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royal descent

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Peerage Laws of Succession (was Re: Heredity)

Yvonne (View posts)
Posted: 6 Jan 2005 1:44PM GMT
Classification: Query
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>[...] the aristocratic family tree belongs to my sons, Titus Alexander, and my grand-daughter Emily, Titus's baby. They are the children of my first husband, Adrian Rawlins, whose mother, the Hon Rachel Irby is the eldest child (no brother) of the late Greville Northey Irby, 7th Baron Boston. [...] There seems to be an English prejudice against links via women, but this seems just silly to me, as well as politically incorrect! Surely a blood line is a blood line even when local custom refuses the transmission of titles on this basis?

Having only recently read Juliana's July 12, 2000 post to this message board, I would like the opportunity to explain how some British peerage titles are transmitted.

The peerage "Baron Boston" is an old title, reaching back to 1761 when Sir William Irby, 2nd Baronet (d. 1775) was created (1st) Baron Boston. I read the articles pertaining to this title in *Burke's Peerage & Baronetage* (1999, 106th edition, pages 324-327) [Juliana's sons are found on p. 326], and in *The Complete Peerage* (2nd edition, Vol. II, pages 227-228). Based on how the title's line of descent was applied (confined to the male line, passing from father to eldest son, then later in direct descent to a brother, nephew or male cousin), the original Letters Patent of this hereditary peerage must have specified the standard remainder of "heirs male of his body lawfully begotten". This means that the Barony could only be inherited by Sir William's legitimately-born male-line descendants. In other words, each successive heir to this peerage succeeded to the peerage in the terms of the original grant. No one who was entitled by law to succeed was deprived of that right.

Peerage succession is not something that a peer has any control over and he cannot change or alter the terms of a particular succession.(*) The type of succession known as primogeniture (priority of birth, in which the right of inheritance belongs to the eldest son) is based on common law, a system (in place since at least the 12th century) that is applied to the whole country, as opposed to local customs. In other words, the descent of a peerage in England is, and from time immemorial has been, governed by the common law rules of inheritance. When the rules of succession to a peerage are viewed from a modern (and perhaps feminist) perspective, they might seem "silly", or "politically incorrect", but they were (and are) nonetheless based in law.

(*) While peers might not have control over their peerages that have the standard remainder limitation, some peers have petitioned the Crown to have their peerages re-granted (meaning they would get a new, different peerage). Re-granting a title is done, for example, when a peer has no son. The special remainder in such a title then allows daughters to succeed. (For example, the Duke of Fife (grandson-in-law of Queen Victoria), and Earl Mountbatten of Burma (uncle of the Duke of Edinburgh) had their titles re-granted because they each only had daughters.) But once having succeeded to the title, the eldest daughter would, in due course, be (generally) succeeded by her "heirs male of [her] body lawfully begotten".

For more information on peerage law, see the following scholarly books: *Peerage Law*, by Ronald P. Gadd (1985), and, *Peerage and Pedigree: Studies in Peerage Law and Family History*, 2 volumes, by J. Horace Round (1901, reprinted 1996). There are also two interesting online articles about the peerage: "The British Peerage" at http://www.geocities.com/noelcox/Peerage_Law.htm and "Hereditary Peer" at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hereditary_peer
SubjectAuthorDate Posted
debland 19 Jul 2000 10:13AM GMT 
magabaker 25 Dec 2004 12:10PM GMT 
Yvonne 6 Jan 2005 11:22PM GMT 
J23133 13 Jan 2007 8:28PM GMT 
Yvonne 6 Jan 2005 8:44PM GMT 
MaryPreston34... 12 Nov 2006 12:59AM GMT 
stephaniemcgo... 23 Dec 2006 11:59PM GMT 
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