Oh good lord, they’re wanting to fiddle with the rules of succession again…
Presently the rules of succession are clear, but not acceptable. As laid down by the Act of Settlement of 1701 they give precedence to male heirs and remove the right of succession from an heir who marries a Catholic. Religious discrimination is an anachronism. It must be removed. However, while changing the rules about Catholicism raises complicated questions about the status of the Church of England, no such difficulty attends revoking the right of primogeniture. This needs to be done long before Prince William has children.
Let’s just remind ourselves, then, from Equalized Monarchy, April last year:
The very concept of a monarchy is so ancient, so unlike any other institution in public life, and so inherently, wonderfully illogical that as soon as one attempts to apply today’s standards to it – especially modern human-rights legislation – one undermines its strongest reason for existence.
It is precisely because it is so magnificently atavistic, archaic and irrational – so unlike anything else in society – that it exercises such power over the human imagination, connecting us directly to our Saxon past. …
Of course there’s no rhyme or reason why Prince William’s younger son should succeed to the throne before his older daughter, but neither is there any rational explanation to the solemn anointment by oil, a ceremony that can be traced back to biblical times.
To attempt to apply our generational chauvinism to customs and traditions that go back centuries, on the grounds of what we consider “fair”, is a mark of our pretensions to omniscience.
Anyhow, why should the elder daughter succeed before the younger son: isn’t that age discrimination? Shouldn’t we all decide which of them will be God’s anointed by a secret ballot, preferably organised by the Electoral Reform Society? And why constrict the Crown only to the direct descendants of King George II, as at present; isn’t that discriminatory to the 99.9 per cent of us who aren’t?
And (I spent all day looking for this damned article, which I’m sure I’ve linked to, but honestly, sometimes WordPress’s search is just useless):
Unlike most Catholics, I can quite see the point of the Act of Settlement and the Bill of Rights. And not just because it’s an opportunity to enjoy victim status (look – a Muslim could marry the Prince of Wales but not little me!).
They were intended to ensure that the children of the Catholic James II would be unable to inherit the throne and they were intended to preserve the Protestant succession. And so they did. Obviously, Catholics did marry Protestant English monarchs – look at Charles I and II – but it’s risky.
If a Catholic were to marry the heir to the throne there is the awful prospect that she or he would want to have the children baptised as Catholics, because you want what’s best, spiritually as well as materially, for your children. (Princess Michael of Kent, also Catholic, took a different view, having christened both her children as Anglicans, but she’s not what you’d call an exemplar.)
And since the monarch is also the head or supreme governor of the C of E, why, that would create something of a problem. Even now. At the very least, the Protestantism of the future head of the church – whatever that now amounts to – could be compromised. So there is some point in either dissuading the heir to the throne from marrying a Catholic or obliging such a Catholic to promise to raise her children as Anglicans. Though obviously, if she did, she’d have her priorities all wrong.
or, said pithier, in a random comment on some random blog I found while Google searching (honestly, searching my damned blog can be so aggravating)):
[I]f a Protestant marries a Catholic, the only way that the Catholic church will recognise the union is if the Catholic swears to raise the children as Catholics. Effectively, unless the spouse renounces her Catholicism, then the children will be Catholic.
I’m sure that you can appreciate the difficulty of having a Catholic as governer of the Church of England.
Basically, rules like this are only argued about by people who don’t think that religion actually means anything, anyway.
Update (3.29): The plot thickens…
I wonder if there is anything else Gordon Brown might do to secure the Roman Catholic vote at the next general election. The obvious thing is some rather complicated piece of legislation about transubstantiation — but, failing that, he might at least denounce the Reformation, demand the re-establishment of the monasteries and appoint Ruth Kelly to the post of archbishop of Canterbury, having executed Rowan Williams.
One assumes that Gordon’s latest policy initiative – hastily stamped on by a slightly embarrassed Jack Straw – is a sort of last-gasp, desperate vote-winning ploy. He has suggested that the laws of succession to the British throne should be changed, making it possible for a Roman Catholic to become monarch for the first time in nearly 500 years. …
It is true, though, that Gordon needs to do something to bring the Catholics on side, given that he has spent the past two years apparently bent on thoroughly annoying them.
Abortions for 14-year-old schoolgirls and punitive action against Roman Catholic proprietors of bed and breakfast establishments who refuse to admit sodomites to their premises are just two of the policies that have sent the Catholic vote drifting gently away from Gordon’s grasp.
So there you go: If the monarchy goes down, abortion clinics will have been what brought it down.