LONDON -- With the birth of a son Monday to Prince William and his wife, Catherine, Britons are in for a significant change: Men could well rule Britannia into the 22nd century, once the reign of the baby’s 87-year-old great-grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, finally ends.
Partly owing to her longevity, Elizabeth has been a popular and reassuring constant in British life through times of political and social upheaval, ruling for 60 years. Add in the reign of her own great-great-grandmother, Victoria, and women have occupied the throne for 124 of the last 176 years.
The current heir apparent is Prince Charles, 64, followed by William, 31. Third in line is William’s newborn child. (As it happens, the fourth and fifth in line are males as well: Prince Harry, William’s younger brother, and then Prince Andrew, Charles’ brother.)
The three direct heirs were together for the first time Tuesday when Charles visited his grandson at St. Mary’s Hospital in central London. Britons got their first glimpse of the baby shortly thereafter, when mother and father emerged with their son in Catherine's arms to a storm of flashbulbs.