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Digest No. 2015

Royal Succession Bill 2013

Date of Introduction: 18 February 2013
Portfolio: Justice
Select Committee: As at 19 February, 1st Reading not held.
Published: 19 February 2013by John McSoriley BA LL.B, BarristerLegislative AnalystP: (04) 817-9626 (Ext. 9626) Caution: This Digest was prepared to assist consideration of the Bill by members of Parliament. It has no official status.Although every effort has been made to ensure accuracy, it should not be taken as a complete or authoritative guide to the Bill. Other sources should be consulted to determine the subsequent official status of the Bill.


The aim of this Bill is to remove from the law of New Zealand:

  • male primogeniture in succession to the throne of New Zealand; and

  • the restriction on the sovereigns of New Zealand from marrying Catholics.

In particular the objectives of the Bill are to:

  • “ to implement in New Zealand law changes to the rules of Royal succession approved in principle at a meeting on 28 October 2011, coinciding with the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth, Australia, or agreed through later discussions among the Sovereign's Realms;

  • “to provide for the succession to the Crown to be determined without regard to the sex of people born after 1 pm on 29 October 2011 (New Zealand daylight time);

  • “to abolish the exclusions from the succession to and possession of the Crown of people who marry a person of the Roman Catholic faith;

  • “to provide for the Royal Marriages Act 1772 to cease to be part of the laws of New Zealand, and to enact in its place provisions requiring the consent of the Sovereign in right of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to the marriage of any person at a time when the person is one of the 6 people next in the line of succession to the Crown;

  • “to validate (for purposes other than succession to the Crown purposes) certain marriages solemnised without awareness of, and compliance with, the requirements of the Royal Marriages Act 1772” (Part 1 of the Bill Clause 3 (the “purpose” clause)..


Removing male primogeniture

In a recent media release [1]   , Hon Judith Collins, Minister of Justice, announced that legislation would be introduced to Parliament “to clear the way for changes to laws dictating the line of succession to the throne. The Royal Succession Bill allows an elder daughter to precede a younger son in the line of succession, meaning the order of succession to the throne will no longer be based on gender”. She said that the new laws would apply to any children in the Royal line of succession born after 28 October 2011 and this meant the change would apply to the child of Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, due to be born in July [2]   .

Sovereign of New Zealand may not be a Papist (i.e. a Catholic) or marry one

The Bill of Rights Act 1688 (which is part of the law of New Zealand) provides, amongst other things that that “every person and persons that is, are, or shall be reconciled to, or shall hold communion with, the See or Church of Rome, or shall profess the Popish religion, or shall marry a Papist, shall be excluded, and be for ever incapable to inherit, possess, or enjoy the Crown and government of this realm, and Ireland, and the dominions thereunto belonging … “ [3]   .

Hon Judith Collins, in her media release, said that the Bill would allow a person married to a Roman Catholic to become King or Queen. However, she also said that the changes would not allow a Catholic to accede to the throne. The rules which require the Sovereign to swear an oath to maintain the Protestant religion would remain unchanged.

Sovereign’s permission to marry

Hon Judith Collins also stated that the Bill would remove the requirement that members of the Royal family must seek the Sovereign’s permission to marry, and instead require just the first six in line to the throne to seek consent to marry [4]   .

Commonwealth initiative

Hon Judith Collins said that all 16 countries sharing the Queen as Head of State, including New Zealand must have the same laws of succession. “In the United Kingdom, a Bill to make these changes to Royal succession laws is currently going through Parliament. New Zealand also needs to make changes to our laws because changes to United Kingdom laws do not automatically apply here” [5]   .

Main Provisions

Precedence of younger brothers over older sisters abolished

The Bill provides that in the determination of the succession to the Crown, no regard is to be had to the sex of any person born after 1 pm on 29 October 2011 (New Zealand daylight time) and otherwise, generally speaking, the oldest heir (whether female or male) will inherit the crown (Part 1, Clause 5).

The sovereign may be married to a Catholic

The Bill provides that no person is excluded from succeeding to or possessing the Crown by virtue only of marrying, a person of the Roman Catholic faith and restores the succession rights of persons who have (Part 1, Clauses 6 and 7).

Rights of certain persons who married without the consent of the sovereign are restored

The Bill retains but limits a rule that heirs close to the sovereign (i.e. in the Bill it is to be: “one of the 6 people next in the line of succession to the Crown “) are required to obtain the consent of the sovereign to their marriages if they and their descendants are to retain their succession rights. The Bill makes provision that has the effect of restoring certain succession rights where:

  • “at the time the marriage was solemnised, neither party was one of the 6 people next in the line of succession to the Crown; and

  • “at the time the marriage was solemnised, the (or each) party descended from His late Majesty King George the Second was unaware, and it was reasonable in all the circumstances for that (or for each such) party not to be aware, that that Act applied to it; and

  • “no person has acted on the basis that the marriage was void” (Part 1, Clauses 8 and 9).

Consequential amendments

Consequential amendments are made to the Bill of Rights 1688 and the Act of Settlement 1700. The Royal Marriages Act 1772 ceases to be part of the laws of New Zealand (except residually such as to acts already done under Sections 17-19 and 21 of the Interpretation Act 1999. The Imperial Laws Application Act 1988 is amended to take account of the above (Part 2, Clauses 10-13).

Copyright: © NZ Parliamentary Library, 2012
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  1. Hon Judith Collins, Media Release, “Royal Succession Bill introduced”, 18 February 2013.   [back]
  2. Ibid.   [back]
  3. Ibid.   [back]
  4. Ibid.   [back]
  5. Ibid.   [back]