If one looks at a listing of the peerage in the United Kingdom, this legal system of hereditary titles is divided into groups. The oldest comprise ranks of nobility designated before the union of England and Scotland in 1707. In those cases, the title holder is a peer of England or of Scotland. If the title was created after the union, the title holder is a peer of Great Britain.
Once Northern Ireland was added to the empire in 1800, new titles belonged to the Peerage of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
Due to the tradition of primogenitor, in England, the oldest son would inherit his father’s title. If the firstborn male was deceased, the inheritance went to the next oldest son, and so on. If no son was available, the title moved to the prior lord’s brother and then down the line of his sons. Daughters could not inherit a title unless the letter of patent in which the king created the title made a specific allowance for that, which was extremely rare.
One could not be disinherited of a title. A father’s will could, in theory, prevent the heir from inheriting his property, providing it was not entailed, but the title remained secure. Normally, however, the estate also went to the oldest son.
So what happened to daughters? Good marriages were crucial to ensuring their continued support, but provisions could be made for them and younger sons, again through unentailed property or funds. It was understood that the heir had a responsibility to his siblings, too. Also, the mother most likely had some income-producing trust or property that would be left to them.
There are some exceptions to the general rule above. For example, in Scotland, daughters could inherit titles. So while a countess in her own right was almost unknown in England, it was not unusual in Scotland.
Most titled nobles were also peers, meaning that they sat in Parliament. Not all were, however. Scotland had barons who were nobles but not peers. This was the result of a peculiarity of history, where baronies were created in the Middle Ages with feudal titles tied to the land, not inheritance. In my most recent book, Never Deny a Duke, such a barony is at the heart of the conflict between the hero and heroine.
About Never Deny a Duke
He is the last duke standing . . . the sole remaining bachelor of the three self-proclaimed Decadent Dukes. Yet Davina MacCallum’s reasons for searching out the handsome Duke of Brentworth have nothing to do with marriage. Scottish lands were unfairly confiscated from her family by the Crown and given to his. A reasonable man with vast holdings can surely part with one trivial estate, especially when Davina intends to put it to good use. Brentworth, however, is as difficult to persuade as he is to resist.
The Duke of Brentworth’s discretion and steely control make him an enigma even to his best friends. Women especially find him inscrutable and unapproachable—but also compellingly magnetic. So when Davina MacCallum shows no signs of being even mildly impressed by him, he is intrigued. Until he learns that her mission in London involves claims against his estate. Soon the two of them are engaged in a contest that allows no compromise. When duty and desire collide, the best laid plans are about to take a scandalous turn—into the very heart of passion.
About the Author
Madeline Hunter is a New York Times, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly best-selling author with more than six million copies of her books in print. She has thirty nationally acclaimed historical romances to her credit, including Never Deny a Duke, A Devil of a Duke, The Wicked Duke, and The Most Dangerous Duke in London. A member of RWA’s Honor Roll, she has won the RITA Award twice and has been a finalist seven times. Her books have been translated into thirteen languages. She has a PhD in art history, which she has taught at the university level.
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