Heir apparent

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An heir apparent is a person, male or female, who is first in line of succession and cannot be displaced from inheriting by the birth of another person.

An heir presumptive, by contrast, is someone who is first in line to inherit a title but who can be displaced by the birth of a more eligible heir.

Today these terms most commonly describe heirs to hereditary titles, particularly monarchies. They are also used metaphorically to indicate an "anointed" successor to any position of power, e.g., a political or corporate leader.

The phrase is only occasionally found used as a title, where it usually is capitalized ("Heir Apparent"). Most monarchies give (or gave) the heir apparent the title of Crown Prince or a more specific title, such as Prince of Orange in the Netherlands, Prince of Asturias in Spain, or Prince of Wales in the United Kingdom. See crown prince for more examples.

This article primarily describes the term heir apparent in a hereditary system regulated by laws of primogeniture—as opposed to cases where a monarch has a say in naming the heir.

Heir apparent versus heir presumptive[edit]

Throngs before the Imperial Palace in Japan awaiting the appearance of the Crown Prince Hirohito for the recent proclamation of his official recognition as the heir apparent to the Japanese Imperial ThroneNew York Times, 1916.

In a hereditary system governed by some form of primogeniture, an heir apparent is easily identifiable as the person whose position as first in the line of succession is secure, regardless of future births. An heir presumptive, by contrast, can always be "bumped down" in the succession by the birth of somebody more closely related in a legal sense (according to that form of primogeniture) to the current title-holder.

The clearest example occurs in the case of a title-holder with no children. If at any time he produce children, they (the offspring of the title-holder) rank ahead of whatever more "distant" relative (the title-holder's sibling, perhaps, or a nephew or cousin) previously was heir presumptive.

Many legal systems assume childbirth is always possible regardless of age or health. In such circumstances a person may be, in a practical sense, the heir apparent but still, legally speaking, heir presumptive. Indeed, when Queen Victoria succeeded her uncle King William IV, the wording of the proclamation even gave as a caveat:

"...saving the rights of any issue of his late Majesty King William IV, which may be born of his late Majesty's consort."

This provided for the possibility that William's wife, Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen, was pregnant at the moment of his death—since such a (so-named posthumous) child, if born and regardless of the gender of the child, would have displaced Victoria from the throne.[1] Adelaide was 44 at the time, so pregnancy was possible even if unlikely.

Daughters in male-preference primogeniture[edit]

Daughters (and their lines) may inherit titles that descend according to male-preference primogeniture, but only in default of sons (and their heirs). That is, both female and male offspring have the right to a place somewhere in the order of succession, but when it comes to what that place is, a female will rank behind her brothers regardless of their ages or hers.

Thus, normally, even an only daughter will not be heir apparent, since at any time a brother might be born who, though younger, would assume that position. Hence, she is an heir presumptive. For example, Queen Elizabeth II was heir presumptive during the reign of her father, King George VI, because at any stage up to his death, George could have fathered a legitimate son.

Women as heirs apparent[edit]

In a system of absolute primogeniture that does not consider gender, female heirs apparent occur. Several European monarchies that have adopted such systems in the last few decades furnish practical examples. Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden, Princess Catharina-Amalia of the Netherlands, and Princess Elisabeth of Belgium are respectively the oldest children of Kings Carl XVI Gustaf, Willem-Alexander, and Philippe and are their heirs apparent. Princess Ingrid Alexandra of Norway is heir apparent to her father (who is heir apparent to the Norwegian throne), and Victoria herself has a female heir apparent in her first (and so far only) child, Princess Estelle. Victoria was not heir apparent from birth (in 1977), but gained the status in 1980 following a change in the Swedish Act of Succession. Her younger brother Carl Philip (born 1979) was thus heir apparent for a few months. It was reported in October 2011 that discussions would take place between the heads of government of the Commonwealth realms aimed at changing the rules of succession to the 16 thrones of Elizabeth II to give equal rights to females.[2] Following the CHOGM meeting, which took place in Perth, Australia, between 28–30 October 2011, it was announced that the rule change had the unanimous backing of all 16 member nations.[3] However, the effects are not likely to be felt for many years; the first two heirs at the time of the agreement (Charles, Prince of Wales and his son Prince William, Duke of Cambridge) were already eldest born children, and in 2013, William's first-born son Prince George of Cambridge became the next apparent successor.

