U.K. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said he’s “sympathetic” to a bid by a baron’s daughter to inherit her father’s stately home in a parallel with a plotline in television drama “Downton Abbey.”
Robin Braybrooke, 80, who has eight daughters, faces passing his baronetcy and 6,000-acre (2,400-hectare) estate to a distant cousin, rather than his eldest daughter, Amanda, under ancient laws because he has no sons. The case mirrors that of the Earl of Grantham in “Downton,” whose estate would pass to a cousin instead of his eldest daughter.
In the ITV Plc series, the dilemma is resolved when that daughter, Mary, marries her cousin, Matthew. In real life, the law would have to change to allow Braybooke’s eldest daughter to inherit. Lawmakers are today debating the rights of royal male heirs over their sisters as part of a measures designed to allow a future first-born princess to inherit the throne.
“I’ve heard the suggestion that we use the bill to tackle the gender bias in hereditary titles,” Clegg told lawmakers, opening the debate on the Succession to the Crown bill in the House of Commons in London. “Personally I’m very sympathetic to that reform, and I can see why this seems like the natural time to do it, but, for purely practical reasons, it cannot be done in this bill. Nor can we use the bill to mop up any other constitutional odds and ends.”
The Succession to the Crown bill is limited to five clauses because it required the consent of the governments of all 15 other Commonwealth countries of which Queen Elizabeth II is monarch. The opposition Labour Party said it supports the government’s change to the law.
Inheritance is a theme that resonates through classic English literature. In Jane Austen’s 1813 novel “Pride and Prejudice,” the five Bennet daughters face being evicted from their home if their father dies before they are married. An ancient legal “entail” means that his estate is due to pass to his nearest male heir, preventing his daughters from inheriting.
Commonwealth governments are attempting to end royal gender discrimination to let a first-born daughter of Prince William and his wife Catherine succeed to the throne before any brothers. The baby, due in July, will be third in line to the throne, after Prince Charles and William.
The bill proposes amendments to current laws, including the 1700 Act of Settlement, which give male heirs precedence over their older sisters. The act also excludes Roman Catholics or anyone married to a Roman Catholic from becoming king or queen.