Tony Blair’s successor faces an interesting challenge in his first year as Prime Minister. There is a provision in the 1701 Act of Settlement that ensures the ascendency of protestant royals and forbids British Monarchs or their heirs from marrying Catholics.
So why does Mr. Brown have to consult with constitutional advisers and repealing this part of the Act of Settlement? It may have to do with the fact that Peter Phillips, the son of Princess Anne and Mark Phillips, the eldest grandson of Queen Elizabeth II and 10th in line to the throne announced his engagement last week. Mr. Phillips is planning to marry Autumn Kelly, a Canadian Catholic.
Under the 1701 Act of Settlement, Mr. Phillips is required to give up his place in the line of succession or his fiancé needs to formally renounce the Catholic faith. This is an issue that Labor and Tory governments have avoided addressing because there are implications for the Church of England. Remember, the monarch is the titular head of the Church of England and it is Protestant. What would happen if a Catholic ascended the throne?
It’s definitely a complex situation.
The law itself is under attack from many sides for being discriminatory. It’s a thorny issue and it’s not one that will be easily resolved. Many ministers see it as a matter of principle and that there are other areas that are more in need of reform.
Does this mean that Mr. Phillips is likely to renounce his ascension to the throne? Potentially. Will his future bride renounce her Catholicism? No idea. The Princess Royal refused titles for her children years ago when they were born because she wanted to avoid the publicity that courtesy titles could bring them. Her husband at the time, Mark Phillips, is rumored to have refused an earldom on his wedding day and likely at Princess Anne’s request.