Pop-Culture | Posted by Rosamund C on 11/14/2011

A Right Royal Feminist

If you recently married a prince, and are pregnant or thinking about having a baby, I have no doubt that the most pressing issue on your mind is the question of who will inherit your estate and title when you die. Some days it’s all I think about.

Or, you’re a normal person, living on a normal planet, and find it incredible that in the twenty-first century such dilemmas even exist. The Queen has been praised recently for encouraging the introduction of a law to give girls the right to inheritance if they’re first born – even if they have male siblings. That means that if the recently married Kate and Wills have a baby girl first, she’ll become queen, before a potential younger male brother, or even Prince Harry. David Cameron is also very much for this law, saying that it’s high time this was introduced.

In principle of course, I can’t argue against it. It should not still be the case today that male offspring get to inherit the title, the wealth and the estate before their older siblings. But the fact that this is even being discussed is jaw-dropping. There are a few questions that need answering: 1. Why was this not changed decades ago? And 2. Who actually cares? Even in traditional Britain, we are slowly abolishing hereditary peerages (whereby you get a seat in the House of Lords because your dad had one), and other customs that rely on inheritance and birth. It’s hard to find anyone outside of the Royal Family to whom this would have any relevance.

I’m ecstatic that the Queen has spoken out on a ‘feminist’ issue. Her theme for the tour of the Commonwealth is ‘Women as agents of change’ which is great. However, I think the Queen has missed an opportunity to have spoken about truly important women’s issues. There are number of feminist issues she could have picked. I am neither an admirer nor hater of the Royal Family, but arguments like this make me yawn. They appear to show the Royal Family modernising when really they are just doing things that should have happened years ago.

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  • RMShilpi (Mia) @ at 1:22 pm, November 14th, 2011

    It’s hard to find anyone outside of the Royal Family to whom this would have any relevance.

    Besides the entire nation of people wondering about whether or not Will and Kate’s first child will be the future head of state?

    if you’re a normal person, living on a normal planet

    I feel the need to point out inheritance laws are an issue everywhere. Even in America they can get rather screwy when dealing with non-nuclear family relationships, and the only reason we don’t have any gender restrictions was because the core facets of our inheritance laws were formed during a rejection of primogeniture during the Revolutionary Period.

    There are number of feminist issues she could have picked.

    Yeah, and she picked this one.

    The previous law enshrines the principle of women as second class citizens. Even if he is the youngest sibling in a bunch, a male would always come first before all his older sisters, saying that by sheer virtue of being women they are less than him.

    I can understand your frustration with this change in law and how it doesn’t directly affect anyone. But to be honest much of it is entirely symbolic (as is just about anything relating to the monarchy) of a changing perception of women at all classes and all levels, and if we want the status of women to progress in society then we need to make sure there is no law effectively saying women are second class citizens and are only last resorts for when there are no more men around.

  • Amy CT @ at 7:14 pm, November 14th, 2011

    The British laws on monarchy are ludicrous beyond belief – did you know that a Royal can marry a Jew, a Hindu, a Muslim, an Athiest or, indeed, a SATANIST, but not a Roman Catholic without forefitting their right to the throne?

    This only bothers me as I was the only girl of Catholic descent in my British history class at an Anglican sixth form, though.

    It is good that this change has been made – it’s about time, too – but on the whole, it’s a little bit irrelevant. The monarchy effectively means nothing in modern British society.

  • Talia bat Pessi @ at 5:20 pm, November 15th, 2011

    As an American, when I was a kid I viewed the queen as THE face of Britain. Now I know that the monarch is only a figurehead and has little to do with the actual running of the country, but that concept of the queen as the face of Britain is still there for me. So while this issue may be irrelevant on a political level, I don’t think it’s irrelevant on a “show” level. Even if a monarch does nothing, a woman as the face of a country is still pretty cool.

  • Vanessa @ at 9:32 am, November 17th, 2011

    I am positively beaming.

    Kate Middleton, I think I’ve become quite a fan of yours. I mean, FINALLY, a strong woman steps up and changes that idiotic “law”.

    Now I wish I lived in England…

  • Rosie @ at 1:04 pm, November 17th, 2011


    Much as I’m sure Kate Middleton is great, I don’t think she was PARTICULARLY forceful in bringing about the change in the law. In fact, she doesn’t even seem to be especially Feminist.

  • curt rice @ at 11:15 am, November 20th, 2011

    Nice article, and I agree with you that the Queen has actually said something that sounds positive. But actually, there is still deep sexism in the succession rules:
    The Royal Glass Ceiling: Why can’t Women be Kings?


  • Juliana @ at 2:15 pm, November 22nd, 2011

    I totally agree with this. I’m so glad someone wrote it.

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