British Monarchy Succession: David Cameron Consults Canada, Commonwealth On Changes To Gender, Faith Rules
LONDON - Britain's government is pushing its plan to change the rules on royal succession to provide equal treatment for princes and princesses, the British prime minister said Wednesday.
David Cameron has written to Canada and 14 other Commonwealth nations where the Queen is head of state requesting their views on modernizing succession.
Under the proposal, the first child of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge would eventually become monarch — regardless of sex. As the law stands now, an elder daughter would be passed over in favour of a younger brother.
"We espouse gender equality in all other aspects of life and it is an anomaly that in the rules relating to the highest public office we continue to enshrine male superiority," Cameron wrote in his letter.
The changes would also lift a centuries-old ban on British monarchs marrying Roman Catholics — a rule Cameron described in his letter as a "historical anomaly" since it does not bar those who take spouses of other faiths.
"We do not think it can continue to be justified," Cameron said.
Cameron said he will be discussing the proposals when he meets with leaders from Commonwealth countries at a summit in Australia later this month.
"It isn't an easy issue to sort and for many of them there might be issues and worries about starting a parliamentary or other legal process," Cameron told British lawmakers. "But I am very clear that it is an issue we ought to get sorted and I would be delighted to play a role in doing that."
Buckingham Palace has always refrained from commenting on the political issue, saying it's a matter for the government.
The prime minister's office said the Queen would not be part of the discussions.
Pressure to change the laws of succession has been mounting since William's marriage to the former Kate Middleton in April.
The thorny issue of succession has been an on and off topic in Britain, but it has never been resolved. In 2009, then prime minister Gordon Brown's government considered a bill that would end the custom of putting males ahead of females in the succession line, as well as lift the ban on British monarchs marrying Roman Catholics. The government did not have time to pursue it before Brown left office.
The rule has kept women from succeeding to the throne in the past. Queen Victoria's first child was a daughter — also called Victoria — but it was her younger brother who succeeded to the throne, as King Edward VII.
Experts say they hope the matter will be resolved before Middleton begins having children to avoid a confusing line of succession like that in Sweden, where a rule change led to a title being passed from a prince to his elder sister.
Downing Street has previously acknowledged that elements of the 1701 Act of Succession, which also bars Roman Catholics from succeeding to the throne, were "discriminatory" but said change would be "difficult and complex."
By Cassandra Vinograd, The Associated Press
WILLIAM AND KATE'S LAST DAYS IN CANADA, SUMMER 2011
The Royals Leave Canada
Will and Kate wave goodbye to Calgary as they conclude their royal Canadian tour.
The Royals Sign The Guest Book
William and Kate sign the guest book at the ENMAX Conservatory in Calgary with Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach, left, and Lt. Gov. Donald S. Ethell.
Kate Meets Frances Miller
The Duchess of Cambridge meets with Frances Miller as she prepares to leave Calgary with her husband to head to Los Angeles.
The Portraits Of Honour
Prince William and Catherine view the Portraits of Honour on display at their official departure ceremony in Calgary.
The Royals In The Conservatory
William and Catherine tour the ENMAX Conservatory at the Calgary Zoo.
Kate Arrives At The Zoo
The Duchess of Cambridge visits the ENMAX Conservatory at the Calgary Zoo.
The Royals And Stelmach
Will and Kate speak with Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach at the ENMAX Conservatory in Calgary.
Will And Kate In Matching Hats
The Royals at the Calgary Stampede Parade.
Will and Kate wave to the crowd while at the Calgary Stampede parade.
The Royals Watch The RCMP
Will and Kate watch the RCMP march in the Calgary Stampede parade.
The Royals Watch The Parade
The Duke and Duchess watch the beginning of the Calgary Stampede parade.
The Duke Arrives
Prince William arrives in cowboy gear to the Calgary Stampede parade.
The Royals Push The Button
Will and Kate push a button to start the Calgary Stampede parade.
The Rodeo Shocks Kate
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge watch a rodeo demonstration at the Calgary Stampede.
Kate And A Calgarian
The Duchess of Cambridge speaks with a little girl while at the Stampede.
The Duchess Receives Flowers
Catherine meets well-wishes and receives flowers at a Government Reception in Calgary.
The Government Reception
A view of the Government Reception at the BMO Centre in Calgary.
Kate Checks Her Hat
Will and Kate watch Stampede activities in Calgary at the BMO Centre.
Will Tips His Hat
Prince William during a speech at the Calgary Stampede.
The Royals At The BMO Centre
Will and Kate watch traditional Calgary Stampede activities.
Will Gets Down To Work
Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, throws a barrel into the back of a chuckwagon during his visit to the Calgary Stampede on Thursday, July 7, 2011, in Calgary, Alberta.
Royal Tour Canada
Prince William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, arrive via stage coach for a reception at the BMO Centre in Calgary, Canada as they continue their Royal Tour of Canada Thursday, July 7, 2011.
The Royals And Harper
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, second from right, Prince William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and Laureen Harper, left, watch a child sheep ride event at the Stampede in Calgary, Alberta on Thursday, July 7, 2011.
Prince William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper watch dancers while attending a reception at the Calgary Stampede on Thursday, July 7, 2011 in Calgary, Alberta.
The Royals Go Western
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, wear their new Smithbilt cowboy hats as they watch a rodeo demonstration in Calgary, Alberta, July 7, 2011.
The Royals Wave To Admirers
Prince William and Kate after a tour of the 21st Century Research and Innovation Centre in Calgary.
Will Waves From The Car
Prince William waves from his car with Kate on the eighth day of their Canadian tour.
The Duke And Duchess Are Greeted
Prince William and Kate are greeted when arriving at 21st Century Research and Innovation Centre Calgary.
Kate Inspects A Mannequin
Kate follows her husbands lead and saves the life of a medical test mannequin at the University of Calgary.
Will And Kate Tour U of C
Prince William and Kate are shown how to save a life with a medical test mannequin at the University of Calgary's Ward of the 21st Century.
The Royals And RCMP In Calgary
Prince William and Catherine look at a RCMP officer after arriving in Calgary.
A Calgary Chinook?
Kate's hair doesn't agree with the wind as the Royals land in Calgary for the final stretch of their Canadian tour.
Will Meets Shy Calgarian
Prince William meets -- or tries to meet -- shy 6-year-old Diamond Marshall in Calgary.
Catherine Gets A Hug
Kate hugs 6-year-old Diamond Marshall in Calgary after arriving.
Kate Is Greeted
The Duchess meets with shy 6-year-old Diamond Marshall in Calgary.
Will, Kate And Flight Crew
The Royals get their photo taken with flight crew members as they arrive in Calgary.
Will Gets A White Hat
Prince William is presented with a white cowboy hat from Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi.
The Royals Land In Calgary
The Royals land in Calgary for the last Canadian city on their tour of the country.
Prince William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, pose for a photo with members of the Canadian Forces flight crew upon their arrival in Calgary, Alberta on Thursday, July 7, 2011.