Church of England Briefing – Succession to the Crown Bill

…The Bill:

Clause 1 – Succession to the Crown not to depend on gender

The move to amend the rules of succession, to enable the first born child of any person in line to the throne to take their place in the line of succession regardless of gender, is welcome.

Clause 2 – Removal of disqualification arising from marriage to a Roman Catholic

For the Church of England the key issue is the current statutory requirement that the Sovereign join in communion with the Church of England. The Bill leaves that unchanged. Future Sovereigns will therefore continue to be able to take their place as Supreme Governor of the Established Church.

The present prohibition on anyone remaining in the line of succession or succeeding to the Crown as a result of marrying a Roman Catholic is not necessary to support the requirement that the Sovereign join in communion with the Church of England. Its proposed removal is a welcome symbolic and practical measure consistent with respect for the principle of religious liberty. It reflects the sea change in ecumenical relations over recent decades.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE)

17 comments on “Church of England Briefing – Succession to the Crown Bill

  1. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    I am not sure people are thinking this through:

    1. Gender:
    When we have a King, we get a Queen as well. When we have a Queen, we have a Queen and … a ‘Consort’ or in Prince Philip’s case, we are not entirely sure.

    When William of Orange was invited over to become King, it was because not only was he Protestant, but Mary Stuart his wife was directly next in line of succession to the Catholic and dreadfully oppressive James II. They ruled jointly as King and Queen.

    With Victoria, and again with our current Queen, they have been unwilling to share the throne with their spouse – indeed have kept them out of all involvment with state affairs except social ones. They walk behind the monarch, do not see official papers, are not brought into meetings, and it puts strain on them and their marriages. Both Prince Albert and Prince Philip have not had any role, no formal position and both have railed against it, and it has strained their marriages. Prince Philip has said he might as well be a ‘bloody amoeba’.

    So while equality is in principle an argument [if you ignore the entire history and theory of monarchy], in practice, the male consort does not get ‘equality’ but a constitutional non-role save any they make for themselves and it is unstable for them and for their marriages. If the partner of a Queen were to be acknowledged as King, then there might well be equality or something close to it.

    In addition Pink News apparently is touting that a partner of a monarch under the plans being put forward could in the future include a gay partner if married.

    Another place where the male role has been neutered. No more kings for us, we are to be ruled by queens it appears.

    2. Removal of the bar to Catholics
    While the monarch it appears will still be required to be non-Catholic, their spouse may, it appears. This ignores both the reality of Catholic marriages and our history.

    While it is true that inter-denominational relations are better than they were and that is to be applauded the reality is that the Church of England is not acknowledged by the Vatican as a church, its orders and polity is not acknowledged, including the role of the monarch as its Supreme Governor, nor the monarch’s role in relation to the Protestant Faith of England.

    Catholics marrying out are still required to my knowledge to bring up the children of the inter-denominational marriage as Catholics, and I have heard nothing to suggest that this will not be the case for the children of a monarch married to a Catholic. At the least, they are not going to be brought up in the faith as the Church of England has received it and one has to ask whether that is appropriate for a future Supreme Governor of the Church of England and for the promises the sovereign makes on being crowned.

    3. The Church of England
    It was from hard experience that our forefathers decided to restrict the line of succession to the male protestant descendents of the Electress Sophia of Hanover. It followed deep problems with Charles I and his second son James II with the influence of either their or their wives’ Catholicism being used to undermine the Protestant state Church of England. It was recollection of the horror of Mary’s reign that motivated the English to oust James II as he sought to return England to Catholicism in the Glorious Revolution and to invite over William of Orange.

    While relations are better, the fundamental problems remain particularly with a Catholic Church which has not reconciled to respect the position of the Protestant church in England, the position of its monarch and Supreme Governor, and even the validity of the Church of England’s Orders and Sacraments. There is as yet no ‘communion’ and to just ignore this is to invite future problems when the teaching of the Roman Catholic church against us if anything hardened over the centuries, and was codified in the 19th Century by the Vatican. When the Pope cannot even bring himself to call us a church instead of an ‘ecclesial community’ it is a sign that in the Vatican, little has changed in the aims of domination of the Church of England, even though the expression is indeed better than it was.

