Hierarchy to the British throne: a hypothetical.

So my son and I were having a bit of fun this morning, talking about the British ascension to the throne. And we came up with a bit of a teaser.

Just say that King William is already crowned (and Charles is sewing patchwork quilts in the Old Folks home).

William (and Kate and George and Charlotte) are kidnapped by unknown assailants, never to be seen again.

Prince Harry (next in line to the throne) in the meantime has fathered a child to Kelly Osbourne, illegitimately but paternity is not under question. Later he marries and has a couple of other kids…but the child he fathered with Kelly is his first.

(Apart from the obvious Reality TV Show that would be an absolute HOOT to watch)…what would/could stop the Osbourne’s moving into Buckingham Palace?

Why is William the King if Charles is still alive?

I imagine the police would stop the Osbournes from moving in. Harry would probably be named Regent until his brother, nephew, and niece are declared dead.

Because (as per this hypothetical) Charles is declared incompetent as he has dementia and his reign has passed to his son.

I guess this is the pertinent question…although a regular person can be declared dead ( for official purposes) after being missing for 7 yrs (with every presumption of death included), how long for a regent??

Illegitimate children cannot succeed, so the Osbourne child would be irrelevant. Over time laws have been passed to make the whole concept of legitimacy much less important than it used to be, but the succession to the throne was exempted from these reforms. For example, the Legitimacy Act 1959 had a section stating that “nothing in this Act affects the Succession to the Throne.”

I’ve read your link umpteen times and CANNOT find the section stating anything about succession to the throne.

Can you highlight it for me? Yes, I am feeling particularly stupid today, thanks for asking. :stuck_out_tongue:

It’s at the very end of it:

Oh well, there goes my dream of producing a blockbuster ratings-winner TV show then. :smiley:

Thanks Lord Feldon!

Literally living in the Palace would still be possible. The child wouldn’t succeed, but if he or she was known to the public I’d think it would be bad PR for the child to never stay in his or her father’s home. A father who is absent in every way but financially is not really seen as doing the right thing any more.

But surely that’s no impediment to remaining king? When monarchs are or become incompetent due to age, they usually remain on the throne, notionally speaking, and a regent is appointed to rule in their stead. So in your scenario Charles would still be king, with William as his regent.

But William has gone missing, remember?

Sorry, I meant to write Harry. The point is that Charles would still be king.

I don’t see the problem. Harry and his Queen move into Buck House and Kelly and her offspring move into St James’s Palace (so Harry can pop in for a cup of tea when he feels like it). Naturally, they would not be able to take any official positions, but jobs can be found and even the dumbest royals (Edward anyone?) seem to manage.

Yeah, not totally clear these days. The concept of illegitimacy was abolished vide Section 1 of the Family Law Reform Act 1987.

The Crown is restricted to Protestant heirs of the body of Sophia, Electoress of Hanover, per the Act of Settlement. The Succession to the Crown Act 2013 is silent on legitamacy. The fact that illegitamacy has been abolished may mean that such a child might have a claim to the throne, a Court may easily rule.

In practice, probably an Act of Parliament will clarify the same.

Charles could abdicate in favor of his son upon realizing that his mind isn’t up to the task of being king.

Prince Harry would be only a Regent until William and his heirs were declared dead. I’m not sure the issue of succession and thus the regency would be allowed to continue Gondor-like across generations.

My understanding matches Lord Feldon’s, but I wasn’t aware of the more recent statute mentioned by AK84. If there’s any uncertainty, I agree an Act of Parliament would be likely.

However, I don’t see why the regency would continue for long, as suggested by Quartz. If William and heirs are declared dead, then Harry succeeds once Charles joins the Choir Eternal, and the regency ends.

I don’t see why William et al. need to be declared dead. All Parliament would have to do is declare that by going off-grid they effectively abdicated like they did when James II/VII left for France.

Yes. If there one thing which the British constitution is clear about, it is that the monarch is whomever Parliament in its complete and absolute discretion says it is.

Yes, but if his mind isn’t up to being king, it’s not up to deciding whether he should continue to be king.

The precedent is clear. If the monarch is incapacitated, they continue to be monarch, but their heir is appointed regent to carry out the monarchial duties. So if tomorrow Betsey has a stroke, she’s still queen until she dies, but Charles would be regent and act on her behalf. Then when she dies, Charles becomes king.

She could abdicate, but to what purpose? Charles as regent would be acting as king, and will become king when his mother dies, so why hurry things along?

The only reason for the monarch to abdicate is if they’re going to make a mess of things, like what’s his name. Then we sit them down and explain it’s time for them to step aside. If they don’t see reason, then there’s always the example of that other guy who was five feet six inches tall at the start of his reign but only four feet eight inches tall at the end of it.

Elizabeth is not going to abdicate just because she’s old and sick. Charles is not going to abdicate just because he’s old and sick, he’s got the record for most time waiting to be king, and when he finally gets to be king he’s going to hold onto it like a badger.

King Henry VIII had an illegitimate son, Henry FitzRoy, that he acknowledged. When he was having trouble producing a legitimate male heir, he began an effort to have FitzRoy legalized as his successor. But this ended when FitzRoy died at a young age.