An heir presumptive
is the person provisionally scheduled to inherit a throne, peerage, or other hereditary honor, but whose position can be displaced by the birth of an heir apparent
or of a new heir presumptive with a better claim to the throne. When lowercased, "heir presumptive" can refer generally to someone who is provisionally scheduled to inherit a title, position or possession, unless displaced by an heir apparent or other heir presumptive. In both cases, the position is however subject to law and/or conventions that may alter who is entitled to be heir presumptive.
Depending on the rules of the monarchy the heir presumptive might be the daughter of a monarch (if males take priority over females and the monarch has no sons), or the senior member of a collateral line (if the monarch is childless).
If an heir apparent is born, he becomes first-in-line to the throne, with all of his descendants taking priority over the heir presumptive in the Line of Succession. In the event of there being an heir apparent, the title "heir presumptive" lapses and is not used to describe the most senior person in the Line of Succession who is not a direct male descendant of the monarch. A woman who is in the same position is sometimes called the heiress presumptive but many monarchies increasingly choose to use heir presumptive irrespective of the sex of the holder.
For more detailed information, and a comparison between the positions of heir presumptive and heir apparent, see heir apparent.
It is relatively easy for there to be several simultaneous heirs presumptive. For example, in England, some hereditary titles pass through and vest in female heirs in the absence of a male heir. Since the title cannot be held by two people simultaneously, two daughters (without a brother) who inherit in this way would do so as co-parceners
and before they inherit, both would be heirs presumptive. In these circumstances, the title would in fact be held in abeyance
until one person represents the claim of both, or the claim is renounced by one or the other for herself and her heirs, or the abeyance is ended by the Crown. There are special procedures
for handling doubtful or disputed cases.
Heirs presumptive as of 2008
Examples of heirs presumptive who inherited thrones
- King James II of England, who succeeded his brother King Charles II of England
- Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, who succeeded her uncle King William IV of the United Kingdom
- King George VI of the United Kingdom, who succeeded his brother King Edward VIII of the United Kingdom
- Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, who succeeded her father King George VI of the United Kingdom
- King Albert I of the Belgians, who succeeded his uncle King Leopold II of the Belgians
- King Albert II of the Belgians, who succeeded his brother King Baudouin of the Belgians
- King Paul of Greece, who succeeded his brother King George II of Greece
- King Charles X of Sweden, who succeeded his cousin Queen Christina of Sweden
- King Oscar II of Sweden, who succeeded his brother King Charles XV of Sweden
- Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, who succeeded her father King Frederick IX of Denmark
- Grand Duchess Marie-Adélaïde of Luxembourg, who succeeded her father Grand Duke Guillaume IV of Luxembourg
- Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg, who succeeded her sister Grand Duchess Marie-Adélaïde of Luxembourg
Examples of heirs presumptive who did not inherit thrones