LONDON, Dec 5 – Britain has received formal consent from the other Commonwealth realms for new laws ending male precedence in the line of succession to the throne, London said Tuesday – just in time for news that Prince William’s wife is pregnant.
By what Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg called “wonderful coincidence”, final consent was received on Monday, the day it was announced that William’s wife Kate is expecting their first child.
Britain’s monarch is separately the head of state in 15 other countries, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Jamaica.
The laws ending male primogeniture would mean that if the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s baby is a girl, she could not be overtaken in the line to the throne by any future younger brothers.
The baby will be third in line, behind Queen Elizabeth II’s eldest child, Prince Charles, and William, his eldest child.
The measures were agreed in principle by prime ministers of the 16 countries at a Commonwealth summit in Perth, Australia in October 2011, and given the formal nod on Monday.
The new laws will apply to any descendents of Charles born from then onwards.
“The legislation is now a step closer as the governments of the realms have confirmed that they will be able to take the necessary measures in their own countries before the UK legislation comes into effect — a crucial step following the Perth agreement,” the Cabinet Office ministry said.
“This confirmation means that the government will seek to introduce the Succession to the Crown Bill in the House of Commons at the earliest opportunity.
“The legislation will end the principle of male primogeniture, so that men will no longer take precedence over women in line to the throne.”
Clegg, responsible for bringing forward the legislation, called it a “historic moment” for Britain and its monarchy.
“It’s a wonderful coincidence that the final confirmation from the other realms arrived on the very day that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge made their announcement,” he said.
If William and Kate’s baby turns out to be a girl, “she can one day be our queen even if she later has younger brothers”.
Kate’s first pregnancy was announced Monday as she entered hospital with acute morning sickness. She is feeling better but is expected to remain in hospital for several days.
For historic reasons, Britain has to publish its legislation first, with those laws acting as the model for legal changes in the other realms.
New Zealand is leading the coordination and had been gathering the formal letters of consent from each country since the Perth conference.
The letters put in writing that they are happy for London to legislate and they can jump through any hoops required in their country to go ahead with such laws.
In other changes, the new bill would also state that anyone marrying a Roman Catholic no longer loses their place in the line of succession.
However, Roman Catholics themselves remain excluded – the sovereign must be in communion with the Church of England.
The new laws would also limit to close relatives the requirement for those in line to the throne to acquire the sovereign’s permission to marry.