Could the Crown Go to William, Skipping Prince Charles?

This is a momentous week for the Royal Family, a chance to beam the image of a modern monarchy across the globe, as Prince William and Catherine Middleton marry at Westminster Abbey on Friday.

Yet how long will William, the second in line to the throne, have to wait until he becomes King?

Some time, if the example of his father Prince Charles is anything to go by. Last week, Prince Charles became the longest serving heir to the throne in British history. The very same week, the Queen turned 85, and shows every sign of staying just where she is — next year she will celebrate sixty years on the throne.

So given the Queen’s longevity, Charles’ advancing age, and the evident popularity of William and Catherine, is there any chance at all of the succession to the throne skipping a generation, with William bypassing his father and becoming King?

No, is the short answer.

The very foundations of the modern British monarchy are tradition and continuity — only in the case of a constitutional crisis, as when Edward VIII abdicated to marry Mrs. Simpson, does the line to the throne change.

But that doesn’t stop people talking about what might happen.

No less an establishment figure than Sir Max Hastings, former editor of the Daily Telegraph newspaper, told the BBC: “If time passes, and Prince William is more and more at the center of the stage, one question I think’s bound to be asked: would it be in everybody’s best interests, including those of the Prince of Wales, for a new, young, next generation, Prince William, to succeed to the throne? I think an enormous amount will depend on what seems to be the will of the British people.”

According to one of the latest opinion polls on the subject, 47 percent said Prince Charles should not give up his right to be the next monarch in favor of Prince William — compared to 46 per cent who said he should.

The very idea of responding to the British people on the all-important question of succession is anathema to Sarah Bradford, the Queen’s biographer. She told the BBC: “I think that it would be very strange for the monarchy if public opinion forced the heir to step aside. I think that would be extremely dangerous for the monarchy. We simply have to accept the rules of the game.”

And the rules of that game are clear — it’s an hereditary monarchy. As William’s godfather, the ex-King Constantine of Greece explained to the BBC, “In our line of business, there’s no such thing as being in a hurry. It works from father to son, or mother to son, that’s how it goes, and they have to wait their turn, whenever it comes. That’s how it should be.”

So William must wait. The carefully choreographed ceremony at Westminster Abbey will underline William’s status as a King-in-waiting. Yet his father is first in the queue — and has been for almost 60 years.