line for the throne, followed by the child next in age and so on. (This change applies only to those born after Oct. 28, 2011.) If the oldest child has children of his own, these take precedence over his brother or sister.

Queen Elizabeth herself is the child of a royal "spare," (George VI) who only took the helm when his older brother, King Edward VIII abdicated in 1936. Edward VIII had no children of his own. George VI had two daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret, and no sons. Thus, Elizabeth inherited the throne from him and has ruled since 1952.

After her death, Elizabeth's oldest son, Prince Charles, is expected to inherit the throne. Here is the line of succession as it stands right now:

  1. Prince Charles, Prince of Wales (Elizabeth's eldest son)
  2. Prince William, Duke of Cambridge (Charles' elder son)
  3. Prince George (William's oldest child)
  4. Princess Charlotte (William's second child)
  5. Prince Louis (William's third child)
  6. Prince Harry (Charles' younger son, William's brother)
  7. Prince Andrew, Duke of York (the Queen's second son and third child)
  8. Princess Beatrice (Andrew's elder daughter)
  9. Princess Eugenie (Andrew's younger daughter)
  10. Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex (the Queen's third son and youngest child)
  11. James, Viscount Severn (Edward's son)
  12. Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor (Edward's daughter)
  13. Princess Anne, the Princess Royal (the Queen's only daughter and second child)
  14. Mr. Peter Phillips (Anne's son)
  15. Miss Savannah Phillips (Peter's elder daughter)
  16. Miss Isla Phillips (Peter's younger daughter)
  17. Mrs. Zara Tindall (Anne's daughter)
  18. Miss Mia Grace Tindall (Zara's daughter)

More to Explore