Sex discrimination, succession, and the Royal family – oh my!

by | January 23, 2011
filed under Can-Con, Feminism, Politics

Queen Elizabeth and Princess Anne

by E. Cain

Amidst the international furor over the upcoming nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton, some very interesting discussion has been sparked over the issue of sex discrimination in Britain’s rules of succession.

These rules date back 300 years and give any son in the Royal family automatic preference over older female siblings to succeed to the throne. For example, if you look at Queen Elizabeth II’s children, this explain why Princess Anne is 10th in line to the throne, though she is older than Prince Andrew (4th in line) and Prince Edward (7th in line).

Change is now being demanded because people want to ensure that any daughter born to Prince William and Middleton will enjoy an equal right to the throne (note the assumption that the couple will procreate).

British Labour MP Keith Vaz is the man who has been leading this fight. He has introduced legislation, led debates in the House and written to many notables on the matter, including: the Queen, Prince William, and the Prime Minister, to name a few.

While it is clear that Vaz has good intentions, the following quote on his website caught my eye:

“With the marriage of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, we have a once in a generation opportunity to change the law. Prince William looks like a very modern Prince. If he has a daughter first, it is only right that she become Queen of England.

We have heard much about the Kings Speech, but let’s focus on the speeches of our Queens to come. We have a 21st Century monarch and need 21st Century succession rules to match.”

It seems to me that if Vaz is going to talk about modernity and the 21st Century, then he should avoid repeating the assumption that the couple will procreate.

Hypocrisy aside, it is clear that Vaz has a long road ahead of him because changing the antiquated succession laws requires consent of all countries in which the Queen is the Head of State, including Canada.

Furthermore, what’s not clear is whether this action will have an impact on how people view the monarchy and its role. Let’s be real: there are bigger battles to be fought than standing up for the women in the Royal Family. Also, in Canada, the point has often been made the monarchy, in and of itself, is an antiquated institution and thus we should sever ties. It would be interesting to see what effect making it less antiquated would have.


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