The reform of the succession to the monarchy is a welcome adaptation to modern times, allowing a deceased monarch’s eldest child, whether female or male, to ascend the throne. Over the past few centuries, reigning queens – the two Elizabeths, Anne and Victoria, have already been among the most successful and popular. Two of these, Victoria and Elizabeth II, have reigned for much of the history of Canada.
Stephen Harper is right to endorse this proposal by David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, which will also amend the Act of Settlement of 1700, which excludes anyone who is married to a Roman Catholic from the line of succession.
In the Middle Ages, kings were expected to be warriors, indeed generals, and, needless to say, women were not accepted into the army. William of Orange was the last British monarch to command troops in battle, more than 300 years ago. That is all the more reason why the inclusion of women in the principle of primogeniture is long overdue.
Because the monarch is also the supreme governor of the Church of England, she or he will still need to be a Protestant – an Anglican in England and a Presbyterian in Scotland, but in any case a Protestant; royal consorts, however, will enjoy full religious liberty. Catholicism is no longer linked, in anyone’s mind, to plots for an absolute monarchy or undue papal influence.
Mercifully, no constitutional amendment will be required in Canada, though, under the Statute of Westminster, 1931, the federal Parliament will need to assent. It is hard to imagine any opposition; the change is a healthy expression of gender and religious equality.