The brand new titles Prince Harry and Meghan Markle received from the Queen on their wedding day can only be passed on to a future son, which means any daughters they might have will not inherit a title.
When they were married, Queen Elizabeth made the couple the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, but the dukedom can only be inherited by a male heir, and if they don’t have any boys, then the title will die out. Meghan has said in the past that both she and Harry are feminists, and her “About” page on the royal family website underscores the importance of her being a champion of female empowerment. “I am proud to be a woman and a feminist,” she is quoted on the site.
Changes regarding male and female heirs have been made before. Thanks to the Succession to the Crown Act 2013, birth order determines who will become the next king or queen of the U.K., regardless of gender. Had it not been in place, Princess Charlotte, 3, would have lost her spot to baby brother, Prince Louis. The legislation was first passed while Kate was pregnant with Prince George, 4.
But rules governing the peerage have remained the same, giving priority to boys. And inheritance laws do not just pertain to royals. The Daughters’ Rights organization has been campaigning for legislative change throughout the U.K. One prominent supporter of modernizing the rules is Downton Abbey creator, Julian Fellowes, who spoke out on the subject last year when a local lord, Baron Braybrooke, died, leaving behind a 6,000-acre estate. None of his eight daughters, led by Amanda Murray, 55, could inherit the title. Instead, it went to a distant male cousin.
At the time, Fellowes told the Telegraph, “It seems rather hard on Amanda. She’s lived and worked there all her adult life.”
But he admitted that changing the law wasn’t going to be straightforward. “Simply making the peerage…the equivalent of the royal family would create a great chaos for many families…whose sons have for 30, 40, 50 years made the assumption of inheriting. One can’t just brush them aside,” he said.