Titles – It’s different for girls

The royal weddingNicola here! Today I’m dipping into the subject of titles
once again. This is a hot topic in the UK at the moment because there is a bill
before parliament to change the laws of succession to the throne. You would
think in this day and age that a proposal to change the law to allow a
first-born princess to take the throne with precedence over a younger brother
would not be controversial. Not so. It has stirred up a great deal of debate,
not least as to whether the same rules should apply to the aristocracy.

 Kings are different

The rules pertaining to the succession to the monarchy have
always been different from those that apply
William Rufus
to aristocratic titles. At present
succession to the British throne is by what is called male-preference cognatic
primogeniture. This means that if the reigning monarch has a son, he will
inherit regardless of whether he has elder sisters. If there is no male heir
then the eldest daughter will succeed as in the case of the current Queen. This
wasn’t always the case, of course. Originally in England and Scotland there
were no fixed rules governing succession to the throne. Witness William the
Conqueror willing the throne to his second son William Rufus whilst his eldest
son Robert got the Duchy of Normandy. Robert didn’t like it, and invaded, but
he was paid off. Then there was the anarchy when Henry I named his daughter
Matilda as his successor but his nephew Stephen took the throne instead.
Stephen and Matilda fought it out over a period of years and it was her son,
not his, who inherited next. Richard II named his nephew Arthur as his heir
rather than his younger brother John. Then there were all the primogeniture
squabbles of the Wars of the Roses. A little known fact is that Henry VIII’s
will proposed that his daughter Elizabeth should be succeeded by Lady Anne
Stanley, descendent of his sister Mary, Duchess of Suffolk and Charles Brandon.
That, of course, never happened.

Out of all this confusion came the Act of Settlement of 1701
which still governs succession to the throne, with various other pieces of
legislation also in effect. The current amendment proposes that the first-born
child of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Prince William and Princess Kate)
should one day inherit the throne regardless of whether it is a girl or a boy.

The oldest of the old boys’ clubs

In contrast to the monarchy, inheritance in the aristocracy
has in the main part been governed by male primogeniture. This means that in
most cases the title – and the entire estate – descends in the male line only to
the exclusion of women. So if the Duke of Dastardly has six daughters and no
sons then his title will go to his eldest surviving brother and from there to
the brother’s sons. If there are no close male relatives it will go to the
fifth cousin twice removed rather than to the daughters.

Inspiration for Plots

Lady MaryWe all understand this. It is the basis of any number of
plots in historical fiction. The Downton Abbey story begins with the fact that
the Earl of Grantham has three daughters and no son, his close male heir is drowned
in the Titanic and the title is going to descend to Matthew, a distant relative
and (shock, horror!) a member of the middle classes who works for a living. How
different it would all have been if Lady Mary Crawley had been the heir!

Then there is Pride and Prejudice. The only reason that the
odious Mr Collins is sniffing around Longbourn is because he is Mr Bennet’s
heir. The five Bennet daughters cannot inherit the estate. So Mr Collins is
looking to smooth matters over by marrying one of them. Implicit in this is the
idea that as he is taking their inheritance, one of his responsibilities is to
look after the disenfranchised females of the family.

The idea of male primogeniture is pretty heavily embedded in
a lot of families, witness the number of aristocrats who keep on having
children until there is a male heir. I loved the story of the Sackville-Wests.
In 1954 Lionel Sackville-West and his wife Jacobine had their first daughter.
Lionel’s great-aunt Vita, who had been barred from the succession because she
was female, wrote to congratulate them. When a second daughter was born she
wrote to say how lovely it was that the first had a playmate and hoped that
they weren’t too disappointed she wasn’t a boy. By the birth of a fifth
daughter, all she could find to say was “oh dear.”

Male primogeniture is a fruitful source of plot ideas for a
historical romance writer. The idea of the spirited but penniless daughter in
conflict with the new heir is a very powerful one and it’s one of my
favourites. And of course any change to succession laws now would make no
difference to what happened historically. (Though wouldn’t it be fun if all the
heirs in the female line came forward to make a claim on their inheritance!)
According to an account I read recently, opinion within the ranks of the
aristocracy seems split on whether or not it would be a good thing to change
the laws of inheritance. More than one duke has deemed it a good idea.  Some have suggested that daughters should be
allowed to inherit only if there is no son. Others have rejected the idea
outright, warning that it would lead to the break up of landed estates. Some,
rather bravely in the current climate, have stuck to the traditional view that
all men (and women) are not equal, that women are not as good at running
estates and that “the first duty of a married woman is to have babies.” To
which I can only say – well, it’s a point of view.

Girls can multitask

Arguably the case of the traditionalists is weakened by the
fact that there are already titles and estates
Wrest Park with provision to descend down
the female line. There aren’t a huge number of them but they do exist. I came
across one the other day when I was visiting Wrest Park in Bedfordshire. Wrest
had been in the De Grey family for over 600 years. During that time there were
a number of female heirs in the succession including Jemima Campbell,
Marchioness Grey in the Georgian era, her daughter Amabel Yorke, Countess de
Grey, her granddaughter Anne Florence De Grey and her granddaughter Nan
Herbert, Baroness Lucas. The estate at Wrest passed from the family not because
of female inheritance but because like many others it was simply too huge and
expensive to maintain after the First World War.

Forbidden_350In Forbidden I turned the male primogeniture plot around and
had a title and estate that could pass in the female line. The heroine returns
from the dead to dispossess the male heir. Perhaps it says something about me
and the heroines I enjoy writing that I really loved putting a strong heroine
into a situation where she was only doing what the men were habitually doing!

So what do you think? Do you enjoy stories where male
primogeniture leads to daughters losing out on inheriting a title and estate?
Does the inequality of it bother you in a historical context or does it lead to
good conflict in a story? And do you think that in the real world, daughters
should be allowed to inherit the dukedom?

