In my view the Monarchy is an outdated institution – the UK would be far better with an elected head of state (although as a priority the abolition of the monarchy is on par with the compulsory eating of asparagus at breakfast). In addition, I parted company with the Catholic Church over 25 years ago. Why then does it annoy me that a minor royal may have to renounce his right of succession if he marries a catholic?
Peter Philips, the son Of Princess Anne and 10th in line to the throne has announced his engagement to Autumn Kelly, a Canadian Catholic. If Peter Philips wishes to retain his right of succession (prospect of him ever gaining the throne is remote – Princes Charles, William, Harry, Princes Andrew, Edward their kids and his mum would all have to die before that would happen) he would either have to cancel the marriage or she would have to become a member of the Church of England
The problem lies with the Act of Settlement 1701 which was intended to disbar Catholic descendants of James II (our last Catholic monarch) from the throne. Under the Act of Settlement Anyone becoming a Catholic or even marrying one can never ascend to the throne. Former Tory minister John Gummer (a convert to Catholicism himself), said: "It is inhuman in the 21st century for anyone to demand this." Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the primate of Scotland, told The Tablet (a Catholic newspaper) that he had every sympathy for Mr Phillips, "Whether a person is fortieth or second in line to the throne, it is wrong that they be deprived of that right because they have fallen in love and chosen to marry a Roman Catholic," he said.
The Act was made law in a time when the succession was, let’s say, “hotly debated” and at a time when religious allegiance came with a lot of political baggage. However, those days are dead and gone (when did we last see a Jacobite army pouring out of the Highlands to put a Stewart on the throne?) and the prospect of a minor royal (or even a major one) being a “papist” will not exactly rock the foundations of this country. Had Autumn Kelly been a Methodist, Jew, Muslim, Zoroastrian, Satanist, or Pastafarian there would have been no constitutional problem. A short piece of legislation rectifying this anachronism is in order.