Unintended Constitutional Consequences

January 6, 2013
Author Article Constitution News Opinion

For my American readers, please note that I am referring to the British Constitutional position in this article, not the American Constitution, when I use the words Constitution or Constitutional.

Duke and Duchess of Cambridge
The child of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will be third in line to the throne – after the Prince of Wales and the Duke himself. However, if the child is a daughter, she will lose her position in the succession, if she has a younger brother, as sons take precedence over daughters in the current constitution – a feature which the Prime Minister wishes to amend.

It has become clear today that the Prince of Wales has expressed strong doubts to the Government about their ideas for altering the possible constitutional position of his future grand-child, should that child be a girl. David Cameron – arguably the most left-wing and liberal supposedly-Conservative Prime Minister that Britain has had – wants to change two aspects of the Constitution, regarding the child to be born this year to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. The two aspects to change are these; the Government intends to end the law of primogeniture, and amend the Act of Supremacy. The new child will be third in line to the throne, after the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge. However, if the new child were a girl, she would lose her place in the “pecking order” if the Cambridges subsequently produced a younger brother for her, as the Crown currently passes first to the oldest son, and only passes to a daughter, if there are no sons. (This was the case in 1952, when King George VI died, as he had no sons, but two daughters – the Princesses Elizabeth (who became the current Queen) and Margaret).

Charles is apparently not necessarily opposed to this, but points out that there could be unintended consequences. Not the least of these is that such a change, while not back-dated, would in a sense undermine the legitimacy of the current succession, as numerous older sisters were passed over in the past.

The second provision is more serious. My American friends will not understand this. However, for strong historical reasons, the Act of Supremacy makes it illegal for a claimant to the throne to be, or be married to, a Roman Catholic. Cameron wants to change this so that a future heir to the throne could be married to a Roman Catholic.

In today’s liberal Western society, it initially sounds bigoted to say that this situation is untenable. However, the consequences need to be thought through. If the change is made, we could end up with the situation, as we had under King James II, of a monarch being head of the Church of England, and yet being a Roman Catholic. Cameron clearly hasn’t studied history enough to understand the constitutional importance of the Glorious Revolution of 1688, which dethroned James II, and brought William III to the throne. The whole point of the break with Rome was that the Vatican still claims an overlordship over its members. Therefore, it is not possible for an independent United Kingdom to have a Roman Catholic monarch. The truth of this can be seen from the remarks of Pope John Paul II, when he visited Ireland, announcing that the Virgin Mary was the Queen of Ireland; a remark which deeply offended opinion in Northern Ireland, where the majority give their allegiance to the British Monarch.

It might suit Cameron, Deputy PM Clegg, and Labour leader Miliband, if a Roman Catholic came to the throne of the United Kingdom. After all, they all three seem to support the deepening of the political ambitions of the European Union, which seems to seek the political re-emergence of the Roman Empire, just as the Church of Rome seeks the spiritual re-emergence of the same. However, this is not in the constitutional interest of the United Kingdom, or its citizens. Remember that the United Kingdom does not have a system of separation of church and state. Nor should it. The freedoms of the people of the United Kingdom are guaranteed by the British Constitutional documents – Magna Carta, the Act of Union, the Act of Supremacy and the Coronation Oath.

Queen Elizabeth II
Because of the very long reign of the Queen (60 years+), the important Coronation Oath has not been heard since 1953.

The length of our present monarch’s reign (60 years and still counting) means that most people have forgotten the importance of the Coronation Oath, as it has not been uttered since 1953. However, it is this Oath which guarantees the freedoms enjoyed by all British Citizens. The Oath contains this question, posed by the Archbishop: “Will you to the utmost of your power maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law?” to which the monarch answers “All this I promise to do”.

You see, it is not simply a matter of saying that it isn’t fair on the future monarch to forbid them to marry a Catholic. Remember that it is a point of principle in the Catholic Church that if just ONE of the parents is a Catholic, then all the children of the marriage must be brought up Catholics. Therefore, this so-called liberty in marriage actually undermines the constitutional position of the United Kingdom, that has guaranteed our freedom from tyranny for at least 325 years.

Apparently, these are issues that the Prince of Wales has recently pointed out to Cameron and his Government in recent weeks. The Prince is surely right in this matter, and right to raise his concerns. We can also suppose that, having been Heir Apparent for 60 years, he is sure to have thought this issue through carefully. But this raises a more serious question. Why did he have to take the initiative to voice his concerns to the Prime Minister? WHY DIDN’T CAMERON SEEK OUT THE PRINCE’S VIEWS BEFORE? You would have thought that politicians would have wanted to know what the next monarch thought!

This is not the first time in recent decades that Prime Ministers have sought to ride rough-shod over the Constitution. Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair did it, when he attempted to abolish the historic role of the Lord Chancellor by simply not appointing anyone to the post in a cabinet re-shuffle – an omission that he had no constitutional right to make. However, the whole raison d’etre for the Conservative Party, which Cameron leads, is surely to defend the historic and fragile British Constitution. To have failed to make even the simplest of enquiries of the people most directly affected by his ill-thought-out changes is a gross dereliction of duty. One would be tempted to call for his resignation, if we didn’t know that such a resignation would lead to the return of a Labour Government which would be far worse.

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