William vs. Charles: Who Should Succeed the Queen?

As the U.K. celebrates the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II's reign, Britons make their feelings heard on who should be the next monarch

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From left: Reuters; Getty Images

Would Britons prefer William to step in from behind his father Charles to take the place as monarch?

Correction Appended, May 29 2012

As Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her Diamond Jubilee and millions around the world prepare to honor her 60-year reign, that “long live the Queen” feeling is at its peak. But the monarch also recently celebrated her 86th birthday, and sadly, nothing lasts forever: so in a recent survey Britons were asked, if given the choice, whom they’d like to see the crown pass to next.

(BUY THE BOOK: The Royal Family: The House of Windsor, Past, Present and Future)

While Prince Charles is next in line for the throne, his popularity has waxed and waned over the years, prompting occasional calls for William, his eldest son, to jump the line and serve next. With the June 2–5 Jubilee weekend fast approaching, the polling firm Ipsos MORI attempted to gauge the current sentiment on the royal family. It was close, but the majority of Britons would prefer to follow the rules of the royals, with Charles following in his mother’s footsteps as monarch. According to the poll, 51% of Britons thought Charles should succeed the Queen, while 40% would prefer the crown go to William.

It might not seem like much of a victory, but the Prince of Wales has never had a lot of luck when it comes to popularity contests. After he and the beloved Princess Diana split, Charles saw his favorability ratings plummet. After Diana’s death in a 1997 car accident, Charles’ popularity sank even further. In the days following her death, more Britons thought William — then only 15 years old — should be the next King than thought Charles should.

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While the Prince has largely made his way back into the public’s esteem, it’s still hard to compete with his son’s youth and charm. As Tom Mludzinski, deputy head of political research at Ipsos MORI, said in a statement: “Of course Prince Charles is next in line, but younger people in particular would like to see Prince William succeed as King.”

It’s not hard to imagine why younger generations would be more keen on William than Charles. You may recall a certain wedding last spring, which sparked an international media frenzy. When Will married commoner Kate Middleton — his college sweetheart — it was not only a fairy tale come true, it also represented a move toward a more modern monarchy. Throw in a proposed amendment to the rules of royal primogeniture, which would allow a firstborn girl to take the throne (even if she had a younger brother), and the royal family is a much transformed institution.

Put the succession question aside, however, and it’s clear that during this week’s Jubilee celebrations, all eyes will be on one royal in particular: Elizabeth. And with the commemoration expected to bring a $15.8 billion boost to British tourism, it would seem that the Queen is as popular as ever.

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This article incorrectly stated that the rules of royal primogeniture had been appended to allow a firstborn girl to take the throne. While the Commonwealth has proposed the change and court officials report the Queen supports such a measure, it has yet to be ratified by Parliament.