Females in the Royal Family are to be given equality with men. But Republican campaigners tell Channel 4 News “we are talking like five-year-olds about a fairytale”.
The new royal equality law will mean if the first child of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge is a girl, she will become Queen even if she has younger brothers.
The changes were announced by Prime Minister David Cameron at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, attended by the Queen, in Perth, Australia. The 16 Commonwealth “realms”, which include Canada and Australia, also agreed to scrap the law which bans the spouse of a Roman Catholic from taking the throne
Mr Cameron argued that the old rules, which meant men took precedence over women even where a woman was born first, were “at odds with the modern countries that we have become”.
He said: “Put simply, if the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were to have a little girl,that girl would one day be our Queen.”
Put simply, if the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were to have a little girl,that girl would one day be our Queen. David Cameron
In order to bring in the new order of succession, the Government will have to change the 1701 Act of Settlement, the 1688 Bill of Rights, the 1688 Coronation Oath Act and the Royal Marriages Act of 1772.
The drive for change was given impetus by the marriage of Kate and William: The new law is not expected to be retrospective, meaning that Princess Anne, The Princess Royal will stay in place below her younger brothers, Prince Andrew the Duke of York and Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex.
But for some, the changes are simply a distraction from more fundamental inequalities. Republic is a campaign group which wants an elected head of state.
Campaign manager Graham Smith told Channel 4 News: “It’s completely wrong that it’s an equality based reform when we are talking about tinkering with an institution based on discrimination and inequality – it discriminates against every man and woman in the country. It’s just daft. “
He believes that the change in the law is an attempt to keep public opinion behind the monarchy, as the last years of the Queen’s reign approach. He said: “I think it’s quite clear that the powers that be are… working hard to keep people interested and maintain support. By the time she is 90, talk will turn to Charles and people will ask why we don’t have a choice who rules. This will cause serious problems. They are trying, with the wedding, with the Jubilee, with this, to pre-empt this and build support.”
We are talking about tinkering with an institution based on discrimination and inequality. Graham Smith
The anti-monarchists say that they will use the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations next year to focus attention on the illegitimacy of the Royal Family. Graham Smith said: “This is fundamentally the state telling people that we must celebrate the fact that she has been in office for 60 years.
We will be protesting in large numbers and we need to make sure it’s quite clear this is not appropriate. The Irish, today, are participating in a genuine act of equality – electing their head of state.
“We are talking like five-year-olds about some kind of fairy tale. it’s quite embarrassing really for Britain.”