Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor may only have just arrived, but folks are already wondering if the couple have any plans for to expand their family even more in the future — including whether Meghan Markle and Prince Harry would ever adopt kids. I mean, yes, they absolutely need to have time to learn to, y’know, become parents to the kid they already have before they likely want to start thinking about bringing another one into the family; people are still wondering, though. Such is life for widely visible public figures.
Questions about whether or not both Meghan and Harry and Kate Middleton and Prince William might ever consider adoption have been swirling almost for as long as both couples have been together — and to be honest, it’s a little weird. People’s decisions about whether to expand their families, and if they opt to do so, how they plan to do it, aren’t really anyone else’s business, so the scrutiny surrounding these four has always struck me as a little odd and intrusive. It’s true that they’re public figures, and that any kids they may or may not decide to raise are part of the monarchy, so I can sort of see why these otherwise extremely personal questions might be relevant for the general public; typically, though I’d say we should leave well enough alone. The Palace always makes any announcements they think the public needs to hear when they’ve determined it’s appropriate and prudent to do so, so let’s take our cues from them.
It is sort of interesting, though, to ponder whether Royals even can adopt. For what it’s worth, the answer to that one seems to be yes: According to an anonymous source within the palace who spoke to the lifestyle website Best Life in 2018, there is “no law that prevents” British Royal Family members from adopting. No British Royal Family members ever have adopted, either, but there’s nothing stopping any of them from doing it if they wanted to, legally speaking. Other Royal Families in other countries have adopted throughout history: King Charles XIII of Sweden, for example, who had no children, adopted twice in 1810 — Charles August and Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte — in order to secure a successor for the throne; meanwhile, King Hussein of Jordan and Queen Alia adopted Abir Muhaisen in 1976 after her parents were killed in a plane crash.
Ideologically speaking, adoption does seem like something Meghan and Harry — and probably the Royal Family more generally — would support, based on their charity work. Between 2016 and 2017, Meghan was a Global Ambassador for the largest international children’s charity in the world, World Vision. The charity on which Meghan, Harry, Kate Middleton, and Prince William all team up on, the Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, includes among its many areas of focus programs geared towards “improving opportunities for young people.” And together, various Royal Family members are patrons of a total of more than 200 organizations geared towards supporting children and young people.
However, it’s worth noting that if Meghan and Harry — or any other member of the Royal Family, for that matter — ever chose to adopt, their adoptive child may not be eligible for the line of succession. According to the Act of Settlement of 1701, heirs to throne must be the Protestant heirs of Princess Sophia, Electress of Hanover and James I’s granddaughter. The Act was created to solve an issue; Queen Anne had no heirs, so the decision was made to pass the line onto Sophia, who was her cousin. Sophia herself actually never took the throne, though — she died before Queen Anne did. Regardless, the line of succession was secured when Sophia’s son, George, Elector of Hanover, was crowned in 1714 and become King George I.
The Act of Settlement also put a few other stipulations in place; the Sovereign, for example, was henceforth required to be in communion with the Church of England. Roman Catholics couldn’t hold the crown; nor could anyone married to a Roman Catholic. Just FYI.
In any event, Marlene A. Eilers Koenig, one of the foremost experts on British and European royalty, clarified to Cosmopolitan in 2018 that the Act of Succession applies only to blood heirs. “Adopted children would not have succession rights or a title. To have succession rights, you have to be a Protestant descendant of the Electress Sophia,” Koenig said. “This excludes adopted children.”
Whether the adoptee’s eligibility for the line of succession would matter to the parents is a separate question — it may not, after all — but it would likely still be something any royal thinking about adopting would take into consideration during their decision-making process.
Of course, the rules can be changed; indeed, the rules have been changed before, and quite recently, at that. In 2011, the prime ministers of the 16 countries that make up the Commonwealth of Nations — including the UK — banded together to create the Perth Agreement, which made a number of notable changes to how succession is handled in the British Monarchy: It eliminated male-preference primogeniture — that is, it got rid of the rule stating that male descendants took precedence over female descendants in the line of succession — and it nixed the rule that marrying a Roman Catholic disqualified you from the line of succession. (It didn’t, however, remove the ban preventing non-Protestants from being crowned; additionally, the Sovereign still has to be in communion with the Church of England to keep their position.)
The Perth Agreement was formally adopted in the UK with the passing of the Succession To The Crown Act 2013, which took effect in 2015. You might remember the hubbub around it in 2017 when the Royal Family announce that Kate Middleton was pregnant with her and Prince William’s third child; it meant that, even if the child was a boy, Charlotte would still be directly behind her older brother, Prince George, in the line of succession. Previously, she would have been shunted off to the side when Prince Louis was finally born in 2018. But that didn’t happen, thanks to the new act, and, to be honest, that’s pretty rad.
I say all of this to make the point that, even if the current law states that a child adopted by members of the Royal Family isn’t eligible for the line of succession, it won’t necessarily always be the case. If Royal Family members ever did choose to adopt, Parliament could opt to change the rules again.
Would Meghan and Harry specifically ever adopt? That’s up to them. I’m sure, though, that should either they or any other Royal Family member opt to do so, we’ll hear about it if and when the Palace is ready to tell us.