The editor of a major British newspaper is launching a legal challenge to the rules of royal succession — saying they violate the European Human Rights Convention.
The royals are unlikely to be amused.
The challenge, from the editor of the British broadsheet The Guardian, seeks to overturn legislation that says Catholics, those who marry Catholics and those born out of wedlock are excluded from the right to join the line of succession to the throne.
As a member of the European Union, Britain recently adopted the European Human Rights Convention as part of British law.
It gives, for the first time, a codified right to freedom of expression and protection from religious discrimination.
The Guardian says the monarchy violates those very principles in their laws of succession.
“Not many people outside this country are aware of how little the monarchy has been discussed. By mounting a legal challenge we are breaking a taboo,” the Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland told ABCNEWS.com.
Part of a Grand Design
As a result of the laws that date back to 1701, dozens of people have been barred from taking their place in the 613-strong order of succession.
The Act passed at a time of widespread fear of Roman Catholics and decrees that only the Protestant heirs of Princess Sophia, granddaughter of King James I, can succeed to the British throne.
The paper aims to argue before the High Court that the 18th-century Act of Settlement contravenes recent human rights laws adopted by the British parliament.
The motive of the left-leaning newspaper-a longstanding critic of the royal family — is not only to reform the monarchy, but to get rid of it altogether.
The Guardian’s two-pronged attack also calls for a referendum on a future head of state — a demand that can potentially land the paper’s editor in a lot of trouble.
Tell Your Story Walking
The Guardian’s legal challenge to the rules of succession to the British throne comes under threat of deportation.
The Treason Felony Act of 1848, forbidding the publication of incitements to republicanism, stipulates that anyone calling for the Queen’s downfall should be deported for life.
But the editor hasn’t packed his bags quite yet.
He was confident that the Act of Settlement of 1701 would be found to contradict the new Human Rights Act, the closest Britain has to a Bill of Rights, in the forthcoming court case.
The unprecedented attack on the monarchy — over nine pages of articles-came on the same day as Queen Elizabeth-with customary pomp and grandeur-presided over the opening of the latest Parliamentary session.
“Tell her to read The Guardian” anti-monarchist Member of Parliament Dennis Skinner shouted moments before the monarch embarked on her speech.
But a spokeswoman for Buckingham Palace refused to be drawn into the paper’s argument. “It’s obviously a matter for them. It’s their debate,” she told Reuters.
Support and Dissent
The paper seems to have public support for its call for reform. In a poll published today 66 per cent of the British public agreed the present ban on Roman Catholics from succeeding to the throne was outdated.
The poll did not comment on the suitability of members of any other non-Protestant faiths to rule Britain.
Lifting the ban on Catholics could also pave the way for scores of German princes, to join the list of hopeful heirs, if the Act of 1701 is overturned.
However, it was not yet clear whether any disgruntled member of the order of succession would step forward to make a claim.
They include Alfonso de Orleans-Borbon y Ferrara-Pignatelli, the seventh Duke of Galliera, who comes in at 216th in line to the throne, but is excluded because his German ancestor, Princess Beatrice of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, married a Catholic.
In spite of the paper’s efforts there is still no need for the Queen to hang up her ceremonial robes. Only one in four Britons would want to see the monarchy replaced by a republic, the poll said.