155 thoughts on “Titles – It’s different for girls”

  1. I love tangled inheritance stories. There are so many possible combinations, what with missing heirs, what’s entailed and what isn’t, and so on. And weren’t the Scots a bit less hidebound than the English when it came to female inheritance?
    As for the current kerfuffle in Britain, it’s kind of hard for me as an American to take it seriously. I’m sure it matters to the people directly affected, and little Suzie would probably like to be able to lord it over her younger brother. But really, what difference would it make?

  2. I love tangled inheritance stories. There are so many possible combinations, what with missing heirs, what’s entailed and what isn’t, and so on. And weren’t the Scots a bit less hidebound than the English when it came to female inheritance?
    As for the current kerfuffle in Britain, it’s kind of hard for me as an American to take it seriously. I’m sure it matters to the people directly affected, and little Suzie would probably like to be able to lord it over her younger brother. But really, what difference would it make?

  3. I love tangled inheritance stories. There are so many possible combinations, what with missing heirs, what’s entailed and what isn’t, and so on. And weren’t the Scots a bit less hidebound than the English when it came to female inheritance?
    As for the current kerfuffle in Britain, it’s kind of hard for me as an American to take it seriously. I’m sure it matters to the people directly affected, and little Suzie would probably like to be able to lord it over her younger brother. But really, what difference would it make?

  4. I love tangled inheritance stories. There are so many possible combinations, what with missing heirs, what’s entailed and what isn’t, and so on. And weren’t the Scots a bit less hidebound than the English when it came to female inheritance?
    As for the current kerfuffle in Britain, it’s kind of hard for me as an American to take it seriously. I’m sure it matters to the people directly affected, and little Suzie would probably like to be able to lord it over her younger brother. But really, what difference would it make?

  5. I love tangled inheritance stories. There are so many possible combinations, what with missing heirs, what’s entailed and what isn’t, and so on. And weren’t the Scots a bit less hidebound than the English when it came to female inheritance?
    As for the current kerfuffle in Britain, it’s kind of hard for me as an American to take it seriously. I’m sure it matters to the people directly affected, and little Suzie would probably like to be able to lord it over her younger brother. But really, what difference would it make?

  6. Given the history of wastrel, male heirs, one would think a female heir might be a relief, unless women turn wastrel too.

  7. Given the history of wastrel, male heirs, one would think a female heir might be a relief, unless women turn wastrel too.

  8. Given the history of wastrel, male heirs, one would think a female heir might be a relief, unless women turn wastrel too.

  9. Given the history of wastrel, male heirs, one would think a female heir might be a relief, unless women turn wastrel too.

  10. Given the history of wastrel, male heirs, one would think a female heir might be a relief, unless women turn wastrel too.

  11. Thanks for your comment, Lil. The laws of inheritance do indeed provide a very fruitful area for plots.
    I’m interested in the attitude of others towards male primogeniture because I imagine that a society such as America which is more meritocratic in that sense must surely support equality? I find it interesting that I love that sort of story in a historical context but as a modern female I would find the thought of a brother inheriting over my head to be intolerable! Naturally I would believe I could run an estate just as well as a man.

  12. Thanks for your comment, Lil. The laws of inheritance do indeed provide a very fruitful area for plots.
    I’m interested in the attitude of others towards male primogeniture because I imagine that a society such as America which is more meritocratic in that sense must surely support equality? I find it interesting that I love that sort of story in a historical context but as a modern female I would find the thought of a brother inheriting over my head to be intolerable! Naturally I would believe I could run an estate just as well as a man.

  13. Thanks for your comment, Lil. The laws of inheritance do indeed provide a very fruitful area for plots.
    I’m interested in the attitude of others towards male primogeniture because I imagine that a society such as America which is more meritocratic in that sense must surely support equality? I find it interesting that I love that sort of story in a historical context but as a modern female I would find the thought of a brother inheriting over my head to be intolerable! Naturally I would believe I could run an estate just as well as a man.

  14. Thanks for your comment, Lil. The laws of inheritance do indeed provide a very fruitful area for plots.
    I’m interested in the attitude of others towards male primogeniture because I imagine that a society such as America which is more meritocratic in that sense must surely support equality? I find it interesting that I love that sort of story in a historical context but as a modern female I would find the thought of a brother inheriting over my head to be intolerable! Naturally I would believe I could run an estate just as well as a man.

  15. Thanks for your comment, Lil. The laws of inheritance do indeed provide a very fruitful area for plots.
    I’m interested in the attitude of others towards male primogeniture because I imagine that a society such as America which is more meritocratic in that sense must surely support equality? I find it interesting that I love that sort of story in a historical context but as a modern female I would find the thought of a brother inheriting over my head to be intolerable! Naturally I would believe I could run an estate just as well as a man.

  16. There is always that chance, Liz! But women have been running estates – and businesses – very efficiently for centuries, regardless of whether their name is on the inheritance or not.

  17. There is always that chance, Liz! But women have been running estates – and businesses – very efficiently for centuries, regardless of whether their name is on the inheritance or not.

  18. There is always that chance, Liz! But women have been running estates – and businesses – very efficiently for centuries, regardless of whether their name is on the inheritance or not.

  19. There is always that chance, Liz! But women have been running estates – and businesses – very efficiently for centuries, regardless of whether their name is on the inheritance or not.

  20. There is always that chance, Liz! But women have been running estates – and businesses – very efficiently for centuries, regardless of whether their name is on the inheritance or not.

