If Kate and William have a girl, she’ll be queen! Commonwealth realms agree to historic change that gives sex equality in Royal succession
Girls born to members of the Royal Family are to be given equal rights with boys in the succession to the throne as centuries-old rules were overturned today.
As the historic changes to the monarchy were agreed, the Queen, at the Commonwealth summit in Perth, Australia, hailed the power of women to change the world.
The reforms mean the if the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s first child is a girl, she will take precedence over any younger brothers in the order of succession
Reform: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s first born child will inherit the throne after David Cameron struck a deal with Commonwealth leaders to end the rule that the first-born male takes the throne
The 16 Commonwealth ‘realms’, including the UK, Canada and Australia, also agreed to scrap outdated laws which ban anyone in the line of succession from marrying a Roman Catholic.
The changes were announced by Prime Minister David Cameron at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth.
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As politicians unanimously agreed the dramatic reform to royal succession laws dating back more than 300 years, the Queen said the untapped potential of women and girls should be set free.
Speaking at the opening of the summit of the 53 Commonwealth countries, she said: ‘The theme this year is Women As Agents of Change.
‘It reminds us of the potential in our societies that is yet to be fully unlocked and it encourages us to find ways to allow all girls and women to play their full part.
‘These rules are outdated and need to change’: Prime Minister David Cameron at the Commonwealth Summit
‘We must continue to strive in our own countries and across the Commonwealth together to promote that theme in a lasting way beyond this year.’
Her comments will be taken as a sign that the Queen approves of the reform.
The Prime Minister struck the deal to scrap male primogeniture by thrashing out an agreement with Commonwealth leaders.
Mr Cameron said the historic rules were ‘at odds with the modern countries that we have become’.
Announcing the proposed changes, he said: ‘Put simply, if the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were to have a little girl, that girl would one day be our queen.’
Yet it is still likely to be many years before another female monarch takes to the throne.
The Royal Family already has two generations of kings-in-waiting and the Queen is celebrating her Diamond Jubilee next year and in good health.
Her own mother, the Queen Mother, lived to 101.
Heir apparent the Prince of Wales is next in line and then there is William, who has still to fulfill his regal duties before any child of his takes over.
Even then, William and Kate might have a son, meaning the nation would wait even longer to see the first royal daughter to benefit from the rule change.
Girl power: The Queen today hailed the the power of women to change the world as a deal was struck to let first-born daughters take the throne
RULES OF SUCCESSION IN THE REST OF EUROPE
Most European monarchies have already established an equal law of succession – it is in force in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.
Now only Spain, Liechtenstein and Monaco are left with the old system.
The ancient rules of royal succession have handed men the balance of power for hundreds of years.
If the new rules had been in force in 1509 Margaret Tudor would have taken the throne instead of Henry VIII. That could have meant the Reformation would never have taken place and Elizabeth I would never have been Queen.
If the practice had been changed as recently as the last century, Britain could have had two Queen Victorias back to back.
Princess Victoria, the Princess Royal would have acceded to the throne in 1901 instead of King Edward VII.
When she died just a few months later, her son Kaiser Wilhelm II would have ascended the throne – something which could have prevented the First World War.
The Queen of England now would have been the completely unknown Princess Marie Cecile of Prussia.
The Queen and Julia Gillard, the Australian prime minister arrive for the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth this morning where she spoke about equality
Mr Cameron stepped in amid fears that there could be a constitutional crisis if William and Kate had a first-born daughter and then a son.
The deal was agreed today in Perth during a meeting of the Queen’s Realms – the 16 countries including the UK which share the Queen as their head of state.
Mr Cameron, who hosted the meeting, had earlier said: ‘These rules are outdated and need to change. The idea that a younger son should become monarch instead of an elder daughter, simply because he is a man just isn’t acceptable any more.
‘Nor does it make any sense that a potential monarch can marry someone of any faith other than Catholic. The thinking behind these rules is wrong. That’s why people have been talking about changing them for some time. We need to get on and do it.’
Keynote address: The Queen makes the opening speech for the Commonwealth summit as leaders of member countries look on
Heads of government stand during the opening ceremony of the 2011 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting
The removal of the barrier to the heir to the throne marrying a Catholic does not affect the position of the Anglican Church as the established Church.
The Queen and future monarchs will be Anglicans and Supreme Governor of the Church of England.
The change will also do away with an ancient and unused rule that means all descendants of George II are supposed to require the consent of the monarch to marry.
THE LINE OF SUCCESSION
- The Prince of Wales
- Prince William of Wales
- Prince Henry of Wales
- The Duke of York
- Princess Beatrice of York
- Princess Eugenie of York
- The Earl of Wessex
- Viscount Severn
- The Lady Louise Windsor
- The Princess Royal
- Mr Peter Phillips
- Miss Zara Phillips
The deal will take the form of a short communiqué signed by the Realms committing to ‘amending the rules on succession to their respective Crowns’ and making clear that they ‘wish unanimously to advise the Queen of their views to seek her agreement’.
In order to change the rules the Government will introduce legislation to change the 1701 Act of Settlement, the Bill of Rights 1688, the Coronation Oath Act 1688 and the Royal Marriages Act 1772.
Downing Street has said changes would be drafted in such a way that any children of Prince William and his wife were included, but for current members of the Royal Family, there is not expected to be any difference.
Any new law is not expected to be retrospective – the Princess Royal would still be placed below her two younger brothers, the Duke of York and the Earl of Wessex.
For some, the changes do not go far enough. Republic, which campaigns for a directly-elected ceremonial head of state, said they still failed the ‘equality test’.
Graham Smith, campaign manager for Republic, said: ‘In practice, it simply means that the eldest child of one family is preferred over all others.
‘Inequality is therefore further entrenched in the system.’
RE-WRITING HISTORY: WE’D NOW BE SINGING GOD SAVE OUR GRACIOUS KING HAD LAWS NOT BEEN INTRODUCED
Franz, Duke of Bavaria, could have ended up on the British throne had laws been different
Had an 18th Century law not been passed by Parliament, Britain’s monarchy throughout the past 300 years would have had a very different cast of characters.
For starters, rather than becoming one of the most recognizable faces in the world, our present Queen would have spent her life as a minor princess in some German backwater.
And instead of pledging allegiance to Elizabeth II, loyal British subjects would now be singing God Save Our Gracious King to… Francis II of Bavaria.
The 1701 Act Of Settlement passed the crown to Electress Sophia of Hanover and her Protestant descendants – and banned all Roman Catholics from ever ascending the throne.
That law – and the centuries-old practice of male primogeniture, in which a male child automatically leapfrogs over his older sisters – has largely dictated who became King or Queen of Britain for centuries.
But according to historian Ian Lloyd writing in the Sunday Times, had these ancient laws not been adopted, Francis II would now be ruling Brittania.
Franz, Duke of Bavaria, is a distant cousin of the Queen and head of the House of Wittelsbach, Bavaria’s ruling family. He is the senior co-heir-general of King Charles I and therefore regarded as the rightful heir to the House of Stuart, which ruled England from 1567 to 1707. From birth Franz was recognized by the Jacobites as a Prince of England, Scotland, France and Ireland, Prince of Cornwall and Rothesay.
The Duke’s great-grandfather was the last king of Bavaria before being deposed at the end of World War One in 1918.
During World War Two, the Dukes’ family condemned the Nazi regime and fled to Hungary. When Hitler’s storm-troopers marched into Budapest in 1944, the Royal Family was arrested and detained in a number of concentration camps.
Following liberation in 1945, Franz, studied business management at the University of Munich. Now 78, he still lives in an apartment in the city and is a keen collector of modern art.
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