Southwell: Wife of baronet takes on establishment as current rules mean her daughter cannot inherit her father's title
The wife of a baronet is taking on the establishment in one of the last bastions of inequality that prevents her daughter from inheriting her father’s title.
Lady Helen Nall, of Hoveringham Hall, has written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling for an overhaul of a system of male-only succession that has existed since Norman times and is based on the premise a daughter is inferior to a son.
Hereditary titles, as the law stands, cannot pass to girls.
“Our daughter cannot inherit her own father’s title,” said Lady Nall.
“The government is quite reluctant to tackle this as an issue. It is a difficult one given that it involves changing a 900-year-old law.
“It’s a toxic subject but here I am with 455 signatures that include captains of industry, newspaper owners, barristers and solicitors, MPs and members of the Armed Forces to Brigadier level; over half of whom are men.
“Many are pushing up behind this issue because they have a daughter or because of the gender inequality, which is nowadays illegal.”
Lady Nall was warned her letter would garner few co-signatures. Fathers would be perceived to be ripping up traditional rights of ascendancy, sisters seen to be turning on their brothers, while others would be reluctant to jolt a 900-year-old rock of the realm.
In fact, it received 455 co-signatures, including MPs, peers and members of the aristocracy.
Lady Nall’s husband, Sir Edward, is the third generation of a baronetcy created for his grandfather Sir Joseph in 1954, in recognition of his work as a Conservative MP and county councillor for Lowdham.
It passed to Sir Edward’s father, Sir Michael, who died in 2001.
At present, their daughter Georgie cannot inherit the title so it would pass to Sir Edward’s younger brother and then his son.
Lady Nall acknowledged it was an obscure topic, affecting a tiny percentage of the population — some 2,000 peerages and 1,200 baronets — affecting around 450 daughters, but she said it was an important one.
“What it says is that a daughter is inferior to a son,” she said.
“Our MPs are paid a hefty salary to tackle issues like this and it’s about time that they did as they themselves perpetuate this lawful inequality through the upper house.
“If, as in the House of Lords, businesses reserved their seats on the board for men, they would be taken to court and then laughed out of court with such a silly defence.
“I don’t think it can be ducked any more.”
The law has been changed for the Royal assent, thanks to the Succession of the Crown Act 2013 that now states the eldest child, regardless of gender, inherits the crown, but it has yet to filter down.
A further change meant Georgie won’t need to leave Georgian country mansion, Hoveringham Hall, and its 110-acre estate, which has been in Nall family since 1858, if she doesn’t inherit the title, which had been customary when a new baronet succeeded to the title. However, there would be the separation of the title from the estate.