2 Aug 2013

Can the heir to the throne marry a Muslim? Or another man?

Royals can now marry Catholics, but what about Hindus or Muslims? Or someone else of the same sex? Channel 4 News examines what recent legislation means for British royalty.

Could a British Prince marry a Hindu? Or another man?

Prince George is the first royal in 300 years to be born with the right to marry a Catholic. And should he so choose, he will also be the first royal ever allowed to marry another man.

Are we likely to see a British royal taking a gay Catholic down the aisle in 30 years? Possibly not.

But thanks to a raft of legislation this year that affect the ancient institutions of both royalty and marriage: the position of the royal family has changed and legally… we could.


Prince George, or indeed any other royal, is now allowed to marry a Catholic, thanks to the Succession to the Crown Act passed in February this year.

British royalty have always been allowed to marry Muslims, Jews or Hindus, but marrying Catholics has been banned since 1701. That was back when Catholics were seen as a threat to the English crown.

Paul Flynn, Labour MP put it this way to Channel 4 News: “Papists had the same status as al-Qaeda. The idea of them marrying someone else [eg a Hindu or Quaker] was so outrageous that it wasn’t discussed. As it was never a law, you don’t need to change it.”

The catch is that though a royal can marry a Catholic, or Buddhist, he or she cannot be one. The monarch has to be the head of the Church of England, so must remain “in communion” with the CoE. And children in line to the throne must be brought up in the Church of England too.

The Act also cleared the way for a woman to inherit the throne if she is the first-born child. And there are no bars to marrying divorcees, or any other type of person.

Gay marriage

Could a royal heir have a sex-sex marriage? Yes. The Marriage Equality Act legalises same-sex marriages for all UK citizens, royal or not.

That means George could marry another man, as any other Briton could.

However, there is one restriction on Prince George that doesn’t affect the rest of the UK citizenry: the monarch at the time must approve his marriage. The monarch’s consent is required for the marriages of the next six in line to the throne.

Conceivably a monarch could chose to withhold consent from a same-sex marriage for the reason that it was not heterosexual.

However, in our constitutional democracy, the monarch has to act on the advice of elected ministers and it is unlikely ministers would advise against something that is legal in the UK.

Not getting the monarch’s consent doesn’t invalidate a marriage, it simply removes the newlywed from the line of succession to the throne.

So, yes it is a possibility, though currently a distant one.