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The status of being the firstborn child among several children of the same parents. A rule of inheritance at Common Law through which the oldest male child has the right to succeed to the estate of an ancestor to the exclusion of younger siblings, both male and female, as well as other relatives.


n. Latin for "first born," the ancient rule from feudal England (except in the County of Kent) that the oldest son would inherit the entire estate of his parents (or nearest ancestor), and, if there was no male heir, the daughters would take (receive the property) in equal shares. The intent was to preserve larger properties from being broken up into small holdings, which might weaken the power of nobles. It does not exist in the United States.

See: birthright


being first-born. Many legal systems have from time to time and place to place given precedence to the first-born in inheritance. It has the benefit of preserving large hard-won estates. It is not popular with the other children. Concentration of wealth in money as opposed to land has made it much less useful. It no longer applies to ordinary property in the UK.

PRIMOGENITURE. The state of being first born the eldest.
     2. Formerly primogeniture gave a title in cases of descent to the oldest son in preference to the other children; this unjust distinction has been generally abolished in the United States.

References in periodicals archive ?
Despite the aforementioned legal developments, however, male primogeniture is still practiced in several parts of South Africa--particularly in rural areas.
Ms Bhe, the surviving spouse, on behalf of her two minor daughters applied to the court for a declaratory order that the rule of male primogeniture in customary law of succession was unconstitutional on the ground that it excluded her two daughters from inheriting their father's estate by virtue of being women and accordingly violated their constitutional right to equality (section 9 of the Constitution: Act 108 of 1996).
As it happens, the first modern European monarchy to abandon male primogeniture was Sweden's in 1980, and the first beneficiary is indeed Princess Victoria - Victoria Ingrid Alice Desiree, to be precise.
As well as ending male primogeniture, the Prime Minister hopes to open the way for members of the Royal Family who marry a Roman Catholic being able to succeed to the Crown.
My theory is it won't come to an end until we abolish male primogeniture.
Yet belief in the hereditary principle, and in particular male primogeniture, on which the continuity of British historic estates is founded, seems to be weakening as a new generation is beginning to treat all offspring (daughters as well as sons) more equally.