If the seventh earl dies without a son, one looks first to his
brothers for a successor. If he had no brothers , one looks to
his fathers brothers-- his uncles. If he had no uncles ,
one looks to his great uncles or their sons. The search can go
back as far as the first earls sons but not the first earls
brothers, unless they are specifically mentioned in the patent.
As can be imagined, searching for a successor to a peerage created
three hundred years before can be difficult. The difficulties
are compounded if the peerage is one of the few that can be inherited
for as female.
If the 16th baron of a barony created by writ dies without a
son, and he was the only child of an only child, the search for
the successor will start with the 14th baron, or the generation
of the grandfather of the deceased. Did the 14th baron have any
siblings? If not, the search moves to the siblings of the 13th
If one of the ancestors had siblings, did these siblings have
children? If the 13th baron had a son and three daughters, the
search then looks at the descendents of these daughters.
The process then becomes similar to that of petitioning for a
peerage in abeyance in that one of the descendents has to be chosen
to be the 17th baron. Because all daughters would have inherited
equally, descendents of all the daughters could put in a claim.
Neither the eldest daughter nor her child has a greater claim
than the others. However, sometimes a male can put forward a claim
that is accepted as being greater than that of his female cousins.
At one time , there was no limit on how long a peerage could
be in abeyance without being considered extinct. However, after
a barony was brought out of abeyance after four hundred years
and another for half that time, the House of Lords decided it
would not longer consider any abeyance of longer than a century.
The task of trying to trace people for 400 years is formidable.
Most experts agree that only baronies can be on abeyance. All
other peerages are active, extinct or dormant.
No one could disclaim a peerage until mid 19th century when the
law was passed allowing it. Before the law was passed the most
someone could do was allow the peerage to be dormant.
This happened in the Berkeley case. When the 5th Earl of Berkeley
died, he left twelve children by his wife. However, when the first
born son sent in his petition for a writ of summons to the House
of Lords, it was not automatically granted. Instead the Committee
on Privilege held a hearing on the matter. The outcome of the
hearing was that the committee refused to believe the Earl and
Countess had been married in 1785 in a secret ceremony the records
of which had since been lost. The couple had publicly married
in 1795 and only the children born after that date were legitimate.
Out of respect for his mother and oldest brother, or out of fear
of their anger and the clause in the earls will disinheriting
any child who refused to accept the marriage of 1785, the oldest
legitimate son never claimed the earldom. The earldom was dormant
during his life time and after his death passed to the children
of cousins. A granddaughter of the 5th Earl, only surviving child
of one of the legitimate siblings, put in a successful bid for
the old barony of Berkeley which was a barony by writ .
Another peerage has been dormant for sometime because no one
has come forward to claim it though it is known that heirs exist.
A peerage is extinct when there are no qualified heirs left.
Many peerages become extinct because the king grants the dignity
to a man well up in years without a son, or to one who will have
little chance of having a son. There were no life peers as there
are now, and the House of Lords committee on privilege refused
to believe that any one had the power to create a non hereditary
when a Peer Dies
of a New Peer - Fees for Promotion
of a New Peer to the House of Lords
of Precendency Among Men