  21. I completely agree with you Nicola. I know i could do just as well as my brother. I think that for historical fiction purposes the dispossessed female has always made for interesting story lines, but I am intrigued by stories with female inheritance.
    I was always curious, though how this came to be, and why female inheritance wasn’t written into each entailment simply to protect the family’s direct line of inheritance, sort of like a “catch-all” in case there were only female heirs.

  22. I completely agree with you Nicola. I know i could do just as well as my brother. I think that for historical fiction purposes the dispossessed female has always made for interesting story lines, but I am intrigued by stories with female inheritance.
    I was always curious, though how this came to be, and why female inheritance wasn’t written into each entailment simply to protect the family’s direct line of inheritance, sort of like a “catch-all” in case there were only female heirs.

  23. I completely agree with you Nicola. I know i could do just as well as my brother. I think that for historical fiction purposes the dispossessed female has always made for interesting story lines, but I am intrigued by stories with female inheritance.
    I was always curious, though how this came to be, and why female inheritance wasn’t written into each entailment simply to protect the family’s direct line of inheritance, sort of like a “catch-all” in case there were only female heirs.

  24. I completely agree with you Nicola. I know i could do just as well as my brother. I think that for historical fiction purposes the dispossessed female has always made for interesting story lines, but I am intrigued by stories with female inheritance.
    I was always curious, though how this came to be, and why female inheritance wasn’t written into each entailment simply to protect the family’s direct line of inheritance, sort of like a “catch-all” in case there were only female heirs.

  25. I completely agree with you Nicola. I know i could do just as well as my brother. I think that for historical fiction purposes the dispossessed female has always made for interesting story lines, but I am intrigued by stories with female inheritance.
    I was always curious, though how this came to be, and why female inheritance wasn’t written into each entailment simply to protect the family’s direct line of inheritance, sort of like a “catch-all” in case there were only female heirs.

  26. Thanks, Nancy! Yes it is a great storyline with so much potential but it’s also great that we have the option of female inheritance.
    I don’t know why it wasn’t written in to each entailment as a fail safe. Interesting question. I suspect that perhaps peers genuinely did not believe that female inheritance was a good thing. If some of them still don’t think so they were probably more rabid about it in centuries past. Seems very short-sighted though and the demise of more than one title was the result.

  27. Thanks, Nancy! Yes it is a great storyline with so much potential but it’s also great that we have the option of female inheritance.
    I don’t know why it wasn’t written in to each entailment as a fail safe. Interesting question. I suspect that perhaps peers genuinely did not believe that female inheritance was a good thing. If some of them still don’t think so they were probably more rabid about it in centuries past. Seems very short-sighted though and the demise of more than one title was the result.

  28. Thanks, Nancy! Yes it is a great storyline with so much potential but it’s also great that we have the option of female inheritance.
    I don’t know why it wasn’t written in to each entailment as a fail safe. Interesting question. I suspect that perhaps peers genuinely did not believe that female inheritance was a good thing. If some of them still don’t think so they were probably more rabid about it in centuries past. Seems very short-sighted though and the demise of more than one title was the result.

  29. Thanks, Nancy! Yes it is a great storyline with so much potential but it’s also great that we have the option of female inheritance.
    I don’t know why it wasn’t written in to each entailment as a fail safe. Interesting question. I suspect that perhaps peers genuinely did not believe that female inheritance was a good thing. If some of them still don’t think so they were probably more rabid about it in centuries past. Seems very short-sighted though and the demise of more than one title was the result.

  30. Thanks, Nancy! Yes it is a great storyline with so much potential but it’s also great that we have the option of female inheritance.
    I don’t know why it wasn’t written in to each entailment as a fail safe. Interesting question. I suspect that perhaps peers genuinely did not believe that female inheritance was a good thing. If some of them still don’t think so they were probably more rabid about it in centuries past. Seems very short-sighted though and the demise of more than one title was the result.

  31. I suspect that one of the reasons why male primogeniture has such a hold is because of another old tradition, that of the wife taking her husband’s name on marriage. Combined with (excessive?) pride in the family name on the part of some, the prospect of the estate passing to a woman whose child and heir would have a different name is unacceptable for many.
    I’m also interested in Lil’s point – it was my understanding that many American captains of industry used to operate their own system of male primogeniture, passing their businesses down to their eldest son if at all possible to the exclusion of any daughters. or is that just in books??!!

  32. I suspect that one of the reasons why male primogeniture has such a hold is because of another old tradition, that of the wife taking her husband’s name on marriage. Combined with (excessive?) pride in the family name on the part of some, the prospect of the estate passing to a woman whose child and heir would have a different name is unacceptable for many.
    I’m also interested in Lil’s point – it was my understanding that many American captains of industry used to operate their own system of male primogeniture, passing their businesses down to their eldest son if at all possible to the exclusion of any daughters. or is that just in books??!!

  33. I suspect that one of the reasons why male primogeniture has such a hold is because of another old tradition, that of the wife taking her husband’s name on marriage. Combined with (excessive?) pride in the family name on the part of some, the prospect of the estate passing to a woman whose child and heir would have a different name is unacceptable for many.
    I’m also interested in Lil’s point – it was my understanding that many American captains of industry used to operate their own system of male primogeniture, passing their businesses down to their eldest son if at all possible to the exclusion of any daughters. or is that just in books??!!

  34. I suspect that one of the reasons why male primogeniture has such a hold is because of another old tradition, that of the wife taking her husband’s name on marriage. Combined with (excessive?) pride in the family name on the part of some, the prospect of the estate passing to a woman whose child and heir would have a different name is unacceptable for many.
    I’m also interested in Lil’s point – it was my understanding that many American captains of industry used to operate their own system of male primogeniture, passing their businesses down to their eldest son if at all possible to the exclusion of any daughters. or is that just in books??!!

