Inheritance in the English aristocracy.

Following on from the issues I had with a recent historical romance, I’ve found that many others were pulled out of the same story by a glaring mistake. Basically: no, an English aristocrat can’t randomly lose his title. And so – no – you can’t write a book with the premise that the hero will lose the dukedom if he doesn’t marry by his thirtieth birthday.

There’re historical romance authors out there with a much more complex understanding of inheritance issues than I have, and one of those people is KJ Charles, who wrote an interesting blog post in response to the book’s release last week. (This isn’t the only book to run with this premise; just the most recent, and one that’s getting attention because it’s by a very popular author.)

Duchess by Deception (Gilded #1) by Marie Force

Read the whole piece HERE.

There are historical realities you can muck about with, tons of them. Have a zillion dukes by all means. Let them marry governesses and plucky flower girls, fine. These things are wildly implausible, but this is historical romance, and we’re here to play.

And then there are things that you cannot mess with, because they don’t play with the world, they break it. Chief amongst these in British aristocracy romance would be, er, destroying the entire system of British aristocracy. Which is what this plot does.

The point of a system of primogeniture—the whole, sole, single, solitary purpose of it—is to establish that nobility is bestowed by birth. The monarch can bestow a title on a commoner because of their merit on the battlefield/skill in the sack, but once it is granted, it operates under the rules. Nobody ever gets to decide who will inherit their title—not the monarch, nobody. It goes to the first in line: end of story. And once a peerage is bestowed it cannot be removed by anything less than an Act of Parliament or Royal prerogative. Certainly not by a previous holder’s whim.”

3 thoughts on “Inheritance in the English aristocracy.

  1. That particular gaffe would throw me out of the book. If I know more than the writer does, I’m not her audience.

    I read a romance set in the Restoration era, and while the author had clearly done an impressive amount of research in that setting, she also had the hero write a will that dictated who would inherit his title after he was gone. No. Just… no. I couldn’t finish the book.

    On the plus side, this leaves me with more time to look for good books to read.

    1. The idea a person can choose who inherits eliminates the *entire point* of royalty and aristocracy. It’s such a fundamental lack of understanding of the situation that I wonder what makes authors want to write books with these settings…

  2. Pingback: The Week: 4th – 10th February – Sonya's Stuff

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