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How The Queen Changed Women’s Roles In The Royal Family

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has passed away at the age of 96. She died at Balmoral Castle with her family by her side on Thursday 8 September, drawing a close to her reign of 70 years, making her the longest reigning monarch in British history. Many are undoubtedly reminiscing over her recent moments: her iconic sketch with Paddington for her Diamond Jubilee; her moving address to the country during the pandemic; her Olympics 2012 contribution, which saw her mock skydive into the Olympic Park (named after her) alongside Daniel Craig. 

But there are, of course, more seminal moments to look back on too: her ascension to the throne in 1952 after the death of her father, King George VI, making her a rushed queen at just 25-years-old; or that heartbreaking image of the then-95-year-old alone at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor, clad in black, with a mask to match, at the funeral of her husband, Prince Philip, only last year. 

But all these individual moments are strung together by a pervading understanding that Queen Elizabeth II, changed the course of history for women by creating a more equal place for women, both inside the monarchy and outside of it. She came to be respected as a person, a strong leader, a fair matriarch and, alongside all this, a mother, a grandmother and a woman who was not afraid to let her eyebrows do the talking when she was faced with something (or someone – Trump, we’re looking at you) she disapproved of. 

She blazed a trail for women who existed at the time of her reign – not least ensuring her daughters had an equal and full education, and breaking with tradition to keep her surname when she married Prince Philip – and those who will come after it, and she did all this without losing her sense of humour, her place as a fashion icon and her humility. 

Perhaps most notably though, in 2013, she gave royal assent to the Succession To The Crown Act, which meant both sons and daughters of any future UK monarch would have an equal right to the throne.

Queen Elizabeth II herself was only able to ascend to the throne because her father had two daughters and no sons. However, if he’d have had a male heir, Elizabeth would have been skipped over in favour of a male, though thanks to The Crown Act, this is no longer the case. 

So what exactly is the act, and what part did The Queen have to play in its passing? 

What is The Crown Act?

The succession to the throne is regulated not only through descent, but also by Parliamentary statute. The order of succession is the sequence of members of the Royal Family in the order they stand in line to the throne. The first-in-line to the throne, the heir, will become king or queen when the reigning monarch dies, followed by second-in-line and so on, so Prince William is now the heir to the throne and his son, Prince George, second in line. The original constitution that governed the accession of monarchs was determined back in the 17th century, with the Bill of Rights (1689) and the Act of Settlement (1701), and meant that first-born women, who were direct descendants of the monarch, could be passed over in favour of their younger male sibling. 

The Succession to the Crown Act (2013), championed by The Queen, amended the provisions of the Bill of Rights and the Act of Settlement to end the system of male first-born, under which a younger son was able to displace an elder daughter in the line of succession. The Act applies to those born after 28 October 2011 and means that any first born, regardless of gender, has the right to ascend to the throne if they are within the direct lineage of the monarch. 

In practice, this means that if, when the time comes, Prince George – son of the newly-appointed Duke and Duchess of Cornwall – is unable to take the throne for any reason, Princess Charlotte would be next in line, rather than it passing over to her younger brother, Prince Louis. 

The Act also ended the law that states that those who marry Roman Catholics are disqualified from the line of succession. The changes came into force in all sixteen Realms in March 2015. 

She was not without her controversies, nor is what her role stands for, but she has, undoubtably, changed the face of the monarchy for women to come. 

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