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Changes in Royal Succession Law Could Prompt Selling of Britain's Historic Estates

Recent changes introduced to the law of royal succession, giving first-born daughters equal rights and allowing them to take the throne ahead of any younger brothers, could have a detrimental impact on estates across the country and may put them in danger, the 8th Earl of Carnarvon says.

Under previous law, dating back to 1701, women were superseded by their brothers in succession even if they were the first born. The Succession to the Crown Act 2013 ends succession based on gender.

The Earl and Countess of Carnavon own Highclere Castle, the 1,000 acre country estate that is the primary filming location for the popular TV series, Downton Abbey. In an interview with The Lady magazine, the Earl expressed his concerns that the beautiful estate could be broken up and sold as a result of changing inheritance laws. The updated legislation that makes girls equal in succession to the British throne is yet to apply to the aristocracy and daughters generally can't inherit the titles and estates of their parents, the Earl said.

He believes that the change could be a step towards the Napoleonic Code, with family property split equally among the children. Such a change would mean breaking up "all the great British places" and selling them, the Earl added.

The Daily Mail noted that the change in royal succession laws has made a number of families in the aristocracy insist on gender equality when it comes to inheritance. The Countess of Clancarty, who is a member of a group of over 100 noble families, believes that a recent case involving the daughters of 14th Earl of Northesk, who lost title to a distant male relative, shows explicitly the "ridiculous, unfair and iniquitous" state of the current inheritance system.