But even in legal systems that apply male-preference primogeniture, female heirs apparent are by no means impossible: if a male heir apparent dies leaving no sons but at least one daughter, then the eldest daughter would replace her father as heir apparent to whatever throne or title is concerned, but only when it has become clear that the widow of the deceased is not pregnant. Then, as the representative of her father's line she would assume a place ahead of any more distant relatives. Such a situation has not to date occurred with the English or British throne; several times an heir apparent has died, but each example has either been childless or left a son or sons. However, there have been several female heirs apparent to British peerages (e.g. Frances Ward, 6th Baroness Dudley, and Henrietta Wentworth, 6th Baroness Wentworth).

In one special case, however, England and Scotland had a female heir apparent. The Revolution settlement that established William and Mary as joint monarchs in 1689 only gave the power to continue the succession through issue to Mary II, eldest daughter of the previous king, James II. William, by contrast, was to reign for life only, and his (hypothetical) children by a wife other than Mary would be placed in his original place (as Mary's first cousin) in the line of succession – after Mary's younger sister Anne. Thus, although after Mary's death William continued to reign, he had no power to beget direct heirs,[4] and Anne became the heir apparent for the remainder of William's reign. She eventually succeeded him as Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland.

Displacement of heirs apparent[edit]

The position of an heir apparent is normally unshakable: it can be assumed they will inherit. Sometimes, however, extraordinary events—such as the death or the deposition of the parent—intervene.

People who lost heir apparent status[edit]

  • Parliament deposed James Francis Edward Stuart, the infant son of King James II & VII (of England and Scotland respectively) whom James II was raising as a Catholic, as the King's legal heir apparent—declaring that James had, de facto, abdicated— and offered the throne to James II's oldest daughter, the young prince's much older Protestant half-sister, Mary (along with her husband, Prince William of Orange). When the exiled King James died in 1701, his Jacobite supporters proclaimed the exiled Prince James Francis Edward as King James III of England and James VIII of Scotland; but neither he nor his descendents was ever successful in their bids for the throne.
  • Crown Prince Gustav (later known as Gustav, Prince of Vasa), son of Gustav IV Adolf of Sweden, lost his place when his father was deposed and replaced by Gustav IV Adolf's aged uncle, the Duke Carl, who became Charles XIII of Sweden in 1809. The aged King Charles XIII did not have surviving sons, and Prince Gustav was the only living male of the whole dynasty (besides his deposed father), but the prince was never regarded as heir of Charles XIII, although there were factions in the Riksdag and elsewhere in Sweden who desired to preserve him, and, in the subsequent constitutional elections, supported his election as his great-uncle's successor. Instead, the government proceeded to have a new crown prince elected (which was the proper constitutional action, if no male heir was left in the dynasty), and the Riksdag elected first August, Prince of Augustenborg, and then, after his death, the Prince of Ponte Corvo (Marshal Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte).
  • Prince Carl Philip of Sweden, at his birth in 1979, was heir apparent to the throne of Sweden. A year later a change in that country's succession laws instituted absolute primogeniture, and Carl Philip was supplanted as heir apparent by his elder sister Victoria.

Breaching legal qualification of heirs apparent[edit]

In some jurisdictions, an heir apparent can automatically lose that status by breaching certain constitutional rules. Today, for example:

  • a British heir apparent would lose this status if he or she became a Catholic or married a Catholic. This is the only religion-based restriction on the heir-apparent. However, as of October 2011, the governments of the 16 Commonwealth realms—of which Queen Elizabeth II is monarch—have agreed to remove the restriction on marriage to a Catholic.
  • a Swedish Crown Prince or Crown Princess would lose heir apparent status, according to the Act of Succession, if they marry without approval of the monarch and the Government, abandoned the "pure Evangelical faith", or accepted another throne without the approval of the Riksdag.
  • a Dutch Prince or Princess of Orange would lose status as heir to the throne if he or she married without the approval of the States-General, or simply renounced the right.
  • a Spanish Prince or Princess of Asturias would lose status if he or she married against the express prohibition of the monarch or the Cortes.
  • a Belgian Duke or Duchess of Brabant would lose heir apparent status if he or she married without the consent of the monarch, or became monarch of another country.
  • a Danish Crown Prince or Princess would lose status if he or she married without the permission of the monarch. When the monarch grants permission for a dynast to enter marriage, he/she may set conditions that must be met for the dynast to gain/maintain a place in the line of succession; this also applies for Crown Princes/Princesses.

