A British earl, angry that none of his daughters stand to inherit his estate, has shone a spotlight on a dicey legal loophole. His suggestion: take advantage of the UK’s gender-swap laws and opt for a sex change.
The Fifth Earl of Balfour, Roderick Francis Arthur Balfour, is frustrated that his title will pass to his brother in lieu of his eldest daughter.
In an impassioned letter to the Times, the earl said any of his daughters could simply declare that “there has always been a man screaming to get out of her female body,” opt for a gender change, and inherit his land and title.
“What is there to stop someone from changing gender and taking a title? I think it would be interesting question for constitutional lawyers. Surely the time has come when we can nominate which child we want to be our successor, regardless of their current, past or future gender,” Balfour wrote.
What could be the ultimate first-world problem has got the earl thoroughly galvanized, angry that the laws of succession have been changed for the royals but not other well-to-do Brits.
The earl believes that his daughters are more than good enough to fill his shoes, telling BBC Radio 4 that these days “daughters are a lot more empowered, they’re better educated and a lot of them are very capable of looking after estates”.
The sad tale of an earldom lost is not an unfamiliar one in the Balfour household. Countess Balfour saw Arundel Castle slip through her fingers when her father died in 2002, passing to the eldest son instead of eldest child.
Lady Tessa, who calls her husband ‘Rod’ – and behind closed doors maybe even ‘the Rodster’ (this, however, is unconfirmed) – said her daughter is definitely the man for the job.
“My daughter is extremely accomplished, she is very successful, she’s a great mother and a great wife, and she would be perfect to follow in Rod’s footsteps,” she said.
“So many people have said to my daughter Willa ‘if you change sex, you could inherit the title.’ Of course it’s not going to happen, but it is a realistic thing to say.
“There’s nothing else in England really that discriminates against women in this way. A girl can be a judge, the prime minister, even the monarch.”