An undemocratic, if mostly symbolic, monarch is not exactly a modern institution. But the UK government wants to bring succession into the 21st century by ending "male primogeniture."
Queen Elizabeth may be one of the most high-profile female heads of state, but she only became queen because she did not have a brother. Under the UK's male primogeniture rule, the first-born male is first in line to the throne. A female can succeed as monarch only if she has no brothers.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is attempting to change that, saying yesterday, "I think most people in this day and age would think it's worth considering whether we change the rules so that baby girl could become the future monarch." And of course, it all comes back to next week's royal wedding. Clegg continued, "If Prince William and Catherine Middleton were to have a baby daughter as their first child, I think most people would think it is perfectly fair and normal that she would eventually become queen of our country." Commonwealth countries like Australia and Canada would need to be consulted, but the current queen is said to be on board with the change, as are other members of parliament.
Other countries, like Japan, are more extreme than the UK, mandating that the heir must be male. If there are no male children, the crown is passed to the most senior male heir. By modifying its rule, England would join Sweden, Netherlands, Norway, and Belgium, countries that recently decided to let the first born take the throne, regardless of gender. But before we jump ahead to the potential coronation of Kate and Will's unborn daughter, let's not forget that we still have to wait for poor patient Charles and then William to become king.