The Next Monarch Of England May Not Be King Charles III. Here's Why

Prince Charles occupies a weird place in British history. His mother, Queen Elizabeth II, is the longest-reigning monarch in the history of the realm (and the second-longest-reigning monarch in recorded history), according to Reader's Digest. Since he was a boy of about 4 years old when his mother was crowned — he sat between his aunt and grandmother at his mother's coronation, according to the Royal Collection Trust — that means he's also the longest-serving heir apparent in British history. Effectively, he's spent his entire life preparing for his reign as king of England.

The 73-year-old Prince of Wales has been known as Charles his entire life, and that's because that's his name. Or, more specifically, Charles Philip Arthur George (House of Mountbatten-Windsor), according to Britannica. However, British monarchs sometimes do and sometimes don't reign under the names they were given at birth; there's no requirement either way. Charles' mother, for example, reigned under the name she was given at birth, while Elizabeth's predecessor on the throne — her father and Charles' grandfather — was officially Albert Frederick Arthur George (House of Windsor) but reigned as King George VI (via Britannica).

Since Charles is not yet king, it's not yet known what his regnal name will be. There's precedent for using his own name, and there's also precedent for using a different one. And the only person who knows for certain what name Charles is going to use is Charles, who, as of August 2022, isn't telling.

Charles I and Charles II Were Duds

The British monarchy is in some ways a superstitious lot, in particular when it comes to regnal names. There has only been one King John: He was such a disaster that no British monarch after him has gone anywhere near the name. It even became a joke in a Disney movie: "Too late to be known as John the First, He's sure to be known as John the Worst, A pox on that phony king of England!" sings a character in "Robin Hood."

What does this have to do with Charles? Well, the two men who reigned as King of England with that name were also duds, though not on the level of John. King Charles I, according to the royal family website, was a profligate spender who indebted the Crown, and he reigned during a time of civil war. We'll spare you the details, but at the (literal) end of the day, he lost his head. Charles II (above), his son, was little better, with the political and religious situations in Old Blighty only getting more complicated, not less. Though he, unlike his father, escaped the executioner's ax (he died of a stroke), his reign is considered a failure.

The long and the short of it is that the current Charles may look at the reigns of his two predecessors and decide that King Charles III isn't the right look.

If Not King Charles III, Then King Who?

Since Charles is free to reign under his birth name or choose a regnal name, then if he chooses the latter, what options are on the table? Officially, he can name himself whatever he wants — he could reign as King Spongebob I if he wanted to. Unofficially, of course, there are unwritten rules, to say nothing of the gasping and pearl-clutching across the realm that would take place should his regnal name be too out-there.

InStyle notes that Charles' official name is Charles Philip Arthur George, and precedent would point to his regnal name being one of those four. Of course, we've already discussed why Charles might not work. There has never been a King Philip (of England), and the Windsors aren't exactly about setting precedent, so that name may be unlikely. Ditto King Arthur, which would also be precedent-setting and rather weird since the "real" King Arthur exists somewhere between history and legend. George was the name under which Charles' grandfather (George VI) and great grandfather (George V) reigned, so the next King of England may well be George VII.

For whatever it's worth, the "smart money," if there is indeed such a thing, is on George VII, according to The Mirror, which claims Charles has talked it over with his advisors and is purportedly leaning that way.