Downton Abbey Law Could Change U.K. Inheritance Rules

Categories: Film and TV

downtonabbye_mary_still.jpg
BBC
Golden Globes are nice, and Emmys are swell, but Julian Fellowes' British period drama Downton Abbey is making its mark beyond pop culture. It's headed to Parliament.

The Downton Law is a new bill working its way through the U.K.'s House of Lords. Its mission is to modernize one of Britain's most archaic methods of aristocracy: giving women the short end of things -- or rather, no things at all.

Just like Downton's Lady Mary who, despite being the eldest child, is unable to inherit her family's estate, women in the U.K. have had to sit and watch the title of baronet be passed down from father to son for the last 400 plus years.

When the bill was originally introduced it included "dukes, earls, viscounts, and other hereditary peers to pass their titles along a female line of succession," according to the Telegraph, but much to the dismay of four prominent British families it left out baronets.

The bill has since been amended, thanks to a campaign spearheaded by the head of one of the aforementioned families, Sir Nicholas Stuart Taylor Baronet, who has two daughters but no son and would prefer that his daughter Virginia Stuart Taylor inherit the family title so as not to let it go extinct.

To give you an idea of how outdated this system is, Virginia Stuart Taylor's mother reportedly cried upon discovering that she had given birth to a girl, which has to feel great on the self-esteem and also: ultrasounds, anyone?

But despite growing up in such an astonishingly backward system for modern times, Virginia Stuart Taylor was quoted as saying one of the most sane things to come out of this entire story:

"I don't mind if I am the first, the 10th, the 100th [baronetess] but I've been brought up the rest of my life -- apart from those first years of disappointment of not being a boy -- as completely equal to men.... I have been brought up believing that girls are equal to boys, often getting better grades at university. Everything is equal and it seems kind of ridiculous that we are trying so hard to make it fair for women in other areas of life but not in this one."

--Katie Johnson

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