An heir apparent is an heir who, short of a fundamental change in the situation, cannot be displaced from inheriting.
An heir presumptive, by contrast, is an heir currently in line to inherit a title, but who could be displaced at any time by certain events.
Today these terms most commonly describe heirs to hereditary titles, particularly monarchies. They are also used metaphorically to indicate an "anointed" successor to any position of power, e.g., a political or corporate leader.
The phrase is only occasionally found used as a title, where it usually is capitalized ("Heir Apparent"). Most monarchies give (or gave) the heir apparent the title of Crown Prince or a more specific title, such as Prince of Orange in the Netherlands, Prince of Asturias in Spain, or Prince of Wales in the United Kingdom. See crown prince for more examples.
This article primarily describes the term heir apparent in a hereditary system regulated by laws of primogeniture— as opposed to cases where a monarch has a say in naming the heir.
Heir apparent versus heir presumptive Edit
In a hereditary system governed by some form of primogeniture, an heir apparent is easily identifiable as the person whose position as first in the line of succession is secure, regardless of future births. An heir presumptive, by contrast, can always be "bumped down" in the succession by the birth of somebody more closely related in a legal sense (according to that form of primogeniture) to the current title-holder.
The clearest example occurs in the case of a title-holder with no children. If at any time they produce children, they (the offspring of the title-holder) rank ahead of whatever more "distant" relative (the title-holder's sibling, perhaps, or a nephew or cousin) previously was heir presumptive.
Many legal systems assume childbirth is always possible, regardless of age or health. The possibility of a fertile octogenarian, though slim in reality, is never ruled out. In such circumstances a person may be, in a practical sense, the heir apparent but still, legally speaking, heir presumptive.
Daughters in male-preference primogeniture Edit
Daughters (and their lines) may inherit titles that descend according to male-preference primogeniture, but only in default of sons (and their heirs). That is, a female has just as much right to a place in the order of succession as a male, but ranks behind her brothers, regardless of their age.
Thus, normally, even an only daughter will not be her father's (or mother's) heiress apparent, since at any time a brother might be born who, though younger, would be heir apparent. Hence, she is an heiress presumptive.
For example, Queen Elizabeth II was heiress presumptive during the reign of her father, King George VI, because at any stage up to his death, George could have fathered a legitimate son. Indeed, when Queen Victoria succeeded her uncle King William IV, the wording of the proclamation even gave as a caveat:
- "...saving the rights of any issue of his late Majesty King William IV, which may be born of his late Majesty's consort."
This provided for the possibility that William's wife, Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen, was pregnant at the moment of his death—since such a child, if born and regardless of the gender of the child, would have displaced Victoria from the throne.
Women as heirs apparent Edit
Obviously, in a system of absolute primogeniture that does not consider gender, female heirs apparent occur. Several European monarchies that have adopted such systems in the last few decades furnish practical examples: Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden is the oldest child of King Carl XVI Gustaf and is his heir apparent; Princess Catharina-Amalia of the Netherlands, Princess Elisabeth of Belgium, and Princess Ingrid Alexandra of Norway are all heirs apparent to their fathers (who are in each case heir apparent to their respective countries' thrones). Victoria was not heiress apparent from birth (in 1977), but gained the status in 1980 following a change in the Swedish Act of Succession. Her younger brother Carl Philip (born 1979) was thus heir apparent for a few months.
But even in legal systems (such as the UK's) that apply male-preference primogeniture, female heirs apparent are by no means impossible: if a male heir apparent dies leaving no sons but at least one daughter, then the eldest daughter would replace her father as heir apparent to whatever throne or title is concerned, but only when it has become clear that the widow of the deceased isn't pregnant. Then, as the representative of her father's line she would place ahead of any more distant relatives. Such a situation has not to date occurred with the English or British throne; several times an heir apparent has died, but each example has either been childless or left a son or sons. However, there have been several female heirs apparent to British peerages (e.g. Frances Ward, 6th Baroness Dudley, and Henrietta Wentworth, 6th Baroness Wentworth).
In one special case, however, England and Scotland had a female heir apparent. The Revolution settlement that established William and Mary as joint monarchs in 1689 only gave the power to continue the succession through issue to Mary II, eldest daughter of the previous king, James II. William, by contrast, was to reign for life only, and his (hypothetical) children by a wife other than Mary would be placed in his original place (as Mary's first cousin) in the line of succession – after Mary's younger sister Anne. Thus, although after Mary's death William continued to reign, he had no power to beget direct heirs, and Anne became the heir apparent for the remainder of William's reign. She eventually succeeded him as Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland.
Displacement of heirs apparent Edit
The position of an heir apparent is normally unshakable: it can be assumed they will inherit. Sometimes, however, extraordinary events—such as the death or the deposition of the parent—intervene.
