Princess becomes Catholic, loses her place in Britain’s line of Succession
Every now and then a closer or more distant blood relation of Britain’s Queen becomes a Catholic, and in doing so is removed from the “line of succession.” This is one of the last legal remnants of a system of anti-Catholic discrimination which once saw Catholics banned from living in London and becoming army officers, long after the bloody persecution ended. Recently, it was the turn of Princess Alexandra of Hanover, who at 19 has adopted the Catholic religion of her mother.
Princess Alexandra is rather more closely related to the houses of Hanover and of Monaco than to Britain’s House of Windsor, and she probably gave this aspect of her conversion little thought. Her maternal uncle is Albert II, the sovereign of Monaco.
Princess Alexandra was christened as a Lutheran as the rest of the family on 19 September 1999 by Horst Hirschler, the Landesbischof of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Hanover, in a ceremony at her father’s hunting lodge Auerbach.
However, Princess Caroline, her mother, has always been a Catholic. Now, the Princess has decided to leave her Lutheran faith and become a Catholic, as her mother is.
Because the British monarch is head of the Church of England, which is the established church, British law bars Catholics from succeeding to the throne.
The Succession to the Crown Act 2013 allowed heirs to the throne to marry Catholics, among other changes. However, the law still stipulates that the acting British sovereign mustn’t be a Catholic. Catholics have been barred from the English throne since the Act of Settlement 1701. Britain’s monarch is, after all, the Supreme Governor of the Church of England.
Catholics are the Act’s targets, because it was passed in the aftermath of the English Revolution of 1688 (called by its supporters the “Glorious” Revolution), which saw the overthrow of the Catholic King James II.
The British succession-law where changed in 2011 with the Perth Agreement. However the ban on Catholics and other non-Protestants becoming sovereign and the requirement for the sovereign to be in communion with the Church of England remained.