||This article needs additional citations for verification. (December 2009)|
An heir presumptive or heiress presumptive is the person currently entitled to inherit a throne, peerage, or other hereditary honour, but whose position can be displaced (in legal terms, is "subject to divestiture") by the birth of an heir or heiress apparent or of a new heir presumptive with a better claim to the position in question. The position is however subject to law and/or conventions that may alter who is entitled to be heir presumptive.
Depending on the rules of the monarchy the heir presumptive might be the daughter of a monarch (if males take priority over females and the monarch has no sons), or the senior member of a collateral line (if the monarch is childless); the birth of a legitimate child to the monarch will displace the former heir presumptive by a new heir apparent or heiress presumptive.
Heir presumptive, like heir apparent, is not a title or position per se. Rather, it is a general term for a person who holds a certain place in the order of succession. In some monarchies, the heir apparent bears, ipso facto, a specific title and rank (e.g., Denmark, Netherlands, United Kingdom), this also sometimes being the case for noble titleholders (e.g., Spain, United Kingdom), but the heir presumptive does not bear that title. In other monarchies (e.g., Monaco, Spain) the heir to the throne bears a specific title (i.e., "Hereditary Prince/Princess of Monaco", "Prince/Princess of Asturias") by right, regardless of whether she or he is heir apparent or heir presumptive.
An heir can fail to inherit for other reasons than displacement, for example by death or incapacity of the heir, abolition of the title, or changes to the rules of inheritance.
For more detailed information, and a comparison between the positions of heir presumptive and heir apparent, see heir apparent.
Several simultaneous 
In the English common law of inheritance, there is no seniority between sisters; where there is no son to inherit, any number of daughters share equally. Therefore certain hereditary titles can have multiple simultaneous heiresses presumptive. Since the title cannot be held by two people simultaneously, two daughters (without a brother) who inherit in this way would do so as co-parceners and before they inherit, both would be heirs presumptive. In these circumstances, the title would in fact be held in abeyance until one person represents the claim of both, or the claim is renounced by one or the other for herself and her heirs, or the abeyance is ended by the Crown. There are special procedures for handling doubtful or disputed cases.
Heirs presumptive as of 2013 
- Caroline, Princess of Hanover, is the Heiress Presumptive to the throne of Monaco. If her brother Albert II, Prince of Monaco, fathers a legitimate child, the child will be heir apparent if male or heiress presumptive if female.
- Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck is the Heir Presumptive to the throne of Bhutan. If his brother Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck fathers a legitimate child, the child will be heir apparent if male or heiress presumptive if female.
Heirs presumptive who inherited thrones 
- Queen Isabella I of Castile, who succeeded her half-brother Henry IV in 1474
- King Manuel I of Portugal, who succeeded his cousin John II in 1495
- King Louis XII of France, who succeeded his cousin Charles VIII in 1498
- Queen Juana of Castile, who succeeded her mother Isabella I in 1504
- King Francis I of France, who succeeded his cousin Louis XII in 1515
- Queen Mary I of England, who succeeded her half-brother Edward VI in 1553
- Queen Elizabeth I of England, who succeeded her half-sister Mary I in 1558
- King Charles IX of France, who succeeded his brother Francis II in 1560
- King Henry III of France, who succeeded his brother Charles IX in 1574
- King Henry of Portugal, who succeeded his grand-nephew Sebastian I in 1578
- King Henry IV of France, who succeeded his very distant cousin Henry III in 1589
- King Charles X of Sweden, who succeeded his cousin Christina in 1654
- King James I of England (who was James VI of Scotland), who succeeded his first cousin twice removed Elizabeth I in 1603
- King Pedro II of Portugal, who succeeded his brother Afonso VI in 1683
- King James II of England, who succeeded his brother Charles II in 1685
- King Charles III of Hungary, who succeeded his brother Joseph I in 1711
- King George I of Great Britain, who succeeded his distant cousin Anne in 1714
- Queen Maria Theresa of Hungary and Bohemia, who succeeded her father Charles III in 1740
- King Charles III of Spain, who succeeded his half-brother Ferdinand VI in 1759
- Queen Maria I of Portugal, who succeeded her father Joseph I in 1777
- King Frederick William II of Prussia, who succeeded his uncle Frederick the Great in 1786
- King Leopold II of Hungary, who succeeded his brother Joseph II in 1790
- King Victor Emmanuel I of Sardinia, who succeeded his brother Charles Emmanuel IV in 1802
- King Charles Felix of Sardinia, who succeeded his brother Victor Emmanuel I in 1821
- King Charles X of France, who succeeded his brother Louis XVIII in 1824
- Emperor Nicholas I of Russia, who succeeded his brother Alexander I in 1825
