The Curious Case of Eddy Windsor

Wikipedia’s daily “Did you know?” featured a guy by the name of Eddy Windsor the other day. As you can probably guess, Eddy is a relative of the Royal family, the Windsors. However, Eddy is excluded from the line of succession because Eddy is a Catholic. This absurd rule has survived in New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements to ensure there’s no issues for the British royals suceeding to the position of New Zealand’s head of state.

Even after changes to the succession rules in 2011 that removed the sexist “males before females” rule, the rule banning Catholics was kept. It was kept in place because constitutionally, the British monarch must be a “in communion” with the Church of England. The Queen’s official New Zealand title includes the phrase “Defender of the Faith” - where the faith means the Church of England.

All of this is clearly at odds with New Zealand’s secular values. We’re a country of many religions and, critically, a verbal promise was made by Captain William Hobson at the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 that those who joined the Catholic faith would also be protected by the British Crown (at the time, the Catholic missionaries in New Zealand - led by Bishop Pompallier, who asked for the reassurance, were French).

And yes, I know the usual argument with this stuff is that it’s just a symbol, it doesn’t affect anyone in New Zealand. That’s true, but then, the head of state is a symbol of our country. Are we a sectarian society that excludes people because of their religious convictions? Of course not. It’s a testament to the irrelevance of the monarchy that we aren’t too bothered by this symbolism.

Image: The chiefs Waikato and Hongi Hika with missionary Thomas Kendall in England, oil painting by James Barry, 1820. National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington (Ref:G-618)