When Victoria became the heir apparent through the most extraordinary string of events,(for example many of her cousins, ahead of her in the line of succession, dying off at an early age), her frustrated uncles and male cousins further down the line were not at all happy. They campaigned to bring in The Salic law – which completely wrote off any female heirs – no matter how closely they were related to the current dying King.
These events are closely examined in the impeccably researched historical novel “Victoria’s Royal Secret” by Philippa Dissel.
Many countries in Europe still have this law in place, including Hanover. At the time this was a very real threat to the young Victoria as Parliament was being urgently persuaded by the Royal Dukes that she was far too young, immature and too weak to rule, and she was after all female – horrors! They argued that she would not cope and Britain would descend into chaos. They failed and so began the Victorian era – one of the most prosperous and successful reigns ever – second only to the Elizabethan age – another British Queen!
This law in the United Kingdom evolved from the Succession Law but originally, way back in history there were no fixed rules governing succession to the Throne. The next hopeful King would have to rely on inheritance or, if he had a fighting force to back him, the actual physical possession of the Crown in his ambitious hot hands.
However, when Princess Victoria was born in 1819, Parliament had taken control with The Bill of Rights passed 270 years earlier which determined succession to the English throne. Only Protestants were allowed to succeed to the Thrones, and those who married Roman Catholics were excluded but most importantly male heirs took preference over their so called weak and silly sisters.
On 28 October 2011, finally, during the 2011 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth, Australia, it was announced that heads of government had agreed to change the rules of succession by replacing male preference primogeniture with absolute primogeniture for descendants of the current Prince of Wales, in which the first born child of a monarch is heir apparent regardless of the gender, and ending the ban on marriage to Catholics and limiting the requirement for those in line to the throne to acquire permission of the sovereign to marry.
What took them so long?