Sunday, January 29, 2012

In Praise of Primogeniture??

Watching Downton Abbey has got me thinking about how so many fantastic Georgian and Edwardian manor houses and Palaces have stayed intact all these years, and in some cases are still lived in by the original families.  One of the main reasons is because England has had a practice of primogeniture; which is the passing of money, property, and titles down to the first male of the family.

I always thought it was a little unfair that eldest son would inherit everything and the second or third, or daughter would inherit very little.  But now I see, historically speaking, this has been incredibly important in sustaining the architectural heritage of Great Britain. In this way estates were passed down whole, not broken up into pieces and given to differently family members. It also meant that the family's wealth stayed connected to the property, meaning the money to keep up these estates stayed with the estate.  During the early part of the 20th century, some of the English families were having trouble keeping up their estates.  One solution was to import rich heiresses from the US, where primogeniture was not practiced, and where women could inherit fortunes. Thus theses large manor houses got an infusion of money and were able to stay whole.

Blenheim Palace, all of the photos above, is one of the largest examples of a palace that is still lived in by the owners, the Duke of Marlborough.  It was built in 1705 and 1724, it was designed by John Vanbrugh.  In the 1890s, the 9th Duke of Marlborough, facing bankruptcy, married Consuelo Vanderbilt for much needed money to keep the estate solvent.  

Attingham Park




Angelsey Abbey


Castle Howard

Castle Howard



Hardwick Hall

Longleat House


  1. It also supposed that the family success kept at connected to the home or home, meaning the money to hold up these locations kept with the home or home.

    Community Association

  2. I am glad to have found in your blog a kindred spirit!
    I am also an avid follower of Downton Abbey, love all things English, especially the era between 1800 to the 1960.
    I adore the architecture, dress and culture. I feel keenly, that, with the onset of the industrial revolution and many - necessary - social changes
    this culture and many wonderful things with it, have been lost!
    This would perhaps not be as bad, but unfortunately there has been little good in the mainstream culture to replace it.
    This is of course true for everywhere else in the world...

    Thank you for following my blog!
    Kind regards!

  3. Just wanted to let you know, how much I like all the projects you and your husband have been working on! Very impressive.
    Great clean style as framework for many interior possibilities.