‘Anxious for the welfare of his people’: the passage of the Royal Marriages Act (1772)

The History of Parliament

Last week we welcomed the news of the forthcoming marriage of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle. This is notable as the first royal engagement since changes were made to the rules governing royal marriages. Prior to 2013 and the passing of a new Royal Succession Act, descendants of George II (reigned 1727-1760) – with some exceptions – required the sovereign’s permission to marry under the rules of the Royal Marriages Act (1772). The new Act repealed the 1772 measure (it also ended the discrimination against Catholics). Now only the six people nearest in line to the throne require the monarch’s permission to marry. As fifth in line to the throne, this includes Prince Harry. Dr Robin Eagles considers the motivations behind the passage of the 1772 Act and some of the accompanying responses.

On 20 February 1772 a message from the king was conveyed to both Houses requesting Parliament to…

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