How Will Prince George's Life Change When Prince William Is King?

Though we were all bracing ourselves for impact, the death of Queen Elizabeth II in September 2022 rocked the Commonwealth — and the international community — drastically. Her advanced age and declining health prepared the world somewhat for her passing, but Elizabeth's role as a fixture on the global stage could not be replaced. Nevertheless, her son — Prince Charles of Wales — became King Charles III after decades of waiting to assume the throne, and a new era for the royals began.

Shortly after he ascended, Charles named Prince William and Catherine, then-Duchess of Cambridge, the new Prince and Princess of Wales. Not only did William become the direct heir to the throne immediately following his grandmother's passing, but his role as the Prince of Wales will set him up to assume the crown when his father dies. The line of royal succession can be a bit confusing, but that's the direct heir in a nutshell.

Though William has a younger brother, Prince Harry, his children actually come in line before his brother. When William eventually assumes the throne in the coming years, his son Prince George will have a much more heightened role within the family. Royal rules, succession, and protocol can be confusing, so we're breaking it all down. 

Prince George will become the direct heir to the throne

If you find the royal line of succession confusing, you're not alone. The rule of thumb is to follow the firstborn prince and his sons, but let's break it down. When Queen Elizabeth was on the throne, Prince Charles was the direct heir. When he welcomed Prince William and Prince Harry, Charles' sons circumvented his siblings — Prince Andrew, Prince Edward, and Princess Anne — in the process. Going back a few decades, Charles and Anne were heirs one and two for some time until their younger brothers were born. Because she was a woman, Anne's position in the line of succession started to drop and has continued to drop as her brothers — both younger and older — have had children.

Now that Charles is king, William is the direct heir to the throne. William's firstborn son, Prince George, is second in line, followed by his siblings. When William ascends the throne, George will become the direct heir like his father is now. Here's where things have changed, however. In 2013, the Succession to the Crown Act was passed, meaning that George's sister, Princess Charlotte, will not experience what Anne did and drop in the line given her gender (via The Royal Family). Prince Louis, her young brother, is behind her in line and will stay there. They will both drop in closeness to the crown when George has children of his own.

Prince George will likely adopt the Prince of Wales title

In case you're new here, titles in the royal family are a big deal. Not only do they mark specific designations, but some titles hold more weight than others. For example, the Duke of Edinburgh title is perhaps one of the most respected and sought-after within the family. Famously held by Prince Philip, the title was said to go to Prince Edward after his father's passing. However, King Charles is rumored to be giving the title to Princess Charlotte much to his brother's chagrin (via People). As you can see, titles come with a certain amount of family politics.

When Charles took the throne, he notably bestowed the Prince and Princess of Wales titles on Prince William and Princess Catherine, fulfilling a rather full circle moment given that the princess designation has not been used publicly since Princess Diana's passing. As such, when William takes the throne, it's likely that Prince George will be given the Prince of Wales title as well. As royal expert Marlene Koenig explained, George is currently Prince George of Wales, given his father's designation, but he is almost guaranteed to take on the title himself one day (via PureWow). George will likely assume the title and role of the Duke of Cornwall too, and that's a whole other issue we'll get into later.

Despite his father having the Duke of Cambridge designation, Prince George likely won't adopt it

We have a little bit more to break down when it comes to titles. When Prince William and then-Kate Middleton got married, Queen Elizabeth bestowed upon them the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge titles much like royal couples before them. Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones became the Earl and Countess of Wessex, Camilla Parker Bowles became the Duchess of Cornwall, and so on. However, when William ascends to the throne after his father's death or abdication — whichever comes first — his Duke of Cambridge title that he still holds as of publication will likely not be passed on to Prince George (via Showbiz CheatSheet).

But why? As it turns out, the Duke of Cambridge title has a rich history that is — as you may have guessed — a little sordid. The title was originally given to King George III's son, Prince Adolphus, all the way back in 1801 (via Royal Central). After his death in 1850, it was given to his son, Prince George (a different Prince George, obviously). He, meanwhile, could not pass the title onto his three sons as he violated the Royal Marriages Act of 1772. When George passed in 1904, the title essentially became defunct and was only bestowed again onto William and Catherine upon their marriage in 2011.

Prince George's training as a monarch-in-waiting will kick up a notch

Time will tell how old Prince George will be when his father, Prince William, assumes the throne. Prince Charles was well into his 70s when he became king upon Queen Elizabeth's passing, so it's likely that we'll see William assume the throne perhaps in the next decade or two — meaning that George will be in his teens or early 20s when he becomes the direct heir. George's royal training will surely ramp up when Charles' reign starts to wind down and his father takes over. However, as royal correspondent Roya Nikkah explained, George's training as a young member of the family has already started to ramp up (via E! News).

