Govt: no plans to allow Roman Catholic monarch

The coalition Government has shelved controversial plans to overhaul the monarchy which would have allowed Roman Catholics to ascend to the throne.

Last year former Prime Minister Gordon Brown declared his intention to abolish the 309-year-old law that bans heirs to the throne from marrying Roman Catholics.

But now the new Government has declared that they have no plans to introduce any changes.


Mr Brown’s declaration caused alarm among critics who feared that the move was part of a secularist campaign to abolish the Church of England’s established status.

But this week Mark Harper MP, the Parliamentary Secretary for Political and Constitutional Reform, said in an answer to a parliamentry question: “There are no current plans to amend the laws on succession.”

Under the current law the monarch is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England and the “Defender of the faith”, but this would have been jeopardised by any change to the rules on succession.


The 1701 Act of Settlement currently bans members of the Royal Family from either converting to Roman Catholicism or marrying a Roman Catholic, unless they agree to be removed from the order of succession.

Mr Brown’s plans to overhaul the monarchy were greeted with alarm last November.

A group of senior MPs including former MP Ann Widdecombe, a Roman Catholic, warned that Britain’s very identity as a Christian nation could be endangered by amending the Act.

Roman Catholics

Many Roman Catholics said the Act of Settlement was not a particular concern to them.

The plan to reform the monarchy was proposed in a Private Members Bill by former MP Evan Harris.

The Bill called for an end to the ban on heirs to the throne marrying Roman Catholics, and proposed to end ‘primogeniture’, where sons of the monarch automatically precede their older sisters in the line of succession.

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