The Church of England yesterday expressed deep concerns over David Cameron’s plans to overturn centuries-old laws that govern succession to the throne.
bishops share the worries of the Prince of Wales that legislation to
give princesses equal rights to princes in line of succession is rushed,
risky, and could lead to unintended constitutional crises.
in the Church centres on the Prime Minister’s plan to remove the
312-year-old ban on members of the Royal Family from marrying Roman
Even though the Coalition’s Bill
stipulates that the monarch must be Anglican, a Roman Catholic married
to the monarch or an heir to the throne must, if they follow the
doctrines of their church, bring his or her children up as Catholics.
That raises the prospect that an heir to the throne would be raised as a Catholic.
clergy believe the planned changes will bring confusion and
complication to the historic rule that the King or Queen must be a
member of the Church of England in order to become its Supreme Governor
on taking the throne.
Reforms that undermine that
principle threaten the established status of the Church and could
‘unpick the constitution’, they said.
Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey said yesterday: ‘The reported
concerns of the Prince of Wales need to be listened to very carefully.
We must not have any ill-thought-through proposals because of the
potential to upset a delicate constitutional balance.
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.’
at Lambeth Palace, where the Right Reverend Justin Welby takes over as
Archbishop of Canterbury next month, said there had been talks with
ministers over the issue.
They also pointed to remarks made by
Dr Rowan Williams, who stepped down as Archbishop last month, in a
little-noticed interview with Vatican Radio late last year.
it Dr Williams said any heir to the throne would have to be raised in
the Church of England – and not as a Catholic – which could pose
problems if the child had a Catholic parent.
Williams said: ‘If we’re quite clear that, so long as the monarch is
Supreme Governor of the Church of England, there needs to be a clear
understanding that the heir is brought up in that environment.’
Prince Charles is understood to
have raised a series of questions over the impact of reforms on the
constitutional relationship between church and State.
Cameron’s reforms, drawn up under the supervision of Deputy Prime
Minister Nick Clegg in a Succession to the Crown Bill, will remove the
ancient rule of primogeniture that says boys take precedence over girls
in line to the throne.
The law is set to be fast-tracked through Parliament with minimal debate.
will mean that should the Duchess of Cambridge give birth to a
daughter, she will have first claim to succeed to the throne, in
preference to any son born later.
rules will also remove the requirement, dating to the Act of Settlement
of 1701, that the heir to the throne and senior royals do not marry
The law will, however, keep the Act’s paragraphs which say the monarch may not be a Catholic him or herself.
changes to allow a daughter of William and Kate to take the throne is
widely popular, and Roman Catholics have long resented the anti-Catholic
discrimination in the 18th century succession law.
the CofE leader in the House of Lords, Bishop of Leicester the Right
Reverend Tim Stevens, has previously warned that the 26 bishops in the
Upper House would vote against reforms.
Stevens said: ‘If the heir to the throne is brought up as a Catholic,
and therefore, under the present disciplines of the Roman Catholic
Church, is not able to be in communion with the Church of England, it
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.’
He added that any threat to the established status of the Church of England was something bishops ‘would have to resist’.
The Church of England’s most important protestant faction, the Reform evangelical group, also indicated its unease yesterday.
chairman, Plymouth vicar the Reverend Rod Thomas, said: ‘I would see a
problem if a child was brought up in the Roman Catholic Church. That
would threaten to unpick the constitution and unravel the whole basis on
which our constitution has been built.’
The removal of the precedence of boys
over girls in line to the throne threatens arguments and upheaval in
other families where titles and inheritance are handed down by ancient
reforms would throw a question over the inheritance rights of the
Prince of Wales’ own Duchy of Cornwall, which is currently the automatic
property of a male heir to the throne.
A new law must therefore affect the Duchy of Cornwall and introduce equal rights for girls into its practices.
But that leaves the question of whether more than 20 other dukedoms may also be compelled to follow the new system.
removal of the primogeniture law from the Royal succession leaves
titled families exposed to legal challenge if they persist with the
tradition of male inheritance.
which do not opt to follow the new rules for the Royals could see their
inheritance arrangements tested in the courts, with frustrated
daughters and their descendants looking to win a greater share.
number of the most prominent aristocratic families may be involved in
Among those affected may be the Duke of Buccleuch, whose
fortune is reckoned at £200million.
The eldest child of Richard Scott, the 10th Duke, is a girl, 20-year-old Lady Louisa.
Manners, 11th Duke of Rutland and owner of Belvoir Castle in
Leicestershire, has three daughters older than the male heir to the
Grosvenor, eldest daughter of the Duke of Westminster, the country’s
wealthiest aristocrat, is married to Prince William’s friend Edward van
She and her sister are both older than the male heir to the dukedom.