‘Long live our noble queen’, we sing. But death comes for monarchs too. The death of Elizabeth II (born 1926) will be pivotal. She is now 85 years old and the heir to the throne (born 1948) is 62. His son turns 29 this coming June. For the next few years, the British monarchy is going to seem permanently middle-aged.
Consider how the chess pieces might fall during the coming decades. Say the queen lives to the age of 95 – and recall that her mother was 102 when she died – it will be 2021 before Charles can inherit. He will then be 73. If Charles III reigns for nine years the next accession will be in 2030. That year, the new king William V will be 48 years old. Let us speculate that the eldest child of his union with Queen Catherine this year – call her Charlotte – will have been born in 2012. She then becomes heir to the throne, if the throne still exists and the law is changed, at the age of 18.
If in our scenario William V lives to the age of 80, then Charlotte will be 50 at her accession in 2062 – a full 110 years after Elizabeth II became queen. Thus, over the period of the next half-century from now, the present sovereign’s three successors will be aged 73, 48 and 50 respectively when each of them accedes.
If the queen does indeed die in 2021, it will be 184 years after the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837. Of those 184 years of unparalleled change for the UK, only 52 will have seen a king on the throne: four of them between 1901 and 1952.