Learn more about Heir apparent
The term Heir Apparent is most often used to refer to someone who is first in the order of succession to a throne and who, unlike an Heir Presumptive, cannot lose this status by the birth of any other person. It is also used less formally to indicate someone who is an apparent successor to a non-royal position of power, e.g., a political or corporate leader.
It is typically uppercased when used as a title, though heirs apparent always have official titles that render such titulation unnecessary.
This article is concerned with the position of heir apparent to a royal or noble title.
 Heir Apparent versus Heir Presumptive
An Heir Apparent differs from an Heir Presumptive in that, although an Heir Presumptive may inherit the throne upon the death of the monarch, the status of the Heir Presumptive as first-in-line could be overturned by the birth of another person of superior legal status who would at the moment they were born become the Heir Apparent or the new Heir Presumptive. In effect an Heir Presumptive is the de facto or stand-by first-in-line until someone with a superior legal status in the order of succession, the Heir Apparent or a new Heir Presumptive, is born.
 Examples of heirs apparent and heirs presumptive
 Elizabeth II - Heiress Presumptive of George VI
Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom was Heiress Presumptive, not Heiress Apparent, during the reign of her father, King George VI, because at any stage up to his death, George could have fathered a legitimate son who would have become Heir Apparent to the British throne. George himself had been an Heir Presumptive, not Heir Apparent, as his brother, King Edward VIII, could have fathered a child (until his abdication and legal stipulation that any children of Edward would have no place in the line of succession and no claim to the throne). Similarly Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom was Heiress Presumptive in the reign of her uncle William IV because at any stage up to his death, William could have fathered a legitimate child who would have become (if a male) heir apparent or (if a female) the new heiress presumptive.
 Albert II - Heir Presumptive of Baudouin I
The heir presumptive is usually either the daughter of a monarch or the closest living (male or female) sibling or relative of a monarch who is not descended from them. For example, Prince Albert, the brother of Baudouin I, King of the Belgians, was heir presumptive during his brother's reign. Had Baudouin I had a son, that son would immediately have become heir apparent. Before the change of Belgian succession law during Baudouin I's reign, no daughter could have inherited, but after that change (which simultaneously put males and females on an equal footing, only depending on order of birth), had Baudouin I had a daughter she would have replaced Albert and became Heir(ess) Apparent. However as Baudouin I died childless, Albert as heir presumptive became King Albert II.
 The changing heirs apparent and presumptive of Henry VIII
Where a monarch has only one male child and that child dies without children, or the monarch has only female children, a female child or relative of the monarch may become heir presumptive. However, the later birth of a son would again see the heir presumptive replaced by a new heir apparent. For example, King Henry VIII of England's and Queen Catherine of Aragon's young son, who was Heir Apparent, died 52 days after his birth; their daughter, Mary then became Heiress Presumptive. When Henry's marriage to Catherine was annulled and he had a daughter by his second wife, Anne Boleyn, that child, Elizabeth was made Heiress Presumptive (Mary was declared illegitimate and stripped of the title). When Henry had a new son, Edward, by his third wife, Jane Seymour, Edward became Heir Apparent.
By the time of Henry's death, his two daughters by order of birth were reinstated in the order of succession. For nearly eighty years the throne passed from one heir presumptive to another, subsequent to the death of Henry's son, Edward, since each monarch during that time lacked an heir apparent. Edward VI was de jure succeeded by his heiress presumptive, his half-sister Mary I, who was succeeded in turn by her heiress presumptive, Elizabeth I, who was in turn succeeded by a relative, King James VI of Scotland, who reigned as James I of England. James, although genealogically heir presumptive, was not an official Heir Presumptive, and certainly not an heir apparent. James became the first monarch since Henry VIII to be succeeded by an heir apparent, his son Charles I of England. (James's first son Henry Frederick, his first heir apparent, had died without children.)
 Women as heirs apparent
However, not all queens regnant or daughters who are first-in-line, are heirs presumptive. Where a son does not have superior legal status in a succession ahead of a daughter, and the daughter becomes first-in-line by right rather than in the absence of a son, she becomes heiress apparent. The only current heiress apparent is Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden, the oldest child of King Carl XVI Gustav. Princess Catharina-Amalia of the Netherlands is the heiress apparent of her father, Prince Willem-Alexander, who himself is the Heir Apparent to the throne of the Netherlands, and the same with Princess Elisabeth of Belgium and Princess Ingrid Alexandra of Norway.