  35. I suspect that one of the reasons why male primogeniture has such a hold is because of another old tradition, that of the wife taking her husband’s name on marriage. Combined with (excessive?) pride in the family name on the part of some, the prospect of the estate passing to a woman whose child and heir would have a different name is unacceptable for many.
    I’m also interested in Lil’s point – it was my understanding that many American captains of industry used to operate their own system of male primogeniture, passing their businesses down to their eldest son if at all possible to the exclusion of any daughters. or is that just in books??!!

  36. You sent me some information in the past on females inheriting estates which I still have. It’s a subject that has always fascinated me and I love reading historicals where the estate should have been hers but he, the idiot/drunkard/Casanova/pre-teen male inherits and then almost loses the estate and the problems that ensue. I also like to read those rare stories where there really is a female at the helm.
    And my opinion on the monarchy? It should be the one most qualified, but we all know *that’s* not ever gonna happen…
    ;o)

  37. You sent me some information in the past on females inheriting estates which I still have. It’s a subject that has always fascinated me and I love reading historicals where the estate should have been hers but he, the idiot/drunkard/Casanova/pre-teen male inherits and then almost loses the estate and the problems that ensue. I also like to read those rare stories where there really is a female at the helm.
    And my opinion on the monarchy? It should be the one most qualified, but we all know *that’s* not ever gonna happen…
    ;o)

  38. You sent me some information in the past on females inheriting estates which I still have. It’s a subject that has always fascinated me and I love reading historicals where the estate should have been hers but he, the idiot/drunkard/Casanova/pre-teen male inherits and then almost loses the estate and the problems that ensue. I also like to read those rare stories where there really is a female at the helm.
    And my opinion on the monarchy? It should be the one most qualified, but we all know *that’s* not ever gonna happen…
    ;o)

  39. You sent me some information in the past on females inheriting estates which I still have. It’s a subject that has always fascinated me and I love reading historicals where the estate should have been hers but he, the idiot/drunkard/Casanova/pre-teen male inherits and then almost loses the estate and the problems that ensue. I also like to read those rare stories where there really is a female at the helm.
    And my opinion on the monarchy? It should be the one most qualified, but we all know *that’s* not ever gonna happen…
    ;o)

  40. You sent me some information in the past on females inheriting estates which I still have. It’s a subject that has always fascinated me and I love reading historicals where the estate should have been hers but he, the idiot/drunkard/Casanova/pre-teen male inherits and then almost loses the estate and the problems that ensue. I also like to read those rare stories where there really is a female at the helm.
    And my opinion on the monarchy? It should be the one most qualified, but we all know *that’s* not ever gonna happen…
    ;o)

  41. I think a big part of why daughters were cut out of the line of inheritance in the past was because until very recently, on marriage, they were then deemed to belong to their husband. As did everything they owned. They were then entirely dependent on the kindness/goodwill/generosity of their husband, unless a trust had been set up beforehand.
    We already have instances of heiresses being kidnapped or seduced away by ruthless men after their money. How much worse would it be if whole estates (which could include villages, forests, and dozens of rented farms) were to be had by simple elopement?
    Of course, the same goes for female fortune-hunters, but the law was heavily weighted in favor of men, and so the risk was not as great. Even so, a female fortune hunter was still dependent on her husband, and would be no real threat to the estate.
    In a plot, it’s great fun, in real life, not so much.
    Of course, now women are no longer owned by their husbands, and their property remains their own (in general) so that argument no longer holds.

  42. I think a big part of why daughters were cut out of the line of inheritance in the past was because until very recently, on marriage, they were then deemed to belong to their husband. As did everything they owned. They were then entirely dependent on the kindness/goodwill/generosity of their husband, unless a trust had been set up beforehand.
    We already have instances of heiresses being kidnapped or seduced away by ruthless men after their money. How much worse would it be if whole estates (which could include villages, forests, and dozens of rented farms) were to be had by simple elopement?
    Of course, the same goes for female fortune-hunters, but the law was heavily weighted in favor of men, and so the risk was not as great. Even so, a female fortune hunter was still dependent on her husband, and would be no real threat to the estate.
    In a plot, it’s great fun, in real life, not so much.
    Of course, now women are no longer owned by their husbands, and their property remains their own (in general) so that argument no longer holds.

  43. I think a big part of why daughters were cut out of the line of inheritance in the past was because until very recently, on marriage, they were then deemed to belong to their husband. As did everything they owned. They were then entirely dependent on the kindness/goodwill/generosity of their husband, unless a trust had been set up beforehand.
    We already have instances of heiresses being kidnapped or seduced away by ruthless men after their money. How much worse would it be if whole estates (which could include villages, forests, and dozens of rented farms) were to be had by simple elopement?
    Of course, the same goes for female fortune-hunters, but the law was heavily weighted in favor of men, and so the risk was not as great. Even so, a female fortune hunter was still dependent on her husband, and would be no real threat to the estate.
    In a plot, it’s great fun, in real life, not so much.
    Of course, now women are no longer owned by their husbands, and their property remains their own (in general) so that argument no longer holds.

  44. I think a big part of why daughters were cut out of the line of inheritance in the past was because until very recently, on marriage, they were then deemed to belong to their husband. As did everything they owned. They were then entirely dependent on the kindness/goodwill/generosity of their husband, unless a trust had been set up beforehand.
    We already have instances of heiresses being kidnapped or seduced away by ruthless men after their money. How much worse would it be if whole estates (which could include villages, forests, and dozens of rented farms) were to be had by simple elopement?
    Of course, the same goes for female fortune-hunters, but the law was heavily weighted in favor of men, and so the risk was not as great. Even so, a female fortune hunter was still dependent on her husband, and would be no real threat to the estate.
    In a plot, it’s great fun, in real life, not so much.
    Of course, now women are no longer owned by their husbands, and their property remains their own (in general) so that argument no longer holds.

