23 Jul 2013

Royal baby: when will the new heir inherit the throne?

Prince Charles will be 78 when the Queen reaches 100 and may be the last monarch to “die” says one futurologist. So when will the royal baby wear the crown? Channel 4 News looks into the crystal ball.

The Duchess of Cambridge has given birth to a baby boy at 16.25 BST on 22 July 2013, a future heir to the throne.

If the dozens of satellite vans and media trucks are anything to go by, the world (or at least, the world’s news editors) has been eagerly waiting for the arrival of one couple’s first-born baby.

But as our society gets older, so does the monarchy – especially with the premium, round-the-clock healthcare bestowed on the royal family. So when will the three heirs to the throne get their chance in the hot seat?

Don’t hold your breath. Channel 4 News’s reckoning puts the royal baby on the throne in the year 2082, almost 70 years from now.

That is based on a few tentative calculations: if the Queen abdicates when she reaches 100 (and that’s a big if), Prince Charles would be 78 when he becomes King Charles III, in the year 2026.

It would then be 2048 before King William V claims the crown – and only if “King” Charles III abdicates aged 100. So the newest addition to the royal family will be 69 before he or she wears the crown in 2082 in seventy years.

In the last 70 years, we have seen the invention of the internet, the NHS, and the iPod, to name just a few. And the world will be almost unrecognisable when the babe in arms becomes monarch.

2026: King Charles III

Under the reign of King Charles, as (loosely) predicted by Channel 4 News, we will see self-driving electric cars replace most public transport, active contact lenses replace the many entertainment screens that populate our homes, and augmented reality become the norm.

Need help following a recipe? Imagine Jamie Oliver popping up in your kitchen to help cook your dinner, says leading futurologist Ian Pearson.

But there are more fundamental changes afoot. Our society as a whole is getting older and this will dictate many of the new inventions that will have been developed by then. Futurologists predict that body suits with “plastic muscles” to support older people will be well under way, as will synthetic organs that can replace body parts that are failing.

There are already growing links between computer networks and the human body, so that you can link your thoughts to the machine world. Ian Pearson

By 2033, the proportion of people over the age of 65 is projected to rise from 16 per cent to 23 per cent, says the ONS.

But as scientists develop more ways to stay alive, King Charles could be the last monarch to “die” as we currently know it, adds Mr Pearson. Eventually, scientists believe it will be possible to “download” our thoughts to an external server, which will continue to function after our body dies.

“New babies are getting further from dying,” he told Channel 4 News. “There are already growing links between computer networks and the human body, so that you’ll be able to link your thoughts to the machine world.”

Groups such as the 2045 Initiative anticipate the existence of “electronic immortality” by 2045, meaning that it could be available for those who can afford it by 2050/55, and for the rest of the population by around 2075.

“As it gets cheaper, for anyone under 20 now – you can be almost certain that they’re not going to die. It’s based on technology already under development. This means that theoretically, Charles would be the last monarch to die.”

Royal baby: when will the new heir inherit the throne?

2048: King William V

By the time this prince becomes king, synthetic meat will be widespread in supermarkets (if his organic-loving father Prince Charles allows it, that is).

“Synthetic steaks or burgers will be quite palatable and perfectly good produce – something akin to soy burgers,” adds Mr Pearson.

But these won’t replace our whole diet. “We’ll probably still be eating real meat and vegetables, but it will be a mixture of both by 2048,” he adds.

Good news for sporting enthusiasts: King William’s reign could see a boom in Britain’s Olympic and sporting achievements. The development of “active skin” will allow us to hugely accelerate the speed in which we learn new skills.

It works by turning parts of our skin into an electronic membrane, allowing you to record and replay the sensations needed to play football for example, where a correct posture could be programmed to be comfortable, while bad moves would be uncomfortable.

“People [would be] going from novice to professional within six months,” says Mr Pearson.

But sadly, this burst of talent may not be confined solely to the UK and will be in widespread use by 2048, according to Mr Pearson,

“What really happens is far higher achievements in the Olympics overall. Everybody moves up a few levels,” he adds.

2082: Royal baby

Even futurologists are unwilling to speculate too much about life beyond the 2050s. Many of the factors that will dominate our lives then, won’t even be invented until the 2070s or 2080s.

The world wide web was created in 1990. But in 20 years, has transformed the way we communicate forever.

One thing that can be predicted with some certainty, is that the population of the world will have started to decline – even with increased longevity. Globally, we are also likely to have far more food than we need, meaning that the food we do eat will be dictated more by ethical choices – and if we are better at dispersing it, we could in theory share it around to those in need.

The existence of climate change is still being questioned, so predicting the effects is hugely speculative. Some scientists are beginning to think that the world will enter a period of cooling in the second half of the century, for instance, so it is very difficult to predict.

Future of the monarchy

But there could be bad news for the monarchy itself. Despite the huge popularity of Prince William and his new family, Mr Pearson predicts that Charles may be the last generation of the royal family.

“The royals jar increasingly with everyday life, and that will build until it becomes insurmountable,” he told Channel 4 News. “The question is when – probably during Prince William’s reign, he will abdicate.”

It is a bold claim – and one that many will no doubt contest in the wake of a new baby, a jubilee and a royal wedding. But it is one unlikely to bother the newest heir to the throne any time soon.