LADY GABRIELLA WINDSOR was a stunning royal bride this year – however her own parents’ marriage caused a controversy that called her position in the line of succession into question and embroiled Pope Paul VI and Prince Charles.
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Lady Gabriella Windsor married her husband Thomas Kingston in their royal wedding at St George’s Chapel in May. The Queen was in attendance, alongside Prince Philip, and latest royal bride-to-be Princess Beatrice with new finance Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi. However, before Lady Gabriella was born, her potential position in the line of succession was the subject of controversy that even saw the Vatican get involved.
This was because of her parents, Prince and Princess Michael of Kent’s marriage.
Under the law at the time, any heirs to the throne lost their claim in the line of succession if they married a Catholic.
Princess Michael, whose maiden name was Marie-Christine von Riebniz, is Catholic, meaning that Prince Michael had to renounce his position in line to the crown.
At the time, he was placed at number 15 in line, but was removed completely from the line of succession.
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Prince and Princess Michael of Kent’s cicl wedding in 1978 (Image Getty)
However, author Suzanne B. Geissler, writing in 1981, delves into the controversy surrounding the marriage and the couple’s children, Lady Gabriella and her brother Lord Freddie.
Ms Geissler’s article “Reflections on a Royal Wedding” , explains: “The couple originally planned to be married in a Roman Catholic ceremony because they were forbidden an Anglican one.
“However, when Michael and his fiancee let it be known that all their children would be raised in the Church of England, Pope Paul VI refused permission for them to be married in a Roman Catholic ceremony.”
The New York Times reported at the time that the couple were “very distressed” at the Pope’s ruling.
Pope Paul VI refused to issue a dispensation for the couple (Image Getty)
Prince Michael, according to the newspaper, “said that he was not prepared to agree to rear any children of the union as Catholics” and that “they would, in fact, be brought up in the Anglican Church”.
This contravenes Catholic canon law, which states that parents of children born in a marriage of mixed religions must make their best effort to bring up the children in the Catholic faith.
Princess Michael was reported to be petitioning the Pope for a dispensation at the time, to allow her to go ahead with the marriage and the plan to raise her children in the Church of England, but to remain herself in communion with the Catholic Church.
Pope John Paul II issued the papal dispensation in 1982 (Image Getty)
The happy couple were eventually able to get a Catholic blessing for their marriage (Image Getty)
However, Pope Paul VI refused this.
Ms Geissler continues: “Accordingly, a civil ceremony was planned, and the couple was married in the Vienna Town Hall on June 30, 1978.
“It was the first civil wedding in the Royal Family since the Duke of Windsor and Wallis Simpson were married in 1937.”
Princess Michael was also the first divorcee to marry into the Royal Family since Mrs Simpson.
Ms Geissler adds: “The newlyweds spent the night apart so that the bride could receive Communion the next morning at a private Mass.
“Once the marriage was consummated the bride would be automatically excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church.”
The controversy was not over, however, as Prince Charles caused offence to Catholics worldwide when, on the day of the wedding, he addressed the Salvation Army.
The Prince of Wales said: “It seems worse than folly that Christians are still arguing about doctrinal matters which can only bring needless distress to a number of people.”
The Vatican itself termed Charles’ remark “sheer impertinence”.
Royal Weddings (Image DX)
The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow said that Charles had “caused annoyance and anger to millions of the Queen’s loyal subjects”.
Although the Church of England had previously refused to recognise Princess Michael’s annulment of her first marriage, the Church reversed its position, although Ms Geissler wonders – “perhaps because of Charles’ prodding?”
Prince and Princess Michael had their civil marriage blessed in an Anglican church in October 1978.
Eventually, in 1983, Pope John Paul II reversed the earlier papal decision regarding a dispensation for the couple’s marriage, and they subsequently had a private Catholic wedding ceremony in London.
The British law changed with the Succession to the Crown Act 2013, which now allows for any heir in the line of succession to marry someone of the Catholic faith and retain their succession rights.
It meant that Prince Michael’s place in the line of succession was reinstated, and he is now 45th-in-line.
Lady Gabriella and her brother Lord Freddie have been in line since birth, as they were brought up in the Church of England.
Freddie is currently at number 46, and Gabriella is at number 49, behind her brother’s two children.
However, there are still some royal descendants who are barred from taking their places in line to the throne.
Although an heir may marry a Catholic, no one in the line of succession may be Catholic themselves.
Edward Windsor, Lord Downpatrick, and his sister Lady Marina Windsor both converted to Catholicism in 2003 and 2008, making them the most senior people in line to be excluded from succession.
Edward and Marina are the grandchildren of the Duke of Kent, and are said to be close to their third cousin Princess Beatrice.
Source: EXPRESS CO UK