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FactCheck: Could the new royal baby become President of the United States?

It’s all a question of being ‘natural born”.

New Zealand mosque shootings The couple were married in Windsor last year. Source: Doug Peters/PA Images

HE DOESN’T EVEN have a name yet, but the future of Britain’s newest royal is already being debated. 

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex (better known as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle) announced the birth of their first child yesterday.

A boy, if you hadn’t heard, weighing in at 7lbs. 3oz. 

Upon his birth, the child became seventh in line to the British throne and speculation began almost immediately as to what his role will be

Barring some Game of Thrones level machinations, it’s incredibly unlikely that the young boy will ever become king.

But there have been several suggestions that young baby Sussex could aim even higher, say to the position of  ‘Leader of the Free World.’

Yes, it has been noted that owing to his mother’s nationality the young child could one day become president of the United States. 

The suggestion has been raised several times in the speculative coverage since the baby’s birth yesterday and it raises the question as to whether this could actually happen. 

So let’s take a look: Could the new royal baby one day run to be President of the United States?

The claim

The new royal baby, son of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, could one day run to be US president. 

The facts

Firsty, what’s fair to say about the new sprog is that his birth does already break the mould in several ways. 

The child is the first senior royal from an Anglo-American background and is the first multiracial royal of modern times.  

That latter point is of no concern to us here, but the former presents the interesting question we’ll now address. 

The US Constitution provides three criteria to be president: a person must be at least 35 years old, have resided in the US for more than 14 years and be a “natural-born citizen”.

It’s in that last clause that some have seen room for interpretation.

Royal baby A man dressed as a town crier outside Windsor Castle. Source: Dominic Lipinski/PA Images

Natural citizens are different to those who have been ‘naturalised’, like say former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger who could never be US president.

While it may be seen as inarguable that all children born on US soil are natural citizens, what about children born to American parents abroad?

In an article published in the Harvard Law Review in March 2015, Supreme Court lawyers Neal Katyal and Paul Clement, say children born abroad to US parents clearly are natural citizens.

The lawyers analysed writings from the country’s founding fathers, congressional texts and judicial references and concluded that children born to American parents, who do not have to pass through the procedure of naturalisation, are “natural-born” citizens.

Ironically given the subject matter, much of the precedent for their argument comes from British laws from the 18th century when the US was under British rule. 

“As to the British practice, laws in force in the 1700s recognised that children born outside of the British Empire to subjects of the Crown were subjects themselves and explicitly used “natural born” to encompass such children,” the lawyers cite. 

These statutes provided that children born abroad to subjects of the British Empire were “natural-born subjects”. 

UPI 20180825 The late John McCain during his presidential run in 2008. Source: PA Images

The ‘natural born citizen’ debate has been ventilated numerous times before in the US but the Supreme Court has never actually ruled on it. 

In 2011, the Congressional Research Service wrote a 50-page report on the issue of being born abroad.

It said that “the weight of more recent federal cases, as well as the majority of scholarship on the subject” indicates that citizens born abroad are eligible to be president.

So an official congress report has weighed on the side of US citizens born abroad being eligible, good news for the potential ambitions of the royal baby.  

To add more weight to it is that fact that several presidential candidates who weren’t born in the US seemed unworried about whether or not they were eligible.  

The late John McCain, who was born on a US military base in Panama, was the republican nominee in 2008. More recently, Canadian-born Ted Cruz ran in 2016

In the case of McCain, a man unsuccessfully challenged his eligibility at the time and as a precaution the Senate unanimously adopted a resolution recognising him as a natural citizen.

Royal baby The royal couple after they announced their engagement last year. Source: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Of course, this hypothetical argument is all predicated on whether the new royal baby will actually become a US citizen at all, even though he is entitled to it.

Meghan Markle is currently in the process of applying for UK citizenship but the couple have not stated their intentions about whether to seek dual nationality for their child. 

Such a situation would be markedly untraditional for such a senior royal but the couple have eschewed tradition in several ways in the case of their first-born so their decision on his nationality remains to be seen. 

Even should they decline to do it themselves, the child could of course decide to apply for US nationality himself later. 

As for running for the US presidency, the other two criteria would have to be met.

Namely, he would have to be at least 35 years old and have resided in the US for more than 14 years. In short, some waiting and a relocation would be required. 

Having been born yesterday, the new royal baby would theoretically be eligible for the US president on 6 May 2054.

A bit away yet, but plenty of time to perfect a royal/presidential wave. 

Verdict

The cold fact as of now is that the US Supreme Court has never actually ruled on what it means to be a “natural born” citizen, so it’s not black and white. 

But as pointed out by the report to Congress, the current view and the majority of scholarly research suggest that this does extend to the children of US citizens.

What’s more, the political will does seem to sway that way too.

As a result, on the question of whether the new royal baby could one day run to be US president, we rate that claim as Mostly True

This is because the best available evidence weighs in favour of the claim.

‘Sussex 2056′ anyone? Stranger things have happened. 

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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