It’s a great day to be British (or a member of the Commonwealth)!
Primogeniture, a law prescribing that a male offspring inherit the throne, even if elder females are living, has been a prominent vestige of gender inequality in the UK since the foundation of the monarchy. I am surprised that this millenium-old mandate was discarded so quickly, since it was only officially a topic of discussion this summer–I thought it would take years!
To give you an example of the history of this rule, see this lovely woman:
This is Queen Victoria’s first child, Victoria, Princess Royal (later Empress of Germany). When she was born in 1840, the Queen took a look at her female offspring and declared, “Never mind. The next will be a Prince.” Since Victoria predicted accurately, this is the most recent example of primogeniture in action: Even though Princess Victoria was older (and much more suited to the throne) than her brother, the future Edward VII, it was Edward who acceded the throne after his mother.
Now that primogenture has been declared “at odds with the modern countries that we have become,” according to UK Prime Minister David Cameron, should the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have a daughter first, she could become Queen after her father, even if a son were born after her.
The ruling today, announced at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, also dismissed the law that bars members of the Royal Family from the Succession if they marry a Roman Catholic. This statute was created to “protect” the monarchy from “Papist influences” in the 18th-century. Most recently, when Prince Michael of Kent married Baroness Marie-Christine von Reibnitz in 1978, he surrendered his place in line for the throne because his wife was a Roman Catholic.
I was curious to see if anything was mentioned about altering the current line of succession to reflect the ousting of primogeniture, but that may be too heady a task. If the existing line of succession were changed, for example, HRH Anne, Princess Royal, would come after William and Harry, instead of HRH The Duke of York; however, there does not seem to be any talk of this at the moment, especially since it would be, more-or-less, a ceremonial gesture. Regardless, this is a great day for the UK and will change the current Royal Family and the future of the monarchy forever. Hooray for gender equality!