A sexist monarchy

Who is eighth is line to the throne is usually only of interest to the die hard royalist who wants to make sure they have got their souvenir plates in the right order.

But when Prince Edward’s youngest child was born last month an age old tradition of sexual discrimination took place.

For no reason other than her gender, Lady Louise Windsor, the Prince’s elder child, was quietly demoted to number nine in line for the top job.

No doubt this has happened countless times in our history, but this time there is one slight difference – the small matter of sexual equalities legislation.

Being bumped down a list is hardly the most gratuitous act of sexual discrimination, particularly when you consider the hundreds of thousands of women struggling to earn the same as the male counterparts.

Nevertheless, the sovereign is our head of state, the head of armed forces and our top ambassador – Britain’s face to the world. What will happen when Prince William is an expectant father, should we play genetic roulette and hope that it’s not a girl followed by a boy?

What might have suited grey bearded king makers of old is completely at odds with how a head of state should be selected in modern Britain. Any system based on the notion that you should make do with a woman until a man comes along should quite frankly be consigned to the history books. It is for this reason I have asked the Equalities and Human Rights Commission to investigate Lady Louise’s demotion.

No doubt there will be the traditionalist aghast with the barefaced cheek of a mere commoner like myself questioning century-old royal tradition. However, tradition is the reason that women used to be denied the vote, the reason women were not allowed to have professional aspirations and the reason women were expected to be subservient to men. Thankfully attitudes have moved on – well mostly.

We have had a female head of state for half a century and she’s not done a bad job of it. In an ideal world we would have a full constitutional convention to look at all aspects of the monarchy including if we should have one at all. But until that day we must make do with our piecemeal constitution and I for one think this particular discriminatory piece must end.

This article first appeared on the New Statesman blog.

(c) Lynne Featherstone, 2008