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Heir apparent

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An heir (female: heiress) is a person who has inherited something after the original owner's death. Most often a child after his or her parent's death.[1]

Heir apparent and heir presumptive usually refer to someone who will inherit a royal or noble title:

An heir apparent is someone who will inherit at the death of the present title holder.[2]
A Crown Prince is an heir apparent to the throne in a monarchy.[3]
An heir presumptive is someone who may inherit, unless someone with a better claim under the rules of succession is found.[4]

For example

  • Queen Elizabeth II's oldest son is Prince Charles, so he is her heir apparent.
  • Queen Elizabeth II (when she was still called Princess Elizabeth) was heiress presumptive to her father King George VI, because she was his oldest daughter and he had no sons. She was not his heir apparent, though, because if the king ever had a son he would have taken over as heir apparent.

Monarchies that have used the title


  1. Richard Burn; John Burn, A New Law Dictionary (London: printed by A. Strahan and W. Woodfall, for T. Cadell, 1792), p. 423
  2. The Manual of Rank and Nobility, or Key to the Peerage (London: Saunders and Otley, 1828), p. 43
  3. Jeremy Paxman, On Royalty: A Very Polite Inquiry Into Some Strangely Related Families (New York : PublicAffairs, 2008), p. 103
  4. John Almon; John Debrett; et al., The Parliamentary register: or, History of the proceedings and debates of the House of Lords ... during the 14th-[18th] Parliament[s] of Great Britain [1774-1803] (London: Printed for J. Almon, 1775-1804), p. 75