Heirs apparent who never inherited the throne[edit]

Heirs apparent who predeceased the monarch[edit]

Heir apparent Lived Heir of Cause of death
Li Jiancheng 589–626 Emperor Gaozu of Tang Killed during the Xuanwu Gate Incident
William Adelin 1103–1120 Henry I of England Drowned in the White Ship disaster
Edward, the Black Prince 1330–1376 Edward III of England A long lasting illness
Henry V of England 1386–1422 Charles VI of France (by the Treaty of Troyes) Dysentery
Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales 1453–1471 Henry VI of England Killed at the Battle of Tewkesbury
Edward of Middleham, Prince of Wales 1473–1484 Richard III of England Tuberculosis
Afonso, Prince of Portugal 1475–1491 John II of Portugal Horse riding accident
Arthur, Prince of Wales 1486–1502 Henry VII of England Unknown illness
John, Crown Prince of Portugal 1537–1554 John III of Portugal Tuberculosis or diabetes
Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales 1594–1612 James I of England Typhoid fever
Theodosius III, Duke of Braganza and Prince of Brazil 1634-1653 John IV of Portugal Tuberculosis
Louis, le grand Dauphin 1661–1711 Louis XIV of France Smallpox
Louis, Dauphin and Duke of Burgundy 1682–1712 Louis XIV of France Measles
Louis, Dauphin and Duke of Brittany 1707–1712 Louis XIV of France Measles
Frederick, Prince of Wales 1707–1751 George II of Great Britain A burst abscess in the lung
Louis, Dauphin of France 1729–1765 Louis XV of France Tuberculosis
Charles August, Crown Prince of Sweden 1768–1810 Charles XIII of Sweden Stroke
Ferdinand Philippe, Duke of Orléans 1810–1842 Louis-Philippe of France Carriage accident
Nicholas Alexandrovich, Tsarevich of Russia 1843–1865 Alexander II of Russia Meningitis
Prince Leopold, Duke of Brabant 1859–1869 Leopold II of Belgium Pneumonia, after falling into a pond
William, Prince of Orange 1843–1879 William III of the Netherlands Debauchery
Alexander, Prince of Orange 1851–1884 William III of the Netherlands Typhus
Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria 1858–1889 Franz Joseph I of Austria Suicide (disputed)
Maha Vajirunhis, Crown Prince of Siam 1878–1895 Rama V Typhoid
Sultan, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia 1930–2011 Abdullah of Saudi Arabia Illness
Nayef, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia 1934–2012 Abdullah of Saudi Arabia Illness

Heirs apparent who were forced to abandon their claim[edit]

Heir apparent Lived Heir of Forced out
Demna of Georgia 1155-1178 David V of Georgia Imprisoned, blinded and castrated by his uncle, King George III of Georgia
Carlos, Prince of Asturias 1545–1568 Philip II of Spain Arrested and imprisoned by his father; died in prison six months later
Yinreng 1674–1725 The Kangxi Emperor Imprisoned for life by Kangxi for immorality and treason
Alexei Petrovich, Tsarevich of Russia 1690–1718 Peter the Great of Russia Imprisoned by his father and forced to relinquish his claim. Died in prison
Crown Prince Sado of Joseon (Korea) 1735–1762 Yeongjo of Joseon (Korea) His father forced him to commit suicide by locking him in a rice chest
Philip, Duke of Calabria 1747–1777 Charles III of Spain Intellectually disabled; removed from the line of succession
Prince Philippe, Count of Paris 1838–1894 Louis Philippe I of France Declaration of the Second Republic on 24 February 1848
Luís Filipe, Prince Royal of Portugal 1887–1908 Carlos I of Portugal and the Algarves Jointly assassinated with his father
Mohammad of Saudi Arabia 1910–1988 King Faisal ibn Abdul-Aziz Forced to abdicate in 1965
Prince Carl Philip of Sweden 1979- Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden Swedish succession laws were changed in 1980. Carl Philip was supplanted by his elder sister Victoria

