Royal wedding sparks call for overhaul of British succession rules

LONDON — Legislators say it would be the perfect wedding gift — changing Britain’s rules of succession so any daughter born to Prince William and wife-to-be Kate Middleton would enjoy an equal right to the throne.

LONDON — Legislators say it would be the perfect wedding gift — changing Britain’s rules of succession so any daughter born to Prince William and wife-to-be Kate Middleton would enjoy an equal right to the throne.

Legislator Keith Vaz was leading a brief House of Commons debate Tuesday calling for an overhaul of the 300-year-old procedures, which many call antiquated and sexist.

The system currently gives sons an automatic preference over older female siblings to succeed to the British throne. That means if Middleton had a daughter and then a son, the daughter would be passed over and the son would become king when William died or vacated the throne.

Vaz said Tuesday that William’s wedding April 29 offers a once-in-a-generation chance to make the change, which has previously been discussed but never approved.

“Prince William looks like a very modern Prince,” Vaz said in a statement. “If he has a daughter first, it is only right that she become Queen of England.”

Any legal change would not affect Prince Charles — the heir to the throne — or William, since neither of them have older sisters who would leapfrog them if new rules were adopted. And the issue would be moot for another generation if Middleton’s first child was a boy.

But rules specifying who inherits the throne, now based on the 1701 Act of Settlement, are not easy to change, particularly because it involves all 16 Commonwealth countries where the Queen is head of state.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s office said discussions have been taking place among the countries involved, but that it could be a lengthy process for any change to be approved.

“Amending the Act of Succession is a complex and difficult matter that requires careful and thoughtful consideration,” a Cameron spokesman said, on condition of anonymity in line with policy.

If an agreement were not struck, it could be possible that Commonwealth countries like Australia or Canada might recognize a different king or queen than in Britain, said legal professor Noel Cox of Aberystwyth University in Wales. “That would be quite difficult,” he said. “You’re getting into fantasy here.”

Though Vaz’s effort to force the government into action is unlikely to result in any immediate legislation, he said it would provoke debate at a time of high interest in the royal family.

Rank and file legislators commonly use brief debates to generate publicity for their cherished causes, hoping to generate support among colleagues and the public.

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