Catherine Duchess Of Cambridge's child, if it's a girl, will need legal help to ascend to the British throne.(Photo: Chris Jackson, Getty Images)
In all the hoopla over the "historic" new royal baby on the way, some
people have forgotten an inconvenient truth: Laws that must be passed
to give equal rights to a girl child have not yet been passed.
to worry, promise British constitutional experts as well as leading
British politicians. "I don't see a problem - this baby will impel them to get it done in time," predicts Elisabeth Cawthon, a historian of British law at the University of Texas.
the palace announced Monday that Prince William and his wife Catherine,
Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their first baby, it was especially
newsworthy: If this baby is a girl, she will be third in line to the
throne even if she has brothers born later.
That's because the
U.K. and the 15 other Commonwealth realms that recognize the British
monarch as head of state have agreed to throw out ancient laws that say
boys always come first in the succession no matter their birth order.
so far, they haven't even introduced the necessary legislation, let
alone voted. By Tuesday, cooler heads among British constitutional
experts prevailed, pointing out that if the Cambridge baby is a girl
born before all the necessary laws are passed, it could be awkward.
As royal historian Robert Lacey has been telling reporters, "Law
only becomes law when the law is made - and the law has not been made."
it will, promises deputy prime minister Nick Clegg. He says a new law
on female succession would be introduced in Parliament as soon as
possible so that the change can happen before Duchess Kate's baby is
"Notwithstanding a few parliamentary turns of the wheel, this is now going to happen," Clegg told reporters, according to the Associated Press. He added that "the old-fashioned rules ... have been swept aside."
says Cawthon, all it takes is a majority vote in Parliament to change
the unwritten British constitution, unlike the deliberately
time-consuming process and two-thirds vote of the states required to
amend the U.S. Constitution. Same for the Commonwealth realms such as
Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Moreover, she says, virtually
no one is opposed to changing the gender rules. In part, that's because
the change is seen as a tribute to two highly successful, admired and
popular queens in the past 150 years, Queen Victoria and her great-great
grandchild, Queen Elizabeth II.
Also, the status quo is largely
seen as embarrassing and indefensible. "The current state of affairs is
not consonant with European human rights - and this is a bad one to look
bad on," says Cawthon. "This is something the British increasingly find
Other areas of possible legislative change, such as
the rules against heirs to the throne marrying Roman Catholics, might be
more difficult to achieve quickly and thus might be put off.
But not the gender rules. "People regard this as stepping into the 21st - no, the 20th century," Cawthon joked.