The Constitution Unit


Letter to the Times: Should the Law on Royal Succession be Changed?

17 October 2011

Sir, The proposed changes to the rules for the royal succession (“Will and Kate’s first daughter would take the throne under plans to reform succession”, Oct 13) are welcome but do they go far enough?

Removing the bar on marriage to Roman Catholics is a distinction without a difference. Catholics will still be unable to succeed unless able to “join in communion with” the Church of England — a requirement which equally bans other Christians in the same position and all non-Christians. That rule, devised during the very different geopolitics of the 1680s, is no longer defensible, above all in our more diverse society. Catholics in Canada and Australia might also wonder why the exclusion should continue.

The Church of England may argue that wider change would threaten establishment — in a situation where the Church is already effectively autonomous. But sovereigns might in any case choose to remain in communion and, if not, to continue to express support as they would for other religious bodies. Should not the future of the Church of England be in its own hands rather than preserved by antiquated rules discriminating against others?

R. M. Morris
Honorary Senior Research Associate

More information