The British royal family is considering proposals that would bring it more into line with other Western European monarchies.
The plans include cutting the number of family members involved in public duties, ending the 300-year ban on the monarch marrying a Catholic and allowing women members equal rights to the throne.Senior family members and advisers are also believed to be looking at the public funding of the monarchy after the current arrangements, under which the family receives $85.8 million a year, expire in 2000.
But it;s not clear if they are considering changes to the monarch's powers to to appoint prime ministers and dissolve parliament.
The discussions are taking place against increasing political pressure for reform. The British public has followed frequent media reports on the extravagant lifestyles of some family members and high-profile divorces of three of Queen Elizabeth's four children.
While Buckingham Palace would not comment Monday on particular proposals, it confirmed that "strategic issues" were discussed at regular meetings between family members and royal advisers. But it said no decisions were "imminent."
Buckingham Palace said reforms had already been introduced since 1992, when the queen agreed to pay income tax and the number of family members receiving public funds was reduced.
Observers say likely reforms include ending the ban on Catholic marriage and restrictions on female succession.
Lord St. John of Fawsley, a constitutional expert and former Conservative cabinet minister, said that allowing royal family members to marry Catholics would not require the severing of the special link between the monarchy and the Church of England.
The queen is thought to be keen that the monarch stay head of the Church of England, but Prince Charles, the heir to the throne, has suggested that the link is outdated.
More contentious would be changes to public funding of the royal family. Buckingham Palace would not comment on suggestions that it was considering the scrapping of all public subsidy in exchange for the return of former crown lands.
It seems unlikely the government would accept this. The Crown Estates generated income of $147.5 million last year while total public funding of the royal family cost $85.8 million.