As for what George knows about his future as a direct heir and likely king of Great Britain, a source explained that William and Princess Catherine have done their best to talk to their son about the expectations placed on him. "George knows there's something special about him and that one day he'll be the future King of England," an insider noted (via E! News).

Still, William is determined to maintain normalcy in his son's life for as long as possible, telling GQ that happiness and stability guide him as a parent. "I want George to grow up in a real, living environment, I don't want him growing up behind palace walls, he has to be out there," William said.

Prince George will surely take on a more public role in the monarchy

Depending on how old Prince George is when Prince William assumes the throne, the public will have likely seen different aspects of his life already unfold. When William was a child, the world watched him grow up, leave for school, attend the University of St Andrews, fall in love, get married, and so on. Though George may be in his teens or early 20s when his father takes the crown, it's assumed — given how things have transpired in the past — that the public will already know George quite well. However, he should expect his life to become far more transparent with the general public, media, and the international community at large when William becomes king.

Commenting on George's life at present, royal editor Richard Palmer noted that George and his sister, Princess Charlotte, will start becoming fixtures on the royal circuit now that King Charles is on the throne (via Express). The kids are a little bit older, have been seen at major royal events, and apart from little Prince Louis, they're likely to be more visible as time passes. "We'll increasingly see George and Charlotte at state events, official events, being very gradually introduced to the life that awaits them," Palmer explained (via Express). The likelihood of George's public life increasing only becomes more guaranteed with time.

Prince George's position as heir will not change in the wake of a disaster

To say that Queen Elizabeth steered a rather dramatic ship is a bit of an understatement. Her father became king due to her uncle's controversial abdication, her sister became the first royal in decades to divorce, three of her four children divorced their spouses, and her husband was the subject of infidelity whispers throughout their marriage. Despite it all, she kept it firmly together, ensuring that such disasters would not deter her dedication to the crown or the stability of the monarchy. As we shift our focus to this current batch of royals, professor Robert Hazell — who teaches government and constitution courses at the University College London — explained that even in the wake of extreme disaster, Prince George will still become king within his lifetime (via Insider).

"When William becomes king, Kate will become queen. There is nothing to prevent William becoming king, other than his own premature death," Hazell explained (via Insider), noting the line of succession and George's eventual position as the direct heir to the throne. "If William were to die before Charles, then on the death of Charles, Prince George would become king," Hazell concluded. So there you have it! Even if William were to suddenly pass away, George would still become king following Charles' death or abdication. His future, as displayed, is set — or is it?

Prince George could have the option to pursue a different life if he so desires

It seems the conversation surrounding the royal family comes down to one question: What happens if they don't want to be a royal? Prince Harry has just about answered this question, stepping back from his role and moving to California with Meghan Markle. But Harry is quite a ways from the throne, so he had much less to lose, right? But what happens if Prince George — who will one day be the direct heir — wants to have a normal life? Well, George is actually well within his right to leave royal life behind if he so desires (via Express).

Though very rare, abdication within the British royal family does happen. When George goes through the ranks of the firm and eventually becomes the direct heir, he will likely be of an age where he can make his own decisions about his future. If he does choose to step aside and renounce his place in the line of succession, the focus will then be shifted to his younger sister, Princess Charlotte. As aforementioned, the Succession to the Crown Act in 2013 (via The Royal Family) allowed Charlotte to maintain her spot in line even after her younger brother, Prince Louis, was born (a right not granted to Princess Anne, who is increasingly distanced from the throne). If both George and Charlotte decide not to have a future within the monarchy, Louis is next up.

Prince George and his siblings could be at odds after their father assumes the throne

As we've previously discussed, titles are a big deal in the royal family. In a way, they not only designate a member for public distinction, but they create a sort of unspoken hierarchy within the firm (not that they needed much help in establishing who's in control). As aforementioned, Prince George will likely inherit a number of titles when his father becomes king, but this might put him at odds with his sister, Princess Charlotte. As detailed by Express, Charlotte may have all her royal titles stripped when Prince William assumes the throne, certainly putting her and George in an awkward territory with one another.

