WHILE the hit TV series Downton Abbey portrays a family’s struggle with the status of women and Roman Catholics almost a century ago, 2013 looks likely to be the year when the royal family finally catches up.
After doubts were raised over plans to change the rules on succession to the throne, British Prime Minister David Cameron has assured MPs that the moves have been cleared by Buckingham Palace.
Father of the House Sir Peter Tapsell queried whether the plans – which will allow first-born women to take precedence in the line of succession for the first time and allow marriage to Catholics – had royal backing.
Sir Peter raised the issue after Prince Charles’ questions about aspects of the plans earlier this week.
He said: ‘‘Bearing in mind that Bills which may be thought to affect the Royal Prerogative require the signification of the Queen at second reading, can you tell us whether you have yet heard from the palace whether it regards any of the major constitutional changes proposed in the Succession to the Crown Bill as intruding either on the Royal Prerogative or on the Coronation Oath which Her Majesty took?’’
Mr Cameron replied: ‘‘What I can say is throughout the process of bringing forward this proposal, which is a proposal that head of all the Commonwealth dominion realms have also signed up to, through that process there has been thorough contact between Number 10 Downing Street and the Palace.
‘‘All of the issues are settled and agreed.’’
The Bill, which will be retrospective when it becomes law, is expected to be pushed through the House of Commons in a single day.
It would allow the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s first baby to succeed to the throne whether it is a boy or a girl, something that the fictional Lord Grantham’s eldest daughter Mary is unable to do in Downton Abbey.
In another clear sign that the changes will proceed, the Queen has declared that if the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have a daughter she will bear the title ‘‘princess’’.
Under past rules, a girl born to Prince William and Kate would have been styled ‘‘lady’’ and not known as Her Royal Highness – only a first-born boy would automatically become a prince.
But the Queen has taken action, by issuing new Letters Patent, to insure her great-grandchild has a title suitable for a future monarch.
Charles Kidd, editor of Debrett’s Peerage and Baronetage, said the alteration was expected in light of the forthcoming legislation.