Under the former law, dating back to 1701, women were succeeded by their brothers in succession even if they were the first born.
The act also allows the future monarch to marry a Roman Catholic.
The Succession to the Crown Act 2013 came into force after being approved by all 16 Commonwealth countries where Her Majesty is head of state.
In October 2011, the legislation was decided in principle at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Perth, Australia.
The 2011 change in the law came ahead of the birth of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s first child Prince George.
As well as amendments to succession, the provisions removed a condition for descendants of George II to seek consent to marry from the monarch. The condition dating back to 1772 replaced the requirement for the first six people in the succession to seek the sovereign’s consent.
The present prohibition on the monarch being a Catholic will stay in force, but members of the Royal family who marries a Catholic will no longer lose their position in line to the throne.
The written statement from Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is as follows:
Today the provisions of the Succession to the Crown Act 2013 come into force.
The Act removes the male bias in the line of succession, ending the system of male heirs automatically inheriting the throne over female heirs and removing this historic discrimination against women. The Act also ends another long-standing piece of discrimination, the bar on anyone who marries a Roman Catholic from becoming monarch, and replaces the outdated Royal Marriages Act 1772 such that only the first 6 in line to the throne need consent of the monarch to marry.
These changes were agreed at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Perth, Australia, in October 2011. The Government has worked closely with the 15 other countries where the Queen is Head of State to make the necessary arrangements to give effect to the changes. Today these changes have come into effect across every Realm.
During the passage of the legislation, the Advocate General undertook to update Parliament as to how each Realm had given effect to the changes to Royal succession. Six Realms in addition to the United Kingdom chose to legislate for the changes: Australia, Barbados, Canada, New Zealand, St Kitts and Nevis and St Vincent and the Grenadines. Nine Realms concluded that the legislation was not necessary: Antigua and Barbuda; Bahamas, Belize, Grenada, Jamaica, Papua New Guinea, St Lucia, Solomon Islands, and Tuvalu.
The Act reflects this Government’s emphasis on equality by removing centuries of discrimination on both religious and gender grounds. The Act puts in place succession laws that are fit for the 21st century and for a modern constitutional monarchy.
Photo credit: Filip Maljkovi?