National Geographic News
A young Prince Charles looking bored at the Queens Coronation.

Prince Charles watches as his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, is crowned.

Photograph by United Press Photos

Johnna Rizzo

National Geographic

Published July 16, 2013

Here, resting on his arm between the Queen Mum and Princess Margaret at the coronation of his 25-year-old mother, Queen Elizabeth II, a very young Prince Charles became next in line for the British throne. He's had a long wait. Now 64, he's held the position since 1953.

But his wait isn't over. Most reports from Britain say Charles is likely to remain in his holding pattern indefinitely.

Even though a third-in-line heir will be in place when Elizabeth II's first great-grandchild is born, experts predict that the queen won't abdicate. She continues to enjoy reported good health and great popularity—a recent poll showed 83 percent of Britons think she should retain the throne. What's more, staying the course runs in her family: Her father died while still king, as did his father.

At 87, Elizabeth II is Britain's oldest reigning monarch. But she's not the longest reigning. That honor goes to Queen Victoria, who ruled for 63 and a half years.

Today, Prince William, born in 1982, the oldest son of Charles and Princess Diana, is second in line after Charles. All eyes are currently on William's wife—the Duchess of Cambridge, commonly known as Kate—who's expecting the couple's first child (and that third in the royal queue) at any moment. The gender won't matter: A new British law gives a girl equal right to the throne.

News of the newest royal will be announced the traditional way: A medical bulletin—stating the child's sex, weight, eye color, and other details—will be driven over from the hospital and propped on an easel in the public forecourt of Buckingham Palace.

Brian Neufeldt
Brian Neufeldt

Prince Charles has been second in line to the throne since 1952, not 1953. His mother, Queen Elizabeth, became queen the instant her father, George VI, died.

Diana MacKinnon
Diana MacKinnon

This will be the Queen's third great grandchild, albeit Charles' first grandchild.


Popular Stories

The Future of Food

  • Why Food Matters

    Why Food Matters

    How do we feed nine billion people by 2050, and how do we do so sustainably?

  • Download: Free iPad App

    Download: Free iPad App

    We've made our magazine's best stories about the future of food available in a free iPad app.

See more food news, photos, and videos »