When Queen Elizabeth II’s father became king, there was a chance she would not become queen. Although she was the firstborn child to the new king (following her uncle’s abdication of the throne), the monarchy’s rules then stated that if her parents had a son, he would be next in line, regardless of the fact that he would have been younger than Elizabeth.
Things are different for Princess Charlotte, thanks to a 2015 law. Her older brother, Prince George, is third in line to the throne before her. But if her mother, the Duchess of Cambridge (aka Kate Middleton, who is pregnant with her third child) gives birth to a boy this time around, Charlotte will still be fourth in line to the throne.
That’s because Princess Charlotte’s position is protected under the passage of the Succession to the Crown Act passed in Britain, which reads:
“In determining the succession to the Crown, the gender of a person born after 28 October 2011 does not give that person, or that person’s descendants, precedence over any other person (whenever born).”
The law was proposed in 2013 and officially went into effect in 2015. The changes were announced by David Cameron, then the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, who said the rules are “outdated and need to change,” according to the UK’s Telegraph.
“The idea that a younger son should become Monarch instead of an elder daughter, simply because he is a man just isn’t acceptable anymore,” Cameron said. “The thinking behind these rules is wrong. That’s why people have been talking about changing them for some time. We need to get on and do it.”
Before the change, the law stating that brothers would jump their sisters in line of succession had been around for more than 300 years. Referred to as “male-preference primogeniture,” it was first established under the Act of Settlement 1701.
Since then, the rule has only been used twice to displace a female by a younger brother—when Princess Augusta’s younger brother became King George III after the death of their grandfather King George II in 1760 and when Princess Victoria’s younger brother became King Edward VII after the death of their mother Queen Victoria in 1901.
But now, Charlotte will never lose her spot in the royal succession like Augusta or Victoria, and will be queen if her great-grandmother, grandfather, father and brother George precede her in death.
And yes, you’re not seeing Prince Harry, Prince William’s younger brother, in this line of succession. Each child William has, Harry moves down the list, making him sixth in line after the newest royal is born. This means Harry would only be king if William and all his children died without having heirs of their own.
To his end, Prince Harry doesn’t seem bothered to be so far removed from the crown. He spoke to Newsweek earlier this year and discussed the difficult nature of assuming the role of monarch.
“Is there any one of the royal family who wants to be king or queen? I don’t think so, but we will carry out our duties at the right time,” he said.
As long as Prince Harry continues to look happy in love with his American actress girlfriend Meghan Markle—and to charm young kids who attempt to steal his popcorn—we assume he’s doing just fine.
The line of succession goes all the way to spot 100. Guess you can never be too prepared! You can see the full list of the British royal family’s line of succession here. But be sure to move each name down one line, as the newest arrival will take spot number five when he or she is born.