The Act of Settlement and the unravelling of the UK Constitution?

The News Letter has a fascinating quote from Wallace Thompson:

“We are in danger of moving towards that full-blown repeal of the Act of Settlement and the overthrowing of the Protestant basis of the monarchy. I think it would be a very serious development for the United Kingdom. My loyalty to the throne is based on the monarchy being Protestant, so from a personal point of view if that were to happen then my loyalty to the monarchy would end.”

So risible and 16th century you might say, but His Grace has this important connotation to add:

The Act of Settlement is formally entitled ‘An Act for the further Limitation of the Crown and better securing the Rights and Liberties of the Subject’. It is because the Crown has historically been limited that our rights and liberties have been preserved. The Act was forged during an era of intolerable foreign interference in the governance of England. Like Magna Carta, it is a foundational treaty between the Monarch and his/her subjects which defines our liberties and asserts our sovereign independence from all foreign princes and potentates. And its provisions are ‘for ever’: our forebears made sure it was watertight.

But David Cameron chips away at this Act as though it were no different from any other. And by so doing, he weakens the contract between the Monarchy and the people, because once the Monarch is Roman Catholic or married to one, ‘in all and every such case and cases the people of these realms shall be and are thereby absolved of their allegiance’. Parliament cannot demand a fealty which the Constitution nullifies. The Prime Minister appears to be oblivious to the fact that the Oath of Allegiance is contingent upon the provisions in the Act of Settlement, and so he picks away at a delicate thread by which the whole gilded fabric of the carefully-woven tapestry will unravel, including the establishment of the Church of England.

To quote the words of Hugh Gaitskell at the 1962 Labour Party Conference, as he warned of the inevitability of surrendered sovereignty should the UK become a member of the EEC: “You may say ‘let it end’ but, my goodness, it is a decision that needs a little care and thought.”

Sadly, the Prime Minister doesn’t have much time for ‘care and thought’. He is a thoroughly postmodern politician, not given to the discipline of contemplation demanded by history, theology or philosophy. His priority concern is economic politics, or political economics. Everything else is peripheral and expendable.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty