Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The absurdities of monarchical succession

I have just seen the news that the Countess of Wessex (where's that?!) has given birth to a baby boy (BBC News: Countess gives birth to baby boy). The new boy has not yet been named, though he automatically receives the courtesy title of Viscount Severn. That's fair enough, his family can call him what they want (and indeed it's doubtful he'll be called "Prince So and So").

But what is utterly absurd is that he immediately jumps his sister in the queue that is the line of succession to the throne. For some reason that I am unable to grasp, having a Y chromosome means that Viscount Severn is inherently superior to his sister. It's not just here - somehow Viscount Severn is considered superior to his father's elder sister. Even Lady Louise Windsor ranks above Princess Anne in the line of succession!

Normally I would despise any system that suggests that someone is inherently superior merely because of when they happened to be born. However when something is inherited and indivisible then clearly there has to be some method of prioritisation. But the "male preference" rules in the succession for the monarchy are utterly out of date and defy consistency. It says that a woman can inherit the throne but only if she has no living brothers. It doesn't say that women are not suitable to inherit the throne (which would be reprehensible but at least consistent) but nor does it say that they are equal. In effect it says that both Elizabeths and Victoria were not good enough to be monarch. Who would agree with that?

Indeed if some simultaneous tragic misfortune were to strike down the Queen, her three sons, William, Harry, Beatrice & Eugenie then Viscount Severn would immediately become King despite being less than 24 hours old. This is hardly a good system for producing a head of state. Whatever happened to the idea that each individual should advance as a result of their own decisions and efforts?


Nicholas Whyte said...

In Belgium they have changed the rules so that children of the new generation are in the line of succession in birth order. So the current crown prince is ahead of his older sister, but his daughter is ahead of her younger brothers.

Paul Burgin said...

I do agree its time for a change, but changing the line of succession is one of a no of ways of reforming the monarchy


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