Male primacy in firing line ahead of royal wedding

March 3, 2011

royals4.jpgWhat happens if Prince William and Kate Middleton’s first child is a girl?

That uncomfortable question came to the fore this week when opposition lawmaker Tristram Hunt called on the second-in-line-to-the-throne to modernise the monarchy and do away with laws asserting the primacy of males over females in royal successions.

There are a number of “ifs” here. First, William is not next in line to sit on the throne — that honour goes to his father Prince Charles, and only after he hands over or dies does William take over at the head of the royal family. Then there is the question of whether William and his fiancee Kate Middleton, to be married on April 29, have children, although they have said publicly that they want a family. And thirdly, if their first-born is a boy, then the vexed issue of the rules of succession would be less of a problem.

This issue was raised on Wednesday by Hunt, who called on William to support attempts to overhaul the 300-year-old Act of Settlement Law which asserts the primacy of male heirs to the British throne.

“As the son of Princess Diana, who struggled against the same archaic elements of palace protocol, such a signal would seem almost natural,” he wrote in an essay.

It is not the first time politicians have sought to overturn a rule that they say is discriminatory and out of place in the 21st century. Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown and opposition parliamentarian Keith Vaz have both targeted the law.

“He should use the coming months to signal the end of male primogeniture and if — God Willing — he and Catherine have children then his eldest child of whichever sex should succeed him,” Hunt added.

A reasonable point, surely? Or is there an argument for favouring a son over a daughter?

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