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Rules of succession: a man's world

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As Japanese princesses well know, the phrase "succeeding to the throne" still goes hand in hand with succeeding in giving birth to a boy.

Despite a smattering of prominent exceptions, notably Elizabeth II of England, the rules remain stacked against female succession in most of the world's surviving monarchies.

Belgium: Since 1991, women have had the same rights as men to accede to the throne. The current heir is Prince Philippe, but second in line is his daughter, Princesse Elisabeth.

Britain: The system still discriminates in favour of males via the rule of male primogeniture. This means that the eldest legitimate son of the monarch succeeds the throne; it only passes to a daughter if there is no son. Had Elizabeth had a younger brother, he would have had precedence. The first four currently in line to the throne, beginning with Prince Charles, are males.

Denmark: Succession is by male primogeniture, as in Britain. Prince Frederik is due to succeed his mother, Queen Margrethe II.

Japan: Although Japan has had a total of eight reigning empresses in its long history, they were always an exception. A rule of strict male primogeniture was imposed in the late 19th century.

Jordan: Succession is by the male line only, but the king has the power to designate his successor. In 2004 King Abdullah II stripped his half-brother Hamzeh of the title of crown prince, and the succession for the moment remains undetermined.

The Netherlands: The eldest child of the monarch succeeds to the throne, independently of sex. The line of succession is laid down in the constitution, and can be changed by parliament. Prince Willem-Alexander is first in line, followed by his daughter, Princess Princess Catharina-Amalia.

Saudi Arabia: The throne must pass to a male member of the royal family, but the crown prince is chosen rather than determined by a strict order of succession. The current crown prince, Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, is a younger brother of King Abdullah.

Spain: Succession is still via male primogeniture, and although the government has talked of changing the law, any change would only affect future generations. The current crown prince is Felipe, son of King Juan Carlos, and the elder of the prince's two daughters, Infanta Leonor, is second in line.

Sweden: In 1980 Sweden abolished the ancient system of strict male primogeniture, giving equal rights to male and female heirs. First in line to succeed King Carl XVI Gustaf is Princess Victoria.

Thailand: The succession normally goes to the monarch's eldest son, but if there is no male heir a princess may succeed subject to parliamentary approval. The designated heir to King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit is their only son, Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn. He has precedence over his elder sister, Princess Ubol Ratana.



AFP 051157 GMT 09 06

COPYRIGHT 2006 Agence France-Presse. All rights reserved.

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