Home > family relationships, General, women's issues > The Titled Oldest Daughters of Great Britain — and Us

The Titled Oldest Daughters of Great Britain — and Us

In both real time and reel time, three royal ladies currently reign supreme in commanding attention on both sides of the Atlantic:  Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland;  the Duchess of Cambridge, formerly known as Kate Middleton; and Lady Mary Crawley of PBS’s Downton Abbey.

The House of Windsor and  PBS conferred their royal titles according to English law and tradition.  However,  it could be said  a higher power bestowed another title on each* of  them first, one  that is literally a birthright — that of Oldest Daughter.

Leave it to the fiction writers, not the historians,  to spell out what that means.  From the PBS Masterpiece Theatre website:  Mary is “a highly capable woman of deep compassion.  But make no mistake about it.  Mary remains the eldest daughter, with all attendant privileges and pressures.”

Mary will inherit Downton according to the English law of primogeniture–the right of the first born to inherit the ancestor’s estate. So far the fictional family has accepted this as the way things are.  But I can’t help wondering if Mary’s younger sibs,  Lady Ethel or Lady Sybil, will ever challenge her privileges.  Or will Mary’s changing circumstances result in feelings that her siblings should be sharing the various  pressures affecting the family?  For those answers, we’ll have to stay tuned.

Meanwhile, back on this side of the pond, primogeniture is not the law.  But how many of us feel we’ve had more privileges and opportunities just because we are oldest daughters?  Or how many of us have complained that as adults we’ve inherited more than our reasonable share of family responsibilities?  I can’t help wondering also how our real-life siblings would answer those questions.

* Queen Elizabeth had one younger sister, Princess Margaret, who died in 2002; the Duchess of Cambridge is older sister to Pippa Middleton; and Lady Mary has two fictional younger sisters.

  1. bbartocci
    January 20, 2013 at 11:39 pm

    Well done, Pat!!

  2. Nora Ellen
    January 21, 2013 at 12:42 am

    I really liked this!

  3. Kelly Miller
    January 21, 2013 at 7:07 pm

    Being a first daugher has brought me more responsibility and more headache I think I had to endure. I’m not sure if being the oldest has it advantages or not. Being the first you get tested by your parents and others in every sense of the word. We are the one’s who have the first’s of many firsts. The expectation and the responsibility of me was really the one thing I didn’t like about being the oldest. The things that were first for me were hard. Expecting to get those good grades and when you didn’t there was a price to pay. The many first’s like driving a car, the first date and the hassle of all the rules that went along with it, first to play sports and the expectation of being the team leader, the first to take care of sibilings when your parents had to work leaving me,the oldest with no time for myself to grow and develop my mind and body the way a first should be given. The first to graduate in a family and the expectation of graduating from college. Yes, all of these firsts were hard but they made me realize as I have gotton older I was born first for a reason. I was born with the caring for others in my blood. I have always been in tune when I am needed. I will always have the responsibility of being the first, for whatever the reason I was put here on earth to be just that. A first!

  4. Lanti riederer
    January 24, 2013 at 6:58 am

    timely and a fun read

  5. Darlene Steele
    February 9, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    We’ll never know if Lady Sybil will challenge Lady Mary’s right to inherit as she didn’t make it through the season sadly. One of my favorite characters. They definitely typecast what are traditionally thought of as the roles of 3 sisters – opinionated take charge first followed by wallflower, lost in the shuffle middle followed by spoiled, impulsive, doted on youngest.

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