Gender, Kids, Pregnancy / Paternity, Sexism, United Kingdom / Great Britain

The Royal Baby Could Make Legal History

For all of the unnecessary pomp and circumstance associated with the British monarchy, we sure are obsessed with it in America. Perhaps it’s because their gorgeous young royals are great at generating headlines, whether reputable or repugnant. First, there was the royal wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, an eleventy-billion-hour extravaganza of elegance that our eyes were glued to for what seemed like all eternity. The family quickly dropped nobility’s veil, and just one year later, Prince Harry’s crown jewels and Duchess Catherine’s breasts were put on display in gossip rags for all the world to see. After recovering from tabloid infamy, we are now eagerly awaiting the birth of the royal baby, which is a very, very big deal.

The young royal couple does not yet know the sex of their child, and Duchess Catherine, who wanted to have a natural birth, has been in labor for more than 11 hours. At this point, she’s likely desperate to greet His or Her Royal Highness. Typically, British royalty would be crossing their fingers for a male heir to the throne, but thanks to the Succession to the Crown Act, all of that is going to change…

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s baby is going to make history because it will be the first noble child to ascend to the crown, regardless of gender. In a traditionally male-dominated regime of royalty, women are finally getting equal rights. The Lede blog of the New York Times has more information:

The new royal infant will be third in line to the throne whether it is a boy or a girl, thanks to a recent legal change, ending hundreds of years during which male heirs had precedence over elder sisters, sometimes with notable historical consequences.

So while the royal baby, if a girl, should in theory be able to succeed to the English crown, it may prove to be quite difficult for her to reign over other regions because of the law’s fine print. We could potentially see the reemergence of quandries experienced back in the Victorian era. The Guardian has the details:

The Succession to the Crown Act 2013, which provides that a first-born daughter will become queen even if a younger brother is subsequently born, will not come into force until all 15 other Commonwealth countries of which the Queen is head of state have also made changes to their laws. Until they do, technically it would be possible for a daughter to become queen of England, but a younger brother to become, say, king of Canada.

Robert Hazell, director of the constitution unit at University College London, said: “The fear is that if all the realms do not make the change then, at some future point the line of succession could divide.”

Oh, of course a presumptive female heir would have to work harder than a man to get what she’s due. We suppose that all is well with the world once more now that women’s rights have been trampled upon.

Congratulations to Prince William and Duchess Catherine. We, along with legal commentators around the world, hope you’ll have a beautiful baby girl who will finally be able to banish centuries of sexism to the annals of history when it comes to succession to the crown.

Whether a Boy or a Girl, Third in Line to the Throne [The Lede / New York Times]
Royal baby girl’s right of succession would face Commonwealth obstacles [The Guardian]

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