It was announced today that all the sixteen countries of which Elizabeth II is Queen have agreed to change their succession laws so that the eldest child will henceforward inherit the throne whether it is a boy or a girl. Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who is in charge of constitutional affairs, says that the government will now introduce the Succession to the Crown Bill in the House of Commons as soon as possible. Similar measures will be taken in Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.
The initiative to change the succession laws was taken by British Prime Minister David Cameron in October 2011 and an agreement was reached by the prime ministers of the sixteen realms at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth. The task of securing formal consent from all realms was given to the government of New Zealand, which was expected to complete this task by December. With perfect timing, the process of gathering formal consent has now been completed the day after it was announced that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their first child.
Under the current rules, daughters came after sons in the order of succession, so that a firstborn daughter of the Duke of Cambridge would have been surpassed by a younger brother born at a later date. However, it was earlier stated that if the modified succession had not come into effect before the birth of a child to the Duke of Cambridge the changes would be retroactive from October 2011.
Among the legislation which will be amended by the Succession to the Crown Bill are the Bill of Rights of 1688 and the Act of Settlement of 1701. The bill will also mean that those who marry Catholics will no longer lose their place in the order of succession.
When the changes take effect Spain, Monaco and Liechtenstein will be the only monarchies in Europe which do not have gender neutral succession.