Royal baby breaks all the rules

Changes to the laws of primogeniture mean that William and Kate's child will one day accede to the throne, regardless of its gender

The Washington Post has declared it "the world's most famous baby". In the Commonwealth countries of Australia, New Zealand and Canada, royal baby fever began to peak weeks ago: former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard was pictured creating a gift for the monarch of the future - a knitted kangaroo - in a magazine. Only the British appeared to remain relatively calm.

But the birth of the child of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (pictured, right) is important, whether you are a monarchist or a republican, because it heralds changes to the laws of primogeniture, which meant that brothers preceded sisters in the line of succession.

The Succession to the Crown Act 2013 changes that. Published as a bill on 13 December last year, the act has passed both Houses of Parliament and received Royal Assent on 25 April.

The act means that males born after 28 October 2011 no longer precede their elder sisters in the line of succession. So, regardless of its gender, the first child of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will precede any younger sibling. The relative positions in the line of succession of other members of the immediate Royal Family remain unchanged.

British newspapers have claimed that it cost #163;1 million to prepare the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's Kensington Palace residence for the baby. This could serve as a light-hearted prompt for a more serious lesson on the history of monarchies around the world.

Your classes might consider historical fiction, looking at books and films, the years they were produced and how accurate they are deemed to be today. After all, even history is often substantially rewritten.

Consider the rules of primogeniture. Do your students think that they were fair? Or use the royal baby's arrival to explore issues such as pregnancy, birth and how much it costs to raise a child. What would your students consider the ideal circumstances in which to have a baby?

It has no doubt been a testing time for the Royal Family. In 1841, when Queen Elizabeth II's great-grandfather, the future King Edward VII, was born, the announcements of royal births were controlled by the Palace. Guns were fired from the Tower of London and Hyde Park, and a notice was placed on the gates of Buckingham Palace.

More than a century later, when Prince Charles was born in 1948, the news was broadcast by the BBC.

Now there is social media, which presented the Palace with a dilemma. It was decided that the birth of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's baby would be formally announced via a notice at Buckingham Palace's gates, to retain a sense of royal "theatre".


- Where will the baby come in the line of succession?

- What rights to privacy should the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge - and their baby - have?

- Where will the baby come in the line of succession?

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