In countries that apply male-preference primogeniture, there could be at least one rare case that a female is heiress apparent: if a male heir apparent is deceased, leaving only daughters and a wife (who is not pregnant with a boy), then the eldest of such daughters will be heiress apparent to the throne. This is because the deceased obviously is no longer able to sire any male offspring, and therefore the birth of any one cannot alter the position of the deceased's daughters.
Had the future King Richard II been a daughter, that person would have been the heiress apparent to the throne of England in 1377. Had Frederick, Prince of Wales, left only daughters, then in 1753-60 the eldest of such daughters would have been the heiress apparent to the throne of Great Britain. Instead, he left several sons, of whom the future George III became Heir Apparent.
There has only been one female heir-apparent in British history, and that was the future Queen Anne, but she was heiress-apparent for a different reason: When Mary II died, her husband William III continued to reign alone. Any children he may have had from a future marriage would have been placed behind Anne in the line of succession, and thus Anne was heiress-apparent.
Sometimes, the daughter of a monarch may be declared heiress-apparent because it is highly unlikely any other heirs to the throne will be born (she becomes de facto heir apparent), though she remains heiress-presumptive in principle. For instance, Princess Charlotte, Duchess of Valentinois, Isabel of Brazil and the future Marie-Adélaïde, Grand Duchess of Luxembourg were each declared heirs-apparent (though the former renounced her succession rights in favor of her son).
 Heir Apparent's Status can be overturned by law
The status of the Heir Apparent is dependent on law.
 Removal of males from superior role in succession
A legal change may deprive the person who was heir apparent of their status and grant it to another individual. For example, Prince Carl Philip of Sweden was heir apparent of Sweden immediately on his birth in 1979. However, one year later he was deprived of that status when a legal change decreed that the King Carl XVI Gustav's oldest child (not, as previously, oldest son) became heir apparent. This change upgraded Prince Carl Philip's older sister, Princess Victoria, from no position in line to the throne to heir apparent and first-in-line above him. Up to that change of law, Swedish succession was limited to males, failing which, the proper constitutional action would have been an election of the next monarch, as had happened, for example, in 1719, Ulrika Eleonora as queen; 1745, Adolphus Frederick as crown prince; 1810, Charles John as crown prince.
 Replacement of another Royal Family member by Parliament
Prince James Francis Edward Stuart, the oldest son of King James II/James VII (of England and Scotland respectively) was deposed as the King's legal heir apparent when parliament, after it declared that James had de facto abdicated, offered the throne not to the Catholic Prince James but to James's oldest daughter, the young prince's half-sister, the Protestant Mary and 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. However he never got to occupy the throne, nor did any of his descendants.
In 1809, King Gustav IV Adolf of Sweden was deposed, and replaced by his aged uncle, the Duke Carl, who became Charles XIII of Sweden. With that, Gustav IV's son, Crown Prince Gustav (later known as Prince Gustav of Vasa) lost his position as heir apparent. 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).
 Breaching of the legal qualifications of heirs apparent
In some jurisdictions, an heir apparent can lose his or her status should they breach certain constitutional rules.
A British Prince of Wales would lose his status as heir apparent if he
- became a Catholic, or
- married a Catholic
A Crown Princess of Sweden would lose her status if she
- married without the approval of the monarch
- married the heir to another throne, which is always contrary to Swedish law.
A Dutch Prince/Princess of Orange would lose his/her status if he/she
- married without the approval of the Dutch parliament.
- should decide to renounce it.
A morganatic marriage is not usually the direct reason for losing succession rights (it depends on the laws of the country), but marrying without the sovereign's consent will usually result in the loss of such rights. However, in the United Kingdom, there is an exception to the latter; a British heir apparent does not lose the right of succession if he/she contracts a marriage against the Royal Marriages Act of 1772, but the issue resulting from such a marriage is ineligible to succeed to the throne.
A completely different point regarding unequal marriages is that, quite often, the royal who is contracting such, more or less voluntarily, renounces the succession rights. Perhaps the most famous example was king Edward VIII.
 Who becomes heir apparent?
