The laws of succession: 'Blood flows in women's veins too'

Should the aristocracy follow the Royal Family and change the laws of succession?

In the lofty drawing rooms and oak-panelled libraries of Britain's stately homes and castles, revolution is afoot. The change in the law allowing first-born girls to succeed to the throne, hastened by the Duchess of Cambridge's pregnancy, has triggered calls for similar equality to be introduced across the aristocracy.

Last week ministers rushed out new legislation to ensure that if Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge's baby is a girl, she can become Queen. But there is now an intense debate about whether daughters of the landed gentry should be able to lay claim to their fathers' dukedoms or earldoms.

Lady Clare Kerr, the elder daughter of the veteran Tory politician Michael Ancram, the Marquess of Lothian, will not inherit her father's title. She has a sister, but no brothers, meaning the marquessate goes to their uncle.

Lady Clare said she did not wish the law changed for herself, but said the aristocracy was now "two steps behind" the Royal Family because, even before the proposed legislation, daughters can still inherit the throne if there are no sons.

In the case of the majority of titles in the British peerage, there must always be a male heir for the line to continue, even if the nobleman only has daughters. Lady Clare, who is married to the Cabinet Office minister Nick Hurd, said there were good reasons for the male-only rule to exist to protect names and families.

But she told The Independent on Sunday: "There is certainly a conversation to be had with regard to moving even one step forward to where the Royal Family were before this recent change; in the absence of a son there should be no reason a daughter should not inherit – and once that has been established it is difficult to argue against girls inheriting if they are the first-born."

Lady Clare, 33, has a seven-month-old daughter with her husband, whose department is overseeing the changes to the royal succession law. She added: "There are more pressing issues demanding the attention of the Government – but I am wholly supportive of equal rights.

The writer and artist Lady Liza Campbell, 53, whose elder sister missed out on the earldom of Cawdor, which went to their younger brother, was more forthright. She said: "There's no reason why an older sister should be passed over for a younger brother. Most of the reasons for opposing it are nonsense. Like talk of bloodlines not being carried over – blood flows in women's veins too.

"It's a massive anomaly that this nonsense is still continuing, especially when the current monarch is a Queen. Women have been enfranchised for almost 100 years and yet still they get passed over within their own families. It gives talk of universal equality a tinny ring."

The 10th Earl of Jersey, William Villiers, 36, is married with three daughters, but has no son, meaning his titles and estate will pass to his younger half-brother, Jamie Villiers, now 18, the only son of his father's third wife. He said he would welcome a compromise where, if there was no son, a daughter could inherit. "My heir at the moment is my half-brother, and in my eyes that isn't right. My half-brother's appreciation of it all is different. He hasn't grown up surrounded by the history, as my daughters have. His experience of it is more diluted. My daughters would be more akin to it than him... But it's a very divisive issue."

Charles Kidd of Debrett's Peerage said there would need to be a change in the law to allow aristocratic titles to pass to girls, adding: "It seems likely that there will be some discussion about women inheriting hereditary peerages which at present may only pass in the male line."

Daughters who are missing out

Lady Sophie Nevill, 22, is the only child of the 6th Marquess of Abergavenny, Christopher Nevill. Her twin brother died in infancy. A singer who goes by the stage name of Sophie Trilby, she would have inherited Eridge Park, a stately home in East Sussex, as well as land in Kent, if she had been a boy. As there is no male heir apparent to the current Marquess, his title and that of Earl of Lewes will die out with him.

Lady Violet Manners, 19, is the eldest of the three daughters of the Duke of Rutland. The heir is their younger brother, Charles, the Marquess of Granby, 13. He will inherit Belvoir Castle, Leicestershire, Haddon Hall in Derbyshire, 15,000 acres of land and an estimated wealth of £125m.

Lady Lara Katrina Compton, 44, will miss out to her younger brother Daniel, Earl Compton, on becoming Marquess of Northampton when their father, Spencer Compton, 66, dies. The title comes with a stately home, Castle Ashby in Northamptonshire, land in Warwickshire, property in Islington, north London, and an estimated wealth of £120m.

Lady Louisa Trotter, 30, is the eldest child of the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry. Her younger brother, the Earl of Dalkeith, 28, a former page of honour to the Queen, inherits the twin dukedoms on their father's death. The title comes with three houses including Drumlanrig Castle in Dumfries and Galloway and 240,000 acres of land, making the duke the largest private landowner in the UK.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Life and Style
Pick of the bunch: Sudi Pigott puts together roasted tomatoes with peppers, aubergines and Labneh cheese for a tomato-inspired vegetarian main dish
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, Brokerage)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

UNIX Application Support Analyst- Support, UNIX, London

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: UNIX Application Support Analyst-...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape