DePaul history prof praises succession to throne decision

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A royal bump: The gender of the baby being carried by Britain's Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, will ascend the throne regardless of the child's gender or any younger siblings. | File photo a

The Succession to the Crown Act that will allow the first child of Prince William and Catherine “Kate” Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, to ascend the British throne, regardless of the child’s gender or that of any younger siblings, is an important step forward for the monarchy, according to a historian at DePaul University in Chicago.

Thomas Mockaitis, a professor of history at DePaul, teaches courses in British, modern European, and military history.

“Frankly, the British monarchy was in need of a facelift; the Crown has very little power, but is a sign of continuity,” said Mockaitis. “Their popularity was very high, but in succeeding decades, they were more and more removed from ordinary life.”

The original decree in 1917 declared that the firstborn daughter would be referred to as “lady” and never “princess,” and sons born subsequently would inherit the throne and be titled “prince.”

“The British system is based on royal inheritance primogeniture, so the throne goes to the oldest male child,” explained Mockaitis.

The new law however, is a reflection of changing times. After passing both Houses of Parliament, the Succession to the Crown Act received Royal Assent on April 25, 2013.

“There is a general feeling of the future monarch being in touch with modern world and modern life. A vast majority see it as a step forward,” said Mockaitis.

Despite the royal family being more of a figurehead, people across the globe are fond of Prince William and his wife.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who Mockaitis calls, “two vibrant, young people,” were married April 29, 2011, and announced in December they are expecting their first child.

Mockaitis pointed out that marrying Middleton, a commoner, was a remarkable change and step towards modernization. The new law ensures the continuation of this modernization.

“The realization of the western world is that half the population is female, and gender equalization is very important to people,” said Mockaitis, who explained that the most successful British monarchs were women who held real power, specifically Queen Elizabeth I.

Queen Elizabeth II announced Jan. 9, on Middleton’s 31st birthday, that the duke and duchess’ baby, if a girl, would be given the title of princess.

The Succession to the Crown Act states, “In determining the succession to the Crown, the gender of a person born after 28 Oct. 2011 does not give that person, or that person’s descendants, precedence over any other person (whenever born).”

The new law will end a century-old decree enacted by the queen’s grandfather, King George V, and is a step toward eliminating gender discrimination and modernizing the British monarchy, explained Mockaitis.

This radical change means if the duke and duchess have a baby girl she would be first in the line of succession and no younger male sibling could displace her. Their potential daughter could also be heir to the throne if her father predeceases her.

Additionally, the law permits an heir to the thrown to marry a Catholic; however a Catholic could not succeed the throne.

Provided by DePaul University