- King Anthony of Saxony, who succeeded his brother Frederick Augustus I in 1827
- King William IV of the United Kingdom, who succeeded his brother George IV in 1830
- King Charles Albert of Sardinia, who succeeded his very distant cousin Charles Felix in 1831
- Queen Isabella II of Spain, who succeeded her father Ferdinand VII in 1833
- King Frederick Augustus II of Saxony, who succeeded his uncle Anthony in 1836
- Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, who succeeded her uncle William IV in 1837
- King Ernest Augustus I of Hanover, who succeeded his brother William IV in 1837
- King Christian VIII of Denmark, who succeeded his cousin Frederick VI in 1839
- King John of Saxony, who succeeded his brother Frederick Augustus II in 1854
- King William I of Prussia, who succeeded his brother Frederick William IV in 1861
- King Christian IX of Denmark, who succeeded his cousin Frederick VII in 1863
- King Oscar II of Sweden, who succeeded his brother Charles XV in 1872
- King Otto of Bavaria, who succeeded his brother Ludwig II in 1886
- Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, who succeeded her father William III in 1890
- Grand Duke Adolphe of Luxembourg, who succeeded his very distant cousin William III in 1890
- King William II of Württemberg, who succeeded his uncle Charles I in 1891
- King George of Saxony, who succeeded his brother Albert in 1902
- King Albert I of Belgium, who succeeded his uncle Leopold II in 1909
- Grand Duchess Marie-Adélaïde of Luxembourg, who succeeded her father Guillaume IV in 1912
- King Ludwig III of Bavaria, who succeeded his cousin Otto in 1913
- King Ferdinand I of Romania, who succeeded his uncle Carol I in 1914
- Emperor Charles I of Austria, who succeeded his grand-uncle Francis Joseph I in 1916
- Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg, who succeeded her sister Marie-Adélaïde in 1919
- King Rama VII of Thailand, who succeeded his brother Rama VI in 1925
- King Rama VIII of Thailand, who succeeded his uncle Rama VII in 1935
- King George VI of the United Kingdom, who succeeded his brother Edward VIII in 1936
- King Rama IX of Thailand, who succeeded his brother King Rama VIII in 1946
- King Paul of Greece, who succeeded his brother George II in 1947
- Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, who succeeded her mother Wilhelmina in 1948
- Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, who succeeded her father George VI in 1952
- Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, who succeeded her father Frederick IX in 1972
- Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, who succeeded her mother Juliana in 1980
- King Albert II of Belgium, who succeeded his brother Baudouin in 1993
- King Tupou VI of Tonga, who succeeded his brother George Tupou V in 2012
Examples of past heirs presumptive who did not inherit thrones 
- Richard, Duke of York, was heir presumptive to King Henry VI of England until the birth of Henry's son in 1453.
- Princess Caroline of Orange-Nassau, first child of Willem IV of Orange, was heir presumptive until the birth of her brother Willem V.
- Sophia, Electress of Hanover, declared British heiress presumptive by the Act of Settlement 1701, but died before acceding to the throne of her distant cousin, Queen Anne.
- Victoria, Princess Royal, the eldest child of Queen Victoria was heiress presumptive of the United Kingdom from her birth in November 1840 to the birth of her younger brother, the future Edward VII, in November 1841.
- Isabel, Princess Imperial of Brazil was the heir presumptive to the throne of the Empire of Brazil. However, a coup d'etat in 1889 proclaimed a Republic in the country, deposing the monarchy.
- Prince Philippe, Count of Flanders was the heir presumptive of his older brother king Leopold II of Belgium after the death of his nephew Prince Leopold, Duke of Brabant until his own death in 1905.
- Afonso, Prince Royal of Portugal was the heir presumptive of his nephew Manuel II of Portugal until the monarchy was abolished in 1910.
- Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was the heir presumptive of his uncle Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria until his assassination June 28, 1914 in Sarajevo.
- Prince Knud of Denmark was the heir presumptive of his brother King Frederick IX of Denmark, but an amendment to the Danish Constitution in 1953 proclaimed King Frederick's eldest daughter Princess Margrethe, later Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, heir presumptive.
- Prince Bertil, Duke of Halland was heir-presumptive of Sweden between 1973 and 1979, until the birth of Carl Philip, Duke of Värmland, who superseded him.
Examples in popular culture 
In the Disney animated film The Lion King, Scar is the heir presumptive of the Pride Lands, his inheritance being displaced by the birth of Simba, the heir apparent, thus sparking the entire plot of the film.
In the first three seasons of the television series Downton Abbey, much of the drama centered on Matthew Crawley, the heir presumptive to the current Earl of Grantham, following the death of two closer cousins. Upon Matthew's death at the end of Season 3, his son took his place as heir presumptive.