…and so it seems the UK will join the group of monarchies that have decided to let the firstborn, regardless of sex, be the heir to the throne. This was not unexpected, and it is hard to argue in favor of the old way of handling the situation. It is also a relief to note that the silly business of barring from the line of succession anyone who marries a catholic will vanish. Evidently Mr Cameron must have read the inspired editorial in number 4/2006 of this magazine, where the author called for change; “Isn’t it about time to deal with this business of letting religion interfere with love, marriage and orders of succession. In a global, secularized and multi-cultural world, the concept of controlling people’s religious persuasion is obsolete, to say the least. Shouldn’t the choice of religion, or non-religion, be up to the individual?”
So, Primogeniture is to be the name of the game. Fair and square! Or is it? Is it always certain that the firstborn is the best suited for the job? Of course not! There are many examples throughout history that a younger brother or sister would have done, or actually did, a better job. Albert Victor, the Duke of Clarence (1864-1892) would, according to many scholars, have been a catastrophe for the British monarchy. Not to mention poor dear Edward VIII who was, by the grace of Wallis, luckily removed from the throne. Queen Wilhelmina had three elder half-brothers who were, by all accounts, totally inadequate and in Sweden we had King Erik XIV who was raving mad and eventually had to make way for his younger brothers, not that they were much better.
But there are also cases where one would have wished that the eldest son had survived. Russia would probably have been a sounder nation with Nikolai Alexandrovitch (1843-1863) as Emperor, rather than his younger brother Alexander III (1845-1894), who is probably to blame for what happened afterwards. In England, chances are that Arthur, Prince of Wales (1486-1502) would have been a better monarch than Henry VIII. Arthur was known to be studious, thoughtful and reserved, hardly qualities that can be accredited to his younger brother.
While visiting a distant cousin in the US, over dinner I tried to explain to him exactly how we were related. I pointed out, as one interesting fact, that he was sort of the head of the family, its senior member. He looked at me in disbelief and said; “How can that be? I am just 40 years old, so how can I be the senior?” I started to explain the idea of primogeniture but soon realized that I had lost him. “Well”, I tried, “if our family was the Royal Family of Sweden, you would be King now”. His eyes grew wider and with a delighted expression he turned around, faced the other guests in the restaurant and shouted: “Hey guys, listen to this: If I lived in Sweden I would be King….”
The winner takes it all ...
Published: 2011.12.15 Updated: 2012.02.24
This editorial was published in ROYALTY DIGEST QUARTERLY 4/2011