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Canada blocks Cameron’s call to reform the Act of Settlement: The Church of England Newspaper, April 29, 2011 p 7. April 29, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Politics.
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King Ernest Augustus I of Hanover by George Dawes

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The coalition government’s plans to reform the 1701 Act of Settlement, ending the ban on a Roman Catholic monarch in Britain, does not have the support of the Canadian government.

On April 20, Prime Minister David Cameron said Roman Catholics should be able to become King or Queen, or marry the heir to the throne.  However, he noted that this reform was not in the government’s power, but required the agreement of those Commonwealth nations where the monarch is the head of state.

“I think that it’s right to discuss both sets of changes but I think we have to recognise that the Queen is not only the Queen of the United Kingdom but also many other jurisdictions as well,” he told BBC 4’s the Today programme.

“So discussions have to take place between the UK Government and other governments around the world and also with the Palace in order to bring this about.”

The government is also seeking to reform the law of precedence, which gives preference to male heirs to the throne—a move being pushed by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.  The prime minister added: “In principle I think both changes should be made, in principle I’m of that view. But it will take time because it’s not just our decision, it’s the decision of others as well.”

However, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has effectively blocked any reform of the Act of Settlement, which would permit a Roman Catholic to become the head of the Church of England.

In a campaign stop in Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories, Mr. Harper said Canadians were not prepared debate on the Act of Settlement.

In response to constituent’s question about the royal marriage and the succession, Mr. Harper said on April 20 “the successor to the throne is a man. The next successor to the throne is a man.”

“I don’t think Canadians want to open a debate on the monarchy or constitutional matters at this time,” he noted, adding, “that’s our position, and I just don’t see that as a priority for Canadians right now, at all.”

Without Canada’s support, the Act of Settlement cannot be amended without restricting the monarchy.  The issue is not without precedent, however, and saw the division of the throne following the ascent of Queen Victoria.

Different laws of succession governed the thrones of Hanover and England, though the title of Prince-Elector of Hanover and King of Great Britain and Ireland were held jointly from the time of George I in 1714.   When Queen Victoria was crowned in 1837, she was prevented by the Salic law, which excludes females from the inheritance of to throne, from succeeding as King of Hanover.  Victoria’s uncle Prince Ernest, the Duke of Cumberland, was next in line to the Hanover throne and became King Ernest Augustus I in 1837.

Were the coalition government to change the Act of Settlement without the approval of the Commonwealth nations where the Queen is monarch, the situation would eventually arise whereby different members of the Windsor family would be King of England and King of Canada.

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