"Sons and daughters of any future U.K. monarch will have equal right to the throne" under royalty succession reforms agreed to today by all 16 Commonwealth countries, the BBC reports.
And under the new rules, British kings and queens will no longer be banned from marrying Roman Catholics — though the rule barring a Catholic from becoming king or queen will remain.
The reforms are not to be applied retroactively, and the next two in line behind Queen Elizabeth II (Prince Charles and his son, Prince William) are both first borns. But if the first child born to William and Kate — the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge — is a girl, she would be the heir to the throne, assuming her father one day becomes king.
Earlier this month on All Things Considered, Economist political editor David Rennie said there doesn't appear to be any opposition to the changes in Britain — where legislation still needs to be passed to make them effective. But, he added, "most people are worrying about the financial crisis. They're worrying about their mortgage. It's kind of beside the point."
Now seemed to be the time to make the change, he said, because "clearly, now we've got a young couple who just got married [William and Kate]. Assuming that biology works the same way for royals as it does for everyone else, it's time to get on with working out what to do next."
The Daily Mail this morning does some "what if" reporting that looks at how different things might have been if the new rule had always been in effect:
"If the new rules had been in force in 1509, Margaret Tudor would have taken the throne instead of Henry VIII. That could have meant the Reformation would never have taken place and Elizabeth I would never have been Queen.
"If the practice had been changed as recently as the last century, Britain could have had two Queen Victorias back to back. Princess Victoria, the Princess Royal would have acceded to the throne in 1901 instead of King Edward VII.
"When she died just a few months later, her son Kaiser Wilhelm II [the last German emperor] would have ascended the throne — something which could have prevented the First World War."