  45. I think a big part of why daughters were cut out of the line of inheritance in the past was because until very recently, on marriage, they were then deemed to belong to their husband. As did everything they owned. They were then entirely dependent on the kindness/goodwill/generosity of their husband, unless a trust had been set up beforehand.
    We already have instances of heiresses being kidnapped or seduced away by ruthless men after their money. How much worse would it be if whole estates (which could include villages, forests, and dozens of rented farms) were to be had by simple elopement?
    Of course, the same goes for female fortune-hunters, but the law was heavily weighted in favor of men, and so the risk was not as great. Even so, a female fortune hunter was still dependent on her husband, and would be no real threat to the estate.
    In a plot, it’s great fun, in real life, not so much.
    Of course, now women are no longer owned by their husbands, and their property remains their own (in general) so that argument no longer holds.

  46. Very good point, HJ. The issue of the name was cited by lots of the aristocrats in the interview I read as being the thing they were most concerned about. Many wanted their daughters to inherit but only if their husbands took the family name.

  47. Very good point, HJ. The issue of the name was cited by lots of the aristocrats in the interview I read as being the thing they were most concerned about. Many wanted their daughters to inherit but only if their husbands took the family name.

  48. Very good point, HJ. The issue of the name was cited by lots of the aristocrats in the interview I read as being the thing they were most concerned about. Many wanted their daughters to inherit but only if their husbands took the family name.

  49. Very good point, HJ. The issue of the name was cited by lots of the aristocrats in the interview I read as being the thing they were most concerned about. Many wanted their daughters to inherit but only if their husbands took the family name.

  50. Very good point, HJ. The issue of the name was cited by lots of the aristocrats in the interview I read as being the thing they were most concerned about. Many wanted their daughters to inherit but only if their husbands took the family name.

  51. Thanks, Anne. Yes that is such a good point about a wife being property (and therefore a wife’s property being the property) of the husband. Again it makes for wonderful inspiration for historical romance.
    But thank goodness marriage and inheritance laws have changed, at least for we mere mortals not in the upper classes in the case of inheritance. My mind is boggling at the thought of being my husband’s property and if I mentioned it to him he would probably laugh like a drain.

  52. Thanks, Anne. Yes that is such a good point about a wife being property (and therefore a wife’s property being the property) of the husband. Again it makes for wonderful inspiration for historical romance.
    But thank goodness marriage and inheritance laws have changed, at least for we mere mortals not in the upper classes in the case of inheritance. My mind is boggling at the thought of being my husband’s property and if I mentioned it to him he would probably laugh like a drain.

  53. Thanks, Anne. Yes that is such a good point about a wife being property (and therefore a wife’s property being the property) of the husband. Again it makes for wonderful inspiration for historical romance.
    But thank goodness marriage and inheritance laws have changed, at least for we mere mortals not in the upper classes in the case of inheritance. My mind is boggling at the thought of being my husband’s property and if I mentioned it to him he would probably laugh like a drain.

  54. Thanks, Anne. Yes that is such a good point about a wife being property (and therefore a wife’s property being the property) of the husband. Again it makes for wonderful inspiration for historical romance.
    But thank goodness marriage and inheritance laws have changed, at least for we mere mortals not in the upper classes in the case of inheritance. My mind is boggling at the thought of being my husband’s property and if I mentioned it to him he would probably laugh like a drain.

  55. Thanks, Anne. Yes that is such a good point about a wife being property (and therefore a wife’s property being the property) of the husband. Again it makes for wonderful inspiration for historical romance.
    But thank goodness marriage and inheritance laws have changed, at least for we mere mortals not in the upper classes in the case of inheritance. My mind is boggling at the thought of being my husband’s property and if I mentioned it to him he would probably laugh like a drain.

  56. I find inheritance laws fascinating, especially all the exceptions for females. (For some reason, none of my siblings seem to agree with me on this, and always seem rather bored when I try to explain…)
    As for modern day aristocrats, I definitely think they should go with eldest child. (I’d certainly be upset if I was passed over in favor of my younger brother!) But then, I’m neither British nor titled, and unabashedly feminist, so I’m likely biased. I also believe that in general, women should keep their names upon marriage (of course, this is every woman’s choice, but to me it seems like a holdover of women belonging to their husband), and maybe give the kids hyphenated names (although this can get rather unwieldy, and when my parents divorced, it definitely became an issue of picking sides for my younger siblings). Frankly, though, in this day and age, the aristocracy really seems quite obsolete, and the fact that this is such an issue for them just seems to underline that fact.

  57. I find inheritance laws fascinating, especially all the exceptions for females. (For some reason, none of my siblings seem to agree with me on this, and always seem rather bored when I try to explain…)
    As for modern day aristocrats, I definitely think they should go with eldest child. (I’d certainly be upset if I was passed over in favor of my younger brother!) But then, I’m neither British nor titled, and unabashedly feminist, so I’m likely biased. I also believe that in general, women should keep their names upon marriage (of course, this is every woman’s choice, but to me it seems like a holdover of women belonging to their husband), and maybe give the kids hyphenated names (although this can get rather unwieldy, and when my parents divorced, it definitely became an issue of picking sides for my younger siblings). Frankly, though, in this day and age, the aristocracy really seems quite obsolete, and the fact that this is such an issue for them just seems to underline that fact.

