Prince George follows his father, Prince William, making him third in the line of succession to the British throne, but he will be the first monarch in 350 years to be able to marry a Catholic rather than a member of the Church of England.
Express says that not since King James II has a British monarch, or even a royal, been able to marry a Catholic. This means that Prince George, Princess Charlotte, Prince Louis, and the new Sussex baby will all be able to choose to marry a Catholic as a result of 2013’s Succession to the Crown Act.
The 1701 Act of Settlement was passed to ensure the English and Irish crowns would only pass on to Protestants. This was put in place after the rule of James II to wipe away all Catholic sympathies validated by the former king. If a royal married a Catholic, they would relinquish their position in the line of succession.
This has had an impact on current royals, as Autumn Kelly renounced her Catholic faith before marrying the son of Princess Anne, Peter Phillips, and the youngest son of the Duke of Kent, Nicholas Windsor, was removed from the line of succession when he converted to Catholicism back in 2001.
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Royal historian Richard Fitzwilliams explains that now a royal can marry a Catholic, but their children must be raised in the Church of England if they want to remain in succession to the throne, as the British monarch is the head of the Church of England.
“This meant that though a monarch could marry a Catholic, as he or she was Supreme Governor of the Church in England, they must remain in Communion with the Church of England.”
The prior ban on marrying Catholics put a crimp in the love life of several modern royals, including Princess Anne herself, who initially wanted to marry Andrew Parker Bowles, a Catholic, before he married Camilla in 1973.
Royal biographer Penny Junor says that at the time, Princess Anne was in the top five in the line of succession, and had she married Parker Bowles, she had to remove herself.
“Andrew knew that his relationship with Princess Anne could never end in marriage, however much in love they may have been. Princess Anne at that time was fourth in line and was not about to cause a constitutional crisis.”
When Meghan Markle, a Christian, married Prince Harry in 2018, she chose to be baptized and confirmed in the Anglican faith, but she was not forced to do so.