PM and Palace discuss royal succession rules

Gordon Brown has met with the Queen’s officials to discuss possible changes to the rules for royal succession which could impact the status of the Church of England.

Items discussed included scrapping the rule which stops an heir to the throne from marrying a Roman Catholic.

The BBC’s royal correspondent says this would open “a can of ecclesiastical worms” for the Church of England, the official church of which the monarch is the Supreme Governor.

Such a move could pave the way for disestablishing the Church of England.

The active secularist MP Evan Harris is pushing the royal succession issue in a Private Members’ Bill in the House of Commons today.

But while the Government supports his intention, it won’t back his Bill.

The rule against marrying Roman Catholics was put in place in 1688 and later ratified in the Act of Settlement of 1701.

A BBC poll has found that 81 per cent of the public think the rule should be scrapped.

The Government and Buckingham Palace officials have also discussed changing the rules which give preference to male heirs in the line of succession.

Meanwhile, Prince Charles and his officials are quietly thinking about the changes that could be made to the monarchy if he finally succeeds to the throne.

The Prime Minister told the BBC: “There are clearly issues about the exclusion of people from the rights of succession and there are clearly issues that have got to be dealt with. This is not an easy set of answers.

“But I think in the 21st Century people do expect discrimination to be removed and they do expect us to be looking at all these issues.”

Conservative leader David Cameron supports altering the Act of Settlement.

He said: “I would like it to change. It does not make sense in the 21st Century to say that men have priority over women when it comes to inheriting the throne.

“It does not make sense to say that the king cannot marry a Catholic.”

In an analysis article for the BBC News website, the BBC’s royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell said: “while it would unquestionably open a can of ecclesiastical worms to suggest that the British monarch should be anything other than a member of the Anglican church, is it really necessary any longer to insist that the sovereign cannot marry a fellow Christian who happens to be in communion with Rome rather than Canterbury?

“Yet it is that potential connection with Rome that is the nub of the problem. And, perhaps surprisingly, the issue is not simply a question of faith. There is, after all, nothing to stop the heir to the throne marrying a non-Christian. It is a question of loyalty.

“Would Britain be prepared to accept a King whose Queen Consort owed at least part of her allegiance to the Pope, and who might consequently insist that their children were brought up as Roman Catholics? The same question would arise in the case of a Queen Regnant whose husband was a Roman Catholic.”

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