Ladies first! Centuries-old practice of aristocrats’ titles being inherited only by their male heirs could be abolished under new proposals
- Centuries-old practice means titles are passed down to next male descendent
- The Prime Minister has ordered a review, led by press secretary Allegra Stratton
- Tory Philip Davies previously called for the reform, calling it a ‘significant step’
The centuries-old practice of aristocratic titles only being passed on to male descendants could be about to come to an end.
Boris Johnson is understood to have ordered the issue be looked into as part of plans to make Parliament more welcoming to women.
It would mean for the first time first-born daughters would take on their father’s peerage instead of younger sons, as seen in shows such as ITV’s Downton Abbey.
Allegra Stratton, the Prime Minister’s press secretary, is understood to be leading the review
Leading the group is the Prime Minister’s press secretary, Allegra Stratton, and parliamentary private secretary Trudy Harrison.
The passing on of the throne to eldest males was abolished for the British monarchy in 2011 under a reform which allowed first-born daughters to take the crown.
But peers at the time prevented the reform from applying to them
Among those to throw their support behind the proposal today is Viscount Torrington of the Hereditary Peerage Association.
He told the Times: ‘A survey of our members found the majority in favour.
‘Those who were not didn’t want their surname to go but that is solvable’.
Lady Kinvara Balfour, daughter of the Earl of Balfour, previously said in the Telegraph: ‘In Britain, the rules of male primogeniture still mean that if there is a family title, and accompanying seat to be passed down through generations, this can legally only go to a man. Women are disregarded entirely.
‘British laws should be changed so that the first-born inherits, irrespective of gender. And should that first-born wish to swap gender at any time, it should still go to that first-born.
Lady Kinvara Balfour has previously spoken out on the subject, calling for an end to the practice
‘Watch Downton Abbey and you get the picture.’
The plans are intended to form a new bill of reforms.
Tory Philip Davies asked in 2019 for an end to male male primogeniture for hereditary titles.
He said: ‘It is frankly staggering that the practice of male primogeniture for hereditary titles is still ongoing in the UK.
The passing on of titles to male-only heirs is seen in period shows such as Downton Abbey
‘People shouldn’t be discriminated against because of their gender and surely anyone who believes in sex equality must accept that this is unjustifiable.
‘With the legislation I am proposing we can take a significant step towards genuine equality which is what I seek.’
Organisation Daughters’ Rights was set up to fight the practice in 2016 and they said in the Times: ‘We welcome the fact that this is being taken very seriously.’
Female siblings set to gain titles from their younger male siblings if rule changes go ahead
The rule change would mean several men would miss out on inheriting titles, with several older sisters set to take peerages instead.
Among those who could benefit is fashion model Lady Kitty Spencer, niece of Princess Diana, who is the eldest child of Charles Spencer, 9th Earl Spencer. Louis Spencer is currently heir apparent but would miss out if the changes go ahead.
Lady Kitty Spencer (left) would inherit the title from her father, Charles Spencer, instead of her brother Louis (right) if the changes go ahead
Another is Lady Emma Caroline de Vere Beauclerk, whose father is Murray Beauclerk, 14th Duke of St Albans. The current heir apparent is Charles Beauclerk, Earl of Burford.
Charles Beauclerk, Earl of Burford, is currently heir apparent to his father Murray Beauclerk
And Lady Katie Percy would take the title from her father Ralph Percy, 12th Duke of Northumberland, instead of younger son George Percy, Earl Percy.
Lady Katie Percy would take her father’s title if the proposed changes go ahead, instead of her younger brother
Eldest son George Percy, right, could miss out on inheriting his father’s title (left) if the changes go ahead.