People who lost heir apparent status Edit
- Parliament deposed James Francis Edward Stuart, the infant son of King James II & VII (of England and Scotland respectively) whom James II was raising as a Catholic, as the King's legal heir apparent—declaring that James had, de facto, abdicated— and offered the throne to James's oldest daughter, the young prince's much older Protestant half-sister, Mary (along with her husband, Prince William of Orange). When the exiled King James died in 1701, his Jacobite supporters proclaimed the exiled Prince James Francis Edward as King James III of England and James VIII of Scotland; but neither he nor his descendents were ever successful in their bids for the throne.
- Crown Prince Gustav (later known as Gustav, Prince of Vasa), son of Gustav IV Adolf of Sweden lost his place when his father was deposed and replaced by his aged uncle, the Duke Carl, who became Charles XIII of Sweden in 1809. The aged King Charles XIII did not have surviving sons, and Prince Gustav was the only living male of the whole dynasty (besides his deposed father), but the prince was never regarded as heir of Charles XIII, although there were groups in the Riksdag and elsewhere in Sweden who desired to preserve him, and, in the subsequent constitutional elections, supported his election as his great-uncle's successor. Instead, the government proceeded to have a new crown prince elected (which was the proper constitutional action, if no male heir was left in the dynasty), and the Riksdag elected first August, Prince of Augustenborg, and then, after the death of the latter, the Prince of Ponte Corvo (Marshal Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte).
- Prince Carl Philip of Sweden, at his birth in 1979, was heir apparent to the throne of Sweden. A year later a change in that country's succession laws instituted absolute primogeniture, and Carl Philip was supplanted as heir apparent by his elder sister Victoria.
Breaching legal qualification of heirs apparent Edit
In some jurisdictions, an heir apparent can automatically lose that status by breaching certain constitutional rules. Today, for example:
- a British Prince of Wales would lose his status as heir apparent if he became a Catholic, or married a Catholic.
- a Crown Prince/Princess of Sweden would lose heir apparent status if they marry without approval of the monarch or, contrary to Swedish law, married the heir to another throne.
- a Dutch Prince or Princess of Orange would lose status as heir to the throne if they married without the approval of the Dutch parliament, or simply renounced the right.
- a Spanish Prince of Asturias would lose status if he married against the express prohibition of the monarch or the Cortes.
- a Belgian Crown Prince or Princess would lose heir apparent status if they married without the consent of the monarch, or became monarch of another country.
Heirs apparent who never inherited the throne Edit
- Richard, Duke of Bernay, second son of William I of England. Killed in a riding accident in the New Forest.
- William Adelin (1103–1120) was the only legitimate son of King Henry I of England, who drowned in the White Ship disaster off the coast of Barfleur in the English Channel in 1120. His cousin Stephen allegedly left the ship at the last minute before it sailed. As a direct result of William's death, Stephen later usurped the English throne from William's sister Matilda, leading to the period known as the Anarchy.
- Edward, the Black Prince (1330–1376) was the eldest son of King Edward III of England, and victor of the Battle of Poitiers. He died before his father, who was instead succeeded by the Black Prince's son Richard II.
- Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales (1453–1471)was the only son of King Henry VI of England. His father was deposed in 1461 and restored to the throne in 1470. Edward was killed at the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471.
- Arthur, Prince of Wales (1486–1502) was the eldest son of King Henry VII of England and first husband of Catherine of Aragon. His sudden death within four months of his marriage passed the succession to his younger brother, Henry VIII, who also married his widow. The question of whether Catherine had lost her virginity to Arthur was central to Henry's later demand for a marriage annulment, which led to the Protestant Reformation in England.
- John, Crown Prince of Portugal (1537-1554) - son of King John III and father of King Sebastian I.
- Carlos, Prince of Asturias (1545-1568) - only son of King Philip II of Spain by his first marriage. Carlos was arrested and imprisoned by his father in January 1568 and died in prison six months later.
- Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales (1594–1612) - eldest son of King James I.
- Louis, le grand Dauphin (1661–1711) was the son of Louis XIV, King of France and of Navarre. He died before his father, and the throne eventually went to the Grand Dauphin's grandson who became Louis XV
- Yinreng (1674–1725) — Yinreng was an heir apparent to the imperial throne of Qing Dynasty of China. Yinreng was deprived of his position twice by the Kangxi Emperor.
- Louis, Dauphin and Duke of Burgundy (1682–1712) was the eldest son of Louis, le grand dauphin, and grandson of Louis XIV. He died of measles less than a year after his father. His son, Louis XV, ultimately succeeded Louis XIV
- James Francis Edward Stuart (1688-1766), only surviving son of James II of England by his second wife Mary of Modena. His father was overthrown when he was an infant, and the throne given to James's half-sister Mary II and her husband William III. James himself succeeded his father as Jacobite pretender in 1701.
- Alexei Petrovich, Tsarevich of Russia (1690-1718), only surviving son of Peter the Great of Russia by his first wife. Alexei never got along with his father, and in 1716 fled Russia to escape him. After he was convinced to return in 1718 he was imprisoned and forced to relinquish his claim to the throne in favor of his infant half-brother. He died in prison shortly after his father had him condemned to death.
