Suppose the British King dies and he is currently childless, but his wife is pregnant. Under the succession laws of the commonwealth realms, what happens? I see three natural possibilities:
- The next in line (e.g. the King's younger sibling) becomes monarch and the unborn child misses out.
- The next in line becomes temporary monarch and the child becomes monarch upon birth.
- The unborn child becomes monarch with a regent. (This seems no more ridiculous than a nine-month-old monarch.)
Obviously, this is a hypothetical question, as the current Queen has plenty of children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. The first person in the line of succession who is both married and childless is Prince Harry at number 6 and he is not in the "direct" line of succession. However, when King William IV died childless in 1837, the accession proclamation of his niece Queen Victoria made reference to "saving the rights of any issue of His late Majesty King William the Fourth which may be borne of His late Majesty's Consort". In the end, the King's widow was not pregnant. In essence, my question is what would have happened if William IV’s widow gave birth.
I'm curious to know what the law says or, if it is ambiguous, who is empowered to make the decision and on what basis. Are there any similar cases elsewhere in world history?
A follow-up question: Would the stage of pregnancy matter? If the pregnancy was already public knowledge, the unborn child's rights might be considered more seriously than if it was unknown.
An even more complicated follow-up question: There are now cases of dead men fathering children via frozen semen. What would happen if the King's widow had a child via artificial insemination after the death of the monarch?
who is empowered to make the decision and on what basis. Whatever the decision, in the UK the answer is almost always "the Parliament on account of Parliamentary Sovereignty". Which can lead to ad-hoc decisions ("we did decide that way in the previous case, but we do not like the candidate so we are changing the rules"). In this case, with the additional point that the law for the accession of Queen Victoria does not appear to have been challenged, so they can invoke precedents. More info here: royalcentral.co.uk/blogs/…