Following the approval of the Succession to the Crown law by the Australia Parliament, the succession to the crown in the United Kingdom and 15 other countries is now gender equal.
This means the heir to the throne will be the first born child, not the first born son. It does not mean that the Princess Royal and her descendants push ahead of her two younger brothers and their children. The new law affects only those born after October 2011.
The Royal Marriages Act is no longer valid. Only the first six in line to the throne will need to seek permission to marry. This would be the time for Princess Beatrice of York to seek permission as she is currently sixth in line to the throne. She will drop to seventh when the Duchess gives birth to her second child next month.
[Thus, Juliet Nicholson, a great-granddaughter of Princess Patricia of Connaught, was the last person who received permission to marry according to the provisions of the Royal Marriages Act.]
Roman Catholics remained barred from the throne, but members of the Royal family will be able to marry Roman Catholics without losing their own rights. Those who married Roman Catholics are now back in the line of succession: the Earl of St. Andrews, Prince Michael of Kent, King Michael of Romania, Crown Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia, among others.
The new succession law applies solely to the Crown, and not to the succession of peerages.
From the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg:
Today the provisions of the Succession to the Crown Act 2013 come into force.
The Act removes the male bias in the line of succession, ending the system of male heirs automatically inheriting the throne over female heirs and removing this historic discrimination against women. The Act also ends another long-standing piece of discrimination, the bar on anyone who marries a Roman Catholic from becoming monarch, and replaces the outdated Royal Marriages Act 1772 such that only the first 6 in line to the throne need consent of the monarch to marry.
These changes were agreed at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Perth, Australia, in October 2011. The Government has worked closely with the 15 other countries where the Queen is Head of State to make the necessary arrangements to give effect to the changes. Today these changes have come into effect across every Realm.
During the passage of the legislation, the Advocate General undertook to update Parliament as to how each Realm had given effect to the changes to Royal succession. Six Realms in addition to the United Kingdom chose to legislate for the changes: Australia, Barbados, Canada, New Zealand, St Kitts and Nevis and St Vincent and the Grenadines. Nine Realms concluded that the legislation was not necessary: Antigua and Barbuda; Bahamas, Belize, Grenada, Jamaica, Papua New Guinea, St Lucia, Solomon Islands, and Tuvalu.
The Act reflects this Government’s emphasis on equality by removing centuries of discrimination on both religious and gender grounds. The Act puts in place succession laws that are fit for the 21st century and for a modern constitutional monarchy.