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The Act of Settlement and the Protestant Succession

The Act of Settlement and the Protestant Succession

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House of Commons research paper on the implications of the monachry
House of Commons research paper on the implications of the monachry

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Published by: Fuzzy_Wood_Person on Apr 20, 2013
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The Act of Settlement and the ProtestantSuccession
Standard Note: SN/PC/683Last updated: 24 January 2011Author: Lucinda MaerSection Parliament and Constitution Centre This note sets out the legal background to the rules surrounding the succession, includingthe
Bill of Rights 1688,
 Act of Settlement 1700
and the
 Act of Union 1706.
In summary,the monarch must join in communion with the Church of England, must declare him orherself to be a Protestant, and must swear to maintain the established churches in Englandand Scotland and take the coronation oath. If he or she wishes to retain the title to thethrone he cannot marry a Roman Catholic. And, by the same token, marriage to a Catholicautomatically excludes anyone from the line of succession. In addition, the Crown passes tomale heirs ahead of female heirs, according to common law.In November 2009 the then Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, stated that the Act of Settlementwas “outdated” and that he would consult all members of the Commonwealth on the matterin due course”. In January 2010 the then Deputy Prime Minister, Harriet Harman, statedthat “the discussions are continuing”, but the then Government was “sure that progress willbe made”. A Parliamentary answer given by the current Government Minister, Mark Harper,in June 2010 stated that There are no current plans to amend the laws on succession”. Inan Adjournment Debate in July 2010 the Minister stated that “we are not saying that thereshould not be change. We are simply saying that, if we are to undertake change, we need todo it in a careful and thoughtful way”. On 18 January 2011 he confirmed that discussions areunder way with other countries of which Her Majesty is Queen”. This note considers themain issues raised by any attempt to change the succession to the Crown and recentGovernment statements on the matter. The Research Paper 09/24
looks at some of these issues in more detail.Also of interest may be the Standard Notes:
  This information is provided to Members of Parliament in support of their parliamentary dutiesand is not intended to address the specific circumstances of any particular individual. It shouldnot be relied upon as being up to date; the law or policies may have changed since it was lastupdated; and it should not be relied upon as legal or professional advice or as a substitute forit. A suitably qualified professional should be consulted if specific advice or information isrequired. This information is provided subject toour general terms and conditionswhich are availableonline or may be provided on request in hard copy. Authors are available to discuss thecontent of this briefing with Members and their staff, but not with the general public.
1 The Legal Background
 The monarch is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. There are various legalprovisions which mean that the monarch cannot be a Roman Catholic, must join incommunion with the Church of England and must swear to maintain the establishedchurches of England and Scotland. In addition, statute law requires that the monarch maynot retain their throne if they marry a Catholic, and that any heir that marries a Catholic isremoved from the line of succession. These legal provisions are contained in the
Bill of Rights 1688
, the
 Act of Settlement 1700
and the
 Act of Unions
, all reinforced by theprovisions of the
Coronation Oath Act 1680
and the
 Accession Declaration Act 1910
  There have been some recent examples where individuals have been removed from the lineof succession because they have married a Catholic. The Earl of St Andrews and HRHPrince Michael of Kent both lost their right of succession through marriage to RomanCatholics.
Any children of these marriages would remain in the succession provided thatthey are in communion with the Church of England. The Duke of Kent, however, has retained his place in the line of succession despite his wifeconverting to Catholicism in 1994 as she was not a Catholic when he married her in 1961.
  The couples youngest son, Lord Nicholas Windsor, has converted to Catholicism andtherefore cannot inherit the throne.In 2008 it was announced that Peter Phillips would marry his partner, Autumn Kelly. Itemerged that she had been baptised as a Catholic. Ms Kelly was accepted into the Churchof England before the marriage took place and Peter Phillips retains his place in the line of succession.
 In addition, the Crown passes to male heirs ahead of female heirs, according to common lawrequirements.
1.1 Bill of Rights 1688
Until the
Bill of Rights
there was nothing on the statute book to prevent the monarchfrom being a Roman Catholic.
Shortly after his accession in 1685 James II proroguedParliament and, although it was not dissolved until July 1687, it never met again. Thus at hisdeparture there was no Parliament, and the Convention Parliament summoned by William of Orange before his accession was inevitably irregularly convened. The House of Commonsresolved in January 1688:
 That King James II having endeavoured to subvert the constitution of the kingdom bybreaking the original contract between the King and people and by the advice of  Jesuits and other wicked persons having violated the fundamental laws; and having
In England before 1752, 1 January was celebrated as the New Year festival, but 25 March was the start of thecivil or legal year. The
Calendar (New Style) Act 1750
introduced the Gregorian Calendar in place of the Julian Calendar and moved the start of the civil year to 1 January. Therefore the years given in dates for Actspreceding 1752 are often recorded differently – depending on whether the old or new style calendar is used.In this note, the dates used in
Halsbury’s Laws of England
have been used.
The Earl of St Andrews married Sylvana Tomaselli in January 1988. Prince Michael of Kent married BaronessMarie-Christine von Reibnitz in 1978.
The British Monarchy’s website,
‘Fiancée secures royal succession by abandoning her Catholic faith’,
The Times,
1 May 2008
More information about the gender restrictions on the succession are set out in Library Research Paper 09/24,
All references in this note to ‘Catholics’ are to Roman Catholics.

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