1) Last time a Brit sovereign ixnayed a child's marriage? 2) Words for Royal actions (eg, "decrees")

A twofer OP. First yet another OP in the GQ continuing series on succession–and its recent GQ flood of hits on Harry and Meghan–then a query on Brit Royals and government.

I just read that even with a recently revised something-something Succession Act (:slight_smile: somebody here will know what I’m talking about), Harry, being 5th and not 7th-and-beyond (I think that’s the cut-off), had to ask Mama officially for permission and Mama had to officially inform whomever needs to be informed of these things.

  1. What’s the deal on that? Is there a document publicly available recording this action?

  2. When has it been exercised with a “No” last?

This is perhaps answerable by a word or words of general applicability, the differences between each being interesting: what is the technical (political) word for, eg, where in query 1) above I write “this ‘action.’”’

  1. Is there one at all? Ie, specifically for stuff like this, where the Royal she/he carries out an obligation otherwise not named (such as “Reciting the Oath,” or something else the Government must have)?

1a. I ask this as attendant upon my realization that I don’t know if “decree” is some real term of art for Royal/government activity, historically or even, at least in a dictionary, currently. Is it?

His Mama?


The official document is called the “Instrument of Consent” and you can see it online.

The last time permission to marry was refused by the monarch was in 1953, when the Queen refused to consent to the marriage of her sister Princess Margaret to Peter Townsend, who was divorced. Eventually Margaret was offered the opportunity to marry him by giving up her place in the succession, as explained by the BBC.

The 1772 Royal Marriages Act held that the marriage of any of the descendants of King George II without the consent of the sovereign. If they did, the marriage would be void.

While there were several cases where such individuals contracted marriages without obtaining consent, these were cases where no application was made. Only in one case was consent not given to an application which was made; which was in 1946, when Prince George of Hannover’s application was not acted upon, this being right after WW2 and granting such consent to a German national was seen as unseemly. Princess Margaret never made an application.

The Succession to the Crown Act 2013 (in force 2015) repealed the 1772 Act and replaced it with a provision that the first six persons in line to the throne needed the monarchs consent to marry, if they did not, then while the marriages would be legal, any children of the union would not be in line to the throne.


The last time permission to marry was refused by the monarch was in 1953, when the Queen refused to consent to the marriage of her sister Princess Margaret to Peter Townsend, who was divorced. Eventually Margaret was offered the opportunity to marry him by giving up her place in the succession, as explained by the [BBC]

It was not refused since no application was ever made. No application was refused ever and the only instance where consent was not forthcoming after an application, was a case of the monarch (on advise of ministers) not answering the application, as opposed to refusing.

Lots of marriages and potential marriages would have been refused consent if they had asked (like most of George III’s sons and probably Margaret and Group Captain Townsend) but they never did.

Grandmama, of course.

The Royal Marriages Act of 1772 required the Sovereign’s approval for the marriage of people within a certain degree of descent from George II to be

" signified under the Great Seal, and declared in Council, (which consent, to preserve the memory thereof is hereby directed to be set out in the licence and register of marriage, and to be entered in the books of the Privy Council)"

but it did provide a route for someone denied such permission to persist once they reached 25, had given notice of their intention to the Privy Council and given an opportunity to Parliament to decide whether such a marriage should be considered lawful.

The revision in the Succession to the Crown Act 2013 still provides for the same formal procedure, but only for the first six in the line of succession, and simply removes them from the line of succession if they don’t follow the rules, rather than declaring the marriage null and void and making them go through the formal notification to Parliament.

So there’d be a fancy document somewhere signed by the Sovereign to show approval (something showy to hang in the downstairs loo), but these days, a refusal would no doubt be clear before it got anywhere near a formal procedure.

As for the last known disapproval, I suspect it’s hard to know if there was a specific formal application and denial. I believe Queen Victoria put her foot down over her grandson Albert Victor’s romance with a daughter of the pretender to the French throne (French! A Catholic!) - he was the oldest son of Edward VII but predeceased him - but that may well have been well before any formal proposition was made. I don’t know if Edward VIII had intended to try to get married to Wallis Simpson before he became King, but if he did of course it would have got nowhere with his father.

As long as we’re getting all nostalgic, what got up George II’s nose that he put this thing through? And, frankly FWIW, I’m surprised that hasn’t been around since 1066 and all that.
ETA: Will read cite above now, which probably goes into that. But plain text wrap-up posted here is always nice.

Can’t let anyone marry into a Catholic family or a enemy power.

George II was dead a dozen years when this was passed. It was passed by Parliament to control the Royal Family and keep the power of the monarch under check.

The Act was proposed by George III as a direct result of the marriage of his brother, Prince Henry, Duke of Cumberland and Strathearn, who in 1771 had married the commoner Anne Horton, the daughter of Simon Luttrell and the widow of Christopher Horton. Royal Assent was given to the Act on 1 April 1772, and it was only on 13 September following that the King learned that another brother, Prince William Henry, Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh, had in 1766 secretly married Maria, the illegitimate daughter of Sir Edward Walpole and the widow of the 2nd Earl Waldegrave. Both alliances were considered highly unsuitable by the King, who “saw himself as having been forced to marry for purely dynastic reasons”.

The Royal Marriages Act is incidentally one of the main reason David Cameron was PM and not King.

They also get kicked out of the line of succession if they marry without consent, which is more severe than what the 1772 act did. But probably the wise choice given the events of 1936.

This basically formalises what was suggested as a solution to the Margaret-Gp Capt Townsend question, Margaret would remain a Royal, marriage would be recognized and she would renounce her place in the line of succession for herself and her children.

I wonder who was the last person to ask for permission under the Royal Marriages Act? I think Zara Philips did ask.

Why on earth would be ever become King?

If you believe the tabloids, QE2 didn’t just nix her sister’s marriage, she also nixed Charles’ first attempt to marry Camilla Parker Bowles and Andrew’s romance with the actress Koo Stark.

I’m not sure why Princess Anne is still in the line of succession, having been divorced and remarried. Perhaps she’s still eligible to be the sovereign, but not the head of the Church of England.

I agree. His “Mama” has been deceased for twenty years.

So, worms?

Enough already. Generic, normal “his/her Momma/Poppa” conflated with Special Harry.

Too late. 1521 Diet of Worms.

FTR, Shakespeare had Hamlet make this same pun a few years before this appearance in SD.

Possibly because she’s so far down the list that it’s not worth worrying about. Currently 13th, and probably dropping in the near future, behind her three brothers and all their descendants. Had the 2011 succession act been made retroactive, she would have vaulted up past younger brothers Edward and Andrew, which would have made her 7th now.