So primogeniture is back in the news – and this time, it’s nothing to do with bloody Downton Abbey (I know, I know: I’ll get kicked out of the girl club for saying so, but – whisper it – I just don’t care).
It’s not something that’ll affect the great majority of us, sad as that may be. But I still find it shocking that it’s taken till 2011 for it to come up as a Parliamentary issue. Obviously, it’s not at the top of the priority tree, and it’s only come up now because the situation has forced it, but still doesn’t take away that, at a time when the Nobel Prize-holding President of Liberia can be female, if you’ve got a nice pile in the wilds of Northumberland, you won’t get your mitts on it if your brother happens to be a minute or so older.
Obviously, to those lucky types it affects directly, it can be a heated issue.
I can see there’s an argument for wanting to make sure that, when you pass on an estate that’s been in family for generations, it’s going to stay in one piece, rather than being divvied up into small pieces and lost to the economic winds.
But surely that doesn’t mean that it needs to go to the eldest boy? Frankly, there’s no need for it to go even to the eldest child.
Surely if your concern is keeping it in the family, then it should go to the person most capable of looking after it as a going concern, regardless of someone’s age or gender. If the IQ of Lord Whatever’s three daughters means they wouldn’t look out of place on Made in Chelsea, then inherit their baby brother. But, by the same token, the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire hasn’t done too badly with the little place she’s been running for the past few years – and, one might argue, to a rather higher degree of renown than her uncle, to whom her father’s title passed.
And it’s not even that you need fear the place drops out of the family name once your clever daughter runs off and gets married – she is quite permitted to keep her own name these days.
Other than it being tradition – of which we English are admittedly so fond – there’s no reason at all for it to continue. And given that two of the most successful monarchs we’ve had have been women, about bloody time too.
Kitchen Table, Fitzrovia
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