Cassandra Vinograd, Globe and Mail, October 12, 2011
Britain’s government is pushing its plan to change the rules on royal succession to provide equal treatment for princes and princesses, the Prime Minister said.
Under the proposal, the first child of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge would eventually become monarch – regardless of gender. As the law stands now, an elder daughter would be passed over in favour of a younger brother. Experts say they hope the matter will be resolved before they begin having children to avoid a confusing line of succession like that in Sweden, where a rule change led to a title being passed from a prince to his elder sister.
David Cameron said he has written to 15 other Commonwealth nations where Queen Elizabeth is head of state, requesting their views on modernizing succession.
“We espouse gender equality in all other aspects of life and it is an anomaly that in the rules relating to the highest public office we continue to enshrine male superiority,” Mr. Cameron wrote in his letter.
The changes would also lift a centuries-old ban on British monarchs marrying Roman Catholics – a rule Mr. Cameron described in his letter as a “historical anomaly” since it does not bar those who take spouses of other faiths.
“We do not think it can continue to be justified,” he said.
Mr. Cameron said he will be discussing the proposals when he meets with leaders from Commonwealth countries at a summit in Australia later this month.
There are so many aspects to keeping the monarchy "up-to-date" and these two are among the most prominent.
Princess Diana, without changing any formal rules, dragged the monarchy on her back into the twentieth century, singlehandedly, in her approachability, her compassion for the homeless, and the victims of minefields, and her insistence, as much as possible, that Princes William and Harry be exposed to people and situations in all parts of society, and culture. And her legacy is already honoured by both young men, in their chosen charities, their demeanour and their youth and vigour, sometimes even if it might embarrass Buckingham Palace.
From the Commonwealth, there will likely be little, if any, protest against the gender changes proposed; from Northern Ireland, there might be a whimper of protest about the right to marry a Roman Catholic, given that part of the island's history with sectarian violence. Whatever the undercurrent of discontent, we can all be sure it will be contained in the private papers, phone calls and letters from the various heads of state to the British Prime Minister, and will not likely be made public, unless some specific recommendation is incorporated into the proposed legislation.
Nevertheless, with continuing dialogue between the Church of England and the Roman Catholic church, allegedly aimed at eventual union, this proposed move will only enhance the road to that historic finish line, should union ever become a reality. The British monarch, as head of the Church of England is one thing; the British monarch will unlikely even become the replacement for the Pope. The Vatican will never move to London. More likely, from this vantage point, is the British monarch relinquishing the title and role as Head of the Church of England.
In that possibility, the British Prime Minister might encounter some headwinds as he navigates this proposal through some normally calm and easy passage. The British are less likely to move comfortably away from their traditional "church heritage" than they are to accept gender equality in royal succession.