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The Royal Baby, succession and “equality”

    Congratulations to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the birth of their son, our future King. The past 24 hours have shown the power of the UK monarchy as an institution which has stood the test of time. And, it has to be said, it has also shown the extraordinary benefits in terms of the Royal Family’s tourist appeal. Sky News’ Kay Burley valiantly interviewed people from across the globe outside of the hospital awaiting news of the birth. After this and the Diamond Jubilee, republicans here will surely accept that the ‘cost’ argument against maintaining the monarchy simply does not hold water.

    On what is fast turning into a great British summer, there will nevertheless be those who object to the existence of the monarchy and the wide media coverage given to the royal birth on principle. Republicans play an important role in our public debate, and (although my colleague Lewis Brown has taken a slightly different view) their opinions should find space in the discourse surrounding these events.

    Nevertheless, there has been some really bone-headed opinion surrounding the sex of the child, the recent constitutional change to the succession laws and ‘equality’. This manifested itself numerous times during the television coverage yesterday, with people lamenting the fact that the royal baby was not a girl, on the grounds that a girl would have been a step forward for ‘gender equality’.

    This is silly for four reasons:

    a)      The hereditary monarchy is a hereditary monarchy. Our two longest serving monarchs have been Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II. These were female monarchs. Lamenting a hereditary monarchy on the basis that the outcome of a birth doesn’t subscribe to an equality agenda is daft.

    b)      Even if you think the constitutional change to the succession laws was important on the grounds of ‘equality under the law’, the “step forward” was the constitutional change itself, not the accident of birth within a hereditary monarchy.

    c)       When you lament the sex of a new-born baby on the grounds that it undermines your agenda, you expose everything wrong with an obsessive ideology.

    d)      The laws of succession change only affects the gender of a future monarch in the instance when a first-born girl is followed by a future boy. The logic of this lament then, is that a birth of a girl yesterday would have been followed by an eagerness for a boy in future in order to show ‘we really do have gender equality in the monarchy’.

    Do people really think like that?

    Ryan joined the Centre for Policy Studies in January 2011, having previously worked for a year at the economic consultancy firm Frontier Economics.

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