The question of who becomes heir apparent is usually decided either by custom, convention, or by law. Monarchies traditionally gave male children (and their children) precedence on the order of succession ahead of female children, with the oldest male child becoming heir apparent. Hence in the United Kingdom, though she is Queen Elizabeth II's second oldest child, Princess Anne is the lowest ranking in the order of succession of the Queen's children, Princes Charles, Andrew, Edward; as well as being behind her brothers' children, male and female.
By the early twenty-first century a growing (but still small) number of monarchies have chosen to make the monarch's oldest child, irrespective of sex, the Heir Apparent. Japan is currently debating the issue. By the Imperial Household Agency's law, only males can be heir to the throne and no male heir had been born into the Imperial family for over 40 years until the 2006 birth of Prince Hisahito of Akishino. The debate over female succession is likely to continue despite this, as Hisahito is still the only male of his generation and may in his turn only sire daughters.
A significant factor relating to male primogeniture is the fact that it ensures genetic continuity of the royal line. Because the human Y chromosome changes relatively slowly over time and is only passed along the direct male line, it may be used to trace paternal lineage. The human Y chromosome is unable to recombine with the X chromosome, except for small pieces of pseudoautosomal regions at the telomeres (which comprise about 5% of the chromosome's length).
 Position inherited through descent from the Heir Apparent
In primogeniture, the position of Heir Apparent does not descend to each of the monarch's children in turn, but through the direct, legal line from the initial heir apparent. So for example, were the current British heir apparent, Charles, Prince of Wales either to die before becoming monarch, or become legally debarred (in the British case by becoming or marrying a Catholic), his oldest son, Prince William of Wales, would become heir apparent.
This happens unless a legal change awards another figure (inside the order of succession or elsewhere) the position, as happened in the case of Prince James Francis Edward, heir to King James II (see above) or where the children of the Heir Apparent are for some reason legally debarred from being in the order of succession. The children of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, for example, were excluded from the order of succession to the thrones of Austria and Hungary because their parents had a morganatic marriage that effectively made the Archduke's wife and children his private family but not members of the Imperial Family.
Had the Duke of Windsor (formerly King Edward VIII) and Duchess of Windsor had any children, although they would have been the children of a former heir apparent and King of the United Kingdom they would have had no legal claim to the throne, Edward himself having renounced, with that right having thus shifted to Edward's younger brother "Bertie," who reigned as George VI, and his descendants.
However, for example in monarchies using agnatic seniority, the position of Heir Apparent goes to each of the monarch's sons in turn (contrary to the primogeniture system explained above), and only after all of them, to the next generation. This order of succession seems to be in use in e.g kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In practice, most (even all) monarchies applying a sort of seniority succession, blend it with semi-electiveness (at least, the incumbent monarch confirms who will be the next heir), thus it is not at all totally certain from genealogy to whom the throne will go. (Due to matters of expediency , sometimes some of brothers are excluded in other than genealogical grounds.) In Saudi Arabia, the heir apparent of the current king Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is his brother Sultan, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.
 Several simultaneous heirs-apparent
It is possible to call someone an heir apparent, if that person is the heir apparent of an heir apparent, though this is not necessarily helpful, and not in wide use. (Contrary to some beliefs, heir presumptive is not the title of the heir apparent of the heir apparent.) For example, Prince William can already be said to be an heir apparent of the throne of United Kingdom, as there is no possibility that anyone's birth may displace William - provided that he does not die and is not disbarred, he is eventually to become the monarch. If the term is used in that way, then there can be several concurrent heirs apparent.
Heir Apparent is a technical term that is not used as an actual title. The most common title used for heirs apparent in kingdoms is Crown Prince. In the case of absolute primogeniture, such as in Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden a woman can be heir apparent, and thus Crown Princess. In monarchies that are not kingdoms, other titles like Hereditary Grand Duke or Hereditary Prince are used instead.
However, many countries have specially designed titles for the heir apparent. Such titles may be automatically assigned on becoming heir apparent, like Prince of Orange in the Netherlands or Duke of Cornwall in the United Kingdom. In other cases a specific title may be traditionally granted by the monarch, like Prince of Wales in the United Kingdom (except Scotland, where he is known as Duke of Rothesay). A more extensive list of these titles is available in the Crown Prince article.
