The Archbishop of Canterbury said last Friday that there needed to be a “clear understanding” that a future heir to the throne should be brought up “in an Anglican environment”. His comments were made after the Prime Minister announced that future heirs to the throne would be allowed to marry a Roman Catholic.
In a statement issued after a meeting of all 16 realms last Friday, David Cameron said: “We have agreed to scrap the rule which says that no one who marries a Roman Catholic can become monarch. Let me be clear, the monarch must be in communion with the Church of England because he or she is the head of that Church. “But it is simply wrong that they should be denied the chance to marry a Catholic if they wish to do so. After all, they are already quite free to marry someone of any other faith.”
Vatican Radio reported Dr Williams as saying, in Assisi last Friday: “My immediate reaction is that the possibility for the monarch to marry a [Roman] Catholic is not something I lose any sleep over, but the constitutional question . . . is the upbringing of any heir to the throne in an Anglican environment, given that the heir to the throne will be the Supreme Governor, under law, of the Church of England.”
Dr Williams welcomed “supportive comments about the establishment of the Church of England” made by the Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Revd Vincent Nichols, who said that the move would “eliminate a point of unjust discrimination against Catholics”. Archbishop Nichols’s statement read: “I fully recognise the importance of the position of the Established Church in protecting and fostering the role of faith in our society today.”
Dr Williams said: “I think if we’re quite clear that, so long as the monarch is Supreme Governor of Church of England, there needs to be a clear understanding that the heir is brought up in that environment, all well and good.”
Mr Cameron also announced an end to the rule of male primogeniture, “so that in future the order of succession should be determined simply by order of birth. . . Put simply, if the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have a little girl, that girl will one day be our Queen.”
Mr Cameron said that the “great strength” of the British “constitutional approach” was its “ability to evolve”. “Attitudes have changed fundamentally over the centuries and some of the outdated rules — like some of the rules of succession — just don’t make sense to us any more.
“The idea that a younger son should become monarch instead of an elder daughter simply because he is a man, or that a future monarch can marry someone of any faith except a Catholic — this way of thinking is at odds with the modern countries that we have become.”