By Simon Heffer, Mailonline
The announcement of the Duchess of Cambridge’s pregnancy – and the imminent arrival of a child who will be third in line to the throne – has caused a flurry of activity in Whitehall.
As part of the Government’s commitment to equal opportunities, driven by the Lib Dems and especially by their leader Nick Clegg, it wishes to ensure that the first-born child of the Cambridges succeeds to the throne irrespective of its sex.
At present, custom and practice going back to the Norman Conquest and before dictates that a first-born girl can reign as queen only if she has no younger brother.
The Succession to the Crown Bill, drawn up by the Cabinet Office and published last month, seeks to change that.
The Government originally raised the issue in 2011, when David Cameron asked all 15 Commonwealth nations who have the Queen as Head of State to approve the change.
They have now done this. They also approved changes to the Royal Marriages Act of 1772 and to the Bill of Rights of 1689, to allow those in line to the throne to marry a Catholic without having to renounce their right to succeed – as, for example, Prince Michael of Kent had to when he married his Catholic wife in 1978.
However, I am told by friends of the Prince of Wales that he is alarmed, for several reasons, about the nature of this major constitutional change.
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