Royal Shazam: The Biggest Shakeup In The Rules Of Succession For British Royalty
Monarchy and equality have always been incompatible in Great Britain, as well as in most of the world’s remaining monarchies, but that is about to change in a radical way as Commonwealth leaders today pledged to amend legislation dating back to the 17th century to allow daughters of the monarch to take precedence over younger sons in the line of succession.
Prime Minister David Cameron plans to introduce legislation in Britain before the next general election to ensure that the changes will apply to any children of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, better known around the world as William Arthur Phillip Louis (aka Prince of Wales) and Catherine Elizabeth Middleton (aka just plain Kate). The changes will apply even if a child is born before the new legislation is passed.
The legislation will cause something of a shakeup in the royal line of succession, which in the future will be determined by the order of birth.
The immediate impact will place the Princess Royal, the Queen’s daughter, fourth in the line of succession behind the Prince of Wales and his two sons. At the moment the princess is 10th. The Duke of York, who is fourth, will drop to seventh.
In other changes:
• The law stipulating that anyone who marries a Roman Catholic is barred from succeeding to the crown will end. The change will not affect the position of the monarch as the supreme governor of the Church of England because Catholics will still be barred from the throne and the Church of England will remain as the established church.
• The law stipulating that descendants of King George II (1727-1760) need the monarch’s consent to marry will be reformed. Cameron told the Commonwealth ministers, who are meeting in Perth, Australia, “The idea that a younger son should become monarch instead of an elder daughter, simply because he is a man, just is not acceptable any more.”
It is interesting to note what would have happened if the rules had been different a key moments in British history:
* Margaret Tudor would have succeeded Henry VII in 1509, denying the throne to her younger brother, who became Henry VIII. That raises the prospect that Henry VIII would not have been responsible for the greatest example of Euroscepticism: the break with Rome in 1533.
* Elizabeth Stuart would have succeeded her father James I in 1625 instead of Charles I. The civil war, in which Charles was executed, might then have been avoided.
• Queen Victoria’s daughter, Princess Victoria, would have succeeded in January 1901 rather than Edward VII. The new queen would have died less than seven months later, handing the throne to Kaiser Wilhelm II, which means that Britain would have been ruled by the German emperor during World War I.
Kind of wild, eh?
One of the American Founding Fathers’ greatest fears was that the young republic would devolve into a monarchy and, after all, it was a monarch from which the U.S. had liberated itself in 1776. This explains why there was so much attention paid to defining and limiting the powers of the presidency, but it does not explain why 235 years later Americans nevertheless have such a love affair with the British monarchy.
That love affair and attendant fairy tale frou-frou was on full display in the run-up to the nuptials last April of William and Kate with cheesy television specials, even cheesier merchandise, and breathless coverage of would-be wedding crashers who camped out at Westminster Abbey.
Ahem, the American love affair is easily explained.
For one thing, an outsized number of Americans seem unable to get over the fact that they have a president and not a king, let alone a queen, although picturing Barack Obama wearing an enormous jewel-encrusted gold crown and an ermine cape while holding a scepter does not easily come to mind. (George Bush is something else altogether).
For another, there has been no bigger celebrity in the last 50 years than William’s mum, Diana Frances nee Spencer (aka Diana, Princess of Wales, or Lady Di if you felt especially close to her.) A lot of us did feel close because she parlayed a beauty and glamour . . . err, glamor into a train wreck of a life that underlined the human frailties we all share and ended in a literal wreck in a Paris auto tunnel in August 1997.
For yet another, William and Kate are the first frump-free royal couple since . . . well, they’re the first. While Lady Di was the personification of all that fairy tale frou-frou, her husband and Harry’s father, Charles (aka Charles Arthur Phillip George, or Prince Charles) has managed the neat trick of morphing from a guy who looked uninteresting even on a polo pony into a New Age stickybeak. After all, it’s just not the job of royalty to do stuff like saving rain forests.
William’s grandmum, Elizabeth Alexandra Mary (aka Elizabeth II) and her sister Margaret Rose (aka Princess Margaret) are and were the personification of frump, which the latter still managed to pull off with a cigarette in one hand and a martini in the other. Elizabeth’s husband, Phillip (aka Prince Phillip Mountbatten, Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth, Baron Greenwich) strikes me as being a secret admirer of Oscar the Grouch (and I suspect a closet reactionary and lover of fart jokes).
By the way, I think that Elizabeth II has been a heck of a queen, and most Brits — including those opposed to the royalty — agree.
William and Kate, on the other hand, are fresh faced younguns who would fit right in at Happy Hour at your local college tappy, have requisite text messaging skills and hopefully the chops to produce an heir. And now it matters not whether that heir is a he or a she.