Constitutional experts rally behind proposals to revoke 300-year-old ban on Catholic monarchs

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Constitutional experts and minority parties yesterday rallied behind proposals to repeal the 300-year bar to Catholics succeeding to the throne and end male precedence in the royal succession.

Following the Guardian's report yesterday that plans drawn up by the Labour backbencher Chris Bryant have gone to Downing Street, reformers agreed that the 1701 Act of Settlement barring Papists from the throne, passed after the Glorious Revolution, is outdated.

Lynne Featherstone, the Lib Dems' spokeswoman on equalities issues, said: "This is an overdue but welcome move. Whilst the hereditary principle itself is obviously still a bit dodgy, at least this modernisation ends the outrageous discrimination against Catholics and women."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK

Posted September 30, 2008 at 6:38 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) wrote:

Outrageous discrimination against women” ? ... Elizabeth I. Anne. Mary. Victoria. Elizabeth II. In the last 450 years, women have reigned 41% of the time. Most people would agree Britain has been very well-served by her queens, particularly the Elizabeths and Victoria.

Woefully ignorant, or desperately agendised. In either case, shockingly wrong.

September 30, 6:57 pm | [comment link]
2. Holy Catholic Terp wrote:

As it stands right now, the eldest son, not the eldest child if it is a girl, is entitled to the throne.  Part of the proposed change would be to allow the eldest child regardless of their sex, to be the heir.  I think this is what they are referring to, and one could make the argument that the present arrangement is discriminatory.

September 30, 7:20 pm | [comment link]
3. Pageantmaster ن wrote:

We should open the discriminatory selection process for the monarchy as much as we should open up the discriminatory selection process for the papacy.

September 30, 7:43 pm | [comment link]
4. the roman wrote:


September 30, 8:15 pm | [comment link]
5. A Senior Priest wrote:

Well… I might, just might agree with this if the destination of all peerages were adjusted to reflect the changed circumstances of the the succession to the Crown. In other words, to make the eldest child of each peerage, no matter how ancient, heir rather than the ‘heirs male’ or ‘heirs general’ method now employed according to the limitations of the original grant.

September 30, 8:18 pm | [comment link]
6. Marion R. wrote:

Civil equality arguments in reference to a ruling class are, at best, misplaced.

September 30, 8:32 pm | [comment link]
7. jamesw wrote:

These plans all fail to account for the source of the nation’s sovereignty.  In a republic like the U.S.A., the source of sovereignty is the constitution (not the people, as commonly thought).  In the case of Great Britain, the source of sovereignty would appear to be none other then God, with the sovereignty transmitted through “God’s representative” in England, the Archbishop of Canterbury.  If the bar to non-CofE adherents as Monarchs is removed, then some thought needs to be given as to what the source of Britain’s sovereignty is.  Perhaps, if we are only talking about Catholics or other Protestants, there could be some arrangements by which God might be represented by a combination of Catholic, Anglican and Protestant representatives.  But what about if the future Monarch is not Christian???  This would require a fundamental change in the grounding of Britain’s monarchy.

September 30, 8:41 pm | [comment link]
8. Jon wrote:

#6 and #7….  Very thoughtful posts.

September 30, 9:00 pm | [comment link]
9. Frank Fuller wrote:

Surely this is the camel’s nose under the tent to abolition of the monarchy itself, is it not?  Consider the source.

September 30, 9:08 pm | [comment link]
10. driver8 wrote:

On the monarchy, I don’t think so.

It is perhaps another step in the death by a thousand cuts of the established nature of the CofE. Not with a bang but a whimper…

September 30, 9:20 pm | [comment link]
11. dwstroudmd+ wrote:

Oh, my!  How terribly un-Anglican of them!  How not the via media envisioned by the blind leaders of the Global Northern hijacked Anglicanism.  When’s the official apology and repentance gig?

September 30, 9:43 pm | [comment link]
12. MKEnorthshore wrote:

A joke, right? Huh?!

September 30, 10:30 pm | [comment link]
13. jamesw wrote:

I think that Frank Fuller is right.  Remove the core, underlying justification for the monarchy (and in an increasingly secular society, who really believes that the Sovereign is responsble to God???), then the monarchy becomes just a wealthy family that is unjustly privileged.  Small step from there to its abolition.

Sort of like same-sex “marriage” killing marriage.  No, it doesn’t do so on its face, it just eliminates the core, underlying justification for it.

October 1, 12:36 am | [comment link]
14. azusa wrote:

#1: I don’t think Mary Tudor served England (not Britain) vey well - channel Archbishop Cranmer for further info.
But otherwise - yes, Elizabeths 1 & 2 and Victoria have done fine jobs.

October 1, 3:38 am | [comment link]
15. azusa wrote:

Chris Bryant, by the way, is a former Anglican priest who renounced his orders to become an MP. He was among those who astabbed Tony Blair in the back. Bryant is famous for posting a picture of himself in underpants on a gay website.

