Primogeniture


The right, by law or custom, of the first-born to inherit the entire estate, to the exclusion of younger siblings. Historically, the term implied male primogeniture, to the exclusion of females. According to the Norman tradition, the first-born son inherited the entirety of a parent’s wealth, estate, title or office and then would be responsible for any further passing of the inheritance to his siblings. In the absence of children, inheritance passed to the collateral relatives, in order of seniority of the males of collateral lines.

Variations on primogeniture modify the right of the first-born son to the entirety of a family’s inheritance or, in modern times, eliminate the preference for male over female siblings. At the time of writing, five monarchies in Europe have eliminated male preference: Sweden, Norway, Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark.

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