Downton Abbey Economics

One Reason to Support the Downton Abbey Law

by Elaine Schwartz    •    Dec 23, 2013    •    1148 Views

Our Monday feminism blog:

When the Titanic went down with the Earl of Grantham’s heirs, his daughters Edith, Mary and Sybil came no closer to inheriting Downton Abbey. With primogeniture the law, a male relative, no matter how distant, would be the next in line.

Now though, a petition is circulating:



This year, the British proclaimed that the first born of the sovereign, male or female, could ascend to the throne. Here is how it works:

Now, the next step might be the Downton Abby Law (aka the Equality ‘Titles’ Law). By expanding inheritance rights to the eldest male or female child, if passed, the Downton Abby Law would have a similar impact on Great Britain’s aristocracy.

And yes, women’s rights would take another step forward by negating what one peer said about her plight: “Right here, in the heart of British life, in the bosom of one’s own family, however loved you are, a girl is less than a boy.” Or, as Lady Liza Campbell tells us in the NY Times, her brother, the 7th Earl of Cawdor, still has the family’s Scottish castle and the 80 square mile estate.

I do wonder though whether we want gender neutral primogeniture. If the oldest child inherits a huge parcel of wealth while others get no share, then the potential for vast affluence is preserved. The plus, perhaps, is that undivided among multiple siblings, major estates could remain intact. The minus, according to a Daily Mail article, is that 36,000 individuals own a disproportionate amount of all British rural land.”

And that takes us to the broader issue of the connection between inheritance and income distribution.

Sources and resources: Recent articles in the NY Times and the New Yorker Magazine (gated) tell more about the Downton Abbey law while the Daily Mail explains why the real owner of Downton Abbey (Highclere’s owner–the Earl of Carnavon) opposes the legislation. Also, here, you can take a closer look at the Thane of Cawdor’s 80 square mile Scottish estate.





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