A case has been lodged in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg last week by five women to remove the state-sanctioned gender bias among the nobility and to give girls and boys equal rights to inherit.
In 2013, the royal laws of succession were amended to give equal rights to a baby girl, but attempts to extend this to the peerage came to nothing. Princess Charlotte of Cambridge was not moved down in the line of succession upon the birth of her younger brother, Prince Louis, earlier this year.
Hereditary peers have 92 seats reserved for them in the House of Lords, and royal peers are entitled to stand for election to the house. Just last month, Lord Snowdon, the son of Princess Margaret, sought to become a crossbench peer. The 92 incumbents include just one woman, the Countess of Mar. Baroness Dacre is the only woman on the register of 210 peers wishing to be considered for a seat. There are some titles which can pass to or through a female, but the majority of the titles are reserved for male heirs only.
The five women submitted a 13-page application and argued that they are unable to stand for election to the Lords. It says the government is discriminating against them on the basis of their gender and the right to free election. The five women are all daughters of peers. Lady Tanya Field is one of the five daughters of 9th Earl of Macclesfield. The title is currently set to pass to her uncle. Lady Willa Franks is the eldest daughter of the Earl of Balfour, and this title too will pass to her uncle. Hatta Byng is the eldest daughter of Viscount Torrington and the heir to her father’s title is a fourth cousin once removed of her father. Lady Eliza Dundas is the eldest daughter of the Earl of Ronaldshay, and his title too will be inherited by her uncle. Sarah Long is the eldest daughter of the 4th Viscount Long of Wraxall and the elder sister of 5th Viscount, who was born with birth defects.
The case could also have implications for royal dukedoms. Currently, the Duke of York has two daughters who cannot inherit the Dukedom of York.