- Frederick, Prince of Wales (1707–1751) was the Prince of Wales and heir apparent of George II of Great Britain. He died in 1751, nine years before his father.
- Louis, Dauphin of France (1729–1765) was the son of Louis XV, King of France and Navarre. He died before his father, and the throne eventually went to his son, who became Louis XVI
- Crown Prince Sado of Joseon (Korea) (1735–1762) was heir apparent to King Yeongjo of Joseon (Korea). Because of his lifelong erratic behavior, his father forced him to commit suicide by locking him in a rice chest, where he died in a span of 8 days. Sado's son succeeded his grandfather as King Jeongjo of Joseon.
- Philip, Duke of Calabria (1747-1777), eldest son of King Charles VII of Naples, who became in 1759 King Charles III of Spain. Philip was mentally retarded, and when his father ascended the Spanish throne was removed from the line of succession - his younger brother Charles became heir apparent to the Spanish throne, while an even younger brother, Ferdinand, immediately ascended the throne of Naples.
- Louis-Antoine, Dauphin and Duke of Angoulême (1775–1844) was eldest son and heir apparent of King Charles X of France. Charles, however, abdicated, as did Louis himself, in favour of Louis' nephew the young Henri, only for the throne to be seized by a cousin, King Louis-Philippe of France in 1830.
- Ferdinand Philippe, Duke of Orléans (1810–1842), eldest son of Louis-Philippe of France; a popular young liberal, died in a carriage accident six years before his father's overthrow.
- Prince Leopold, Duke of Brabant (1859–1869), was the only legitimate son of King Leopold II of Belgium, who died from pneumonia, after falling into a pond.
- Philippe, comte de Paris (1838–1894), eldest son of Ferdinand Philippe, Duke of Orléans was heir apparent to his grandfather Louis-Philippe after his father's death. Attempts to put him on the throne after Louis Philippe's abdication were unsuccessful, and he became known as the Orléanist pretender.
- William, Prince of Orange (1843–1879) was the eldest son of William III of the Netherlands by his first wife. Forbidden by his father to marry his chosen bride, he lived a life of debauchery in Paris and predeceased his father.
- Alexander, Prince of Orange (1851–1884), third son of William III of the Netherlands by his first wife, died of typhus, before his father.
- Louis Napoléon, Prince Imperial (1856-1879), only son of Napoleon III of France. His father was overthrown in 1870 and he himself killed in South Africa fighting in the British army in the Zulu War in 1879.
- Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria (1858–1889) was the only son of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria. He committed suicide with his mistress in 1889.
- Crown Prince William of Germany (1882-1951) was the eldest son of Emperor William II. His father was forced to abdicate in 1918, and the monarchy was abolished.
- Crown Prince Luís Filipe of Portugal (1887–1908) was heir apparent to King Carlos. The joint assassination of the king and his heir apparent in 1908 left the throne to the teenage Manuel II of Portugal. Portugal became a republic in 1910.
- Tsarevich Alexei Nikolaevich of Russia (1904–1918) was the youngest child and only son of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, and heir apparent to the Russian throne. When Nicholas abdicated in March 1917, he also abdicated in the name of his son, which was, in effect, against the law in Russia. However the monarchy was abolished days later, so it made no difference. Alexei was murdered in 1918 along with the rest of his family. For years, some believed he escaped his killers, since his body hadn't been found. His body and the body of one of his sisters were found in 2007.
- Alfonso, Prince of Asturias (1907-1938), eldest son of King Alfonso XIII of Spain. His father was overthrown and a republic established in 1931. Alfonso himself, a sufferer from hemophilia, renounced his claims to the throne in 1933 in order to marry a commoner, and died in a car accident five years later.
- Vittorio Emanuele, Prince of Naples (b. 1937) became crown prince of Italy after his father ascended to the throne as Umberto II. His father lost the throne one month later.
- Leka, Crown Prince of Albania (b. 1939) was the son of Zog I who the Italians expelled two days after Leka's birth.
- Crown Prince Amedeo of Savoy, Duke of Aosta (b. 1943) as the son of Tomislav II of Croatia, abdicated due to the Armistice between Italy and Allied armed forces, when Amedeo was only two weeks old.
- Alexander, Crown Prince of Yugoslavia (b. 1945) as the son of Peter II, the Communists deposed when Alexander was only a few months old.
- Pavlos, Crown Prince of Greece (b. 1967), eldest son of King Constantine II; his father fled into exile shortly after his birth, and the monarchy was abolished in 1973.
- Paras, Crown Prince of Nepal (b. 1971), his father was deposed when Nepal became a republic in 2008.
Heirs apparent as of 2010 Edit
- ↑ Proclamations of Accessions of British Sovereigns (1547-1952)
- ↑ "King James’ Parliament: The succession of William and Mary - begins 13/2/1689", The History and Proceedings of the House of Commons: volume 2: 1680-1695 (1742), pp. 255-77.  Accessed: 16 February 2007.
- ↑ BBC NEWS | Europe | Tsar's lost children identified