Queen backs plan to let daughter of Prince William and Kate Middleton to accede to the throne
The Queen is personally backing plans to change ancient laws so that a firstborn daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge could accede to the throne.
By Roya Nikkhah and Patrick Hennessy
9:00PM BST 15 Oct 2011
The Monarch has “let it be known” she is fully behind moves to repeal the primogeniture law, which puts male heirs ahead of their older sisters in the line of succession, according to royal sources.
It comes after David Cameron last week launched a bid to get the consent of 15 Commonwealth countries for reform of the law, calling the current system “an anomaly” that goes against “gender equality”.
The Queen’s support will strengthen the Prime Minister’s hand in seeking to change the law.
She is thought to have encouraged Mr Cameron to pursue the issue, and she is understood to be keen to see progress made during this month’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Australia, which she will attend.
The personal backing from the Queen is seen as crucial by Downing Street.
Under Mr Cameron’s plans, succession to the throne would be determined simply by the order of birth – so if Prince William and his wife Kate had a first child who was a girl, she would take precedence of any of her brothers.
The Government also wants to see an end to ban on anyone marrying a Roman Catholic acceding to the crown. The Prime Minister sees this ancient rule as “unjustified” and a “historical anomaly.”
When the issue of the succession rules was last officially raised, under Gordon Brown’s premiership two years ago, the Queen was reported to have been cautious because of concerns that the changes could threaten the position of the Church of England as the established church.
Nevertheless, she is said to have been disappointed by Mr Brown’s decision not to raise the issue at the last CHOGM in Trinidad and Tobago in 2009, following talks between Buckingham Palace and Downing Street earlier that year.
This week the Queen will begin a 10-day tour of Australia, which will include CHOGM.
A royal aide said: “The Queen will naturally leave the politics and the debating to her government, but she has let it be known that she would very much welcome an active debate on the issue by all her Commonwealth leaders in Perth.”
The matter of male and female heirs is now seen as requiring a solution more urgently following the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding earlier this year.
Keith Vaz, the Labour chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, has warned that the “clock is ticking” regarding the possibility of the Duchess becoming pregnant.
A change to the law would build on the Queen’s legacy of modernising the monarchy.
Under her reign, she has opened Buckingham Palace to the public, embraced the digital age with Royal Facebook and Twitter accounts, and encouraged members of the Royal family to take a less “stuffy” approach to their official duties.
Downing Street said that the new rules sought by Mr Cameron would apply to the children of the Prince of Wales and to any children they have.
The changes would also see Princess Anne move to fourth in line to the throne, after the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry, overtaking her younger brothers Princes Andrew and Edward in the line of succession.
Achieving the reforms would require Parliament to amend or repeal the Bill of Rights 1688, the Coronation Oath Act 1688, the Act of Settlement 1701 and the Royal Marriages Act 1772.
There would also need to be unanimous agreement within the 15 realms of which the Queen is head of state, including Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
The others are Antigua & Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Grenada, Jamaica, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.
Despite growing republican movements in some realms such as Australia and Canada, the Royal wedding in April has seen the monarchy’s popularity soar across the Commonwealth, which is likely to help secure agreement from member states.
Mr Cameron said that he also hoped to repeal the ban on a King or Queen being married to a Roman Catholic. He wrote: “This rule is a historical anomaly – it does not, for example, bar those who marry spouses of other faiths – and we do not think it can continue to be justified.”
However, a separate rule that the Sovereign must be a Protestant will not be changed because the monarch is Supreme Governor of the Church of England.