A lot has changed in the royal family recently. There’s been a new baby for Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, and Meghan Markle has joined the royal family as well, marrying Prince Harry this past May. Along with all this happy news, the world is learning a lot about the British rules for succession to the throne. One question that isn’t often asked though is whether Prince George could be king as a child.
Effectively no. While throughout history there have been cases (worldwide, not just in England) of children ascending the throne, as Mental Floss noted, in 1937 the United Kingdom established a regency act which prevents a minor from ruling, according to The National Archives. That doesn’t mean that the minor won’t ascend the throne, according to the Archives, but only that his or her royal functions will be “performed in the name and on behalf of the Sovereign by a Regent.”
Regencies were established for cases when a sitting ruler was incapacitated, say with a disability, or if their heir was a minor, according to Merriam-Webster. They're provided for someone else to step in and perform the duties required of a monarch, without actually holding the title. For anyone who's seen Game of Thrones, this is why Cersei had all the power even though her children were officially ruling.
These aren’t things we like to think about on either side of the pond, but lines of succession are there for a reason. In the United Kingdom, the line to the throne starts behind Prince Charles, Queen Elizabeth II’s oldest son. Next in line comes Prince Charles’ first-born child, which is Prince William. After that is Prince William’s first-born, who is Prince George. That puts him third in line, which really isn’t terribly far away.
When the Regency Act 1937 was implemented, it called for the next in line to the throne, of majority age, to serve as regent, according to the Archives. So in the event the queen is disabled before she can pass succession on, Prince Charles would step in as regent. If Prince Charles were also incapacitated then Prince William could serve as regent. But if all three of them were somehow deemed unfit to rule, Prince George could not, being underage, step in as regent at this moment. The regency act also calls for the regent to be someone who resides in the United Kingdom, according to the Archives, so don’t look for any of the immediate royal family to move away abroad anytime soon.
The world may get to see the Regency Act in action in the near future, according to the Daily Mail. Queen Elizabeth has reportedly told some people close to her that if she is still alive at 95 years old — she is now 92 — she will ask for the Regency Act to be put into effect, as the Daily Mail reported. The publication also pointed out that she could also choose to abdicate the throne and hand it entirely over to Prince Charles, but that the action is somewhat distasteful among the British royal family. Either way, this points to a transition of power in the near future, whenever that may be, which will only put Prince George one step closer to eventual rule.
Rumors occasionally float around that the queen might decide to skip her son and choose Prince William to serve as the next king but they are, you guessed it, just rumors. People explained that the queen just doesn’t have the power to do that. The order of succession was set by Parliament in the 1701 Act of Settlement and it would take another act of Parliament to make any such change, according to People.
Hopefully none of this is anything 4-year-old Prince George has to worry about for many years to come. The world is looking forward to watching him and his siblings, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, simply grow up and even more about their adorable personalities.