Princesses Get Equal Royal Succession Rights in U.K. Amendment

U.K. Gets Commonwealth Consent to Change Royal Succession Rules
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge smile and wave to the crowds from the balcony of Cambridge Guildhall as they pay an official visit to Cambridge on November 28, 2012. Photographer: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

The British government will propose giving princesses the same rights to succeed to the throne as their brothers, announcing the plan a day after the news that Prince William and his wife Kate were expecting their first child.

Current laws, including the 1700 Act of Settlement, give male heirs precedence over their older sisters. The act also excludes Roman Catholics or anyone married to a Roman Catholic from becoming king or queen. Spurred on by the wedding of Prince William last year, Prime Minister David Cameron agreed the law needed to be changed and lobbied his counterparts from the other members of the British Commonwealth.

In what Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg described as “a wonderful coincidence,” the process of getting agreement among the 15 countries that share the monarch to a limited change, which would also remove the bar on those married to Catholics, was completed yesterday.

A Succession to the Crown Bill, which would also remove the bar on those married to Catholics, will be introduced to Parliament, Clegg said.

“This is a historic moment for our country and our Monarchy,” Clegg said in an e-mailed statement. “We can also all celebrate that whether the baby is a boy or a girl, they will have an equal claim to the throne.”

There have been 11 previous attempts to change the laws governing the royal succession since 1981, all of them failing through lack of government support.

Parliament’s Political and Constitutional Reform Committee said last year that the plan raises questions about how other hereditary noble titles are passed between the generations and whether the monarch should continue to be the head of the Church of England.

It pointed out that a Catholic married to the monarch would usually be expected to promise to raise their children as Catholics, excluding them from the line of succession under rules that Cameron isn’t proposing to change.

William and Kate’s child would be the third in line to the throne, after Prince Charles and Prince William.

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