Royal revelation: How legal loophole could have led to Anne becoming Queen

Princess Anne celebrated her 69th birthday last month, and the hard-working royal is known for keeping a low-key profile and eschewing royal titles for her family. However, when an important piece of royal legislation passed in 2013, it presented an unusual opportunity for Princess Anne to become closer to being Queen herself one day. The Succession to the Throne Act 2013 changed several aspects of the monarchy, including male preference primogeniture. 

That rule meant that the crown passed to male heirs first, despite the order of birth. 

However, with the passing of the 2013 Act, female heirs took their place in the line of succession in order of brith, meaning that Princess Charlotte now takes her place before younger brother Prince Louis.

The UK needed to seek the agreement of all the Commonwealth Realms in order to pass the Act.

Writing in the Modern Law Review in 2013, Professor Neil Parpworth explained: “It could have created the risk that some of the Realms would have chosen not to follow the UK’s lead, with the result that their own laws relating to the succession may have become different to those in the UK.

“Thus, for example, if a Realm had decided not to dispense with male preference primogeniture, the heir to its throne may at some point in the future have been a different person to the heir to the UK throne.”

In this example, Prince Louis would have taken preference over his older sister Princess Charlotte in the Commonwealth Realms, in contrast to the UK. 

The monarch of the United Kingdom is also the monarch in the Commonwealth Realms; so, for example in Australia the Queen is Queen of Australia.

However, the Commonwealth Realms may not have have consented to a particular part of the 2013 Act that could have potentially seen Princess Anne ascend to the throne. 

The 2013 Act ended male preference primogeniture, however it did not apply retrospectively.

It is this rule that means Princess Anne’s position in the line of succession did not change. 

However, there was an opportunity for any of the realms to refuse this rule. 

Professor Parpworth writes: “Of course, had the UK and the other Commonwealth Realms wanted to, they could have provided that the new rule should apply from an earlier date.

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If any of the realms had done so, it would have meant that: “Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, would have been elevated above her younger brother and her own offspring would also have seen a corresponding rise in their position in the line of succession.”

It would mean that Anne would take the position in succession that currently belongs to Prince Andrew, at number eight, behind new royal baby Archie. 

However, Professor Parpworth notes: “Although we can only speculate, it seems unlikely that either the Duke of York or the Earl of Wessex would have wished themselves and their heirs to be demoted in the line of succession.”

Of course, for Anne to become Queen either of the UK or of the Commonwealth Realms after Charles’ reign, it would mean that Prince William and Prince Harry’s families would have to first lose their places in the line of succession. 

Barring an unforeseen catastrophe, this is very unlikely to happen, although as as Harry and Meghan are bringing Archie up as a private citizen, without a royal title, it remains to be seen whether he will want to keep his place in line to the throne in the future. 

Although Prince Harry once admitted that he had thought about giving up his royal position entirely, he sought the advice of the Queen and re-dedicated himself to his royal duties, and ever since has stepped up his senior royal work.

The only way George, Charlotte and Louis are likely to lose their places in the line of succession, barring unforeseen tragedy, is if any of them decide to covert to Catholicism.

As the law currently stands, the monarch cannot be Catholic – although under the 2013 Act, Prince George’s generation were the first royal generation to be allowed to potentially marry someone of the Catholic faith. 

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