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Thread: Titles, The Peerage, etc.

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  1. #32
    practical experience, FTW benbenberi's Avatar
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    Jul 2012
    Quote Originally Posted by eldergrantaire View Post
    So if there are multiple female heirs and no male, how do you determine who inherits if it's not through seniority? I'm imagining a bunch of would-be baronesses scrapping it out but I assume that's not how it goes :P
    If the title is one that can be inherited by a female heir, and there's no male heir but multiple females (sisters), none of them get the title -- it goes into abeyance.

    As Wikipedia explains in the article on abeyance:
    The most common use of the term is in the case of English peerage dignities. Most such peerages pass to heirs-male, but the ancient baronies created by writ, as well as some very old earldoms, pass instead to heirs-general (by cognatic primogeniture). In this system, sons are preferred from eldest to youngest, the heirs of a son over the next son, and any son over daughters, but there is no preference among daughters: they or their heirs inherit equally.

    If the daughter is an only child or her sisters are deceased and have no living issue, she (or her heir) is vested with the title; otherwise, since a peerage cannot be shared nor divided, the dignity goes into abeyance between the sisters or their heirs, and is held by no one. If through lack of issue, marriage, or both, eventually only one person represents the claims of all the sisters, he or she can claim the dignity as a matter of right, and the abeyance is said to be terminated.
    [1] On the other hand, the number of prospective heirs can grow quite large, since each share potentially can be divided between daughters, where the owner of a share dies without leaving a son.

    ... It is entirely possible for a peerage to remain in abeyance for centuries. For example, the Barony of Grey of Codnor was in abeyance for over 490 years between 1496 and 1989, and the Barony of Hastings was similarly in abeyance for over 299 years from 1542 to 1841. Some other baronies became abeyant in the 13th century, and the abeyance has yet to be terminated. The only titles other than a barony that have yet gone into abeyance are the earldom of Arlington and the viscountcy of Thetford, which are united, and (as noted above) the earldom of Cromartie; and the earldom of Lucan, as mentioned above.
    The underlying reason for this practice is the common law principle that real property inherited by the male heir was kept intact, but if there is no male heir the property was equally divided between the female heirs (or their heirs, if any of the sisters was already dead). Titles that could be inherited by female heirs were legally treated in this as in some other respects the same way as real property.
    Last edited by benbenberi; 08-10-2018 at 10:07 PM.

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