A Very Civil Wedding
When Francis asked me to guest blog on his site, he mentioned a post (Vampyres and Lesbians and Lesbian Queens) that he had written in August 2013 that quoted Lord Tebbit’s question from the debate on same-sex marriage. If you missed it, what the Tory peer said was: “When we have a queen who is a lesbian and she marries another lady and then decides she would like to have a child and someone donates sperm and she gives birth to a child, is that child heir to the throne?”
I use this quote at the start of my novel, A Very Civil Wedding, as it is one of the questions the book answers. The simple answer to Lord Tebbit’s question is: “Yes, a lesbian monarch’s child would be heir to the throne”. The 2008 Human Fertilisation & Embryology Act clarifies this. The rule is that that both women are treated as the parents, and any children, conceived or born to either party whilst in a same-sex partnership, are legitimate. In the case of the Royal Family, this would mean that the child would take their place in the line of succession.
More interesting is the question of what Britain as a nation would do if the heir to the throne was gay or lesbian and wanted to marry, or make their relationship official. Britain has had gay and lesbian monarchs before (Edward II, James VI, and Anne), but in all cases they married a member of the opposite sex and kept their affairs out of the public eye. Partly this was due to the prevailing view of homosexuality, and partly it was due to the law not enabling the relationship to be recognised. There are no such barriers today. A member of the Royal Family can have a legally recognised same-sex marriage or civil partnership and, as I have already said, that partnership could legitimately continue the royal line.
I tend to think that we are a much more tolerant nation than we were. A great many people have now attended civil partnership ceremonies for friends and family and, during 2014, we will start attending the first gay marriages in Britain. I have yet to hear anyone say that they didn’t enjoy a civil partnership ceremony, just the same as they enjoy a traditional wedding. However, although we are happy to attend our son, daughter, cousin, friend’s big gay wedding, would we be as tolerant when it was the heir to the throne who was getting married? I hope that the majority of the British public would be just as pleased to celebrate a same-sex wedding for an heir to the throne as they were to celebrate William and Kate’s wedding in 2011.
The biggest problem for a homosexual monarch is not public support then, but the Church of England because along with the crown comes the role of Supreme Governor of the Church of England. During the recent debates over same-sex marriage, the Church of England made its position clear. It does not recognise same-sex unions as marriages and refuses to give a blessing to civil partnerships. Any homosexual member of the Royal Family close enough to the throne to make it a reality that they might one day become Supreme Governor of the Church of England would have to address the issue of how they can become head of an organisation that sees their relationship as, at best, something inferior to heterosexual marriage and, at worst, an outrage against God. This is where the story of A Very Civil Wedding starts.
My research led me to consider a number of viable options for Princess Alexandra and her partner, Grace Stephens:
- Princess Alexandra could do what other monarchs have done and make a marriage of convenience for the purposes of procreation, whilst keeping her mistress on the side.
- Princess Alexandra could announce her intention to marry Grace Stephens and see whether she could win enough hearts and minds within the Church of England to enable her marriage to be conducted, or at least blessed, by the church.
- Princess Alexandra could seek the disestablishment of the Church of England so that, at her coronation, she was not appointed Supreme Governor of the Church of England.
- Princess Alexandra could marry Grace Stephens, but announce her intention to abdicate before her coronation in favour of her sister, Princess Eleanor, avoiding the problem.
All four options have public and personal ramifications for the Princess and her partner. Would option 1 really be viable with today’s paparazzi fuelled media? Would option 2 be realistic, given the strength of opinion on the issue within the church? How would the British people react to option 3, never mind the church? And why should the Princess abdicate, as in option 4, simply for marrying the woman she loves?
To discover which option I chose for Alexandra and Grace and how the British people reacted, you will have to read A Very Civil Wedding.
Further reading: Take a look at V.T. Davy’s post Gay Marriage and the Nature of Marriage Itself.