Changes to the rules of succession

Although this isn’t strictly Tudor-related, I’m sure that some of you would find this interesting. I remember there was some discussion of this 5-10 years ago… Hmmm, I wonder how Henry VIII would feel about these particular changes. 🙂

From The Guardian:

Downing Street has drawn up plans to end the 300-year-old exclusion of Catholics from the throne. The requirement that the succession automatically pass to a male would also be reformed, making it possible for a first born daughter of Prince William to become his heir.

Full article

Top o’ the tiara to Jean for the link


  1. Thanks, Lara, for alerting us to this proposed legislation. As a historian, I have a mixed reaction to it. I understand and appreciate the guiding principles behind it … ending legally sanctioned religious and gender discrimination in an institution that supposedly serves as a model for the larger society. Other countries have already enacted the gender equality portion, most notably Sweden, where Crown Princess Victoria will succeed her father and become the first Queen of Sweden with living brothers. But at the same time, it troubles me because it fundamentally alters some basic and historic aspects of the British momarchy and government.

    The religious limitations pose a grave constitutional question that is not addressed by the Guardian article but that has been discussed in the Q&A portion of this site. The monarch is constitutionally the Supreme Head of the Church of England. If Catholics or members of other faiths are allowed to inherit the crown, the Church of England could conceivably be headed by a Catholic, or someone of any other faith. The only solution to this anomaly, in my opinion, would be to remove the monarch as Head of the Church, ending a centuries-old institution (presumably the Archbishop of Canterbury would become titular as well as practical head of the chruch). As a historian, I hate to see the undoing of something that has been in place for almost half of the kingdom’s lengthy history, especially when there is no immediate or near-future prospect of a Catholic in the realistic line of succession. Further, from a doctrinal standpoint, Catholics are barred from participating in other religions. A Catholic cannot take non-Catholic communion, for example, and cannot be anointed by a non-Catholic priest. Thus the coronation itself would have to be entirely altered, and a Catholic monarch crowned by someone other than the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, presumably by the Roman Catholic Cardinal Murphy O’Connor.

    I think it is important to keep in mind that this is merely proposed legislation. It must go through several stages of review in various Commons committees and three readings in the whole Commons plus Lords before it can pass, and only after the religious issues are addressed Those religious issues have the potential to cripple the legislation, unless it is proposed that the monarch’s role as head of the Church of England be ended entirely. Like many pieces of legislation, I suspect this one will die in committee, though proposing it earns the Brown government a nice bit of positive public relations among non-Anglican voters.

  2. This is a pretty exciting change for England, but I have mixed feelings about it. Being a girl myself, I am all for girl power. But it is such a tradition of the monarchy to have a male heir, that I think it will be hard to accept such a change. As for the religion change….it seems a little strange to me…..but whatever happens happens I guess. 🙂

  3. I read another article whose argument was that those excluded by the 1701 Act of Succession that brought George I to the throne (he was pushed ahead of about 27 other people who had a better right by descent, but were Catholic and therefore disqualified) might now have a case to be the “rightful” monarch of England. Apparently the heir by descent from Charles I is ” a 75-year-old Bavarian duke, Franz von Bayern, who is the closest blood descendant of King Charles I” (Alexander Chancellor, The Guardian).

    But I don’t think the Queen will be moving out soon.

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