Tuesday, June 18, 2024
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British royal succession laws changed

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Perth: Heralding an end to over 300 years of English Constitutional tradition, Commonwealth nations on Friday approved changes to the rules of succession, which passed the Crown to the oldest male heir, to allow first-born daughters to inherit the British throne.

“We will end the male primogeniture rule so that in future the order of succession should be determined simply by the order of birth,” British Prime Minister David Cameron said after a summit of the 16 Commonwealth countries of which Queen Elizabeth II is head of state.

The changes to the outdated laws would also allow heirs who marry Roman Catholics to inherit the throne.

“We have agreed to scrap the rule which says that no one that marries a Roman Catholic can become monarch,” Cameron said at a press conference with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard here.

Cameron said the changes would apply to descendents of the Prince of Wales and they will not be applied retrospectively.

There has long been discussion about changing the archaic and discriminatory rules, but the issue took on fresh urgency after Prince William, the second in line to the British throne, married Kate Middleton in April.

Cameron said the summit backed the changes to the law that gives any daughters born to Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge the same right to the throne as their sons.

He said the changes meant that if Prince William and his wife Kate “were to have a little girl, that girl would one day be our queen.” Cameron said all 16 countries that have the Queen as their head of state have agreed to support the changes.

Queen Elizabeth II is head of state of 16 Commonwealth “realms”, including Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

Under the old succession laws, dating back more than 300 years, the heir to the throne is the first-born son of the monarch. Only when there are no sons, as in the case of the Queen’s father George VI, does the Crown pass to the eldest daughter.

“The idea that a younger son should become monarch instead of an elder daughter simply because he is a man, or that a future monarch can marry someone of any faith except a Catholic – this way of thinking is at odds with the modern countries that we have become,” Cameron said.

Gillard said it was an extraordinary moment. “I’m very enthusiastic about it. You would expect the first Australian woman Prime Minister to be very enthusiastic about a change which equals equality for women in a new area.”

Earlier in the day, the Queen inaugurated the 21st Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting of the 54-nation grouping here.

In her opening speech, she did not directly mention the royal succession laws, but said women should have a greater role in society. (PTI)

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