In recent discussions with the Queen, David Cameron has proposed substantial changes to the royal family and its long standing traditions. In a bid to modernize and bring the monarchy into the twenty first century he has set the wheels in motion for the abolishment of male primogeniture.
Is the royal family set to move into the 21st century?
As it stands, the British royal family follows the prejudiced pattern of male superior succession. The first born son inherits estate to the exclusion of other siblings, regardless of how many older sisters he might have. In recent years however, a preoccupation with equal rights for women means that many have called for the preference for male succession to be eliminated.
We are now a nation very much concerned with gender equality, in both the home and at work, to the point that the line between gender roles has become almost blurred. It is thus shocking that a tradition that is so deeply rooted in our society has been allowed to continue for such a staggering period of time. It is curious to note that of the eight existing European monarchies, six have already abolished this rule of primogeniture.
In order to follow suit, Cameron will be changing a law which dates back to the 1600s and to do so requires the consent of the fifteen commonwealth nations requires the consent of the fifteen commonwealth nations. Moreover, he plans to abolish not only the Act of Settlement which sees the male over female right to the throne, but to change the rules surrounding religion. He is keen to scrap the rule that states Roman Catholics cannot marry into the royal family. He claims it to be a ‘historic anomaly’ that cannot continue. The Queen herself backs these plans.
Should Cameron succeed the implications for the royal family stand thus; in the instance that Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge produce a first born daughter, that daughter shall take precedence over any further sons: Positioning her first in line to the throne
With modernity and equality at the heart of the discussion, a rule favouring man over woman and one religion over another seems distinctly primeval. But is there a reason that this tradition has remained to date, relatively unchallenged? Successive Prime ministers and monarchs appear to have made a considerable oversight in allowing such an outdated tradition to endure for such a stretch of time.
It is quite possible that the vague commitment to merely ‘discuss’ revising the primogeniture laws could well provoke a more general scrutiny of the relevance of the royal family in a society where fairness and equality ought to reign supreme.