Gender and the Law Prof Blog

Editor: Tracy A. Thomas
University of Akron School of Law

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Downton Abbey and Rights for Women


The Boston Globe has this editorial Downton Abbey Law Gives Equality to Landed Gentry on the proposal to do away with England's law of primogeniture.

On Sunday night, millions of Americans watched the start of a new season of the PBS series “Downton Abbey,” dedicated in part to the struggles of Lady Mary, one of the show’s main characters, to assert control of her inheritance. And now, 91 years after the period depicted in the show, Lady Mary would be pleased to see women’s aspirations being recognized in the British Parliament’s House of Lords.


Under a system that dates back to the Middle Ages, female members of the nobility are legally unable to inherit their family’s titles, even if they are the eldest children. Instead, the inheritance goes to the eldest son, or next-closest male relative. If there are no male heirs, then the line goes extinct — a worrying prospect if you can trace your family name back 700 years.


Striking a blow for gender equality, members of the House of Lords have proposed a law — already nicknamed the “Downton Abbey law” — that would allow the eldest daughters of Britain’s various dukes, earls, and viscounts to inherit their family titles

Family | Permalink


Post a comment