But why would such a thing happen? Express details that in the case of succession, Charlotte could lose her titles when she is grown. Her father could bestow a new title on her when he becomes king, but that too comes with another level of complication. Typically, the only daughter of a reigning monarch is given the title of Princess Royal, but that designation currently belongs to Princess Anne. It will only be when Anne passes herself that the title will become up for grabs, and even then it'll be up to William to give his daughter such a distinction. George, as we've discussed, will likely be Prince of Wales, but as Express detailed, his sister might be known as "Charlotte of nothing."

Prince George will likely inherit millions of dollars when William becomes king

Though he was largely known as the Prince of Wales, King Charles was also the Duke of Cornwall before he took the throne. When he passed the Prince of Wales title to Prince William, he also bestowed his son with the Cornwall distinction — this gets a little more complicated, as the Duke of Cornwall inherits and oversees the Duchy of Cornwall, a huge asset that provides the title holder with quite a packed bank account. 

As noted by Architectural Digest, the Duchy of Cornwall is made up of an estate that's about 128,000 acres and was created all the way back in 1337 for the direct heir to the British throne. The duchy is now worth more than one billion dollars, giving the title holder, i.e. William, a yearly income of about $24 million.

The duchy itself is comprised of a forest, multiple parks, islands, farmland, and a prison — if you can believe it. There are a number of vacation properties on the land and a fully operating farm that's been in business since the mid-1980s. With all of this land and income, it's no wonder that the duchy is worth so much money. As we can expect with the Prince of Wales title, the Duke of Cornwall — and by proxy, the duchy itself — will likely be passed down to Prince George when his father takes the crown.

The heir's primary role will be supporting his father, no matter what

Prince Harry set a rather unexpected precedent when he stepped back from his role, and while Prince George could give up his spot in the royal family for a more normal life, it would be surprising. The Prince of Wales' role, as detailed by its official website, is to support the monarch — it's a position King Charles was in for decades, it's the role that Prince William finds himself in, and it's the title that George will likely inherit. 

So, did Harry's distance from the crown allow him to make such a decision? Possibly. His great-uncle abdicated the throne so he could marry an American divorcee, so it's not out of the realm of possibility. But given William's dedication to the crown and the ways in which George is already becoming more prevalent, it would be incredibly surprising if he didn't assume the Prince of Wales role in the future and fulfilled it to a tee.

As the Prince of Wales' website notes, the direct heir to the throne not only supports the monarch domestically but often represents them internationally as well. In the short period of time that William has been the Prince of Wales, he has already traveled to the United States on behalf of the crown (via CNN), and it's likely he will continue to have a strong presence. George will be expected to do the same.

This royal rule about travel will continue to be upheld, with a new twist

Any royal watcher knows that there are a number of rules and protocols that members of the family have to adhere to. Said rules can apply to wardrobe choices, food, how to greet one another, and more, but one of the more important royal protocols extends to travel for a rather macabre reason. As noted by The Sun, no two heirs to the British throne are permitted to travel with each other in case of — as you may have guessed — an awful tragedy that results in one or both being killed. It's a rather morose protocol, but it's one that Prince William and Prince George already adhere to.

Now that King Charles is the reigning monarch of Britain, he and William cannot travel together, William and George cannot travel together, and when George eventually becomes the direct heir to the throne and has children of his own one day, his firstborn child will not be able to travel with him. This separation may seem extreme, but putting both the monarch and the direct heir at risk certainly does not seem worth it. Though George did travel with his parents as a baby and young child, that exception no longer applies.

Prince George will likely move after his father becomes king

To say that the royals have a wide variety of housing options is a bit of an understatement. We all know Buckingham Palace as the central London location for the family, but there's Windsor Castle, Kensington Palace, Adelaide Cottage, Clarence House, Balmoral — the list goes on and on. In a surprising move in 2022, Prince William and Catherine, then-Duchess of Cambridge moved from Kensington to Windsor to be closer to Queen Elizabeth (via CBS News). The move allowed their children to have more privacy than life at Kensington allowed, and although Elizabeth passed shortly afterward, the family is settling in nicely. That's not to say they'll stay there forever, though. When William eventually takes the throne, it's likely that he and Catherine will move once more — depending on their ages, their three children may come with them or move into separate lodgings within the family's impressive estate portfolio.

There isn't a huge precedent when it comes to where the Prince of Wales lives, so when Prince George eventually assumes the role, he will certainly be able to choose where he resides. As noted by Metro, King Charles III and Camilla, Queen Consort, lived at Clarence House while he was the Prince of Wales, with titleholder William now living at Windsor. A move is certainly in the cards — where George will eventually settle remains to be seen.