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Gender Equality in the Monarchy: First Born Takes the Throne

Gender Equality in the Monarchy: First Born Takes the Throne

At their summit in Perth, Australia, the leaders of the 16 Commonwealth countries unanimously agreed to change throne succession rules. In the future, sons and daughters of the British monarch will have equal right to the throne.  That means that if the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Will and Kate) have a daughter first, she will one day be Queen.

Until now, throne succession rules held that the first born son of the monarch was first in line for the throne. A woman could only become Queen if she didn’t have any brothers, as was the case with Queen Elizabeth. Announcing the new rules, British Prime Minister David Cameron said that “in the future, the order of succession should be determined simply by the order of birth.” Reacting to the decision taken in her country, Australian Prime Minsiter Julia Gillard said: “I’m very enthusiastic about it. You would expect the first Australian woman prime minister to be very enthusiastic about a change which equals equaliity for women in a new era.”

Cameron went on to explain that they have agreed to implement the new rules starting with all descendents of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Additionally, the rules prohibiting heirs to the throne from marrying a Catholic are being removed. The changes do still need to be pass into law by the 16 countries that have the Queen as their head of state and the countries are coordinating efforts on this front.

David Cameron explained that these rule changes were needed to bring the monarchy into the modern age:

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.

The Economist notes that this is one of several initiatives by David Cameron to improve the status of women in his country.

The announcement capped a stream of female-friendly policy announcements, including calls for more women on company boards and new guidelines to shield children from online pornography and sexual images in outdoor advertising near schools.

According to the BBC, there have been at least 11 unsuccessful attempts to change these rules over years, so the unanimous approval of the changes in this case are “a big royal deal.”  For the real princesses born into the royal family and for the little girls playing princess around the world, the balance of power and rules of the game have indeed shifted.

Related stories

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Are We Done With “Obeying” Yet?

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Photo credit: Michael Gwyther-Jones on flickr

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114 comments

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3:20PM PST on Feb 20, 2014

First born should get the thrown, male or female.

1:15AM PDT on Nov 2, 2011

thanks for sharing

1:50AM PDT on Nov 1, 2011

I have nothing against Charles' concern for the environment or even his opinions on architecture. But his behavior toward his late wife was beyond reprehensible. I used to have a lot of respect for him, but after the way he treated Diana, I lost that respect.

1:30AM PDT on Nov 1, 2011

There is nothing 'dopey' about HRH Prince Charles, if you don't mind.
If everybody was as concerned about the environment as he is, the world
would be a better place.

6:44PM PDT on Oct 31, 2011

"Henry VIII wanted nothing but sons to take the throne. Had he known what kind of Monarch his daughter Elizabeth would be, he would have stopped trying after her."

Maybe, if he was smart. But Henry VIII wasn't all that smart when it came to women. Plus, consider what kind of woman and monarch Elizabeth would have been if she had *not* had such a tragic life when she was young, not to mention never knowing if her older sister was going to kill her at any time.

Sometimes I wonder what kind of conversation would ensue if Elizabeth I and Elizabeth II could meet and compare their reigns. At least Elizabeth I wasn't saddled with a dopey son like Charles...

3:54PM PDT on Oct 31, 2011

Henry VIII wanted nothing but sons to take the throne. Had he known what kind of Monarch his daughter Elizabeth would be, he would have stopped trying after her.

6:52AM PDT on Oct 31, 2011

The Monarchy serves United Kingdom, Canada and other nations by providing a Head of State who is not also Head of Government and therefore can be separated from the day to day politics of the nation.

This is a excellent decission and has taken too long to be made.The present Queen is a very good example of how well a woman can reign.

now to make this perfect.....STOP CHARLES BEEN THE NEXT KING ....YOU CANT TRUST A MAN WHO CHEATED ON HIS WIFE LIKE HE DID!
HE SHOULD NOT BE KING IF HE HAS ANY DECENCY LEFT IN HIM...SOMEHOW I DOUBT IT!!!



5:30AM PDT on Oct 31, 2011

@ Brian S - don't know if this makes it any more zesty: http://www.republic.org.uk/valueformoneymyth.pdf

4:11AM PDT on Oct 31, 2011

big deal; this really has made a difference to my life !!

3:18AM PDT on Oct 31, 2011

"Its also a myth that the Monarchy brings in more money than they cost the tax-payer (the palace's own propagandist statisticians have cooked that one up)". Citation required please, as this is as bland a statement as the allegation it is making.

"The UK's unwritten constitution also leaves totally moot and ambiguous exactly how much power actually resides in the Crown." No, it is moot but very unambiguous for the most part, in that it has no actual power beyond the requirement to ratify any proposals put before it. There is a possibility that an election result producing a hung parliament may be rejected by the crown, but only to the extent that the people be made to vote again democratically. Any other exercising of ambiguous powers - such as the failure to sign any laws put forward - would be swiftly rejected by the government and would either be overruled by Parliament, or result in a revolution (as happened once before and when there were far fewer checks in place).

The Royal Prerogative exists technically, but in practice it is actually the prerogative of government in that the monarch would only be able to exercise it when told to do so. The monarch has the right to question and the Prime Minister has historically given the monarch the courtesy of listening to advice (the Queen has of course seen far more governments than any individual minister), but the decisions are still made by government and not the monarchy.

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