    I fear that like our government, our leadership in the Church of England has not thought any of their responses to this issue through. We are governed by a generation of schoolchildren who struggle to hold a line of thought in their heads longer than a Tweet. Once again the church’s response, instead of informing the debate with the theological, historical and practical experience it has, instead, as it has in the women bishops response, failed to properly inform Parliament and the wider public, and if they won’t no one else will. Our leaders seem to have no clue why they are even Anglican.

    Their response to anything the government brings forward is to panic at the idea of opposing it, failure to give the arguments and background, and failure to explain the impact on the Church of England both in the UK and its place in the 80 million strong Anglican Communion.

    It makes both the position of the Church of England, and oddly enough the position of the hereditary monarchy less secure, breaking the bonds built up over the centuries between those institutions and the people.

    The response of the Church of England to anything our government of schoolkids comes up with:
    ‘Roll me over, lay me down and do it again’!

  2. Catholic Mom says:

    [blockquote] So while equality is in principle an argument [if you ignore the entire history and theory of monarchy], [/blockquote]

    Exactly — “Aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?”

    “I just won the Nobel Prize for curing cancer, I’ve dedicated my life to serving the poor, I’m a former CEO of the largest corporation of the world, I’m a decorated war hero, and I recently wrote a book on theology that healed all of the rifts among Christians that have occured in the last 2,000 years. Could I be king?”


    “OK, I’m the son of some twit who is currently on the throne.”

    “You’re in.”

    [blockquote] the fundamental problems remain particularly with a Catholic Church which has not reconciled to respect the position of the Protestant church in England, the position of its monarch and Supreme Governor, and even the validity of the Church of England’s Orders and Sacraments. [/blockquote]

    Well…yes. The Church of England is not a historically separate see that was once part of some ecumenical body in communion with the see of Rome but then became separated (like the Eastern churches). It, and all its bishops and archbishops, were appointed by and under the jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff. They rebelled against this and set up their own eccesiastical structure, their own theology, and their own titular head (a secular figure). In short, they utterly broke communion with Rome. So…it is now surprising that they are not in communion with Rome? Rome is not in communion with anybody that does not recognize the supremacy of the Roman pontiff and its been that way for at least 1,000 years and its not going to be changing until and unless the Roman Catholic Church as we know it simply ceases to exist. It could happen, but I doubt your day planner goes out that far.

  3. Sarah1 says:

    RE: “So…it is now surprising that they are not in communion with Rome?”

    Well I think Pageantmaster’s point was not shock and awe over Rome and the COE not being in Communion, but rather pointing out how silly it would be to allow a spouse of the king of a country that is intimately tied with the CEO to be RC, seeing as how RC marriages are intrinsically unable to be mixed [while maintaining RC dictates].

    None of us is in shock and awe over the communion thing — I’d expect most of us are bored and fairly indifferent by it.

    PM is merely being consistent, clear-eyed, and reasoned — unlike his church’s current leaders, it seems.

  4. driver8 says:

    1. What is the Government’s agenda here? They surely don’t care about ecumenical relations or about the CofE or the RCs.

    2. Why the need for speed? Why not follow a normal processes of consultation? The legislation can’t come into effect until changes are made by many Commonwealth countries, which is likely to take years.

    3. Of course the CofE bends the knee in a pathetically obsequious manner and doesn’t even request the opportunity for a discussion by Synod.

  5. Catholic Mom says:

    [blockquote] There is as yet no ‘communion’ and to just ignore this is to invite future problems when the teaching of the Roman Catholic church against us if anything hardened over the centuries, and was codified in the 19th Century by the Vatican. When the Pope cannot even bring himself to call us a church instead of an ‘ecclesial community’ it is a sign that in the Vatican, little has changed in the aims of domination of the Church of England, even though the expression is indeed better than it was. [/blockquote]

    Well, I would call that a tad beyond a flat statement of fact. The implication is that somehow one expects a “softening” over time. The Roman Catholic Church does not expect to exert “dominion” over the Church of England. It simply does not recognize that there IS such a thing as the “Church of England” (as that Church defines itself — not in the sense of “Do you believe in infant baptism? Heck, yes, I’ve seen it done!”)

