Frequently on social media I will see posts by people that think the Queen should give the throne to the Duke of Cambridge, bypassing the Prince of Wales. These people generally are not fans of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall. The truth is the Queen has absolutely no power to give the crown to anyone. She cannot bypass the Prince of Wales and give the crown to the Duke of Cambridge. The succession to the throne is regulated by Parliament through its laws and statutes and this authority has been in the hands of Parliament for centuries. Therefore, it would take an Act of Parliament to alter the succession and remove the Prince of Wales from his rightful place in the order of the succession. There is no plans to do so, nor is there any reason or need to alter the succession.
Here is a brief history of the power to control the succession.
Even during the reigns of the Saxon kings the power to regulate or name your successor was not in the hands of the monarch. That power was in the hands of the Witenagemot (Witan) a council of elders. At the time the English kingship was elective and semi-hereditary. The Witenagemot had the power to name and elect the king and they limited their choices to princes within the House of Wessex. The Witenagemot didn’t follow succession based on male primogeniture, they would often select a brother of the pervious King especially if the king left children too young to reign.
In 1066 when William I “the Conqueror” became king and he abolished the Witenagemot and became the first English king to hold the power and right to name his successor. Although at this time the king did hold this power, the will of the king was not always followed. Case in point was Henry I of England (1100-1134) who named his only surviving child, his daughter, the Empress Matilda, as his successor. However, despite the Barons swearing an oath to uphold the succession of the Empress Matilda, this oath was ignored upon King Henry’s death allowing the King’s nephew, Count Stephen of Blois, to usurp the throne, plunging England into many years of civil war.
Eventually the crown evolved into the male preferred primogeniture that remained up until recently which ended with the Crown Act of 2013 and left the succession to the Crown to the eldest child regardless of gender. Also, concurrent with the settling into the tradition of male preferred primogeniture, came the rise of Parliament which also tried influence the crown in matters of succession. When Henry IV (1399-1412) usurped the crown from Richard II (1377-1399) he had his kingship sanctioned by Parliament to give his reign legal status.
Even when monarchs such as Henry VIII (1509-1547) and his son Edward VI (1547-1553) tried to alter the succession they were unable to assert their will without Parliamentary approval. Henry VIII tried to exclude the descendants of the union of his sister Margaret to King James IV of Scotland and Edward VI tried to bypass his sisters Mary and Elizabeth and give the throne to his cousin, Lady Jane Grey. In each case Parliament either ignored the king’s will, as was the case with the descendants of the union of Margaret to King James IV of Scotland, and Parliament did not sanction altering the succession that Edward VI attempted. This was another reason Lady Jane is considered a usurper.
Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603) was the last monarch who had power to name her successor given the fact that she left no issue. This was a power she refused to use as she did not name her successor, although historians debate whether or not she did name her distant cousin, King James VI of Scotland, as her successor. In 1679 King Charles II of England, Scotland and Ireland actually stopped Parliament from removing his brother, James, Duke of York from the succession due to his Catholicism via the Exclusion Bill. The almost lead to another English civil war.
The Duke of York became King James II-VII of England, Scotland and Ireland in 1685 and it was his abandonment of the throne in 1688 which lead to the Convention Parliament calling William III of Orange and Princess Mary, daughter of the deposed king, to rule jointly as king and queen. This act was legalized when William III called for the election of a new Parliament which passed the Crown and Parliament Recognition Act of 1689. With the Passing of the Act of Settlement in 1701, which regulated the throne to the Protestant descendants of the Electress Sophia of Hanover, Parliament has held the power to regulate the succession to the crown ever since.
Although this isn’t England, even the great powerful Louis XIV of France and Navarre (1643-1715), an absolute monarch, was unable to alter the succession to the French throne when he wanted to give succession rights to his legitimized children after the Princes of the Blood. This demonstrates how difficult it is for a monarch to alter the succession to the crown.
I hope this short history lesson demonstrates why the Queen cannot alter the succession to the crown by giving the throne to the Duke of Cambridge bypassing the Prince of Wales.