Line of succession

Tuesday 19 October 2004This is over 18 years old. Be careful.

We watched The Lost Prince the other night. It’s about a Prince of England with epilepsy and apparently autism. He was hidden away for his short life to avoid embarrassing the Royal family. It’s a good story, highlighting the screwed up ways families respond to their disabled members. We’re not royalty, but I see glimmers of reactions I’ve experienced myself.

Wanting to read more about the story, I perused Wikipedia, and ended up at the bizarre Line of Succession to the British Throne, which calmly lists the 161 people in line for the throne. I can understand needing to know who the next handful of people are, or maybe a dozen, but after twenty, we’re just talking snobbery and trivia. Of course, more fanatical pages can outdo the Wikipedia’s conservative efforts: Persons eligible to succeed to the British Throne as of 1 Jan 2001 lists more than 4500 people in order of their claim to lead the British Empire. For all I know, one of them is my next-door neighbor.

Which brings me to The Bed-Sitting Room, a very strange movie I happened to catch on TV once when I was much younger (and they showed such fare in the wee hours of the morning). It’s an absurdist comedy about a post-apocalypse England. The one thing that sticks in my mind about it was that they went to the trouble of figuring out who among the hundred or so survivors was next in line to the throne. The mild and unsuspecting housewife was duly coronated as best they could manage.


It may be snobbery and trivia nowadays, but historically the algorithm was repeatedly subjected to stress tests known as wars. The fact that it now deals comfortably with determining hundreds or even thousands of pretenders is a testament to the thoroughness of that testing.
Dominic, let us not forget that royalty/"divine right" itself is barbaric and utterly primitive. Humanity has advanced beyond that in many countries; no need to entertain frivolous "successor algorithms" at all these days, let alone consider them some measure of progress, because it keeps the very notion/idea of royalty alive and that itself is shameful for everyone as a whole. Even communism makes more sense. Whether you measure "next in line" or "4499th in line" is simply a matter of degree; classism is still elitist.

It is far more important to consider more profound questions, like, what if you were the last man on earth, just after some mysterious disease that wiped out the entire male population except you?
Hope you don't have bad recessive genes? ;)

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