Primogeniture in Britain

June 23rd, 2013

During my recent trip to London (pictures soon), I was struck how Parliament’s House of Lords still had some hereditary peers who held their office for life. Granted, the House of Lords has no real power, and the number of hereditary peers is limited, but the idea that the aristocracy still has some sort of ceremonial authority is stunning. (Thankfully, our Constitution bans officeholders from possessing such titles of nobility). Another vestige of this aristocracy is the Primogeniture.

Though it has been abolished in the United States for over two centuries, it still has some effect in the UK among the aristocracy:

The practice of primogeniture — in which titles and estates pass only to male heirs, even negligibly related ones excavated from other continents — may seem as outrageous and antediluvian as denying women the vote, but it is still the law of the land for the aristocracy in Britain.

Until recently there has been little appetite to change the law, a reflection in part of Britain’s inability to decide, finally, whether its aristocracy is an essential part of its identity, a quaint vestige of the past or a bit of both.

“The posh aspect of it blinds people to what is essentially sexism in a privileged minority, where girls are born less than boys,” Ms. Campbell said.

But the issue has been percolating through Parliament since the recent passage of a law allowing the monarchy to be passed on to the monarch’s firstborn child, regardless of sex (this means that William and Kate’s impending baby will become the third in line to the throne, whether it is a boy or a girl). New legislative proposals would allow peerages — basically, inherited titles and the estates that can come with them — to be passed on this way, too, to the oldest child rather than the oldest son.

Amazing that this rubbish still exists in the year 2013.