News

The law of succession to the Australian throne



6 December 2012

While most of the discussion of the impending royal birth falls into the category of fawning adulation, dismissive contempt or celebrity gossip, the one substantive issue that has arisen concerns the rules of succession to the throne and the attempt to change them, writes Professor Anne Twomey.

The rules concerning succession to the throne are a complex mix of common law and legislation. On the common law side, the rules are based on a form of primogeniture that favours males over females. Male heirs inherit, in order of birth, before any female heir, even if she was born first. A female heir may only inherit if she has no living brothers and no deceased brother who had children. This bias has long been removed from English laws concerning the inheritance of property, but remains fossilised in the rules concerning succession to the throne. One of the proposals agreed by the Realms in a side-meeting at CHOGM in 2011 was to remove the bias against females, but otherwise retain the system of primogeniture.

Read further on the Constitutional Reform Unit blog

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