The royal baby that breaks all the rules

12th July 2013 at 01:00
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 - thought to be due tomorrow, 13 July - 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 imminent 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?

How do you think the Royal Family will release photographs of the baby? In newspapers or magazines? Or via Twitter?

How much do you think it costs to raise a child?

Name some famous English queens. How did they end up on the throne?



Under the Act of Settlement 1701, the throne of England was settled on the "heirs of the body", which under English common law implies male-preference primogeniture.

The act also required the monarch to be Protestant and banned those who had married Roman Catholics from ascending to the throne.

The vote to end male primogeniture took place on 28 October 2011 at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Australia. It was also agreed that marrying a Roman Catholic should no longer disqualify a person from ascending to the throne.

The actual monarch, however, must continue to be a Protestant - that provision in the Act of Settlement has not been repealed. UK prime minister David Cameron said: "The monarch must be in communion with the Church of England because he or she is the head of that Church."

The Royal Marriages Act 1772 has been repealed: only the first six persons in line to the throne now require the sovereign's approval to marry. And as the monarch's eldest son will no longer automatically be heir apparent, the Treason Act 1351 will be amended to reflect the severity of attempting to murder the monarch's heir - male or female.



Queen Elizabeth I was sometimes known as the Virgin Queen but whether that was true is still debated today. It is more feasible that the idea that she would never be cowed by any man was cultivated as part of the powerful propaganda of her reign.

Start history lessons on the Tudor queen by looking at the films that have been made about her. Actors from American Bette Davis to Australian Cate Blanchett and Briton Judi Dench have played Elizabeth I. Why do students think that she remains such a fascinating figure today?

Another British queen - or, more accurately, queen consort - in focus this summer is Elizabeth I's great-grandmother Elizabeth Woodville, who is the subject of BBC television series The White Queen (pictured). Portrayed in novels as a romantic figure who married for love, she experienced danger and skulduggery in real life. She was embroiled in the Wars of the Roses, which were fought over the throne by the houses of Lancaster and York.

The series has received mixed reviews and has attracted attention for its wardrobe gaffes. Historical purists have spotted incorrect armour, padded trousers and even zips on costumes based on clothes of the 15th century.


Introduce Elizabeth I with video clips, portraits and activities in this lesson for 11- to 14-year-olds. bit.lyElizabethI

Show students why it wasn't clear who the heir to the throne was in 1066 with this PowerPoint and poster task. bit.ly3heirs1066

This resource considers the responsibilities of parenthood and the attributes that a parent should have. bit.lyparenth00d

How are laws made and changed? This resource explores the roles of courts, members of Parliament and the Queen. bit.lymakelaws


Debate the media coverage of the royal baby with this news article and suggested activities. bit.lyroyalBaby

This video explores the signs, symptoms and treatment of post-natal depression. bit.lypostNatal

How much does it cost to provide for a family of four? Explore the realities of today's living costs with this The Price Is Right-style activity. bit.lylivingc0sts

Introduce your class to the basics of news writing in TESEnglish's activity. bit.lyNewsReportWriting

EmmyCD's lesson considers how news stories are reported and why some are given more prominence than others. bit.lyNewsValues



Researchers at the University of Warwick in England have developed a test that can identify which women are vulnerable to post-natal depression. A new baby is a cause for celebration but one in seven new mothers in the UK suffers from depression. The blood test, carried out in early pregnancy, identifies genes that make a woman more susceptible to the condition.

Studies of 200 pregnant women found that those who had two flawed stress genes were three to five times more likely to develop post-natal depression. The flawed genes mean that women's normal hormonal balance does not return immediately at the end of their pregnancy. The National Health Service in England says that wider-ranging studies are required but the researchers at Warwick believe that women could be screened at a cost of about #163;10 per patient.

Use the news to spark a discussion on the broader issue of pregnancy. Lesson plans on the TES Connect website will help you to raise awareness of the physical and emotional aspects of pregnancy, as well as the demands of parenthood.

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