Archive for July, 2013

Putting On Heirs

July 25, 2013

Have we heard enough about the Royal Baby yet? Come on, admit it. Well, I have, for sure. But I thought I’d take the opportunity here to straighten out a bit of confusion many people have regarding the terms “heir apparent” and “heir presumptive.”
Prince Charles is the heir apparent to the British throne. Nothing can stop him from assuming the throne except his own death before his mother’s.
Strictly speaking, Prince William is not the heir yet. You don’t become an heir till the person you’re heir to is dead. Thus, legally you are a devisee until that person’s death. But in practice nobody uses the term devisee so it doesn’t matter to our purposes here. Just pointing out that Prince William isn’t strictly an heir yet; he will be heir apparent once Queen Elizabeth II has died and William’s father, Charles, has become king.
An heir presumptive is not presumptuous or shady in any way. The concept is kind of hard to explain, but to do it let’s create our own Royal Family, the Higginbottoms. The Queen is Queen Sue Higginbottom and she’s married to her Prince Consort, Prince Frank. They have no children. The next in line after Sue, because she is childless, is her nephew, Prince Donald. He is heir presumptive. It is presumed he will ascend to the throne. If, however, Queen Sue has one of those change-of-life babies, we’ll call her Princess Denise, Denise becomes the heir apparent and Donald becomes … nothing much. He’s lost his chance unless and until Denise dies childless. In short, the heir presumptive can be knocked out of the running only if the reigning monarch produces a legitimate child.
The terms are not interchangeable, and they are mutually exclusive.
And now you know.

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