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Jone Johnson Lewis

Gender Equality in Royal Succession

By December 3, 2012

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With the news that Kate Middleton, the wife of Prince William of the United Kingdom, is pregnant, the issue of gender equality in succession has come up again. If the baby is a girl, will she outrank any younger brothers in the succession?

The sixteen nations of the British Commonwealth have approved a change to the succession rules to make gender irrelevant, but they have not yet completed the legislation required to make the decision legally binding. But they have also agreed in principle that once such legislation is completed, it will be retroactive to 2011 -- meaning it would apply to the baby Princess, if the firstborn of the royal couple is a girl. Read more: British Commonwealth Changes Succession Rules

Prince William is currently in the line of succession for the throne after his father, Prince Charles, and once the legislation is completed, his firstborn child, daughter or son, will follow William in the succession.

Some of the most powerful and successful rulers in British history were women. Read more about their lives: Women Rulers of England and Great Britain

Princess Diana with Prince Harry

Princess Diana leaves St Mary's Hospital, London with her newborn son Prince Harry, 17th September 1984
Getty Images / Hulton Archive

Between removing the male priority provisions from the succession, the new rules will also remove some other impediments, including those about rulers marrying Catholics. The changes are taking a long time in part because so many laws must be addressed, including the Bill of Rights (1688), the Coronation Oath Act (1688), the Union with Scotland Act (1707), the Princess Sophia's Precedence Act (1711), the Royal Marriages Act (1772), the Union with Ireland Act (1800), the Accession Declaration Act (1910) and the Regency Act (1937).

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