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The Royal line of succession: why the British monarchy has a problem

King Charles III became King following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, but who will follow?

royal line succession
Hannah Watkin
Content Writer
Updated: 9 February 2024
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On 6 May 2023, King Charles III was crowned King in Westminster Abbey, following the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, on 8 September 2022. The monarch – who was recently diagnosed with cancer – has been forced to take a step back from royal duties however, prompting his eldest son, Prince William, to shoulder more responsibility while he receives medical treatment. 

Amid Charles' diagnosis, the Royal Family will be adapting to a new schedule, leaving the British public with more questions than ever, and in the latest episode of A Right Royal Podcast, royal author and journalist Robert Jobson opened up about what it could mean for the monarchy if Charles was forced to abdicate early due to his health. He explained: "At this moment in time we don't really have a clear resolution as to what happens constitutionally. Say, heaven forbid, something happens to His Majesty. 

WATCH: Why there is a problem with the line of succession

"The Queen is effectively retired and becomes the Dowager Queen... then it'll William and Catherine as King and Queen. If anything were to happen to William, heaven forbid, you have a child, George, who isn't of age. You have to work out who will be the person to step in, and it wouldn't be Catherine, it would have to be Prince Edward or Princess Anne, to act as some form of regent. That's where the slimmed down monarchy has become something of an issue." 

WATCH: King diagnosed with unspecified cancer – what is known so far

Fans have wondered whether the King might abdicate the throne and – if that should be the case – what would the official order of succession look like. From the first to the ninth in line, here's what you need to know...

Who is first in line to the throne?

The Prince of Wales touches St Edward's Crown on King Charles III's head during his coronation ceremony in Westminster Abbey© ALAMY
The Prince of Wales is now the heir apparent

Following the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the coronation of King Charles III, Prince William, the Prince of Wales, is now first in line to the throne. The eldest son of Prince Charles, William was born on 21 June 1982 in St Mary's Hospital, London, breaking tradition by becoming the first direct heir to the throne to be born outside palace walls. 

William has three children - Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis - who he shares with his wife Kate, the Princess of Wales, whom he met whilst studying at the University of St. Andrews.

Who is second in line to the throne?

Prince George smiling on balcony after coronation© Getty
Prince George is second in line

Named after the Queen's father and grandfather, Prince George was born in London on 22 July 2013 to fanfare and celebration: the bells at Westminster Abbey rang out for three hours, and there were gun salutes in Green Park and the Tower of London to welcome him.

The young Prince takes after his parents' love for tennis, having made his first appearance at Wimbledon in 2022, and he's also accompanied his parents to other big sports events in the past, including the Euro 2020 final.

MORE: King Charles diagnosed with cancer: Queen Camilla to 'support' monarch through diagnosis

READ: What will happen if King Charles abdicates the throne?

Who is third in line for the throne?

Princess Charlotte at Platinum Jubilee© Getty
Princess Charlotte is third in line

Princess Charlotte, Charles' granddaughter, was born on 2 May 2015 in the same hospital as her father and brother. Even though she's his younger sister, Charlotte has been known to keep her brother George on his toes and she also shares his love of football. 

Global parenting expert Jo Frost has noted Charlotte's calm and collected nature, which she uses to keep both of her brothers in check. "Charlotte knows the rules. She's the one in the middle," Jo told HELLO!. "She knows how to keep everyone in good stead. There are moments when I've watched George and he's looked over at his sister, and he's probably annoyed with her one minute and then grateful that she's there being able to remind him of things, when he's taking it all in as well."

Who is fourth in line for the throne?

Princess Kate clapping beside her son Prince Louis, who has his arms in the air© CHRIS JACKSON
Prince Louis – who is fourth in line – regularly delights the nation with his cheeky antics

The youngest Cambridge sibling, Prince Louis, was born on 27 April 2018 at St Mary's, again the same hospital where his father and older siblings came into the world.

