Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

Monarchy's welcome move into modernity

The decision to amend the UK's monarchy succession rules to allow the first born of any king or queen - even if that is a girl - to accede to the throne is a forward-looking and welcome change. Undoubtedly that was how it was viewed by the 16 Commonwealth nations of which the Queen is head and who voted unanimously for the change. While the rule of primogeniture - the primacy of sons over daughters - goes back more than 300 years, it is no longer apt in a modern world where women regularly head up governments and have far more impact on our daily lives than the monarchy.

It was also right that the law forbidding future monarchs to wed a Roman Catholic is also to be dropped. That was unjust - after all a king or queen could marry anyone of any other religion - and also at odds with the increasingly secular society that makes up today's UK.

Indeed, some have argued that it is also unfair that a future monarch cannot themselves be a Catholic, but their position as head of the Church of England makes such a change more problematic. While the Queen has kept a diplomatic silence on the issue, it seems certain that she is in agreement on the changes which will be brought in. The monarchy is an ancient institution and like all such bodies is often criticised for the glacial slowness of its evolution. But it has to be accepted that it is still a much revered institution - not just in the UK but across the Commonwealth - and this step towards modernisation will probably strengthen its international ties.

Nevertheless no one should underestimate the significance of the changes announced yesterday.

Historic is not too strong a word in this context.

It is a huge leap forward by the monarchy, even if pressure for change in the rules of succession had been building for some time.

Certainly the present Queen sets a perfect example of why princesses should be treated equally to princes. Her long and dutiful reign has done much to preserve the monarchy and future monarchs - of whatever gender - will find her example difficult to follow.

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