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Friday, March 27, 2009

The Act of Settlement

Apparently Gordon Brown has been in discussion with the Palace to change the rules of succession to the throne. These would include giving royal women equal rights and also to amend the 1701 Act of Settlement.

I'm sure that has you all leaping up and down with excitement and has colonial types wondering how there can be a law on the statutes books from 1701 that is worth amending.

Male primogeniture goes back to Norman times and means that male heirs have precidence over females regardless of age. It probably had a degree of relevance at the time when Kings were expected to lead troops in to battle but now? Time for a change methinks. And it can be argued that Britain has been best served by its Queens.

The 1701 Act of Settlement ensures that catholics can't be come King or Queen. It may sound ridiculous now but it came about after the break with Rome 170 years earlier. There had been the dissolution of the Monastries, Armada's, the Civil War and James II. It was felt that no King or Queen could have allegiance to the Pope and be able to serve/rule their people.

The 1701 Act only prohibits Kings and Queens being Catholics OR marrying a Catholic and becoming monarch (there is technically nothing to stop the monarch marrying a Jew, Muslim or Hindu - mainly because at the time it would have been considered unthinkable). And yet when Elizabeth II was marrying Phillip (a Greek Orthodox christian) such was the sensitivity he was advised to convert to the Church of England. More recently when Peter Phillips (Princess Anne's son) married a catholic she converted so he could retain his position in the succession (optimistic at best).

Undoubtedly the discrimination against Women is ridiculous, the catholic one probably but there are more issues involved here. The monarch is head of state and can the ahead of state have allegiance to a foreign national? I guess it doesn't matter, the President of the United States has been a catholic.

Its not that straightforward to change the law though, the Government claim it would require legislation not only here but in 15 commonwealth countries.

Still I think it will come and not before time.


Tricia said...

I would agree that discrimination should not exist but we could have the scenario where, next in line to the throne, could be the child of a catholic parent (who married into the Royal family). As such, the child would be brought up a Catholic so you have the situation where that child, (on accession) would be a Catholic as head of the Church of England!

Pete said...

well the child could be brought up Anglican or disestablish the church of England and have the Archbishop of cCanterbury as its head.

Tricia said...

I'm no expert on Catholicism or any other religion, but my understanding is that if the parent is a true and practising Catholic then the children must be brought up in the Catholic faith; obviously the child could change his/her religion at some point.

Now your second point is food for thought - do we need the Monarch to be head of any Church?

I feel this subject will debated far and wide and at length :)

Anonymous said...

Queen Camilla will straighten you all.

KAZ said...

I've ranted about these rules of succession for most of my life.
But - now it's come up -I see it as so irrelevant that I think we should wait until the Queen dies and then get rid of the rest of them.

Pete said...

Kaz, i'm not convinced by a republic. obviously it can work but will it be better?