Where a monarchy has been abolished, it is customary not to refer to claimants to the throne as Heir Apparent or Heir Presumptive but as Pretender. However an Heir Apparent at the time of the abolition of a throne is by custom still referred to as such. But his or her descendants are not described as such. Similarly while it is customary to refer to a Crown Prince born during the existence of a throne by his or her title, their descendants are generally not known, except by extreme royalists, by a title they had not personally been awarded prior to the abolition of the monarchy.
 Famous Heirs Apparent who never inherited the throne
- Arthur, Prince of Wales - the Prince of Wales and heir apparent of King Henry VII of England and first husband of Catherine of Aragon. His sudden death within four months of his marriage led to the succession to the throne of his younger brother, as Henry VIII, who also married his widow. The question of whether Catherine had lost her virginity to Arthur was central to Henry's demand for a marriage annulment.
- Leka, Crown Prince of Albania - The son of Zog I whose throne was seized by Communists before Leka could take his place as King of Albania.
- Frederick, Prince of Wales - the Prince of Wales and heir apparent of George II of Great Britain. He died in 1751, nine years before his father.
- Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria - heir apparent to Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria committed suicide with his mistress in 1889.
- Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich of Russia - 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 only days later, so it made little difference. Historians have presumed Alexei to murdered in 1918, although, many people continue to believe he escaped his killers, since his body (along with one of his sisters) was never found with the rest of his family's and servants.
- Crown Prince Luís Filipe of Portugal - 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 and Portugal eventually became a republic in 1910.
- the Dauphin Louis-Antoine, Duke of Angouleme - eldest son and heir apparent of King Charles X of France Charles however abdicated, together with 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
- Yinreng - Yinreng was an Heir Apparent to the imperial throne of Qing Dynasty China. During the course of his life, Yinreng was deprived of his position twice by the Kangxi Emperor.
- Crown Prince Sado of Joseon (Korea) - Sado was heir apparent to King Yeongjo of Joseon (Korea). His lifelong erratic behavior caused his father to force him to commit suicide by locking himself in a rice chest, where he died in 8 days' span; Sado's son succeeded his grandfather as King Jeongjo of Joseon.
(Heir presumptive: Henri, comte de Chambord - grandson and practical heir of King Charles X of France Charles abdicated in favour of the young Henri, only for the throne to be seized by a cousin, King Louis-Philippe of France in 1830, and Henri's uncle Duke Louis of Angouleme, the Dauphin also abdicated. Henri turned down a second chance to receive the French throne from the French National Assembly in the early 1870s because he would not accept the tricolour as the French flag.)
 Heirs Apparent as of 2006
- HRH The Prince Charles, Prince of Wales is the heir-apparent to the Thrones of the United Kingdom and of fifteen other Commonwealth Realms
- HRH Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark is the heir-apparent to the Throne of Denmark.
- HRH Prince Philippe, Duke of Brabant is the heir-apparent to the Throne of Belgium 1
- HRH the Prince Felipe, Prince of Asturias is the heir-apparent to the Throne of Spain.
- HRH Crown Prince Haakon Magnus of Norway is the heir-apparent to the Throne of Norway
- HRH Crown Princess Victoria, Duchess of Westrogothia is the heiress-apparent to the Throne of Sweden (she is also the world's only female heir-apparent)
- HRH Prince Willem-Alexander, Prince of Orange is the heir-apparent to the Throne of the Netherlands
- HRH Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume of Luxembourg is the heir-apparent to the Throne of Luxembourg
- HRH Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn is the heir-apparent to the Throne of Thailand
- HSH Prince Alois of Liechtenstein is the heir-apparent of the Throne of Liechtenstein
- HIH Crown Prince Naruhito of Japan is the heir-apparent to the Chrysanthemum Throne.
- HRH Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa is the heir-apparent to the throne of Bahrain
- HRH Prince Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck is the heir-apparent to the throne of Bhutan
- HRH Crown Prince Al-Muhtadee Billah Bolkiah is the heir-apparent to the throne of Brunei
- HRH Crown Prince Moulay Hassan is the heir-apparent to the throne of Morocco
- HRH Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani is the heir-apparent to the throne of Qatar
- HRH Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud is the heir-apparent to the throne of Saudi Arabia
- HRH Crown Prince Paras Bir Bikram Shah is the heir-apparent to the throne of Nepal
- HRH Crown Prince Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah is the heir-apparent to the throne of Kuwait (he was nominated as such)