A string of opinion polls have backed Prince William and his bride-to-be leapfrogging Prince Charles to the throne — an improbable step that would shake the monarchy to its foundations.
One survey showed a third of Britons calling for the 85-year-old Queen Elizabeth II to step aside for William within two years, as excitement builds ahead of his wedding to Kate Middleton.Some feel putting the 28-year-old prince and his new bride on the throne — ahead of his 62-year-old father Charles — would breathe new life into the monarchy, giving it a huge popularity boost that could keep it going through the 21st century.
However, experts say the chances of such a shake-up of the system happening are remote and would involve the dreaded word that still reviles the royal family: abdication.
The Oscar-winning film The King's Speech documented the turmoil when king Edward VIII stepped down in 1936, putting his younger brother on the throne as king George VI.
"The 'A' word is not mentioned by the royal family," said professor Robert Hazell, the Constitution Unit director at University College London.
"1936, for them, was a terribly painful episode which is still deeply seared on their consciousness...," he said.In this case, Charles, Britain's longest-serving heir apparent, has no alternative but to wait his turn.
He on Wednesday overtook the record of 59 years, two months and 13 days set by queen Victoria's eldest son before becoming king Edward VII.
A poll in January in Australia found that 58% wanted William on the throne next, with 30% favouring Charles. Fifty-six percent thought Queen Elizabeth should stand down.
For its part, Buckingham Palace does not comment on such polls because they are simply "constitutionally incorrect".