Friday, 28 October 2011

UK royal succession laws pulled kicking and screaming into 21st century

At last. At long, long, last.

The UK's Royal Succession laws have been altered to give equal gender and religious equalities where they did not exist previously.

As this BBC News Website article states, the leaders of the 16 Commonwealth countries where the Queen is head of state have unanimously approved the changes at a summit in Perth, Australia. Sons and daughters of any future British monarch will therefore have equal right to the throne. The ban on the monarch being married to a Roman Catholic has also been lifted.

It therefore brings to an end the archaic situation where a younger male was given precedent to the throne over an elder female. A modern example is that of Princess Anne, the Princess Royal. Though the second child of Elizabeth II, she falls behind her younger brothers Andrew and Edward and their children in the line of succession to the throne simply because she is female.

Such a farcical anomaly should've been put right decades ago when equality legislation was being passed by Parliament in the 1970s.

The Monarchy has been pulled kicking and screaming into the 21st century with this long overdue decision. Of course, for many, this isn't enough. For a truly meritocratic nation, surely we should be a Republic? Yes, I can't argue with that. But I'm a pragmatist in such things. At the moment I'm a 'better the devil you know' realist and am happy to see the monarchy continue into the foreseeable future. Controversial and against the views of many of my liberal colleagues? I'm sure. But hey, this is my opinion.

Speaking of the future, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's children will now fall into line with this new status so if William and Kate's first child is a girl and not a boy, then it is likely (if the Monarchy survives to such a date) then that our future Monarch, like her great-grandmother, will be a Queen Regnant.

The change to the marriage law is also greatly welcome. To discriminate against Catholics in such a way as to not allow them to marry the Monarch as has been the case since 1688 is absolute folly. Repealing this ban is long overdue but welcome for it.

These are small additional blows for gender and religious equality, but important ones all the same.

Since I wrote this blog post earlier today, Stephen Glenn has written this excellent counter-factual blog post on the history of the Monarchy had males and females had equality to succeed to the Throne throughout the ages. I highly commend it to you to read. My favourite counter-factual? Kaiser Willhelm II of Germany reigning as King William V of the British Empire - only in counter-factual 'what if' scenarios could such a thing have been possible!


  1. That girls are now also able to become non-elected rulers isn't really anything to celebrate:

  2. What a joke.

    That really is nothing to celebrate.

    The concept of a monarchy is that someone gets made head of state by birth right, if you're OK with that then fine. But the idea that you can make it fairer or better by taking sexism out of the succession rules is a joke.

    Accept the institution for what it is or abolish it. Dicking about with the rules is just pathetic.

  3. Thank you for your comments.

    You are both of course correct and I can't dispute the principle behind your remarks.

    I am however a realist and even the most stout Republican will probably have to admit that the likelihood of the UK becoming a Republic during the lifetime of Williams and Kate (ie over the next 50 years) s remote. In that meantime, this change of emphasis at least puts right a hideous anomaly.

    The larger anomaly might take longer to rectify for as the old saying goes, Rome wasn't built in a day.