    To “soften” in this regard would be essentially to re-define the entire basis of the Catholic Church. It is an essential definition of the Church itself. On the other hand, there has been considerable “softening” in that “extra ecclesiam nulla salus” has been effectively downgraded to merely “outside the Church, there is no Church.” That’s why people stay Catholic. Not because they’ve reviewed all 1,000+ pages of the catechism and found, by happy coincidence, that they agree with every point.

  6. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    #2 and #5 Catholic Mom – thanks for your thought provoking replies which bring two thoughts to mind for me:

    1. You succinctly state the case for why it is completely inappropriate for a Catholic to succeed to the throne, or indeed to be married to the monarch; and

    2. You bring to mind the response of the government minister to the obligation on a Catholic parent including a spouse to the monarch to bring up children of the marriage up in the Catholic Church and Faith. The minister answered that the solution was, as had happened apparently with at least one member of the royal family in the past, for the children to be brought up as Anglicans. In essense the Catholic spouse is to be asked to sacrifice her beliefs for the sake of the state, not so far it seems to me from the choice Sir/St Thomas More was given. What say you Catholic Mom, should a Catholic spouse to a British monarch give up her duty as a Catholic to use her best endeavors to bring up her children as Catholics to her duty to the Crown? Would you do that?

  7. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    #4 Good questions, driver8.
    I found watching the first debate and committee stage being driven through this afternoon absolutely fascinating. Most speakers supported the bill, but almost all did not understand why an important constitutional bill was being driven through in two days and all wanted time to properly consider it. The bill is to be retrospective, so the priority of succession would be back-dated, meaning that there is no urgency to have the bill made law before the Duchess of Cambridge give birth. But it is not to be backdated so far as the birth of the Prince of Wales, meaning that both Prince Charles and Prince William would have been removed from the succession and Princess Anne would have been heir apparent. This was something which did in fact apparently happen in Sweden where the Crown Prince was disinherited in favor of his older sister, Victoria. So there is no urgency.

    Then it became clear in the debate that there were a number of issues which have just not been considered:

    1. A Lancaster MP made the point the sovereign’s £350m Duchy of Lancaster estate which provides the income for much of the monarch’s estate passes by the ordinary rules of male primogeniture – so the dukedom would go to a younger brother. A Welsh MP made a similar point about the Crown’s feudal estate which the monarch holds as Duke of Normany [the Channel Islands]. So the interesting prospect arises of an older sister getting the throne, and a younger brother getting the money, and the Channel Islands.

    2. Then Jacob Rees-Mogg raised the issue of a monarch being incapacitated or detained abroad and the provisions by which authority is exercised by a Council of the closest family members, which includes non-blood members including a spouse or queen mother. In that case the Council could consist of a consort and dowager who could both be Catholics doing things like appointing Bishops in the Church of England under the 1937 Regency Act, which is also a felony under another provision.

    3. A number of MP’s were worried for the position of the monarch’s children being brought up as Catholics, as well as of a Catholic spouse being something outlawed by the foundational Acts of Union between England and Scotland and their parliaments, as Cranmer points out.

    There were a lot of drafting points raised which showed that this Bill had been prepared in a hurry, without proper thought or research.

    The response of the government minister to all these points rarely went beyond ‘we don’t read it that way’ and in relation to religous matters waving the briefing note issued to MP’s by the Church of England and to say in effect ‘the Church of England is in agreement with this bill, so it must all be OK’, something both the minister and Nick Clegg used whenever this came up. I am not sure who came out looking more inept, the government or the Church of England.

    As you would imagine of a constitutional bill of this importance, it was a gripping debate to a packed house of Commons consisting of ….23 members of Parliament.

  8. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    It was also interesting to see that the debate this afternoon brought out the Republicans to ask the question: if succession can be altered for equality, then why not the head of state?

    Pandora’s box has been opened, and perhaps looking back this may be seen as the point when people start asking whether if the link with the traditional monarchy and the link with the Church of England is broken, then why do we have a monarch, or an established church?

    The Church of England is sleepwalking into making the case for its own redundancy. What a pity.

  9. Catholic Mom says:

    Well, I’m married to an Israeli and I’m bringing up our kids Catholic, and frankly I would say that getting an Israeli to go along with anything they don’t themselves 100% agree with is a feat which vastly overshadows any trivial effort needed to convince an Anglican monarch to agree to a minor thing like raising the kids Catholic. In short, if I can do it, anyone can.

