What is abdication of the throne? What would happen if King Charles III stepped down?

 (PA Archive)
(PA Archive)

While there is no indication that King Charles will be abdicating the throne, many are curious as to what would happen if he did step down.

King Charles was crowned on 6 May 2023, following the death of his mother Queen Elizabeth II, who ruled for 70 years.

Last year, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark announced her surprise abdication in a New Year’s TV address. The move saw her eldest son, Frederik X succeed her as King of Denmark. 

So, what is abdication and what happens when a royal chooses to step down?

What does it mean for a royal to abdicate?

Britannica defines abdication as the “renouncing of office and of power before the end of the term for which it was assumed”.

It is the formal act of giving up the authority as ruling monarch of a sovereign nation.

Monarchs can abdicate for many reasons and throughout history, these have included love, political pressure, religious beliefs, or health issues.

What is the process of abdication?

The process of abdication involves formal and legal steps before the King can relinquish authority as the ruling monarch.

To make an abdication official, the King would first need to make a formal statement declaring they no longer wish to serve as a monarch. Following this, the UK Parliament would need to pass an Act of Abdication. Both the House of Commons and the House of Lords must pass this act.

If the King successfully abdicates, he can finally pass the throne to the next person in line.

The current in line to the throne is Prince William, who would become King William V should he succeed his father.

Has a British monarch ever abdicated?

The last British monarch to abdicate the throne was Edward VIII, Queen Elizabeth II’s uncle, who gave up the throne in 1936.

He served as king for 325 days before he announced he would step down from his position to marry Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee. His decision caused domino effect, which led to his younger brother King George VI ascending to the throne.