This week the bill changing the succession to the British throne, which was introduced by the government in December, passed its final reading in the House of Lords and before the weekend it received royal assent, meaning that it is now law.
The new Succession to the Crown Act means that the succession is now gender neutral, so that the eldest child will inherit the throne regardless of its sex, whereas until now a daughter would be superseded by a younger brother.
Thus, if the child expected to be born to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in July is a girl, she will be the future monarch even if she eventually has a brother.
The change will, however, not be retroactive, except for those born after 28 October 2011, the date the prime ministers of the sixteen realms of which Elizabeth II is queen agreed to reform the succession to the thrones. Thus for instance Princess Anne will still come after her two younger brothers and their offspring in the succession, while Senna Lewis, a granddaughter of the Duke of Gloucester, will apparently overtake her younger brother Tane, who was born after that date.
The Succession to the Crown Act 2013 also means that those in line of succession will no longer lose their rights if they marry non-Protestants, and as this is retroactive it means that for instance Prince Michael, who lost his rights when marrying a Catholic in 1978, is now back in the order of succession.
The Act also repeals the Royal Marriages Act of 1772, which means that it is now only the first six persons in line of succession who are obliged to seek the monarch’s permission to marry.
Of the seven European kingdoms, Spain is now the only country left where sons come ahead of daughters in the order of succession. Gender neutral succession was first introduced in Sweden in 1980, followed by the Netherlands in 1983, Norway in 1990, Belgium in 1991 and Denmark in 2009.