    That said, the catechism specifically says that if the marriage is going to founder on such a thing, then the Catholic party is not obligated to pursue it to the point of breaking up the marriage. (They are, however, welcome to sulk for the rest of their lives.)

    In the actual situation you are describing, I think it would put both parties in a very difficult situation. The clear solution would be for the monarch (or future monarch) to marry an Irish Catholic as any Irishman (or woman) can out-talk and out-argue any Englishman (or woman) any day of the week. Eventually the English person would just give up in order to enjoy a few blessed moments of silence. The children would then be raised Catholic, the next monarch would be Catholic, the Church of England would reconcile with Rome, and all would be well. Also, everyone in Northern Ireland would become Catholic, unite with the Republic, and that would solve that problem as well.

    It is possible that not everyone will agree with this solution, however. You can send them over to my house and I will argue with them about it until they do.

  10. Catholic Mom says:

    PS You might like this solution. There will be no same-sex marriages performed in church, no openly gay priests or bishops, and the “women bishops” debate will be rescheduled for some time in the extremely indefinite future. 🙂

  11. driver8 says:

    Legally the Sovereign can’t be a Catholic and the current Coronation Oath requires the Sovereign to swear to maintain the Protestant Reformed religion. This Bill doesn’t propose to alter that.

  12. Catholic Mom says:

    They would be crypto Catholics, like during the Inquisition (but sort of in reverse). They would wait until the time was ripe (once they had become incredibly popular and beloved, perhaps with multiple appearances on “American Idol” or its British equivalent). Then they would appear on Oprah Winfrey and reveal the truth they had been suppressing all these years. They would cry and discuss the tremendous emotional pain they had experienced as a result of hiding their true identity since birth. The ratings would be historically off the charts. They would be forgiven for lying for years (see also: Lance Armstrong), the Coronation Oath would be altered to spare any future monarch such existential angst, and the Pope would be invited for a formal ceremony during which Westminster Abbey would be handed back. I’m telling you — it cannot miss.

  13. Catholic Mom says:

    [blockquote] But it is not to be backdated so far as the birth of the Prince of Wales, meaning that both Prince Charles and Prince William would have been removed from the succession and Princess Anne would have been heir apparent. [/blockquote]

    Prince Charles is older than Princess Anne. I think you would have to go back to Queen Victoria’s daughter Vickie to find a case where an elder sister was passed over for her younger brother.

  14. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    #9-13 Catholic Mom
    You make the case very firmly for why having a head of state who is also head of the CofE is incompatible with the family conflicts which would arise from marrying a Catholic with regard to the Children of the marriage, and arguing from duress is hardly the best way of making decisions in a marriage or about the upbringing of children.

    Well done on your marriage, but you haven’t really answered my question: Is it fair to ask a spouse to choose between her duty to her faith [the Catholic canon requiring her to use best endeavors to bring up her children as Catholics] and her duty to the Crown/her husband to bring them up not as Catholics so they can ascend the throne? The second part of my question was would you, as a Catholic wife be prepared to do so?

    Clearly in your marriage, your religion took precedence, although as far as equality goes, am I right in thinking that Jewish heritage is passed down through the female line? Hardly the most equality based system.

    I have to say I know a Jewish/Catholic married couple who have been one of the happiest I have met, so I wish you well with yours.

    You are correct on the dates of birth – not sure why I thought Princess Anne was older, and it would be uncharitable to take that line further.

    One of the other interesting things which came out of this afternoon is that primogeniture does not run in the female line in English Law; only in the male line. Women inherit as co-heirs, so there was a mini-problem with the current queen as there was no necessary rule providing for Elizabeth to inherit the crown over Margaret. That was sorted out by a Privy Council decision. These are the sort of ‘unintended consequences’ which can arise particularly if ancient laws and constitutions are changed in an unseemly hurry.

  15. Catholic Mom says:

    OK, kidding aside, I think the situation would be this. A “real” Catholic would have an extremely difficult time having children that were not Catholic. It would be a most painful experience. It is hard to believe that it could be done without resentment, but maybe a better person than I (and I suspect they are not hard to come by) could do it. Whether or not I myself could do it would be impossible to say. We are talking about what I would do 20 years ago assuming I was madly in love. I did marry an Israeli under those circumstances and I now think that was a mistake. Not that I wish to be married to someone else, but if I had the wisdom in my youth that I have now (assuming I’ve gained any) I would not have let myself fall in love with a non-Catholic. I would have made a concerted effort to find a Catholic partner. I did not do that. I let myself fall romantically in love with someone who fell romantically in love with me. And it has been very romantic. But it has not been easy. I always say to my kids “you can marry anybody you want, just as long as she’s a nice Catholic girl.”