  58. I find inheritance laws fascinating, especially all the exceptions for females. (For some reason, none of my siblings seem to agree with me on this, and always seem rather bored when I try to explain…)
    As for modern day aristocrats, I definitely think they should go with eldest child. (I’d certainly be upset if I was passed over in favor of my younger brother!) But then, I’m neither British nor titled, and unabashedly feminist, so I’m likely biased. I also believe that in general, women should keep their names upon marriage (of course, this is every woman’s choice, but to me it seems like a holdover of women belonging to their husband), and maybe give the kids hyphenated names (although this can get rather unwieldy, and when my parents divorced, it definitely became an issue of picking sides for my younger siblings). Frankly, though, in this day and age, the aristocracy really seems quite obsolete, and the fact that this is such an issue for them just seems to underline that fact.

  59. I find inheritance laws fascinating, especially all the exceptions for females. (For some reason, none of my siblings seem to agree with me on this, and always seem rather bored when I try to explain…)
    As for modern day aristocrats, I definitely think they should go with eldest child. (I’d certainly be upset if I was passed over in favor of my younger brother!) But then, I’m neither British nor titled, and unabashedly feminist, so I’m likely biased. I also believe that in general, women should keep their names upon marriage (of course, this is every woman’s choice, but to me it seems like a holdover of women belonging to their husband), and maybe give the kids hyphenated names (although this can get rather unwieldy, and when my parents divorced, it definitely became an issue of picking sides for my younger siblings). Frankly, though, in this day and age, the aristocracy really seems quite obsolete, and the fact that this is such an issue for them just seems to underline that fact.

  60. I find inheritance laws fascinating, especially all the exceptions for females. (For some reason, none of my siblings seem to agree with me on this, and always seem rather bored when I try to explain…)
    As for modern day aristocrats, I definitely think they should go with eldest child. (I’d certainly be upset if I was passed over in favor of my younger brother!) But then, I’m neither British nor titled, and unabashedly feminist, so I’m likely biased. I also believe that in general, women should keep their names upon marriage (of course, this is every woman’s choice, but to me it seems like a holdover of women belonging to their husband), and maybe give the kids hyphenated names (although this can get rather unwieldy, and when my parents divorced, it definitely became an issue of picking sides for my younger siblings). Frankly, though, in this day and age, the aristocracy really seems quite obsolete, and the fact that this is such an issue for them just seems to underline that fact.

  61. Debbie- As far as I know, usually both titles would go to the eldest son, with the mother’s potentially going to a daughter in the absence of a son. (The father’s would likely have a normal inheritance path, and so would go to a brother/nephew/male cousin.) However, in certain circumstances, the titles can be separated by royal decree- one set of titles would go to the eldest son, and one to the second. I can’t remember the real-life example, but I know Jo Beverley used it for the children of Rothgar and Diana from Devilish.

  62. Debbie- As far as I know, usually both titles would go to the eldest son, with the mother’s potentially going to a daughter in the absence of a son. (The father’s would likely have a normal inheritance path, and so would go to a brother/nephew/male cousin.) However, in certain circumstances, the titles can be separated by royal decree- one set of titles would go to the eldest son, and one to the second. I can’t remember the real-life example, but I know Jo Beverley used it for the children of Rothgar and Diana from Devilish.

  63. Debbie- As far as I know, usually both titles would go to the eldest son, with the mother’s potentially going to a daughter in the absence of a son. (The father’s would likely have a normal inheritance path, and so would go to a brother/nephew/male cousin.) However, in certain circumstances, the titles can be separated by royal decree- one set of titles would go to the eldest son, and one to the second. I can’t remember the real-life example, but I know Jo Beverley used it for the children of Rothgar and Diana from Devilish.

  64. Debbie- As far as I know, usually both titles would go to the eldest son, with the mother’s potentially going to a daughter in the absence of a son. (The father’s would likely have a normal inheritance path, and so would go to a brother/nephew/male cousin.) However, in certain circumstances, the titles can be separated by royal decree- one set of titles would go to the eldest son, and one to the second. I can’t remember the real-life example, but I know Jo Beverley used it for the children of Rothgar and Diana from Devilish.

  65. Debbie- As far as I know, usually both titles would go to the eldest son, with the mother’s potentially going to a daughter in the absence of a son. (The father’s would likely have a normal inheritance path, and so would go to a brother/nephew/male cousin.) However, in certain circumstances, the titles can be separated by royal decree- one set of titles would go to the eldest son, and one to the second. I can’t remember the real-life example, but I know Jo Beverley used it for the children of Rothgar and Diana from Devilish.

  66. Thanks for your comments, Margot. We share your fascination with inheritance laws here! They may be complicated but they are interesting with it. I love all the exceptions for female inheritance and the way that has played out down the centuries. There are a number of aristocratic families whose descent would have been a lot less painful and complex if only they had embraced female inheritance!

  67. Thanks for your comments, Margot. We share your fascination with inheritance laws here! They may be complicated but they are interesting with it. I love all the exceptions for female inheritance and the way that has played out down the centuries. There are a number of aristocratic families whose descent would have been a lot less painful and complex if only they had embraced female inheritance!

  68. Thanks for your comments, Margot. We share your fascination with inheritance laws here! They may be complicated but they are interesting with it. I love all the exceptions for female inheritance and the way that has played out down the centuries. There are a number of aristocratic families whose descent would have been a lot less painful and complex if only they had embraced female inheritance!

  69. Thanks for your comments, Margot. We share your fascination with inheritance laws here! They may be complicated but they are interesting with it. I love all the exceptions for female inheritance and the way that has played out down the centuries. There are a number of aristocratic families whose descent would have been a lot less painful and complex if only they had embraced female inheritance!

  70. Thanks for your comments, Margot. We share your fascination with inheritance laws here! They may be complicated but they are interesting with it. I love all the exceptions for female inheritance and the way that has played out down the centuries. There are a number of aristocratic families whose descent would have been a lot less painful and complex if only they had embraced female inheritance!

