Belfast Telegraph

How Queen proves women have as much right to rule as men

By Gail Walker

As the travelogues declare, Britain is "a country which reveres and respects tradition". And nothing is more traditional than the monarchy.

But as the bunting goes up to celebrate the wedding of Prince William and 'commoner' Kate, it's no surprise that there's talk of scrapping the law of primogeniture - the rule that the eldest male inherits the crown.

Yes, it's Nick Clegg leading the charge on this one, but even a stopped clock is right twice a day. He says most people these days would regard the idea that only a man should ascend the throne as "a little old-fashioned" and that if William and Kate's first child is a girl most would think it "perfectly fair and normal" that she would eventually become Queen.

There is little point to sexual equality legislation if, at the very top of the pyramid, there is a rule not just "a little old fashioned" but one that enforces the appointment of men as both the natural and best way of doing things.

This isn't a positive message to send out. Especially to a nation in the middle of rapid change. And the Royal family should reflect the dynamic of that change. Apart from Downton Abbey and Buckingham House, where else does it matter if little Danielle is born before little Dirk?

What self-respecting modern man broods about having a boy "to carry on the family line" and what sort of self-respecting modern woman lets him?

After all, it's not as if women are famous for making a mess of the job. Who are our most iconic monarchs? Start with Boadicea, throw in Mary, Queen of Scots, then march on with Elizabeth I, through Victoria to our present Queen. (Yes, Henry VIII's pretty iconic but mostly because of his wives.) It's nonsense to imply that women can't do it or don't leave a lasting imprint when they do.

Even when not destined to wear the crown, women have played their part. Watching The King's Speech, we gain new respect not just for George VI but the woman beside him, the late Queen Mum. And then there's the problematic but compelling figure of Diana, Princess of Wales ... who helped revolutionise - for better or for worse - the relationship between the nation and the House of Windsor.

Indeed, it would not be untrue to say the story of the modern monarchy is essentially a female one. The Queen, Queen Mother and Princess Diana, separately and together, not necessarily in tandem, shaped what we understand the modern monarchy to be.

The Queen herself is a mighty figure, reminding our society that there are such qualities as 'duty' and 'endurance' and 'getting on with it', just as she reminds us that sometimes individuals can represent ideas much bigger than themselves and come to epitomise a nation and reflect and champion its capacity to grow and change.

The importance of the Royal visit to the Republic next month is only tripled in significance by the fact it is the Queen making it. The visit simply had to be made during the reign of the monarch who has been in place over the last 60 years of history, embodying the UK. It had to be Elizabeth II.

Charles III just wouldn't do ...

And just imagine what better condition the House of Windsor would be in if it was Princess Anne, not Prince Charles, set to inherit the throne.

It may be an ancient institution, seemingly remote from us, but people know injustice when it's staring them in the face - even when wrapped in ermine.

If William and Kate are fortunate enough to have children and if their first child is a girl, we should celebrate the birth of a future Queen. It's the modern age calling.

And if she's half as decent and good a monarch as our current one, we'll be very lucky people.

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