News that Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, is pregnant has
revived calls for a change to royal succession rules.
As excitement spreads about the birth of a royal baby,
behind the scenes New Zealand is leading the charge to ensure
that if the baby is a girl she can ascend the throne.
Prince William and wife Catherine, both 30, were forced to
make an early announcement that they are expecting a baby
after an acute case of morning sickness landed the Duchess of
Cambridge in hospital on Monday.
Royal aides said Catherine is in the "very early stages" of
pregnancy, believed to be well short of 12 weeks, and is
likely to remain in hospital for several days to rest and
receive supplementary hydration and nutrients.
While tabloids speculate on the baby's sex, New Zealand's
politicians have work to do to ensure that either way, the
baby can one day rule Britain and the Commonwealth.
Under 300-year-old succession laws, the eldest son of the
monarch becomes king, and the eldest daughter takes the
throne only if the monarch has no sons.
The 16 Commonwealth realms, including the United Kingdom, New
Zealand and Australia, agreed to change the "sexist"
succession laws at a meeting in October last year. British
politicians still need to amend key constitutional documents
- although the changes will be backdated to last October.
Most of the realms will also need to pass legislation to
finalise the changes.
New Zealand led the push to change the laws, and is helping
to co-ordinate their implementation among the realms, which
also include Canada and states in the Caribbean, West Indies
New Zealand is the only realm aside from the United Kingdom
to include succession laws in its domestic laws, and will
need to amend the Constitution Act 1986 and Imperial Laws
Application Act 1988.
The realms have also proposed to scrap a rule stopping anyone
married to a Roman Catholic from succeeding to the crown, and
repeal a law that requires all descendants of King George II,
who reigned from 1727 to 1760, to obtain the sovereign's
permission before marrying, otherwise their marriages are not
The realms are proposing to replace that law with a
requirement that the first six people in line to the throne
at any time must obtain the sovereign's permission to marry.
If they fail to do so, their marriage will still be legal but
they will be unable to succeed to the throne.