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More Queens, Please

Brits love their monarchs, but old rules have historically favored princes over princesses in accession to the throne. That may change now, following a proposal put forward by Prime Minister David Cameron. As the NYT reports:

Mr. Cameron told the House of Commons on Wednesday that he had written to the governments of 15 other Commonwealth nations that recognize Queen Elizabeth as head of state urging their acceptance of a change in the succession rules set by the Act of Settlement, adopted in 1701, which stipulates that male children have precedence over their older sisters in succession to the throne. Mr. Cameron also urged that the law be changed to eliminate a prohibition on the accession of any monarch who is married to a Roman Catholic, calling the ban an “historical anomaly.”

Via Meadia‘s response is mixed.  On the one hand, we think the days when RC monarchs tried to drag the country back into papist slavery are pretty much done.  No more heretics will be burned at British stakes no matter how many rosaries they say at Buckingham Palace.  So that part is OK.

On the fair play for princesses side, there is also no problem.  The English seem to like queens, so why shouldn’t they have more of them?  The only objection, and it is frankly a faint one, is this: isn’t tradition the point of a monarchy?  The monarchy is inherently ‘unfair’ in that some people get to be royal while most don’t.  The point isn’t fairness and it isn’t transparency.  Modernizing a monarchy by making it more equal is a little like reforming a religion by taking out God.  Very much more rational, as Jane Austen once wrote, and very much less like a ball.

The ultimate way to modernize a monarchy is to abolish it; maybe that will be Britain’s next step.

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  • Kenny

    Mr Mead, do you give any credence to the idea that the British monarchy is a continuation of Kin David’s line and that’s what the Stone of Scone is all about????

    If so, it is hard to see how it could ever be abolished.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      @Kenny: Never heard of this before and if there were anything to it, I think some intimation of the fact would have crossed my desk by now. As far as I know, King David’s line is established on high and doesn’t need any help from the UK.

  • Lexington Green

    “The ultimate way to modernize a monarchy is to abolish it.”

    The 20th move away from monarchy was one of many stupid things that led to disaster. A constitutionally limited monarchy, is the best form of government, for many reasons. The USA has a king-like president, but it is not a good way to do things. Look around the world and it is obvious: The monarchies are the best countries in their regions. In the middle ages the King was bound by an oath and was in effect a constitutional monarch. Only in the early modern period did kingship and despotism become linked. Modernity is nothing to write home about. Monarchy will not be abolished and should not be.

  • joe

    The King’s consort a Papist? Not in my green and pleasant Albion, thank you very much. Next thing they’ll want to nationalise the Queen’s swans. Red idolators each one and suffragette supporters apparently

  • Mrs. Davis

    Muslim consorts OK? Druid? After all, who cares to whom the head of the established church is married? At that point disestablish the church and make it a secular republic. Or apply for statehood by county.

  • Mrs. Davis

    And here I thought this was going to be about the glorious borough.

  • Jim.

    There’s no reason to abolish the monarchy. It’s part of the landscape of England. If the monarchy (or aristocracy) finds itself becoming unpopular in England, all they really need to do is stop dipping into the tax revenues of the nation.

    Just look how popular they are in America — now that they don’t tax us anymore.

  • Andrew Allison

    As noted @Jim, the monarchy is part of the fabric of Britain (and 15 other nations). A more thoughtful subject of discussion might be its evolution, which seems to this observer increasingly likely to turn on a generation-skip. I, for one, would be more interested in Prof. Mead’s thoughts on the American political aristocracy which, at least until recently, had less turnover than the House of Lords!

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