  71. In the United States, businesses often are for sons to inherit and jewelry comes down to daughters. In the 1800’s the Louisiana Purchase changed certain rules of inheritance because the French and Spanish rules of inheritance were different from the English rules. Eliminating primogeniture and entailment was one of the early efforts various states made to equalize inheritance for younger sons not daughters. In romance stories, the failure of the English system to equalize inheritance has led to younger sons being required to patronize their older brothers for their entire adult life and is very unhealthy for teaching men to be responsible adults.

  72. In the United States, businesses often are for sons to inherit and jewelry comes down to daughters. In the 1800’s the Louisiana Purchase changed certain rules of inheritance because the French and Spanish rules of inheritance were different from the English rules. Eliminating primogeniture and entailment was one of the early efforts various states made to equalize inheritance for younger sons not daughters. In romance stories, the failure of the English system to equalize inheritance has led to younger sons being required to patronize their older brothers for their entire adult life and is very unhealthy for teaching men to be responsible adults.

  73. In the United States, businesses often are for sons to inherit and jewelry comes down to daughters. In the 1800’s the Louisiana Purchase changed certain rules of inheritance because the French and Spanish rules of inheritance were different from the English rules. Eliminating primogeniture and entailment was one of the early efforts various states made to equalize inheritance for younger sons not daughters. In romance stories, the failure of the English system to equalize inheritance has led to younger sons being required to patronize their older brothers for their entire adult life and is very unhealthy for teaching men to be responsible adults.

  74. In the United States, businesses often are for sons to inherit and jewelry comes down to daughters. In the 1800’s the Louisiana Purchase changed certain rules of inheritance because the French and Spanish rules of inheritance were different from the English rules. Eliminating primogeniture and entailment was one of the early efforts various states made to equalize inheritance for younger sons not daughters. In romance stories, the failure of the English system to equalize inheritance has led to younger sons being required to patronize their older brothers for their entire adult life and is very unhealthy for teaching men to be responsible adults.

  75. In the United States, businesses often are for sons to inherit and jewelry comes down to daughters. In the 1800’s the Louisiana Purchase changed certain rules of inheritance because the French and Spanish rules of inheritance were different from the English rules. Eliminating primogeniture and entailment was one of the early efforts various states made to equalize inheritance for younger sons not daughters. In romance stories, the failure of the English system to equalize inheritance has led to younger sons being required to patronize their older brothers for their entire adult life and is very unhealthy for teaching men to be responsible adults.

  76. In the early days when the “head of the family” was expected to physically defend the estate it made more sense to have it be a male, but since that is obsolete it should go to the daughters if there is no son – tho that does bring in the complication of change of last name if she marries & has children to continue the line.

  77. In the early days when the “head of the family” was expected to physically defend the estate it made more sense to have it be a male, but since that is obsolete it should go to the daughters if there is no son – tho that does bring in the complication of change of last name if she marries & has children to continue the line.

  78. In the early days when the “head of the family” was expected to physically defend the estate it made more sense to have it be a male, but since that is obsolete it should go to the daughters if there is no son – tho that does bring in the complication of change of last name if she marries & has children to continue the line.

  79. In the early days when the “head of the family” was expected to physically defend the estate it made more sense to have it be a male, but since that is obsolete it should go to the daughters if there is no son – tho that does bring in the complication of change of last name if she marries & has children to continue the line.

  80. In the early days when the “head of the family” was expected to physically defend the estate it made more sense to have it be a male, but since that is obsolete it should go to the daughters if there is no son – tho that does bring in the complication of change of last name if she marries & has children to continue the line.

  81. I hadn’t heard about that carving at Blenheim, Lyn. What a great way to make a statement!
    Diane, that’s a very good point about the head of the family physically defending the estate. Not that girls couldn’t do that too but it would be rare. I was reading about Aethelflaed, Lady of the Mercians, recently. She was a formidable military leader, kind of what I would expect from the daughter of Alfred the Great!

  82. I hadn’t heard about that carving at Blenheim, Lyn. What a great way to make a statement!
    Diane, that’s a very good point about the head of the family physically defending the estate. Not that girls couldn’t do that too but it would be rare. I was reading about Aethelflaed, Lady of the Mercians, recently. She was a formidable military leader, kind of what I would expect from the daughter of Alfred the Great!

  83. I hadn’t heard about that carving at Blenheim, Lyn. What a great way to make a statement!
    Diane, that’s a very good point about the head of the family physically defending the estate. Not that girls couldn’t do that too but it would be rare. I was reading about Aethelflaed, Lady of the Mercians, recently. She was a formidable military leader, kind of what I would expect from the daughter of Alfred the Great!

  84. I hadn’t heard about that carving at Blenheim, Lyn. What a great way to make a statement!
    Diane, that’s a very good point about the head of the family physically defending the estate. Not that girls couldn’t do that too but it would be rare. I was reading about Aethelflaed, Lady of the Mercians, recently. She was a formidable military leader, kind of what I would expect from the daughter of Alfred the Great!

  85. I hadn’t heard about that carving at Blenheim, Lyn. What a great way to make a statement!
    Diane, that’s a very good point about the head of the family physically defending the estate. Not that girls couldn’t do that too but it would be rare. I was reading about Aethelflaed, Lady of the Mercians, recently. She was a formidable military leader, kind of what I would expect from the daughter of Alfred the Great!

  86. DEspite the fact that peerage titles and estates entailed on peerages didn’t become the property of the husband, many families in the past and now, fear that female inheritance would send the title and estate down a different path. It could easily lead to many titles now owned by different families being owned by a few families as sons inherit titles from mother and fathers and then marry a lady with her own title so their son would inherit all three. It is a good way to eliminate the hereditary peerage .

