The principality of Liechtenstein is the only European monarchy which completely bars the succession of women to the throne.
Karl I, the first Prince of Liechtenstein and his brothers Maximilian and Gundakar signed a Family Convenasnt in 1606 agreeing that the “firstborn son of the oldest line would have the hereditary title and would represent the House.” 1 The House Laws were updated in 1993 but did provide for the succession of a woman to the hereditary title.2 The succession is now limited to male patrilineal descendants of Prince Johann I Joseph, who are born to married parents and for which marriage the sovereign has given their consent.
This issue was later raised by the United Nations by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, saying, “While acknowledging the dual system of the State party, the Committee is concerned about the State party’s reservation to article 1 of the Convention with respect to hereditary succession to the throne within the Princely House of Liechtenstein, which denies women’s access to the throne, as confirmed by the delegation.” 3
Hans-Adam II, Prince of Liechtenstein, fired back, saying “that the ancient family law that regulates the men-only rule is older even than the actual state of Liechtenstein and that it is a family tradition that does not affect the citizens. The Prince also points out that the monarchies of Monaco, Denmark and Spain all follow male-preference primogeniture.” 4 It should be noted that since the Prince’s comments, Denmark and the United Kingdom have changed their succession to absolute primogeniture. However, Spain and Monaco currently still practice male-preference primogeniture, which affected Princess Gabriella of Monaco directly as she, despite being the firstborn, is preceded in the line of succession by her brother Prince Jacques.
However, discrimination cannot be defended by saying it’s a family tradition. Over the years, many Liechtenstein Princesses have missed out on becoming the reigning Princess. This includes the first Prince’s eldest daughter, Princess Anna Maria Franziska, the second Prince’s eldest daughter Princess Eleonora Maria, the third Prince’s eldest daughter Princess Maria Elisabeth, the sixth Prince’s eldest surviving daughter Princess Maria Theresia; the seventh Prince’s only surviving child Princess Maria Antonia… the list goes on.
The current heir has a firstborn son, but this does not make it a moot point. The United Kingdom also saw fit to change the rules of succession while there was a male heir with a firstborn son. Get with the times, Liechtenstein! (And Spain, Monaco and all other non-European monarchies with archaic rules!).
- Liechtenstein Embassy
- The Succession to the Throne
- Report p.242
- The Times
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