Historic vote gives royal daughters equal rights to ascending throne
Female members of the British royal family are to be given equality with men in the rules of succession to the throne, meaning if Prince William and his new wife Kate's first child is a girl, she can become queen even if subsequent children are sons.
The historic constitutional changes were agreed unanimously yesterday by the 16 nations of which Queen Elizabeth II is monarch.
The 16 'realms', including the UK, Canada and Australia, also agreed to scrap outdated laws which ban the spouse of a Roman Catholic from taking the throne.
The changes were announced by British Prime Minister David Cameron at the Commonwealth heads of government meeting, attended by the queen, in Perth, Australia.
Mr Cameron said the historic rules were "at odds with the modern countries that we have become".
He added: "Put simply, if the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were to have a little girl, that girl would one day be our queen."
The changes were welcomed by the Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols, who is also the president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales. "This will eliminate a point of unjust discrimination against Catholics and will be welcomed not only by Catholics but far more widely," he said.
The changes herald an end to more than 300 years of English constitutional tradition under which the crown passed to the oldest male heir. Under the current rules of primogeniture, any male child takes precedence in the order of succession over his sisters. That would have meant that any son born to Prince William would have become king even if he had an older sister.
Speaking before the meeting in Perth, Mr Cameron said the rules were "outdated and need to change".
"The idea that a younger son should become monarch instead of an elder daughter, simply because he is a man, just isn't acceptable any more. Nor does it make any sense that a potential monarch can marry someone of any faith other than Catholic," he said.
"The thinking behind these rules is wrong. That's why people have been talking about changing them for some time. We need to get on and do it."
The Commonwealth summit was a "great moment to grasp this issue and sort it out", he said.
Buckingham Palace has indicated the queen's approval for changes in the succession rules. A "working group" will now be established under the leadership of New Zealand to make sure the necessary legislation is acceptable to all countries and that the process is co-ordinated. (© Daily Telegraph, London)