Prince Harry and Meghan’s first baby gives the British royal family another injection of youth, but the monarchy will likely rest in very elderly hands for decades to come.
Queen Elizabeth II, who turned 93 last month, shows no sign of relaxing her solemn coronation vow of lifelong duty.
Meanwhile her eldest son Prince Charles, the heir to the throne, is 70 and potentially still many years from the crown.
“We already have a very elderly monarch and she manages a punishing work schedule, ” said Professor Robert Hazell, from The Constitution Unit at University College London.
“If she lives as long as her mother, we’re in for a succession of elderly monarchs,” he told AFP.
The dowager queen Elizabeth lived to 101 and carried out public duties until just a few months before her death.
Charles, were he one of his mother’s regular British subjects, could have retired at 65.
He is followed in the line of succession by his eldest son Prince William, 36, and his eldest grandchild Prince George, aged five, meaning there are four generations of current or future monarchs in the palace corridors.
Harry and Meghan’s baby boy will be Queen Elizabeth’s eighth great-grandchild, so he will not be short of company in the palace playrooms.
A baby for Charles’s younger son Harry adds to the royal family’s toddler squad led by George, followed by William’s other children Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis.
It could conceivably be the end of the century before that generation reaches the top of the tree.
– Longevity records –
Queen Elizabeth inherited the throne in 1952 aged 25 following the early death of her father, king George VI, at the age of 56.
She marked 67 years on the throne in February and is the longest-reigning monarch in British history.
Queen Elizabeth also leads the list of the world’s oldest serving monarchs.
She is ahead of Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah of Kuwait and King Salman of Saudi Arabia (83).
Following a series of abdications including that of Japan’s 85-year-old Emperor Akihito last month, there is little sign of Queen Elizabeth moving aside for Charles.
Her husband Prince Philip, however, retired from public life in 2017 at the age of 96.
– The abdication taboo –
Abdication is a dirty word in the British royal family after king Edward VIII stepped down in 1936 to marry US double divorcee Wallis Simpson.
Queen Elizabeth is old enough to remember the impact it had on her father, king Edward’s younger brother, who had to step in and steady the ship.
“For her, abdication is unthinkable because of the terrible example of king Edward VIII. It was the worst crisis to hit the royal family in the 20th century,” said Hazell.