Royal succession law change

November 08, 2011, 11:57 AM GMT+0

76% British people support giving female royals equal rights in succession line; just 13% oppose

The majority of Brits support the idea that the first-born child to a Royal couple should take precedence in line to the throne over any younger siblings, regardless of gender, our poll has found.

The results also show that just under half the population feels that Catholics should be able to succeed to the throne, compared to a third who say that they should not.

The results come amid recent reforms to the Act of Settlement laws, which originally set out the conditions that male children should take precedence in line to the throne, and that no Catholic may succeed as ruling monarch. While both female and male children have now been granted equal rights to succeed, the law still states that no Catholic may rule.

  • 76% of Brits support giving female children equal rights with male children to succeed to the throne
  • Just 13% oppose
  • 48% think that the ban on Catholics becoming the ruling monarch should be changed
  • While 33% think it should not
  • Women are more likely than men to support equal rights to succession, with 84% in support compared to 67% of men
  • Interestingly, 65% of Scottish residents say the ban on Catholic monarchs should be lifted, compared to 52% of those from London, 46% of people in the North, 46% of those in the rest of the South and 44% of those in the Midlands and Wales

'Alter the course of British history'

The Act of Settlement states that none of the laws may be changed without consent from all states involved ‒ and late last month, all 16 Commonwealth countries with Queen Elizabeth II as their head of state agreed to change the law, stating that a female child in line to the throne should take precedence over any younger brothers.

Prince William’s marriage to Kate Middleton earlier this year arguably provided the catalyst for succession law reform, as answers were sought to the question of what should happen if Kate were to give birth to a girl first.

Speaking of the new reforms, Prime Minister David Cameron told the BBC that ‘if the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were to have a little girl, that girl would one day be our queen’, which, he said, would ‘alter the course of British history’.

Cameron denounced the old laws as being ‘at odds with the modern countries that we [in the Commonwealth] have become’, and in her opening speech at the Perth-based summit the Queen herself said that the changes will allow women to take ‘a greater role in society’, and ‘will encourage us to find ways to show women play their full part’.

‘Removal of anti-Catholic bias’

Last month’s summit also changed the laws to allow future monarchs to marry Catholics, which the BBC’s Duncan Kennedy said that this would remove ‘an anti-Catholic bias at the heart of the monarchy’; however, Catholics still remain barred from ascending to the throne itself, on the grounds that Catholic allegiance to the Pope could conflict with the Sovereign’s role as supreme governor of the Church of England.

Welcoming the changes, Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols said ‘I fully recognise the importance of the position of the established church (Anglican) in protecting and fostering the role of faith in our society today’.

However, in Scotland, certain MPs think the reforms have not gone far enough, and say that those of the Catholic faith should not be barred from succession.

Scottish MP Jim Eadie has labelled the reform a ‘discriminatory piece of legislation’ and called for an agreement that ‘satisfies both the Church of England and the countries of the Commonwealth’.

See the survey details and full results here

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