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Beware RC succession, peers warn

18 January 2013


Tuned in: the Queen's Bentley failed to start after a service at St Mary Magdalene's, on the Sandringham Estate, on Sunday morning. It was reported that, after the driver's third or fourth attempt, the Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, who was waiting with the Queen, stepped forward and gave a blessing. The car then sprang to life 

Tuned in: the Queen's Bentley failed to start after a service at St Mary Magdalene's, on the Sandringham Estate, on Sunday morning. It was reported ...

MEMBERS of the House of Lords have raised concerns over changes to succession laws that would allow heirs to the throne to marry Roman Catholics.

Members of the Lords' constitution committee told the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, that the legislation was being rushed through without enough debate or consultation.

The Succession to the Crown Bill, which had its first reading in the House of Commons last month, would remove the bar on a person who married a Roman Catholic's "becoming or remaining a monarch", and end the rule of primogeniture, so that brothers were not favoured before sisters in line to the throne.

The Bill makes it clear that, al-though members of the royal family may marry Roman Catholics, the monarch - who remains Supreme Governor of the Church of England - may not be a Roman Catholic. If his or her children were then raised as RCs, they could not succeed to the throne.

The monarch would have to bear the succession issue in mind when deciding whether to grant permission for heirs to marry. Under the terms of the Bill, he or she would hold this power over the first six in line to the throne.

Prince Charles is also reportedly concerned about the proposed changes.

Lord Lang of Monkton warned Mr Clegg: "There is huge potential tension. The relationship between the Church and the monarch is a very long-lived one. It is important to ensure that the monarch is not put in an invidious place in the context of which religion heirs to the throne or those in line to the throne are marrying."

Lord Goldsmith, a former Attorney General, said that such fast-tracking was "worrying". And Lord Crickhowell said that he was "concerned" Parliament was not being given enough time to question ministers about the changes.

Mr Clegg said: "What we are doing is simply removing a very specific act of discrimination against Catholics, which was instituted because of the historical circumstances at the time - the threat of Louis XIV and all the rest of it. And [we are] doing so in a very precise way without in any way altering - and we are completely confident of this - the status of the Established Church in England and, of course, the monarch as the head of that Church."

He also suggested that more time might be given for consideration of the Bill, given the strength of feeling in the Lords on the issue.

In 2011, Lord Williams, then Archbishop of Canterbury, said that there needed to be a "clear understanding" that a future heir should be brought up "in an Anglican environment" ( News, 4 November 2011).


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