#43: Mailbag Mania

43.1  Dear Stolf: Now that, pending the legal formalities, male preference in succession to the British throne is a thing of the past, will there no longer be such a thing as heirs presumptive, but only heirs apparent?  …from Biff in Bar Harbor

43.2  Dear Biff: Wow! That’s an alarmingly astute question. The short answer is: No, a person can in the UK still be an heir presumptive. And I presume you had in mind female heirs, but despite the change, there can still  be a female heir presumptive. Let me explain for those who don’t what what Biff and I are talking about.

43.3  In this context, the word “heir” refers to the heir to the throne, specifically the “first in line.” Were the present monarch to die at this very moment, the heir would become the new monarch. Further, there are 2 kinds of heirs: an “heir apparent” cannot be bumped from first in line. He will become King unless he dies before the present Monarch does. On the other hand, an “heir presumptive,” while currently first in line, can be bumped from that spot…he may or may not become the next King, depending on who’s born subsequently.

43.4  Thus, in Chart 144a, King Leo has no offspring…were he to die, his brother Prince Bruno would become King…thus Bruno is the heir to the throne. However, Bruno is only the heir presumptive, because he will be bumped if Leo has a child, as in Chart 144b.

43.5  But when you think about it, you realize there can now be cases where what was once an heir presumptive will now be an heir apparent.  In Chart 145a, Princess Little Beth would have been the heir presumptive by the old system…as soon as a brother was born, he would leap-frog ahead of her, and as a male, become the unbumpable heir apparent. That can no longer happen. In the new system, Princess Little Beth is now unbumpable.

43.6  But this does not mean, as I suspect you were implying, that a female heir cannot still be bumped. In Chart 145b, Princess Brunette is the heir presumptive…the birth of Leo’s first child will move her to 2nd in line. And again, by the old system, that child would have been heir presumptive if a female…now, a female first child would be heir apparent.

43.7  But there’s an interesting twist, since that the buzz among royal watchers today is whether Kate is preggers. If a British King were married but had no offspring, and he died, the heir presumptive would become Monarch unless the Queen were pregnant…which of course, might not be known at the moment of the King’s death, nor for some time thereafter. Thus, exactly who was the new Monarch given such circumstances was not immediately obvious, and it was customary to wait to see what was what. And of course by the old system, if the King’s only child were a girl, the next Monarch would not be known until the birth of the child…if another girl, the first daughter would be Queen…but if a boy, he would be King. Under the new system, that wouldn’t happen…that first daughter would be heir apparent, not presumptive, and the pregnancy would be irrelevant to succession. Anyhow, great question!

43.8  Dear Stolf: I am in high school and my 2 friends Xoë and Zia have an interesting family arrangement. They are both an only child, and both their mothers are widows. Since their mothers are also 1st cousins, all 4 live together in the same house. That may be coming to an end, since we think Zia’s mother is about to become engaged…but for now it’s pretty neat. The problem is, altho their mothers are 1st cousins, Xoë and Zia also consider themselves 1st cousins. That doesn’t sound right to me. What do you think?  …from Berry, in Boulder

43.9  Dear Berry: You’re right, it doesn’t sound right, since the children of 1st cousins are 2nd cousins, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Now it’s very possible Xoë and Zia are simply mistaken…perhaps they have always been called “cousins,” and at some point took that to mean they are 1st cousins. Another possibility is they think they are 1st cousins once removed, and abbreviate that to 1st cousins. But my educated guess is there’s something else going on…

43.10  And that is that their fathers are brothers! Thus they are cousins in 2 ways…1st cousins thru their fathers, and 2nd cousins thru their mothers. It’s pretty much a given in our culture that when there are 2 or more different blood relationships between 2 people, the closest one is the one they “choose to be.”

43.11  In fact, there are some people who deny you can even have 2 different relationships…if your 1st cousins, you can’t be 2nd cousins…or if you’re siblings, you can’t be any kind of cousins. Of course this is not true…every relationship is as real as every other…nothing gets “cancelled out.” But most relatives are related in only one way, so exactly where you stand when there are multiple ways isn’t always clear. That’s what I’m here for, no? Yesssssssss.

43.12  Dear Stolf: Earlier this year you were answering questions from an article about cousins on a website called wiseGeek. Did you notice another has popped up?  …from Tetley, in Pekoeville, WA

43.13  Dear Tetley: I did indeed, and it’s in the bag…sorry…Chart 148…

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Copyright © 2011 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

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