With the news that Kate Middleton and Prince William, aka Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, are pregnant, the entire world is set to go U.K. royalty crazy again.
But the birth of a potential new king or queen raises an important question—will the royal baby ever actually see the throne?
One potential complication is gender. Should the couple have a baby girl, she may not get far seeing how male heirs are traditionally given preference. However, it looks like this issue may have already been solved. Government ministers confirmed today that a new law will change this, and the law will be backdated to last year in case the child is born before it passes.
Ignoring that problem, there's also the bigger issue of time. The baby is thought to be third in line to the throne (after Prince Charles and Prince William), pushing poor Harry out into fourth. The Queen is currently 86, while Charles is 64 and William 30. That may be a lot of waiting.
Charles was the first monarch-in-waiting to reach 60 without reaching the throne—something of a testament to modern healthcare and royal diets. There has been widespread speculation in the British press that Charles may be pressured to skip the throne and pass the crown to William in a bid to keep things moving.
There has also been a lot of speculation that Charles—very much an old-school, British aristocrat and reportedly a cantankerous figure—would not be a popular king.
This is a very important factor since the existence of the monarchy itself is always a matter of debate in the U.K.. One anti-monarchy group says that the Royals cost the British taxpayer more than £200 million ($320 million) a year, according to AP reports. Even official estimates say that she costs £40 million a year. While support for the monarchy doesn't appear to have dipped too much in recent years, the number of people who believe it will still be around in 100 years has. The BBC reports that 49 percent believed it would in 1997, in 2006 this number was just 26.
Whether the royal family survives may well rest upon the younger generations—Harry and William have proved more popular than their father, and last year's royal wedding is widely believed to have boosted the popularity of the family. We guess the arrival of a cute baby won't hurt either.
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