I expect most Canadians (and certainly the Monarchist League) are delighted that Autumn Kelly, an accomplished young Montreal woman, is about to marry into the British Royal Family. It hasn’t happened often. Way back in the sixties, there were rumours about Liberal politician John Turner and Princess Margaret but nothing came of them.

However, there is a dark cloud hovering over this silver lining. Autumn Kelly was baptized and brought up a Roman Catholic. And for a British Royal, in this case Peter Phillips, son of the former Olympic rider, Princess Anne, to marry a Catholic is a no-no.

The stumbling block is the Act of Settlement, passed in 1701, to prevent Stuart Catholics from ascending the throne. According to this law, « papists », as they are called in the Act, are barred from the throne and so are non-Catholic royalty who marry « papists. »

In this case, if Peter Phillips married Autumn Kelly he would have to give up any right to the throne (he is now tenth in line) or alternatively, Autumn « the papist » would have to give up her religion. Never mind that Phillips can marry a Muslim or a Moonie, he is forbidden from marrying a « papist. »

It would seem this archaic Act of Settlement, with its offensive references to « papists » is the last in a long line of British legislation that views Roman Catholics as second class citizens.

Currently there is a private member’s bill before the British Parliament that would begin the process of overturning this anti-Catholic legislation. To do so would require the consent of all Commonwealth countries including Canada. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is reported to view the bill favourably.

Do you consider the Act of Settlement bigoted anti-Catholic legislation?

Would you be in favour of legislation to overturn it?

Should Autumn Kelly’s religion be anybody’s business but hers and her fiancee, Peter Phillips?

Is it understandable that I should resent being referred to as a « papist »?


8:00 PM (CNN) – 10th anniversary death of Princess Diana

9:00 pm (CNN) – Fundamentalist Relgions with Christian Armanpour.



  1. 1
    Joanne Nicholls Says:

    Neil, you may be a little touchy. That whole nasty « papist » business was probably a badge of honour at some point but when Henry VIII didn’t get his way, he stamped his little (or not so little) feet and all of a sudden, papists had to go into hiding.

    The Act of Settlement is now bigoted and anti-Catholic. The 1700s were full of religious turmoil–Protestant vs Catholic–mostly and there were struggles for power throughout Europe.

    It also hadn’t been too too long since that whole « let’s blow up Parliament » thing at the beginning of the 1600s and the Glorious Revolution later that century. Therefore, it is undestandable at the hesitation of the English toward the nasty Papists at the beginning of the 1700s.

    However, by now, most of that hostility should have run its course. In fact, I have noticed that some Catholics are really nice people!

    It is time to overturn the Act of Settlement. The religious views of Peter Phillips and Autumn Kelly really shouldn’t be state business. Peter Phillips is unlikely to be king. The only concern would be if he were closer to the role of King.

    Now people will argue long term repercussions–what if the Act of Settlement is overturned and a future King is (gasp!) a Catholic convert. I would imagine that would be a little challenging. Could be difficult being Catholic AND the head of the Church of England. But…I can see the Pope salivating at the thought.

    The Act of Settlement had its place. It should be overturned and allow people to get on with their lives.

  2. 2
    SUZANNE Says:

    Of course,it’s bigoted. Maybe part of the problem is that the Anglican Church is ostensibly headed by a monarch. Maybe that should be changed, too. Then you wouldn’t have to worry about some monarch pulling a fast one (so the fear goes) and bringing England back into the Catholic fold. Not that I’m holding my breath.

  3. 3

    Joanne and Suzanne – you have both put your finger on the main problem. The Queen is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England and the English State and the English national Church are stitched together from head to toe. Could a member of the Roman Catholic Church be the head of another Church that rejects Rome’s authority? The problem could be resolved if the Church of England agreed to be disistablished and the Crown was no longer its head. There is a strong movement in the Church of England itself that this should happen. But, like Suzanne, I’m not holding my breath.

  4. 4
    Barbara Says:

    I shall not hold my breath, either. However, I will hold my nose.

  5. 5
    jim Says:

    No one has mentioned that Queen Elizabeth is a Protestant and she is Chief of State of Papist Canada.
    Am I missing something here. Jim

  6. 6

    I think, Jim, you can have a Protestant Queen over Papist Canada but you cannot have a Papist Queen over a Protestant Canada.

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