By Kenyon Wallace, Toronto Star, April 18, 2011
For months, British parliamentarians — including Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg — have been proposing changes to a 300-year-old law that would allow Prince William and Kate Middleton’s firstborn child to become monarch, regardless of its gender.
Britain’s Telegraph newspaper reports that Canada has expressed opposition to changing any legislation that would alter the principle of male primogeniture — the custom that makes the firstborn son of a prince or king heir to the throne, even if the child has an older sister. The report did not specify who in Ottawa opposed such a change.
When asked Monday about the government’s opposition to the change, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper said Canadians aren’t interested in a debate on the monarchy.
“The successor to the throne is a man. The next successor to the throne is a man,” Harper said during a campaign stop in Yellowknife, N.W.T. “I don’t think Canadians want to open a debate on the monarchy or constitutional matters at this time. That’s our position. I just don’t see that as a priority for Canadians right now at all.”
By Max Foster, CNN website, April 16, 2011
If Kate and William were to have a daughter followed by a son, then the son would currently be next in line for the throne after William.
In the 21st century that will likely be more unpalatable than it was in the 18th century when the 1701 Act of Settlement laid down the succession laws.
The British government confirmed to CNN that it has been working on this matter behind closed doors.
The Cabinet Office said: "The Government accepts there are provisions which could be discriminatory.
"Discussions have started with those Commonwealth countries who would be directly affected by any change in the rules, and are continuing, but it would not be appropriate to release details at this stage."
These discussions also deal with religious discrimination inherent in the laws surrounding succession, the Cabinet Office says.
If William was Catholic, he could not succeed to the throne. He also could not become king if Kate had been Catholic.
The anti-Catholic clause is a throwback to the 1600s when the Catholic King James II was perceived as favoring Catholics and appointing them to positions of power.
While the Act of Settlement says only Protestants are eligible to succeed, it also specifically bans Catholics.
Professor Rebecca Probert, a family law expert at Warwick University in central England, explained the shortcomings of the anti-Catholic clause.
"The reason that's bizarre is because you don't forfeit the right to the throne if you marry someone who subsequently becomes a Catholic so the act doesn't even achieve what it sets out to achieve.
"He could marry any other religion. He could marry a Satanist, a Scientologist, a Muslim, a Methodist and that would have no impact whatsoever in his right to succeed to the throne."
Keith Vaz, a British member of parliament, said: "I think they are all sitting down praying that Prince William and Kate Middleton have a son first, because if they do there is no need to consider this for some time to come."