MP bids to change royal marriage law

By Marcus Dysch, January 22, 2009

A Jewish MP is at the forefront of attempts to overturn a 308-year-old law banning British monarchs from marrying Catholics.

LibDem Evan Harris presented his Private Member’s Bill, aimed at amending the 1701 Act of Settlement, to Parliament on Wednesday.

If passed, the Bill would also end the practice of male heirs taking preference over older sisters, allowing Princess Anne to move above princes Andrew and Edward and their children in line to the throne.

Dr Harris said: “I have always campaigned against discrimination wherever it occurs. It’s wrong that anti-Catholic discrimination is written into the UK’s constitution.

“It is not acceptable that our law continues to relegate women in the succession to the Crown. The Bill’s got a decent chance [of succeeding].”

The Bill has its second reading on March 27. If it passes that hurdle it is guaranteed a one-day debate before a final report stage.

But Jewish princesses contemplating the possibility of become a legitimate Queen would not be affected by the changes — current legislation already allows a monarch to marry followers of any religion other than Catholicism.

Prince Charles announced plans last year to use the title “Defender of Faiths” when he becomes king, to reflect Britain’s multicultural society.

Previous monarchs have been known as “Defender of the Faith”.

Last updated: 1:50pm, January 22 2009