Monday, January 16, 2012
If you are looking for a example to teach your students about the fee tail (particularly one restricted to male heirs), look no further than the Golden Globe-winning PBS series “Downton Abbey.” This drama focuses on Robert Crawley, the Earl of Grantham, his American-born wife Cora, their three teenage/young adult daughters, and the estate they control, Downton Hall. The show begins with the death of the Earl’s cousin and his son, the two closest male relatives of the Earl and therefore the presumptive heirs to Downton Hall. Two of the maids discuss what this tragedy means to the future of Downton:
O’Brien: “Mr. Crawley was his lordship’s cousin and heir to the title.”
Gwen: “I thought Lady Mary [the Earl's eldest daughter] was the heir.”
O’Brien: “She’s a girl, stupid. Girls can’t inherit. But now Mr. Crawley is dead and Mr. Patrick was his only son. So what happens next?”
What happens next is that the Earl has to reach out to his third cousin, Matthew Crawley, a solicitor from Manchester, and inform this (lucky?) chap that he’s now next in line to become an Earl and inherit a huge estate.
Even if you aren’t looking for an example of the fee tail, you should still watch Downton Abbey. Several episodes from Season One are available for free on pbs.org, they are all on Netflix and iTunes. Season Two began two weeks ago, and the first two eps are available for free on pbs.org.