A future first-born child of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge would take the throne regardless of whether it is a boy or a girl, under changes announced yesterday.
|New generation: If Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge's first-born is a daughter she will one day become Queen
An overhaul of the laws of Royal succession will put an end to the system of male preference primogeniture, whereby the eldest son automatically becomes next in line even if he has an older sister.
Speaking at the State Opening of Parliament, the Queen confirmed that the Government is to introduce a Bill to scrap this discriminatory rule, which has been in place since 1688.
The overhaul will also abolish a long-standing ban on Royal heirs marrying Roman Catholics, as well as a law requiring descendents of King George II to seek the Monarch's consent before they can get married.
The Queen told both houses of Parliament: 'My Government will continue to work with the 15 other Commonwealth Realms to take forward reform of the rules governing succession to the Crown.'
This follows last year's Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth, Australia, when David Cameron announced the move to modernise Royal law.
The changes received unanimous backing from the other Commonwealth nations, with the Queen taking the opportunity to hail the untapped potential of women.
The drive for equality is said to be a cause close to Prime Minister's heart and appears to have secured support even from more traditionalist pro-monarchy politicians.
The Catholic church has welcomed the news that heirs will no longer be forbidden from marrying its followers.
The Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, told the Daily Express: 'This will eliminate a point of unjust discrimination against Catholics and will be welcomed not only by Catholics but far more widely.'
However, anti-monarchist group Republic dismissed the proposals.
Graham Smith, its chief executive, said they simply drew attention to the 'absurdity of our hereditary system' and said a custom whereby one child of one family will still be privileged over all others could not be called 'equal'.
The overhaul will affect centuries-old legislation such as the 1701 Act of Settlement, the 1689 Bill of Rights and the Royal Marriages Act 1772.
Mr Cameron pushed for the changes last year amid fears that there could be a constitutional crisis if Prince William and Kate Middleton had a first-born daughter and then a son.
He said at the time: 'These rules are outdated and need to change. The idea that a younger son should become monarch instead of an elder daughter, simply because he is a man just isn't acceptable any more.
© Daily Mail, London