In the 21st century, European monarchies are set to reach a turning point. Many countries are turning away from male primogeniture, allowing women to inherit royal titles and positions. This means that in the near future, five of Europe’s monarchies might be ruled by queens in their own rights. These queens, many of whom are part of Generation Z, will follow in the footsteps of European queen regnants before them, including the late Queen of England, Queen Elizabeth II, who reigned for an unprecedented 70 years.
The Generation Z queens-to-be will be preceded by a Generation X queen, Victoria, Crown Princess of Sweden. Princess Victoria was born on July 14, 1977, the first child of King Carl Gustaf XVI and his wife Queen Silvia. Originally Victoria was displaced from her role as heir apparent by her younger brother, Prince Carl Philip, who was born in 1979. However, her place in line as first heir to the throne was secured by Sweden’s 1979 Act of Succession, which allows for the crown to be inherited by the King’s eldest child rather than his eldest son. This change was retroactive, changing the princess’ title to Crown Princess. This Act made Sweden the first monarchy in Europe to adopt absolute primogeniture, meaning that the throne is inherited by the monarch’s eldest child regardless of sex. Crown Princess Victoria will be Sweden’s 70th monarch and fourth queen regnant, following Margaret I of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden (1363-1364), Queen Christina (1632-1654), and Queen Ulrika Eleanora (1718-1720). Crown Princess Victoria will be succeeded by her daughter, Princess Estelle, born on February 23, 2012. This makes Estelle the first princess in Sweden to be born heir apparent.
The eldest of the Generation Z queens is Princess Elisabeth, Duchess of Brabant, born in 2001, who will succeed the current King Phillippe of Belgium. Princess Elisabeth is Belgium’s heir apparent because of an act of succession that introduced absolute primogeniture 10 years before she was born. Belgium was still using succession laws based on the Salic Law, which prioritized male heirs and excluded females, meaning that even if the only direct heir was a woman, she could not inherit the throne. At the time of the change, Belgium was the only Western monarchy still applying Salic Law. In 1991, article 85 of the Belgian Constitution was amended to allow inheritance through the eldest legitimate child. As such, Princess Elisabeth will be Belgium’s first queen regnant. Elisabeth is only 19 but has already participated in official duties. She is currently studying military science at the Royal Military School.
In the Netherlands, Catharina-Amalia, Princess of Orange, will succeed her father, King Willem-Alexander. Princess Amalia, (born in 2003) will be the fourth Dutch queen regnant, following her great-great-grandmother, Wilhelmina, and her great-grandmother, Juliana, (who were both only children), and her grandmother Princess Beatrix (who was the eldest of four daughters). However, she will be the first queen to be born heir apparent. The Netherlands introduced absolute primogeniture in 1983. Following an amendment, article 25 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of the Netherlands now states that the monarch should be succeeded by their eldest child, regardless of sex. Princess Amalia is the eldest of three sisters.
Across the continent, Leonor, Princess of Asturias is in line to succeed her father, King Felipe VI of Spain. Born October 31st, 2005, Princess Leonor will be Spain’s first queen regnant since Isabella II. Spain still uses male-preference cognatic primogeniture, meaning that while males are preferred, females can inherit. There has been much resistance to changes to Spanish law that have prevented sons from claiming family titles if they have elder sisters, for fear that it may allow women to retroactively claim titles from their family members that currently hold them. It would require a change to the Spanish Constitution for women to be allowed to inherit the throne over a brother. As such, unlike her European counterparts, Princess Leonor is heir presumptive, meaning that if her father were to have a legitimate son, she would be displaced. As Princess Leonor is the eldest of two teenage daughters, this appears unlikely to occur.
Rounding out the group of future European queens regnant is Princess Ingrid Alexandra of Norway (born 2004). Princess Ingrid is first in line to succeed her father, Crown Prince Haakon, who himself will succeed his father, King Harald V. This makes Princess Ingrid second in line to the Norwegian Throne. Norway implemented absolute primogeniture in 1990, but unlike Sweden, it was not implemented retroactively. This means that Crown Prince Haakon’s elder sister Princess Märtha Louise remains displaced in the line of succession. Princess Ingrid will be Norway’s second female monarch after Queen Margaret I of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.
As laws change and constitutions update, women are beginning to inherit the royal titles that can be seen as their birthright. These young women are a part of a new generation of future queens regnant- a unique and historical occurrence.
Subscribe to In Custodia Legis – it’s free! – to receive interesting posts drawn from the Law Library of Congress’s vast collections and our staff’s expertise in U.S., foreign, and international law.