The Succession of the Crown Bill has passed through the House of Commons and will now go to the House of Lords for a further reading and scrutinising of its provisions.
The Bill makes two major changes to who can succeed the throne in the UK: a first-born daughter will be able to succeed the throne ahead of any brothers that may be born later. Prior to this it was the first born son that had the right to the throne even ahead of an older female sibling. The other major change to the legislation is that the heir to the throne will no longer be required to marry someone of Church of England faith and can now marry a Catholic.
These changes mean that if the now pregnant Will and Kate have a daughter first and a son second, the daughter will be the first in line to succeed the throne. It may also mean that this child will be the first to have the ability to marry a Catholic. This doesn’t sound like a big deal but it could lead to some serious pressure when it comes to how the potential Catholic and Church of England couple raise their baby. They could face a torrent of pressure from Catholic Canon Law (this is internal ecclesiastical law governing he Catholic Church) to raise that child as a Catholic rather than as Church of England.The problem becomes further compounded here because the Bill does not go so far as to allow a Catholic to succeed the throne. This means, if Catholic pressure prevails and an heir to the throne is raised with Catholic faith, that child may be precluded from taking the throne on the basis they were raised as Catholic. This is regardless of the fact they otherwise have the right to the throne! Where would the law stand on this? It is yet uncertain and if the issue did arise it could lead to further change to the laws on succession of the throne.
The current law regulating succession is the Act of Settlement passed in 1701 which only bans the marriage of an heir to a Catholic but no other faiths; back in 1701 there was no concern about marrying other faiths as society was nowhere near as multi-cultural as it is today. It would appear permissible that an heir to the throne could therefore marry someone of the Islamic faith but whether they could succeed the throne is another matter. It is likely that all other faiths will be on the same footing as the Catholic faith with regard to the succession of the throne. It is therefore clear that changes to succession rights are being made to represent a different and modern society and to remove archaic and restrictive principles. But will the law in the future go so far as separating the royal family from the Church of England and eventually see succession of the throne open to people of all faiths? The answer is uncertain but one change could lead to another and we could see a far more diverse royal family in the future.
All information is correct on the date of posting.