This Downton Abbey-Inspired Law Would Finally Allow Women to Inherit Noble Titles

"I don't believe a woman can be forced to give away all her money to a distant cousin of her husband's. Not in the 20th century. It's too ludicrous for words."

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Carnival Films

Even the British Parliament is obsessed with “Downton Abbey.”

Traditionally, the English line of succession doesn’t allow men to pass their noble titles on to their first-born female heirs. The proposed Equality Titles Bill, which is currently making its way through the U.K.’s House of Lords, would eliminate a centuries-old system of gender discrimination among British nobility. The sudsy ITV period drama has undoubtedly influenced the Equality Titles Bill so much that The Telegraph reports it has been aptly nicknamed the “Downton law.”

The bill was designed to eliminate male primogeniture for earls, dukes, viscounts and several other hereditary titles. A few families lobbied to have the law amended to include baronets, a lesser title that doesn’t confer nobility to its holder, for fear their family titles would go extinct.

The proposed law change mimics a dominant storyline from the popular show, when the imperious Lady Mary is denied her father’s title and estate. Much chatter about something called an entail (a tricky inheritance restriction that legally tied property, title and fortune together for the nearest male heir), until her — gasp! — middle class lawyer cousin Matthew is declared the heir to Downton (and its substantial fortune). Whatever the hoity toity British version of hijinks is — think clever, English-accented wordplay and longing glances over tea — ensues, and the two eventually live happily ever after. Until they don’t. But that’s a story for another season.

2 comments
PhilipGill
PhilipGill

A 'baronet' is not a female baron--a female baron is called a baroness! A baronet is hereditary in the male line but not a member of the nobility. And the feminine form is 'baronetess'! You really should know better!

acat
acat

@PhilipGill  "baronet" a member of a British hereditary order of honor, ranking below the barons and made up of commoners, designated by Sir  before the name and Baronet,  usually abbreviated Bart.,  after: Sir john smithBart.