October 1, 3:41 am | [comment link]
16. Terry Tee wrote:

The Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow, among others, called recently for this change, and there have been many other voices saying the same thing for the last few years.  Given the Catholic Church’s insistence that children of mixed marriages are baptised and brought up as Catholics, this change could mean that a future Governor of the Church of England would not be in communion with it.  So the question of disestablishment does come up.  (Incidentally, Sweden changed its laws recently to make the first-born child the heir to the throne.  There, as here in England, it was an ideal time to do so when the first-born heir was a male and no one was being disinherited.)

Why not disestablish the Church of England?  Although I write as a Roman Catholic priest in England, I genuinely believe that it would be for the good of the Church of England.  The latter’s role has always been fatally handicapped by public perceptions of class and prestige, despite heroic labours by many Anglican clergy (and their spouses) in poor urban areas where clergy have often been the only resident professionals.  And surely the evidence is plain:  with many Anglican provinces overseas flourishing, and the Church of England struggling, establishment is not necessary for ecclesial health.  As for having bishops in the House of Lords:  what an anachonism.  Embarrassing even.  When the late Cardinal Hume was offered a peerage (twice, I believe) he politely declined.

October 1, 7:31 am | [comment link]
17. Franz wrote:

#7—I’m not sure what you mean by your statement: “In a republic like the U.S.A., the source of sovereignty is the constitution (not the people, as commonly thought).”

From where then, does the consitution get its authority?  In fact, the preamble to the U.S. Constitution makes it clear that it derives its authority from the people.  The states that existed at the time of the adoption of the Constitution surely did not derive their sovereignty from the people.  The Declaration of Independence (which pre-dated the Constitution) asserted a sovereignty that resided in the people.  The process by which the Constitution was adopted (ratification by the various states) surely would have been a non-sequitor if the Constitution itself were the source of sovereignty.  Finally, the express limitations on the authority of the government contained in the Constitution (including, but not limited to, the First, Second, Fourth and Eighth Amendments) surely imply that sovereignty does not reside in the Consitution, but in some other source, to which the federal government is subservient. 

That is why the President of the United States is, in addition to the chief executive of the government, and the commander and chief of the armed forces, the head of state for the U.S.  In that function, he is acting in a representative capacity for all the citizenry.  The Consitution is not the source of sovereignty, it is the charter under which the federal government excercises its functionsm.

October 1, 8:19 am | [comment link]
18. Franz wrote:

Sorry, the last word should read “functions” (if you think my typing is bad, you should see my handwriting),

October 1, 8:45 am | [comment link]
19. evan miller wrote:

Poor Britain.  God save the queen.

October 1, 10:09 am | [comment link]
20. Pageantmaster ن wrote:

We will have to see if Mr Brown, whose days may well be numbered, will take this up.  It is at the moment a proposal by the usual malcontents at the Grauniad and their chums getting a little airtime.  It is not government policy.

October 1, 10:43 am | [comment link]
21. Pageantmaster ن wrote:

I suppose it might mean that the Princess Royal rather than the Duke of Cornwall might be the next monarch?

October 1, 10:46 am | [comment link]
22. the roman wrote:

If such a thing came to pass would anyone have a problem with Princess Anne over Prince Charles?

October 1, 10:46 am | [comment link]
23. Pageantmaster ن wrote:

It would disenfranchise Princes William and Harry putting Peter Phillips in line as heir and since women tend to live longer than men [and he has a sister], given the longevity of the Windsor women, the chances of ever having a king would go down considerably.

October 1, 10:53 am | [comment link]
24. Pageantmaster ن wrote:

Princess Anne would probably make a good monarch, she has her awkwardness on occassion, as does her mother.  What it would do is make the succession more of a lottery with the next in line more uncertain than it is at the moment at grandchildren level.  Peter Phillips has absolutely no training [or possibly desire] to take on the top job if his mother succeeded.

October 1, 10:57 am | [comment link]
25. Philip Snyder wrote:

Azusa (#14) - believe that the “Mary” mentioned was Mary II, who was married to William III (William of Orange) and succeeded James II upon his forced abdication.  While William and Mary (as well as Mary’s sister, Anne) were not ideal monarchs, they were not nearly as bad as Mary Tudor.

Phil Snyder

October 1, 4:31 pm | [comment link]
26. jamesw wrote:

Franz:  When did the populace ever vote to accept or reject the Constitution?  Never.  New citizens to the US must swear fealty to the Constitution.  If a majority of citizens today voted to repeal the Constitution, that vote would carry no weight….because such a vote would not be in accordance with the consitutional process for amendment.

So, yes, sovereignty in the U.S. finds its source in the U.S. Constitution and not the people.

October 1, 6:54 pm | [comment link]
27. Franz wrote:

Well, that is a unique theory.

October 2, 4:47 pm | [comment link]
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