Heirs apparent of monarchs who themselves abdicated or were deposed[edit]

Heir apparent Lived Heir of End of line/monarchy
James Francis Edward Stuart 1688–1766 James II of England James II was deposed 11 April 1689 for being Catholic
Louis-Antoine, Dauphin and Duke of Angoulême 1775–1844 Charles X of France Abdicated jointly with his father on 2 August 1830
Gustav, Prince of Vasa 1799–1877 Gustav IV Adolf of Sweden Gustav's whole family was excluded from the line of royal succession on 10 May 1809 by the Riksdag of the Estates, after the deposition of Gustav IV Adolf.
Louis Napoléon, Prince Imperial 1856–1879 Napoleon III of France Napoleon III was deposed 4 September 1870 by the forces of the Third Republic
Crown Prince William of Germany 1882–1951 Wilhelm II, German Emperor Wilhelm was deposed by the German government on 9 November 1918
George, Crown Prince of Serbia 1887–1972 Peter I of Serbia Abdicated his succession rights in 1909
Alexei Nikolaevich, Tsarevich of Russia 1904–1918 Nicholas II of Russia Nicholas abdicated on 2/15 March 1917 on behalf of both himself and his son. The monarchy was abolished 1 September 1917
Alfonso, Prince of Asturias 1907–1938 Alfonso XIII of Spain Alfonso XIII was deposed by the formation of the Second Spanish Republic on April 14, 1931. Prince Alfonso renounced his claim on 21 June 1933 so he could marry a commoner
Otto von Habsburg, Crown Prince of Austria, Hungary, Croatia and Bohemia 1912–2011 Charles I of Austria Austria and Hungary abolished the monarchy in 1918.
Vittorio Emanuele, Prince of Naples 1937- Umberto II of Italy Italy abolished the monarchy on 12 June 1946, after Umberto II had reigned 33 days
Leka, Crown Prince of Albania 1939-2011 Zog of Albania Two days after Leka's birth, Mussolini's Italy invaded Albania on 7 April 1939 and sent the royal family into exile
Crown Prince Amedeo of Savoy, Duke of Aosta 1943- Tomislav II of Croatia Tomislav II abdicated October 12, 1943 due to the Armistice between Italy and Allied armed forces, when Amedeo was only two weeks old
Alexander, Crown Prince of Yugoslavia 1945- Peter II of Yugoslavia Peter II was deposed by Yugoslavia's Constituent Assembly on 29 November 1945
Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi II 1960- The last Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi The Shah was overthrown by the Iranian Revolution on 11 February 1979
Pavlos, Crown Prince of Greece 1967- Constantine II of Greece Constantine II fled into exile shortly after Pavlos's birth, and the monarchy was abolished 1 June 1973
Paras, Crown Prince of Nepal 1971- Gyanendra of Nepal Gyanendra was deposed 28 May 2008 in favour of a republican government
Jasim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani 1978- Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani Renounced his claim in 2003 in favor of his younger brother, Sheikh Tamim

Heirs apparent as of 2014[edit]

Heir apparent Country
Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa Bahrain
Princess Elisabeth, Duchess of Brabant Belgium
Crown Prince Al-Muhtadee Billah Brunei
Charles, Prince of Wales Commonwealth realms
Crown Prince Frederik Denmark
Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum Dubai
Crown Prince Naruhito Japan
Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah Jordan
Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah Kuwait
Crown Prince Lerotholi of Lesotho Lesotho
Hereditary Prince Alois of Liechtenstein Liechtenstein
Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume of Luxembourg Luxembourg
Crown Prince Moulay Hassan Morocco
Catharina-Amalia, Princess of Orange The Netherlands
Crown Prince Haakon Norway
Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud Saudi Arabia
Crown Princess Victoria, Duchess of Västergötland Sweden
Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn Thailand
Crown Prince Tupoutoʻa ʻUlukalala Tonga

See also[edit]

References[edit]