The Succession to the Crown Act of the United Kingdom has come into effect on Thursday, which means the era of male primogeniture has ended. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has announced the implementation of the changes.

The changes to the succession laws were agreed upon at the Perth Agreement in 2011, and were rushed through Parliament in 2013, just before Prince George was born. However, all the 16 Commonwealth realms in which the Queen is the head of state had to pass necessary legislations first before it took effect.

What the changes mean

Removal of the male bias law

The former succession laws follow the male primogeniture preference, which means that a daughter may only succeed if she has no older or younger brothers. Under the new changes, the UK now follows absolute primogeniture. In order words, the successor to the Crown does not depend on one’s gender anymore. Daughters may now inherit the Crown, provided they are the eldest of children.

If Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, had given birth to a daughter instead of Prince George on July 22, 2013, the daughter would be the Queen someday, regardless if she had a younger brother. This is because although the changes have just taken effect on Thursday, March 26, the law states, “In determining the succession to the Crown, the gender of a person born after 28 October 2011 does not give that person, or that person’s descendants, precedence over any other person (whenever born).”

As it happened, William and Kate’s eldest child is a son, Prince George, which meant the rushing of the Act in 2013 proved to be unnecessary. Nevertheless, if Kate gives birth to a daughter next, the child will take her place in line to the throne behind her older brother, even if Kate and William have another son after her.

Those affected by this change do not include Princess Anne, Queen Elizabeth II’s second born and eldest daughter, simply because the law is not retrospective. The Princess Royal was pushed back to the succession line after the birth of younger brothers Prince Andrew and Prince Edward. She is currently 11th in line to succeed.

Removal of disqualification arising from marriage to a person of Catholic faith.

The Queen’s cousin, Prince Michael of Kent, was removed from the succession line in 1978 upon marrying his Roman Catholic wife. With the new rule, he is now back in line as the disqualification of succession to the throne has now been removed. Unlike the first change, this law is retroactive as long as the person concerned is alive.

“A person is not disqualified from succeeding to the Crown or from possessing it as a result of marrying a person of the Roman Catholic faith.”

This also affected George, Earl of St Andrews, who is the elder son of Prince Edward, Duke of Kent. George was removed from the succession line when he married Sylvana Tomaselli, a Catholic. He is now restored at 34th in line.

However, this does not mean that Roman Catholic royal may now inherit the Crown. They still cannot be king or queen. If Prince George marries a Roman Catholic in the future, their children could be brought in the Catholic faith and would therefore be barred from succeeding to the throne.

Consent to marry

Only royals who are one of the first six persons next in line to the Crown must have the consent of the Queen before they get married. Under the changes, the Royal Marriages Act 1772 has been repealed. Whereas before, all descendants of George II were required to obtain the permission of the Sovereign to marry, now only the first six people in line must acquire the Queen’s permission.

There are thousands of descendants of the late king who are still alive today, some of them have unknowingly contracted unlawful marriage because they did not have the Queen's permission to marry. Their marriages would have been voided under the old law. However, with the Royal Marriages Act 1772 repealed, their marriages are now considered legal, provided that they are not one of the first six people in line to inherit the Crown.

These first six people are (in order of succession) Prince Charles, Prince William, Prince George, Prince Harry, Prince Andrew and Princess Beatrice. Princes George and Harry and Princess Beatrice are the only ones still unmarried, and therefore they need the permission of the Queen before they can marry. When William and Kate give birth to their second child, Princess Beatrice will be bumped down to seventh and will not need her grandmother’s permission.

Also, unlike before, if the royals failed to ask for the Sovereign’s permission before they marry, their marriage would not be void anymore. However, that person will be removed from their place in succession.

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