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With the announcement that HRH The Duchess of Cambridge is pregnant the need to change the succession laws to absolute primogeniture have been kicked into gear. Her Majesty has spoken out in favor of this meassure. This will give the descendents of HRH The Prince of Wales right to the throne in order of birth regardless of gender. That means when the law is passed if the new baby is a girl she will have rights to the throne directly after her father, HRH The Duke of Cambridge, even if she has a brother born at a later date.

Although I have to be honest I feel twinges of sadness to see the centuries old Male  Preferred Primogeniture dismantled, but the progressive and pragmatic side of me does view this as a step in the right direction. Since all European monarchies are symbolic and governed by a Constitution the need for a “males only” club is gone. Even history has demonstrated that there have been very capable women to rule in the past. Eleanore of Aquitaine, Elizabeth I of England, Catherine II the Great of Russia and Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom are a few examples or women who ruled wisely and who also were very popular.

As most of my readers know I am a bity of a stickler for the correct usage of titles. As I mentioned in a previous blog post these change in succession laws will also require some changes in titles: Here are the two main issues.

1. The 1917 Letters Pattent limit the style  of His or Her Royal Highness to and Prince of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to the grandchildren of the sovereign in the male line. An exception is made for a male line great-grandson when it is the eldest son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales. In this case that would mean if the Duke of Cambridge’s son is a boy then he will fall under the provisions of the 1917 Letters Pattent, but a daughter would nopt. However, the Palace has announced that a daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will be a Royal Highness and a Princess of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. That should mean the issuing of a new Letters Pattent but with the way the titles of both the children of the Earl and Countess of Wessex and the Duchess of Cornwall have been handled, it remains to be seen what will happen.

2. Prince of Wales. This title has been traditionally held, since 1284, for the male heir apprarent to the throne. It is a title that is not hereditary and must becreated anew for each holder. The wife of the Prince of Wales has been traditionally been called the Princess of Wales.  Now with the likelyhood that hier to the throne will be a female in the future I wonder if the title will be changed to allow gender nuetrality? If the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge has a daughter will she become a Princess of Wales in her own right?

There is also a double standard to be addressed. For example, in Britain the tradition is that wives will share in their husband’s title, which is why Kate Middleton became HRH The Duchess of Cambridge, when she married Prince William, The Duke of Cambridge. However, husbands have not shared in their wives titles which is why when Her Majesty the Queen mounted the throne in 1952 her husband, HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, did not be come King.

I am not ready to see a change in that part of the double standard. I would be alright with the title of Prince or princess of Wales being limited to the hier to the throne only, while their spouse holds a different title. The current Prince of Wales and his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, are a good example of this. Even though legally the Duchess of Cornwall is by right HRH The Princess of Wales she just chosses not to use the title out of respect for the late Diana, Princess of Wales.

I also propose another solution. There is talk of the United Kingdom becoming less united and if Scotland does vote for independence, but still retaining the queen as head of state, this could give an opportunity to send the title Prince of Wales back to Wales. Let me explain. Even if Scotland remains part of the United Kingdom the title of Prince of Wales could become one of the titles for the monarch his or her self instead of keeping it for the hier. This would demonstrate the reality that the British monarch is also head of state in Wales. Then the title of Duke or Duchess of Cornwall could be used for the hier when in England and Duke or Duchess of Rothesay in Scotland (as it is now).

There is much more to this topic! Changing the succession laws also has to be done in all 15 Commonwealth countries of which the British monarch is head of state. Also, changes would have to be made to several key constitutional documents, including the Bill of Rights and Coronation Oath Act of 1688, the 1701 Act of Settlement and the 1706 Act of Union with Scotland. At the heart of one of these dicussions is removing the bar against Roman Catholics.

I will discuss that on Wednesday.

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