IN a matter of days, the second in line to the British throne will marry a middle-class woman called Kate Middleton.
It is a marriage that would not have been considered possible only a few years ago – for William’s father for example – and the fact that it is possible now is a great advance and evidence that this is a more modern Royal marriage and a more modern relationship. However, should Kate and William have a child, and should that child happen to be a girl, we would see another side to this supposedly modernising institution. We would see, in fact, that a system that gives preference to men, a system hardwired into the constitution for 300 years, is still very much in place.
For some, it might seem ridiculous to talk of equality for men and women in the same sentence as an institution which many consider to be the glittering pinnacle of inequality but Royalists and Republicans alike should not be happy with a system that is prejudiced against not only against women but also against Catholics. The 1701 Act of Settlement excluded Catholics and their spouses from the throne and that piece of legislation - legislation that is clearly an offence to millions of Catholics - still applies. Even at the heart of an institution which many in this country do not like or respect, that is unacceptable.
Over the years, the various attempts that have been made to end this inequality have come to nothing but now, the Prime Minister has said he wold like to see change and has said conversations are ongoing on the matter. He has also warned, however, that this change will not be easy as it will have to win agreement in every country of which the Queen is head of state.
That may be so but it is not a reason for delay. In a country that has made some significant advances on equality in recent years, everyone should be equal, even a very modern prince called William.
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