    That said, there are millions of “Catholics” who don’t darken the door of a church more than once or twice a year, if that, who would care a great deal more about being a rich celebrity than whether or not their kids were raised Catholic.

    I do think there will come a time (like in 10 years) when none of the kings or queens of England will actually care about religion in the slightest and some of the more conservative Anglicans will be thinking “if only” when they contemplate a Catholic — or any form of Christian — monarch.

  16. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    #15 Catholic Mom
    Thanks for your answer – much to think about there. I think you identify one of the problems for a monarch with the role of Supreme Governor of the Church of England. If the monarch did not have that role [as is the case of any of the realms outside England, it would not be a problem.

    But in this case, the monarch does have a constitutional role in relation to the church in a country which still sees a nexus between the Christian Church and the Christian State, with the exception of a few Northern European countries, a great rarity. It is the complete opposite of the United States where separation of Church and State has always been distant, and is getting even more so.

    We are living under the same pressures in the UK, as you point out, and with this decision, the link has had a wedge placed between the monarch and the Church role which means that the situation could arise where not only would the spouses not share the same religious affiliation, but one spouse would be under an unenviable pressure to bring up the heir apparent in another denomination than that in which at the moment the heir will have a central constitutional role. This has not happened for a long while, and is part of the general attack on the church in general in the UK. The next challenge will be the Same Sex Marriage bill which will be next up before Parliament this month.

    For the same reason that I respect your wish that your children are brought up in your faith, I believe that our wish to have our Supreme Governor brought up in ours is not unreasonable. Incidentally the main opponent of the bill today was Jacob Rees-Mogg, a Roman Catholic, and a very good case he made.

    There may come a time in less than 10 years when the monarch will not care about religion, but that is not the case at the moment. The Queen and her predecessors have taken the role of Supreme Governor very seriously, and in the Queen’s case increasingly seriously and she argues it better than many of our senior clergy. Were it not for the church connection, I would not have a problem with any Christian sitting on the throne, but part of the reason for the loyalty to both the CofE and the Crown would have gone, and it might be that I was less committed to either.

    It is because I think that a head of state committed to being a Christian monarch uniting both state and church is important, and God’s gift to us in the faith as we have received it, that this matters to me, and I suspect a lot of other people and something which in the past and still gives us a sense of being on a national mission to be directed in all we do by the King above all others. If the matter is left to the private conviction of a monarch who has not been brought up in the faith he/she promises to defend and promote, that nexus is broken.

  17. Catholic Mom says:


    I respect your connection to your monarchy and to your state religion, even though I myself don’t support either concept.

    I personally think that Christianity becoming the state religion of Rome under Constantine was probably one of the top five worst things that ever happened to the Western world and irreperable damage was done to Christianity as a result — the consequences of which are by no means past us.

    That said, once you go down a certain road, even if it’s not the road you should have chosen, it may be better not to try to turn back after some long travelling but rather try to get to your destination via the less-than-optional route you have taken.

    The relationship of the Church of England to the state while (in my opinion) very unhealthy for the Church, is clearly not comparable to the relationship between Church and State say 700 years ago. Trying to pick apart this or that particular element of the relationship at this point in time may actually do more harm than good.

    I still believe, however, that the Church of England would be relieved of a huge amount of unnecessary baggage which it is now dragging behind it, very much to its detriment, if it could be free of the chains that now tie it to the secular state. It would, however, be a far better thing for the Church itself to come to that realization and act on its own behalf and in its own interest in severing the connection rather than suffer the death of a thousand cuts at the hands of a secular political body.

    Since no Church, to my knowledge, has ever actually done such a thing (none seem capable of breaking the addiction to ecclesiastic power wielded via the state) that may not be possible and things may simply drift into a greater and greater state of entropy until the relationhip collapses. Ensuring that the monarch has at least a nominal connection to the Church of England is probably necessary to stave off that collapse for as long as possible.