Nelson was allowed to name his brother when he was ennobled because
his only legitimate child was a daughter.
Lord Collingwood was not given that choice nor was his patent
changed to allow one of his daughters to bear the title and give
it to her son. The acquisition of the title just cost him money
he could ill afford for the necessary fees and stamps for recording
Females were generally excluded from inheriting peerages and,
therefore, it was generally impossible for a son to inherit through
The exception is when the mother would have inherited the barony
if she were alive. If she is alive she would inherit instead of
If a barony was established by a man's attendance in the House
of Lords ( peerage by writ) some centuries ago instead of by patent,
it could be inherited by his daughters if he had no sons. Daughters
inherited equally so if there were more than one, none of them
actually possessed the title and the barony went into abeyance.
The abeyance continued until only one claimant remained or until
one claimant could present the best case. was only one person
who was thought to have the best claim on it. Some baronies were
in abeyance for 400 years before a claimant succeeded in making
it active again. Today, there is a time limit of one hundred years.
If a peerage is not brought out of abeyance in a century, it becomes
If a man had only daughters when created a peer, he could ask
that the title go to his eldest daughter's son, or even to one
of his daughters. This was allowed for the Duke of Marlborough,
but not for Viscount Nelson.
This is possible only when the peerage is created and there is
a strong possibility that the man would not have a male heir.
This is the only exception to a man not being able to inherit
through his mother if she cannot inherit it first.
The general rule is that in England, no one could chose who the
heir was to be. Most peerages were tail male. Readers expect tail
male peerages and any others better have a good explanation tacked
A man could not put conditions on his heir restricting his accession
to the peerage before he fulfilled the conditions. The decent
of a peerage was laid out in the original grant and had to be
There was no legal adoption and a child "adopted" by a peer could
not inherit a peerage. If the peer died without a will the child
was out in the cold.
The land was often severed from the title at such a time and
followed its own laws
No peer could sign a paper assigning his peerage to another no
matter how many villains try to force him to do so. A man could
not sign away a peerage nor his future interest in one. If a father
wanted the second son to be the heir, he would have to kill his
oldest son. When the father died the oldest son would be the peer
whether he could be found or not. If he could not be found, he
would have to be legally declared dead. The court and College
of Arms and Committee on Privilege required more than just a tepid
belief that the man must be dead because he had not come home.
had some special privileges. The main one was the right to sit
in the House of Lords, unless they were Roman Catholic , a minor,
a female or a lunatic. They could not be arrested for debts. They had to advance the peerage as an affirmative
defense. They did not have to sit on juries (This made sense as
the House of Lords was in effect the supreme court and the last
court of appeal). If arrested for a crime, they were allowed to
be tried by the House of Peers. Their wives also claimed these
privileges, except for sitting in the House of Lords. It was against
the law to libel or slander a peer or to strike him.
A peeress in her own right had all of these rights of peerage
except the right to sit in the House of Lords. She also did not
have the privilege of Franking as that was a privilege of Parliament.
The peers had to pay taxes and were as subject to the criminal
law as the poorest man. Theoretically, all peers were equal in
that a duke did not have more privileges than a baron.
Peers of the British isles had many fewer privileges than their
continental counterparts. Unlike the French aristocracy, the peers
did not like to stay at court but usually preferred the country
seat. The power of the peers did not lie in any extraordinary
powers which they possessed but in the power of what they possessed.
To put it bluntly, many peers had the power to give patronage.
The land the peers owned covered city blocks and country parishes.
The peers controlled hundreds of livings -advowsons- which gave
the right to appoint clergymen or to sell the right to appoint
a clergyman. This right meant he was in a position to give employment
to x number of men. The same was true of the seats in House of
Commons. Because the seats had not been apportioned for far too
long, there were places which had a seat and only 5 voters and
other places with thousands of voters and no seat. Some of the
seats were controlled by a peer and he could help or hinder a
man who wanted to get into politics. There were no secret ballots.
Other peers worked in various ministries in government. Each
ministry had a number of patronage spots- a stamp collector (
a stamp was a tax), for instance, who was paid £250 a year to
do the job but whose clerks did all the work.
when a Peer Dies
of a New Peer - Fees for Promotion
of a New Peer to the House of Lords
of Precendency Among Men