How are royals removed from the line of succession?

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·Royal Correspondent
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Some want Harry to be removed from the line of succession. (Getty Images)
Some people want Prince Harry to be removed from the royal line of succession. (Getty Images)

Nearly a year after stepping back from senior royal duties, Prince Harry has confirmed that he and wife Meghan Markle don't want to return to working royal life.

Despite Harry losing several patronages and honorary military titles following his choice to stop working for his grandmother, there is one aspect of his royal life that hasn't changed – his position in line to the throne.

Harry is sixth in line to the throne, and his son Archie is seventh.

His second child will be eighth when he or she arrives later this year, but is very unlikely to have a royal title or ever take on royal duties.

In a snap poll by YouGov, nearly half of Britons said they wanted Harry to lose his place in line to the throne, despite it being unlikely he would ever become king.

The poll of more than 4,200 adults found that 49% thought he should lose his place, with 28% saying he should be able to stay where he is.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 10: Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex on the balcony of Buckingham Palace as the Royal family attend events to mark the Centenary of the RAF on July 10, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on the balcony of Buckingham Palace at the Centenary of the RAF in July 2018. The Queen can't remove him from the line to the throne. (Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
WINDSOR, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 18: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 24 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Lady Marina Windsor attends the wedding of Lady Gabriella Windsor and Thomas Kingston at St George's Chapel on May 18, 2019 in Windsor, England. (Photo by Pool/Max Mumby/Getty Images)
Lady Marina Windsor was the most recent person to lose her place in line to the throne, when she converted to Catholicism. (Max Mumby/Getty Images)

But while the Queen can decide whether Harry gets to keep his patronages and his honorary titles, she can't decide the order of the line of succession.

Professor Robert Hazell, from UCL's Constitution Unit, explained: "The line of succession is laid down in law, most recently the Succession to the Crown Act 2013, which abolished the rule of male primogeniture and introduced gender equality.

"The Queen has no power to change the line of succession. Only Parliament can do that, as it did in the 2013 Act.

"So if Harry were to be removed from the line of succession, it would require legislation through an Act of Parliament."

Watch: How the line of succession to the throne works

Read more: Prince Philip being treated for infection, Buckingham Palace confirms

The Queen cannot bring that Act of Parliament in because the rules that regulate the monarchy are decided by Parliament, not the monarch.

And it's unlikely that an MP would use parliamentary time to have Harry removed, when the chances of him becoming king are slim, even at sixth in line.

In 2003 and 2008, two people lost their place in the line of succession. In 2003, Lord Downpatrick, the grandson of the Duke of Kent, the Queen's cousin, was confirmed into the Catholic Church, and lost his place in line to the throne.

Five years later, his sister Lady Marina Windsor did the same thing. If they had remained in the Church of England, they would currently be position 39th and 40th in line to the throne.

It also happened in 1978, when Prince Michael of Kent married a Catholic.

At the time, it was the law that anyone in line to the throne who married a Catholic would have to surrender their place. When he was born, Prince Michael was eighth in line, but he gave up his position at 15th in 1978 to marry Baroness Marie-Christine von Reibnitz, now Princess Michael of Kent.

WINDSOR, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 18: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 24 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Princess Michael of Kent and Prince Michael of Kent attend the wedding of Lady Gabriella Windsor and Thomas Kingston at St George's Chapel on May 18, 2019 in Windsor, England. (Photo by Pool/Max Mumby/Getty Images)
Prince and Princess Michael of Kent at their daughter's wedding in 2019 in Windsor. His position in line to the throne was reinstated in 2015. (Max Mumby/Getty Images)

The Succession To The Crown Act 2013 changed his fortunes, but did nothing for Lord Downpatrick or Lady Marina.

After decades out of line to the throne, Prince Michael was restored when the law came into effect in 2015, allowing those who had married Catholics to remain in their place of succession. He is currently 49th.

His children were brought up in the Church of England, so they have always had a place in the line of succession. Their father's restoration into the line will actually have bumped them down further.

But the law did not change anything for those who converted to Catholicism, so the Queen's cousins twice removed were not reinstated.

The main reason a Roman Catholic cannot become the monarch is that a key role of the monarch is to be governor of the Church of England.

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 16:  Edward Windsor, Lord Downpatrick attends a cigar and cocktail evening to celebrate the launch of the Hublot & The Rake 'Classic Fusion Aerofusion
Edward Windsor, Lord Downpatrick, seen here in 2018, also gave up his place in the line when he converted to Catholicism. (David M Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images)

A report as the law was being reviewed noted: "The Queen at her Coronation promised, for example, to 'maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law' and to 'maintain and preserve inviolably the settlement of the Church of England'."

It's not clear what process took place when Prince Michael gave up his position in line to the throne, but when the Duchess of Kent decided to convert to Catholicism, she spoke to the Queen about it.

The duchess recalled: “I wanted to speak to her personally.

“She was most understanding. I'm right on the edge of the Royal Family, so it wasn't going to affect anyone, but I did want to explain.”

Harry might be forging a new path, but he will always have a place in the line of succession.

Watch: Buckingham Palace confirms Harry and Meghan won't return as working royals

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