Commonwealth leaders strike deal on royal succession changes
- From: The Times
- October 28, 2011
Commonwealth nations today approved changes to the rules of succession to allow first-born daughters to inherit the British throne, Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron announced.
The changes would also allow heirs who marry Roman Catholics to inherit the throne.
"We will end the male primogeniture rule so that in future the order of succession should be determined simply by the order of birth," Cameron said after talks with the 15 other realms with the Queen as head of state.
"We have agreed to scrap the rule which says that no one that marries a Roman Catholic can become monarch," Cameron added at a press conference. Cameron has the political support to make the changes in Britain but required the agreement of the 15 other Commonwealth realms, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand and smaller nations in the Caribbean and the Pacific.
Speaking before the Commonwealth summit, where he will host the meeting, Mr Cameron said: "These rules are outdated and need to change.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." Mr Cameron added: "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."
Mr Cameron said that all political parties in Britain were already convinced of the need for reform. "But of course the Queen is not just Queen of the UK. There are 15 other countries where she is head of state. And the Queen expects to receive advice from all her realms. So it's absolutely right that we should all discuss this together."
Successive British governments have avoided tackling the issue because of the complexity involved both in persuading other countries of the need for reform and in actually changing the laws. But the British Prime Minister believes that the marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge this year makes tackling these "historical, anomalous and discriminatory" rules urgent. That is why he wrote to the 15 leaders this month, urging them to consider reform.
"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," he wrote. He also hopes to tidy up the rules which say that any descendants of King George II require the monarch's consent before they marry. The Prime Minister said he was "very hopeful" that today's (Friday) meeting would have a positive outcome, and Downing Street officials are "confident" of a deal.
The issue has been discussed before; in 1964, Henry Brooke, the Home Secretary, said that the time was not right for change because of the challenge of achieving agreement.
And in 2005, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, then Lord Chancellor, admitted that the change would be complex, including amending the Bill of Rights and the Coronation Oath Act, both from 1688.
But Mr Cameron wants to bring Britain into line with monarchies such as Sweden, where a change in the law of succession took effect in 1980. Belgium, the Netherlands and Norway have also followed suit. It is now more than half a century since a Civil Service brief prepared for the Prime Minister in 1955 concluded that "it is inherently unsatisfactory that personal and constitutional questions of such high importance should still depend on the operation of an 18th-century statute".
Baldwin Spencer, the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, said that there was unlikely to be a problem in persuading his fellow heads of government about removing the discrimination against daughters.
On the question of Mr Cameron's proposed reform concerning an heir to the throne marrying a Catholic, Mr Spencer said: "I would have absolutely no problem with that. People should have the freedom to practise their faith uninhibited."
The Times, additional reporting: AFP
________________ | ________________