  87. DEspite the fact that peerage titles and estates entailed on peerages didn’t become the property of the husband, many families in the past and now, fear that female inheritance would send the title and estate down a different path. It could easily lead to many titles now owned by different families being owned by a few families as sons inherit titles from mother and fathers and then marry a lady with her own title so their son would inherit all three. It is a good way to eliminate the hereditary peerage .

  88. DEspite the fact that peerage titles and estates entailed on peerages didn’t become the property of the husband, many families in the past and now, fear that female inheritance would send the title and estate down a different path. It could easily lead to many titles now owned by different families being owned by a few families as sons inherit titles from mother and fathers and then marry a lady with her own title so their son would inherit all three. It is a good way to eliminate the hereditary peerage .

  89. DEspite the fact that peerage titles and estates entailed on peerages didn’t become the property of the husband, many families in the past and now, fear that female inheritance would send the title and estate down a different path. It could easily lead to many titles now owned by different families being owned by a few families as sons inherit titles from mother and fathers and then marry a lady with her own title so their son would inherit all three. It is a good way to eliminate the hereditary peerage .

  90. DEspite the fact that peerage titles and estates entailed on peerages didn’t become the property of the husband, many families in the past and now, fear that female inheritance would send the title and estate down a different path. It could easily lead to many titles now owned by different families being owned by a few families as sons inherit titles from mother and fathers and then marry a lady with her own title so their son would inherit all three. It is a good way to eliminate the hereditary peerage .

  91. The trouble with many inheritance stories is that so many people get the rules wrong. Modern writers want daughters and bastards to be able to inherit so write the book as though they could.
    On the other hand there are authors who seem to believe that females couldn’t own anything, ever, and were under a guardian until age 25 or married.

  92. The trouble with many inheritance stories is that so many people get the rules wrong. Modern writers want daughters and bastards to be able to inherit so write the book as though they could.
    On the other hand there are authors who seem to believe that females couldn’t own anything, ever, and were under a guardian until age 25 or married.

  93. The trouble with many inheritance stories is that so many people get the rules wrong. Modern writers want daughters and bastards to be able to inherit so write the book as though they could.
    On the other hand there are authors who seem to believe that females couldn’t own anything, ever, and were under a guardian until age 25 or married.

  94. The trouble with many inheritance stories is that so many people get the rules wrong. Modern writers want daughters and bastards to be able to inherit so write the book as though they could.
    On the other hand there are authors who seem to believe that females couldn’t own anything, ever, and were under a guardian until age 25 or married.

  95. The trouble with many inheritance stories is that so many people get the rules wrong. Modern writers want daughters and bastards to be able to inherit so write the book as though they could.
    On the other hand there are authors who seem to believe that females couldn’t own anything, ever, and were under a guardian until age 25 or married.

  96. Thanks for pointing that out, Nancy. Of course this is exactly what happened, even in places like Wrest. The estate survived but went down a different path. it did not eliminate the hereditary peerage but did make it change direction.

  97. Thanks for pointing that out, Nancy. Of course this is exactly what happened, even in places like Wrest. The estate survived but went down a different path. it did not eliminate the hereditary peerage but did make it change direction.

  98. Thanks for pointing that out, Nancy. Of course this is exactly what happened, even in places like Wrest. The estate survived but went down a different path. it did not eliminate the hereditary peerage but did make it change direction.

  99. Thanks for pointing that out, Nancy. Of course this is exactly what happened, even in places like Wrest. The estate survived but went down a different path. it did not eliminate the hereditary peerage but did make it change direction.

  100. Thanks for pointing that out, Nancy. Of course this is exactly what happened, even in places like Wrest. The estate survived but went down a different path. it did not eliminate the hereditary peerage but did make it change direction.

  101. I imagine the devastation of WW1 did in a lot of the old families and the subsequent economic collapse did in the estates. As for Will and Kate’s kid, just wait a few months and the whole discussion may be academic.

  102. I imagine the devastation of WW1 did in a lot of the old families and the subsequent economic collapse did in the estates. As for Will and Kate’s kid, just wait a few months and the whole discussion may be academic.

  103. I imagine the devastation of WW1 did in a lot of the old families and the subsequent economic collapse did in the estates. As for Will and Kate’s kid, just wait a few months and the whole discussion may be academic.

  104. I imagine the devastation of WW1 did in a lot of the old families and the subsequent economic collapse did in the estates. As for Will and Kate’s kid, just wait a few months and the whole discussion may be academic.

  105. I imagine the devastation of WW1 did in a lot of the old families and the subsequent economic collapse did in the estates. As for Will and Kate’s kid, just wait a few months and the whole discussion may be academic.

  106. And who says a female heir has to change her name if she marries? Ask Mrs Windsor in Buckingham Palace.

  107. And who says a female heir has to change her name if she marries? Ask Mrs Windsor in Buckingham Palace.

  108. And who says a female heir has to change her name if she marries? Ask Mrs Windsor in Buckingham Palace.

  109. And who says a female heir has to change her name if she marries? Ask Mrs Windsor in Buckingham Palace.

  110. And who says a female heir has to change her name if she marries? Ask Mrs Windsor in Buckingham Palace.

  111. Artemisia, thank you. I think WWI was the single most devastating thing for the great country estates, for lots of reasons. Female inheritance doesn’t come close to that.

  112. Artemisia, thank you. I think WWI was the single most devastating thing for the great country estates, for lots of reasons. Female inheritance doesn’t come close to that.

  113. Artemisia, thank you. I think WWI was the single most devastating thing for the great country estates, for lots of reasons. Female inheritance doesn’t come close to that.

  114. Artemisia, thank you. I think WWI was the single most devastating thing for the great country estates, for lots of reasons. Female inheritance doesn’t come close to that.

  115. Artemisia, thank you. I think WWI was the single most devastating thing for the great country estates, for lots of reasons. Female inheritance doesn’t come close to that.

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