The much lauded bill changing the rules of succession to the British Throne is now on its way to the Queen for her signature. Headlines have outlined the basic changes: brothers will no longer have seniority over sisters, only the first few people in line to the Throne have to have the Queen's (or King's) permission to marry, and people will no longer be excluded from the succession if they marry a Catholic.
But who are actually in the succession line to begin with? Quite a few people it turns out, nearly 2000 in all.
Most people with a rudimentary knowledge of the Royal Family will recognize the first sixteen: the four children, eight grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren of the Queen. After that, the lines would go to the children and grandchildren of the Queen's late sister, Princess Margaret. Next would be the descendants of the Queen's uncles, the brothers of her father, King George VI, which are made up the Dukes of Gloucester and Kent and their families. They are followed by the descendants of King George's sister, Princess Mary, Countess of Harewood. By this time, we have long since entered the realm of the hypothetical and have passed up number 50 in line to succeed.
But the hypothetical gets carried to a ridiculous degree under the portions of the Act of Settlement of 1701 which are not being altered by the new law. Under this law, the succession was settled on Electress Sophia of Hanover (1630-1714) and her descendants. Sophia herself missed being Queen by less than two months as she died shortly before Queen Anne. Sophia's son succeeded instead as George I. The only surviving descendants of Sophia's other children are also descendants of George through inter-cousin marriages, making King George I the common ancestor of everyone in line to the Throne.
One additional, but important, note on the Act of Settlement: it bars Catholics from the Succession. Although the new rules being implemented in 2013 allow for marriage to a Catholic, they do not grant succession rights to anyone who is Catholic themselves. So the children of the Duke of Kent who have converted to Catholicism are still excluded from the succession.
The line of succession can be carried out to its conclusion by moving, after the Harewood descendants, on to the descendants of each generation going back through time. The next would be the Duke of Fife's family who descend from the eldest sister of King George V. George V's siblings' descendants would end with the families of the sisters of the King of Norway. Here it should also be pointed out that while the new rules call for gender-blind succession, it only applies to children born after 28 October 2011, when this change was agreed to by the Commonwealth nations.
Following the siblings of George V, the line would continue through those of his father, Edward VII. King Edward was Queen Victoria's eldest son. Victoria had nine children, so the descendants of the three younger sons would follow the Norwegians, and be followed themselves by the descendants of Victoria's daughters. By this time, the line is well over 500 people long and has included not only the King of Norway but also that of Sweden, the Queen of Denmark, the former King of Romania, and the heads of the royal families of the former Kingdoms of Prussia, Hanover, Greece and Yugoslavia, the Russian Empire, as well as several smaller German duchies and principalities.
Queen Victoria's father, Edward, Duke of Kent, did not have any other children, so the next people in line would descend from the other children of his father, King George III. Next would be the descendants of the siblings of George III, followed by the further issue of King George II. By this time, the line of succession is approximately 1500 strong, and includes all of the protestant royal families. But it is not quite done. There are still approximately another 500 people who descend from George II's only sibling, Queen Sophia Dorothea of Prussia.
The very last person in line to the Throne is a German physical therapist named Karin Vogel. She has always known she had a connection to the British royal family, but did not realize her special position as last in line until contacted by the media in connection with the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2011. For her part, she expressed relief that it will never get to her. She would not want to be queen she told the media: "Too stressful."
Not to mention the couple thousand deaths that would have to occur to make Karin Queen.
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