Monday, April 18, 2011

Should British Royal Succession Rules Change?

I have no intention in this posting of entering the debate on New Zealand becoming a republic, I'll assume for now that New Zealand is to remain a monarchy.

With the upcoming marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton, various people, including the British Prime Minister are suggesting that the British succession laws should be changed to allow a female child to have the same precedence in the succession order as a male child.

There is a constitutional convention among the various Commonwealth Realms (Countries that have Elizabeth II as their monarch) that no country should change the fundamental laws about succession on their own. This comes from a time when the Commonwealth was a part of the British Empire and reflects the realities of 80 years ago. Since then the Commonwealth Realms have become fully independent and the Empire is no more.

There are historical precedents to a king or queen reigning over countries with different succession laws. Before Victoria came to the throne, kings George III,George IV and William IV had been kings of both Britain and Hanover. As these two countries had different succession laws, Victoria did not become Queen of Hanover, that honour falling on her uncle and the two nations peacefully separated.

What made this possible in 1837 and would make it possible in 20xx is that Britain and Hanover had what is known as "Personal Union" which meant that they were two countries that just happened to share a monarch. The same situation that Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and so-on find themselves in today.

Today we are fully independent and the British succession laws are irrelevant to New Zealand, no change to the British laws would apply here unless passed by our parliament. What should be changed are our succession laws which should match our beliefs as a people. The succession of the New Zealand monarchy should be gender neutral and not have the requirement of belonging to any particular religion or religious denomination.

If we change our succession law while the British don't change theirs and at some future date this means that the last combined British and New Zealand monarch is succeeded by separate British and New Zealand monarchs then so-be it.


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