The five-year-old Prince is known for being playful and mischievousjust like most other kids his age, and is the only one of his siblings who has lived in London for the majority of his life, although the family has since relocated to their candy-pink Adelaide Cottage in Windsor

Is Prince Harry still in line for the throne?

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex © Samir Hussein
Prince Harry's decision to step back from royal duties has not affected his part in the line of succession

Yes, Prince Harry is now fifth in line for the throne following his father being made monarch. The Duke of Sussex is the youngest son of Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana, and was born on 15 September 1984.

After meeting Suits actress Meghan Markle in 2016, the couple got married at St. George's Chapel in Windsor two years later. Their first child, Archie Mountbatten-Windsor, was born in 2019 and their daughter, Lilibet Mountbatten-Windsor, followed in 2021.

In a move that shocked the world, Harry and Meghan stepped back from royal duties in March 2020 and now reside in Montecito in the US - but this does not affect his part in the British royal line of succession.

Who is sixth in line for the throne?

Prince Archie sits on Prince Harry's shoudlers© Netflix
Prince Archie is sixth in line

The eldest son of Harry and Meghan, Archie was born on 6 May 2019 at the Portland Hospital in London and was introduced to the world at a photocall in Windsor Castle a few days later.

The four-year-old hasn't only inherited his father's red hair - he also takes after Harry's mischievous personality and shares his star sign with his great-grandmother, the late Queen! He resides in Montecito, California, with his family. 

Who is seventh in line for the throne?

lili sussex official photo
Harry and Meghan's youngest child, Lilibet, is named in honour of her great-grandmother

Lilibet is the youngest in the Sussex family. She became the first royal of such high rank to be born Stateside on 4 June 2021, when her mother gave birth to her at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital in California.

Lilibet's name comes from the Queen's childhood nickname, and her middle name is Diana, to honour her late grandmother.

Who is eighth in line for the throne?

Prince Andrew wearing a charcoal suit © Getty
The Queen's second son has been the source of much controversy

The Duke of York - the second son and the third child of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh - was born on 19 February 1960 at Buckingham Palace, the same place his older brother Charles was born.

A Falklands War veteran with a 20-year career in the Royal Navy, Andrew married Sarah Ferguson in 1986 and they went on to have two children together: Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie

The couple separated in 1996 and the Duke stepped back from royal duties in 2019 after a BBC Newsnight interview, which focused on his connections to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. In February 2022, Andrew reached an undisclosed out-of-court settlement with Virginia Giuffre, after she filed a case against the Duke for allegedly sexually assaulting her on three occasions when she was 17 and a minor under US law. Andrew has vehemently denied the allegations. 

As of January 2024, Prince Andrew has come under further scrutiny, following the publication of never-before-seen documents concerning Jeffrey Epstein. In December 2023 it was decided that the documents could now come to light, years after they were first put under court-ordered seal.

Who is ninth in line for the throne?

Princess Beatrice of York attends Royal Ascot© Getty
The Princess is not a working member of the royal family

Born on 8 August 1988 at Portland Hospital in London to Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, Princess Beatrice was initially fifth in line to the throne but now ranks ninth following the births of William and Harry's children.

Not a working member of the royal family, Beatrice has a full-time job as Vice President of Partnerships and Strategy at tech firm Afiniti and is known for her eclectic taste in hats. She married property developer Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi in July 2020, after their original wedding was postponed due to the pandemic, and gave birth to a daughter, Sienna Elizabeth Mapelli Mozzi, last year.

Will Camilla be Queen when Charles dies?

queen camilla and charles
King Charles and Queen Camilla arriving at Westminster Abbey for their coronation

No, if the King dies prior to his wife, Queen Camilla will not become the next monarch. This is because she is not a member of the royal family who was born into the direct line of succession. At the end of the reign of King Charles III, the current Prince of Wales, Prince William, will become monarch. It is still unknown what title Camilla would receive were she to survive her husband. 

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