Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Legislating the succession!

The British government "has received consent from the Commonwealth realms to 'press ahead legislation" to change the succession laws to the British crown.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who is responsible for overseeing these changes said today:

"It is a wonderful coincidence that the final confirmation from the other realms arrived on the very day that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge made their announcement.

The Government will soon introduce the Succession to the Crown Bill which will make our old fashioned rules fit for the 21st Century.
It will write down in law what we agreed back in 2011 – that if the Duke and Duchess Cambridge have a baby girl, she can one day be our Queen even if she later has younger brothers."

He calls the decision a "historic moment" for Britain.  Apart from gender equality, and the removal of the loss of succession rights for those who marry Roman Catholics, the actual legislation has not been made public.

We do know that the Act of Settlement will be superseded by the new law.  It also possible that the succession to the throne will be limited to a smaller group of people, perhaps the descendants of George VI or even Queen Elizabeth II.

Changes will also be needed to change the charters that largely established the titles of Prince of Wales and Duke of Cornwall.   The title of Prince of Wales is bestowed on the male heir apparent to the throne.   The Duchy of Cornwall is reserved solely for the eldest son of the sovereign.  (If Charles dies before William,  Cornwall and its monies would revert to the Crown.)  William could be named as Prince of Wales, but he would not inherit the Duchy of Cornwall. 

So what will happen?   I expect that the Duchy of Cornwall's patent or charter will be amended to allow the eldest child of the sovereign to be the Duke or Duchess of Cornwall.  I also think the wife of the heir apparent would be known as the Duchess of Cornwall, but the husband of the heiress apparent would not be styled as the Duke of Cornwall.  (Husbands of female peers are not entitled to their wives' titles or ranks.).

The same criterion will be applied to the title Prince of Wales.  The heiress apparent will be styled as Princess of Wales, but her husband will not have the title Prince of Wales (because it can also be used by an heir apparent.) 

I also think the HRH and title Prince or Princess will be reserved for the children of the sovereign and the children of the heir/ess apparent with the grandchildren. 

Although the ban on marriages to Roman Catholics will end,  the Sovereign cannot be Roman Catholic.

Removing the ban on marriages to Roman Catholics, even in the early 21st Century, may (and I stress the word may) remain as a hurdle for final approval of the legislation.

It is also understood that the actual change will not be retroactive, meaning Princess Anne and her descendants will not move ahead of the Duke of York.  The law will affect only those heirs born after the 2011 Commonwealth decision.

The Act of Settlement will be scrapped.  This means the loss of more than 1000 possible dynasts to the throne.  If the ban on Roman Catholic marriages is not lifted,  the Royal Marriages Act might remain extant with certain modifications, and limited to the direct line, which means that the next generation of Hanovers won't have the opportunity to have their marriages approved by the British sovereign.



Hopewell said...

Good thoughts--nice summary.

Matthew Plooster said...

Do you think the any future legislation will retroact those already in succession? So, for example, will Princess Anne then succeed Prince Harry (or, after its birth, Baby Cambridge)? Or do you believe that any changes will be enacted from that birth and forward?

Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

From what has been discussed, the succession law will affect babies born after 12-11. There are no plans to shuffle everyone else. Anne and her descendants are unlikely to be moved ahead of Andrew and Edward's families. I expect that the order of succession will be limited to a lot less people.

Gary said...


Have you heard anything about whether the new law will reform the Royal Marriages Act? This would seem to be the opportune time for some much needed tinkering, but I haven't seen it mentioned anywhere.

Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

Gary, the Deputy Prime Minister's office has not released the actual text of the proposed bill. Apart from gender equality and the removal on dynasts losing the right of succession by marrying Catholics, there have been no official discussions of what the law will do .. one can only assume that the RMA in its present form will be superceded.