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Monaco’s twin constitutional succession situation

October 10, 2014 by Scott Bomboy

 

Monaco is facing a rather interesting situation as two new heirs to the crown are on the way at the same time, and only one can rule under the principality’s constitution.

Prince_and_Princess_of_Monaco
The Prince and Princess of Monaco. Wikicommons: Piotr Drabik

News came out this week that Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene are expecting twins. The couple married in July 2011, and the babies will be first in line to ascend to the Monegasque throne when Prince Albert, 56, has passed away or is unable to rule.

Under a constitutional change made by the late Prince Rainier III in 2002, the line of succession changed to allow more of Prince Rainier’s children, and their children, to become eligible to lead the principality.

Before then, the crown of Monaco could only pass to the direct descendants of the monarch, with males having priority. In that case, Prince Albert would have replaced Prince Rainier as ruler, but Albert’s two sisters, Caroline and Stephanie, would have dropped from the line of succession once Albert became ruler.

Unless Albert adopted children upon taking the throne or had children through marriage, the line of succession faced a daunting constitutional question: Under a 1918 treaty with France, Monaco would have reverted to becoming a French protectorate if the throne became vacant because there was no successor.

This situation nearly happened in 1918 when German relatives of the Grimaldi family had a potential claim on the throne.

The 2002 constitutional amendment barred adopted children from the line of succession and made sure the throne “could only pass to a person holding Monegasque citizenship on the day the succession opens.”

But the key parts of “Chapter II. The Prince, The Demise Of The Crown,” broadened the line of succession to include “brothers and sisters of the reigning prince and their direct legitimate descendants” and to make sure succession “takes place by the direct and legitimate issue of the reigning prince, by order of primogeniture with priority given to males within the same degree of kinship.”

Prince Albert did succeed his father in 2005 with his eldest sister, Princess Caroline, as the heir presumptive. But with children now on the way for the royal couple, there are several interesting twists in the succession saga.

Albert had two children before his marriage who were born out of wedlock. They aren’t heirs to the crown.

If the twins are both boys, the first child born becomes the heir to the throne, with his twin brother as heir presumptive.

If the twins are a boy and a girl, the boy becomes heir, regardless of if he is born first or second. His sister is heir presumptive unless her parents have another child who is a boy in the future.

If the twins are both girls, the first child born becomes the heir to the throne, with his twin sister as heir presumptive – unless or until another boy comes along. Then the younger boy becomes the heir to the throne.

Continuity is important in Monaco, with the Grimaldi family ruling the principality since 1297, except for a brief period of French rule. Monaco passed a constitution in 1911 that limited the prince’s powers.

The Monaco situation is similar to the situation in the United Kingdom with one huge difference.

Under the Succession to the Crown Act of 2013, if royal twins are born and they are first line to the crown, the first child born, regardless of gender, is the heir. The act made sure that male children born after October 28, 2011 no longer preceded their elder sisters in the line of succession to the crown.

That became a factor when Princess Catherine became pregnant and the wait was on for the gender of her first child.

So the first chance for the United Kingdom's act to have a meaningful impact will need to wait for a few generations, with Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince George already in line for the British crown.

And if you are curious, Prince Albert's twins won't be able to claim American citizenship at birth. The Prince's mother, the late Princess Grace of Monaco, held dual citizenship, but Prince Albert gave up his American citizenship when he became 21 years of age.

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