Search This Blog

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Sons and heirs

With the new Julian (Downton Abbey) Fellowes' TV show, Titanic, launching on Sunday, I was remusing on Cora Crawley's anger at the unfairness of primogeniture.

Being farmers - and we are certainly not talking Downton and its rolling acres here - merely what is a medium sized arable farm, when both my brother in law's larger holding is joined with HWISO's farm, there is always a certain pressure to keep things intact to pass on to the next generation.  Having two daughters, we are not in the unenviable position of other members of the family and friends to have to make the decision to pass on the farm to their eldest (or only) son.  The girls, in time, will have to decide what to do about passing it on to the next generation but that is not our concern.

I have seen some estates passed on to eldest sons and they have made a very fine job of it.  I have seen some divided between all the children, which seems fair to me, but this only works if the person who takes charge of the farming operations is a committed farmer.  I have seen some estates pass to sons and seen some families have many many children in order to beget a son - one famous aristocratic family had 7 daughters before a son was born.

In many ways, this primogeniture has kept great estates intact.  However, I have seen families torn apart with jealousy.  I have watched parents go to court to get Trusts broken and children disinherited, when they prove feckless or incapable.  I have watched perfectly capable women, who have their heart and soul in farming, bypassed for a son who would rather be in London, Singapore, New York or anywhere but rural Herefordshire.  I have seen sons get the land and the monolithic house, whilst all the cash so desperately needed to keep it going is divided among the siblings.  I have dined in cold, draughty dining rooms with peeling wallpaper and mould growing up the walls, in houses built for an army of servants, set centrally in an estate that cannot sustain it, all tied up in an unbreakable Trust by dear Grandpapa in 1920.

I know my US readers don't get primogeniture and in France, everyone gets an equal share, which often means 10 great grandchildren each owning one 1 acre field.

I am so glad we didn't have a son.  I would hate either of my beloved children to be denied an equal part of our livelihood, based on their choromosones.

1 comment:

  1. Have gone off on tangents on this one, having known a farming family whose last child wasn't able to inherit either because of his chromosomes, in this case chromosome 21. It's an interesting subject though and a law which has shaped our history, economy and geography.