A royal row has broken out between Church of England bishops and Prime Minister David Cameron’s liberal-minded coalition government over a planned bill to change ancient laws governing the royal line of succession.
The government wants to pass the proposed Succession to the Crown
Bill in time for the birth of a baby to Prince William and his wife Kate
Middleton this summer.
The new law would ensure that if the first royal baby is a girl, she
will become heir to the throne rather than have to yield to a male
The bill would also change a law passed in 1701, when a French
invasion aimed at restoring Catholicism to Protestant England seemed
certain, that stipulates that the British monarch cannot marry a Roman
Prince Charles, who is next in line to the throne, has expressed
concern about the proposed changes, according to unnamed friends who
briefed a royal watcher at the Daily Mail.
The conservative tabloid carried a front-page story on Monday (Jan.
7) that reflected Charles’ anger that the bill was being rushed through
the House of Commons without proper consultation with Buckingham Palace.
According to the paper’s senior correspondent, Simon Heffer, Charles’
main concern is that one of his descendants might marry a Catholic and
have a child that is brought up as a Roman Catholic.
Were the child brought up as a Catholic and assumed the throne, there
would be a constitutional crisis because the reigning monarch is also
Supreme Governor of the established Church of England.
Now, former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey has entered the
arena, telling the House of Lords that Charles’ concerns “need to be
listened to very carefully.”
“The government’s instincts to allow female heirs to succeed are
wholly right but to avoid any unintended consequences of the proposals
for the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church there must be
much greater consultation and discussion,” Carey said.
The Church of England leader in the House of Lords, the Rt. Rev. Tim
Stevens, said on Tuesday that the lack of full communion between the
Church of England and the Catholic Church “effectively renders a
Catholic heir incapable of being the Supreme Governor of the Church.”
“So clearly that’s a more complicated issue than it appears at first
sight,” Stevens said, adding that any threat to the established status
of the Church of England was something bishops “would have to resist.”
On Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg dismissed Charles’ fears
and said “extensive discussions” had taken place with members of the
royal household in drafting the proposed bill.