On April 29 at Westminster Abbey, a woman named Kate Middleton will marry a man named Prince William of Wales, an unemployed 28-year-old with a fondness for polo. This joyous event will be followed, in time, by William taking over the family business (which is either an auto parts store or the British monarchy) and starting a family of his own with Middleton. It all sounds perfect, until you remember William and Kate's first-born--like all first-borns, even non-royal, non-British ones--has a 50 percent chance of being a girl.
Under the 1701 Act of Settlement, this poses a thorny problem. As the law stands now, any future male sons born to William and Kate would take precedence in the line of succession over their (non-existent) first-born daughter. The House of Commons is already at work negotiating changes to the line of succession, which must eventually be approved by all 15 Commonwealth countries, a process that could take years.
The change can't come soon enough for The Telegraph's Cristina Odone, who notes the act is full of outdated and discriminatory provisions:
The present Act of Settlement is proof that the law, even an ancient law, is an ass; and not just because it favours male heirs. The Act bans Catholics, and even those who marry a Catholic, from the throne. Such discrimination invites 'vandalism'. Let the barbarians storm the gates, leaving in their wake the Act of Settlement in a heap of ashes; and let Queen Elizabeth III rule wisely for decades – with her beloved Catholic consort at her side.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.