top of page
  • Writer's pictureAdmin

Line of Succession vs Order of Precedence

A recent joint engagement with the Princess Royal and Duchess of Cambridge brought up an interesting part of royal protocol that isn't talked about as much day-to-day: The line of succession vs order of precedence. While I know this is a bit more niche for royal watchers, if you want to learn more about both and the difference between the two, I've broken it down below.

The line of succession is the order in which the heirs succeed to the throne and there are only a couple ways that this list changes.

  1. With a birth of a royal

  2. With the death of a royal

  3. If a royal abdicates their position (this is what the Duke of Windsor did in the 1930's)

  4. An act of parliament removes a royal from the line of succession (historically this only occurs if someone has been found guilty of treason)

There are also specific rules around roman catholics since the monarch is head of the anglican church. These rules essentially state that members of the royal family can marry a Roman Catholic, however, if they convert to catholicism they can lose their spot in the line of succession. The first 30 royals in the line of succession (as of April 2022) is below. The only likely way that this list changes (at present) is with a birth or a death in the royal family.

Now the Order of Precedence can be a little more confusing that the line of succession as there are many other factors beyond birth order. Order of precedence is determined by three main things:

  1. Whether someone is royal by blood or by marriage

  2. Where they fall in the line of succession

  3. Who is present

First up, let's clarify who is a royal by blood and who is a royal by marriage. Blood royals are everyone listed in the line of succession above, they are royals from birth and are automatically part of the line of succession. Therefore, the spouses or partners of those who are royal by blood are actually royal by marriage. Currently, this includes the following:

So, if only blood royals (i.e. people who are royal by birth and not by marriage) are present, then precedence will follow the line of succession. However things begin to get a bit more complicated when bringing spouses into the mix. If only royals by marriage are present, then the order of precedence would follow where each of their respective spouses fall in the line of succession. For example: Camilla would take precedence above Catherine during a solo engagement with the two of them. Catherine would take precedence over Sophie, so on and so forth.

Now, if no spouses are present and someone who is royal by birth is with someone who is royal by marriage, the blood royals take precedence. Princess Anne and the Duchess of Cambridge's most recent engagement is an example of this, Anne (as a blood royal) took precedence over Catherine (as someone who is royal by marriage). So, for some other examples Prince Edward would take precedence over the Duchess of Cornwall if Prince Charles was not present.

Another way precedence can change is if some royal spouses are present but not others. So, a person who is royal by marriage will take precedence over a blood royal only when they are with their spouse (their spouse being blood royal). For example, Sophie would take precedence over Anne if she were with Prince Edward as he remains higher in the line of succession than his sister. Similarly Beatrice and Edoardo could take precedence over Meghan if Harry was not with her as Beatrice is a blood royal.

These three factors mean that precedence can change at any and every event a royal attends with the exception that a monarch and their consort always remain first in the order of precedence. Equally a dowager Queen (a consort whose spouse has passed away. For example: the Queen Mum) would always remain just behind a monarch and their consort in order of precedence, even ahead of other blood royals.

While precedence can be a bit more complicated than the line of succession, hopefully this helps explain it a bit. If you have any questions about who would have precedence in different situations, leave a comment below!

bottom of page