Equal rights for Princesses?

// 26 September 2008

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The 300-year-old law that stops a Catholic from being King/Queen and ranks males higher than females in claims to the throne could be abolished.

The law as it currently stands is thought to contravene the Sex Discrimination Act and the Human Rights Act, reports The Guardian.

Geoffrey Robertson QC, the constitutional lawyer who has represented the Guardian in challenges to the constitutional restrictions, said: “I welcome this as two small steps towards a more rational constitution.

“The Act of Settlement determined that the crown shall descend only on Protestant heads and that anyone ‘who holds communion with the church of Rome or marries a Papist’ – not to mention a Muslim, Hindu, Jew or Rastafarian – is excluded by force of law.

“This arcane and archaic legislation enshrined religious intolerance in the bedrock of the British constitution. In order to hold the office of head of state you must be white Anglo-German Protestant – a descendant of Princess Sophia of Hanover – down the male line on the feudal principle of primogeniture. This is in blatant contravention of the Sex Discrimination Act and the Human Rights Act.”

Comments From You

Kath // Posted 26 September 2008 at 11:33 am

About bloody time too. Now let’s get even more progressive and get rid of them all together :-)

Benjamin M. A'Lee // Posted 26 September 2008 at 12:53 pm

On the one hand, I’d support this simply out of principle; it is, without a

doubt, discrimination. On the other hand, I find it difficult to have sympathy

for anybody who’s not permitted to inherit a completely useless title for

whatever reason. There’s no way to make monarchy actually fair; as Kath said,

we should scrap it altogether rather than trying to patch it up.

Rachel // Posted 26 September 2008 at 1:23 pm

I agree with Benjamin, this is the kind of legislitation that doesn’t really get to the root of the problem. The problem being that the monarchy is based on inequality and inherited privilege and so should be gotten rid of.

Ross Bearman // Posted 26 September 2008 at 2:15 pm

Whilst I agree with the principal of this article, I have to disagree about abolishing the monarchy.

While there are some downsides to having a monarchy (as there are to having democracy, and many other facets of state) there are also a good number of up sides.

The most obvious is tradition. The vast majority of the human race love tradition and history; removing something like the monarchy doesn’t solve any problems but it will likely make another chunk of the population apathetic to politics. While I’m not the most patriotic of people, at all really, the national identity is important to a large number of people and helps democracy flourish.

Also, on the point of the head of state can only ever be “Anglo-German”, the current bloodline is Arab, Armenian, Croatian, French, German, Greek, Italian, Persian and British.

Jess // Posted 26 September 2008 at 3:35 pm

I agree that making the sucession to the throne ‘fair’ is kind of a ridiculous concept.

My biggest objection to this is that the parliamentary time should be spent on action on equalities that actually would make a difference to people’s lives.

Hela // Posted 26 September 2008 at 6:17 pm

Nobody with a non-reactionary beone in their body could want a Catholic monarchy – a Head of State bound to oppose abortion and even contraception! Just leave the whole thing well alone, short-sighted tinkering will only make it worse.

Anne Onne // Posted 26 September 2008 at 7:51 pm

I have mixed feelings about this.

On the one hand, the Monarchy is about privilege by definition. On the other, its weakness and its strength is that it s tradition with no inherent point apart from to be seen to be a tradition. The weakness is that it has no real political meaning, but it is that fact that makes it relatively non-threatening to us on the privilege front: they don’t have a huge mount of power to unfairly use. What power they DO have, is to be a tourist draw, to represent a part of culture, and to be an anchor for those I’d like to see it kept for the moment to placate those who feel that their whole world is being changed and all their traditions are being taken away by PC loonatics. Part of me hopes that whilst a majority are attached to the Monarchy, giving them a role will put a focus on how plenty of British heritage and culture still remains, and will allow us to work on changing the most worrying elements of culture first. Naturally I don’t believe the Monarchy would be a permanent solution, but a temporary one to supplement the sense of culture people seem to want. I do think the Monarchy could do more to earn their position, by getting involved with even more charities etc.

But then again as a foreigner, I guess I feel more sensitive to the ‘What is Britishness, are immigrants killing Britishness?’ mentality, because it’s directed at my ilk more often than not.

And I think that it’s still a good thing (even though the monarchy is, as you rightly say, pointless) to have an equality law introduced, because it is a very visible, high profile change to apply equality laws, rather than brush them under the carpet.

Jess is of course right that there are many important issues parliament needs to address, but as with blogging on pink phones versus FGM, any step for equality, for presenting equality as something important and relevant, that nobody is excused from, is a good thing.

james // Posted 26 September 2008 at 10:01 pm

I’m not sure it’s religious discrimination. The monarch is the head of the CoE. The proposal is a bit like saying the Pope shouldn’t be a Catholic.

Redheadinred // Posted 27 September 2008 at 3:45 pm

This would be fantastic. We should never cling to ‘tradition’ to excuse sexism and discrimination. If we’re going to have a royal family at all we need to have one that doesn’t discriminate.

Laura // Posted 27 September 2008 at 10:37 pm

Just to correct a small point in the article – you don’t have to be descended in the male bloodline, otherwise none of Queen Victoria’s descendents would have been able to inherit and nor would Prince Charles. The rule as it stands is that male children inherit first then female children then it goes to cousins etc on the same principle. I.e. the age order of the Queen’s children is Charles (+kids), Anne (+kids), Andrew (+kids), Edward (+kids), but the inheritance order is Charles, William, Harry, Andrew, Beatrice, Eugenie, Edward, their baby son, their daughter (older than the son), Anne, Peter, Zara. Changing it would move Anne, Peter and Zara above Andrew and co.

Absolutely agree that this is worth doing, but totally disagree about abolishing the monarchy. The system works pretty well and it’s probably cheaper than having a president, plus as a brit who grew up overseas, for me the monarchy is a pretty key part of my sentimental attachment to the UK, plus the amount of goodwill the Queen is able to spread around the world for us with short state visits, etc is very hard to quantify and not something that a President could really do.

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