There's a centuries-old sexist rule shown in 'Bridgerton' that still affects aristocratic women today, and they're campaigning to change it

Polly Walker as Portia Featherington in season two of "Bridgerton."
Polly Walker as Portia Featherington in season two of "Bridgerton."

  • "Bridgerton" highlights a sexist rule that has been imposed on aristocratic women for centuries.

  • Women born into families with noble titles are still not able to inherit them. 

  • Insider spoke to women who are campaigning to change the law.

The Netflix series "Bridgerton" highlights a sexist rule that aristocratic women have been campaigning to have abolished for years. 

Set during the Regency era in the early 1800s, the Netflix series follows families trying find suitors for their daughters during London's social season. Many of these families have a noble title, historically granted by the monarch and usually ranked immediately below royalty, according to Highland Titles.

The titles are Duke, Marquess, Earl, Viscount, and Baron. To this day, they can only be inherited through male primogeniture, meaning the eldest male is legally entitled to it over their female relatives.

A group of women campaigning to change the law spoke to Insider about their experiences.

Lady Liza Campbell praised 'Bridgerton' for bringing attention to the issue

One of the latest characters to be introduced in "Bridgerton" is Jack Featherington (Rupert Young), who entered the show in its second season after Portia Featherington's husband died. 

As a distant cousin of Portia's husband, Jack was the only family member eligible to receive his baronet title and the property tied to it, even though Portia has three daughters. 

The Featheringtons.

Lady Liza Campbell, the second daughter of Hugh Campbell, 6th Earl Cawdor, told Insider that while she hasn't seen the show, she recognizes its importance in shining a light on the issue.

"'Bridgerton' and other TV shows are a good way of getting things across, things that people don't notice," Lady Liza said. 

Lady Liza has been campaigning to change the law for years. She was part of a campaign group called The Hares, which in 2014 proposed a bill to UK Parliament that would allow female heirs to inherit titles.

She previously wrote about the experience in The Guardian, saying that although she doesn't officially use her "lady" title (which is given to daughters of earls), she feels it's her responsibility to campaign for equal rights.

Lady Liza Campbell
Lady Liza Campbell photographed in October 2021.

She told Insider the 2014 bill failed due to a "lack of interest" and many of her male peers didn't support it.

"There are people who appear to be like-minded, and as soon as you mention gender equality it's like, 'No, don't try and fix something that's not broken,'" she said. "It is broken, and it's sexist."

The Hares' campaign continues

Charlotte Carew Pole married into nobility when she wed Tremayne Carew Pole, who's set to inherit a baronet from his father, Sir Richard, and pass it down to their children. She told Insider that while her family was supportive when she gave birth to her first child, a baby girl, some people acted like it was a "disappointment" because she didn't have a boy first.

"I was made to feel like I let my husband down, that I'd failed, that my daughter wasn't the right one, that she wasn't worthy," she told Insider. "So I approached The Hares and said, 'What can I do to help?'"

Charlotte said she changed the campaign name to Daughter's Rights, and earlier this year she worked with her childhood friend, the Conservative MP Harriet Baldwin, to draft another bill, which was presented before Parliament in April.

A press release sent by Baldwin's representatives to Insider states that by ending male primogeniture, the bill would bring equality to the House of Lords, the second chamber of UK Parliament. The House of Lords consists of a small number of members who hold hereditary titles, as well as lifetime peerages (titles that won't be passed down to their children).

The bill ultimately lapsed because it wasn't passed before the end of the year's parliamentary session in April, Charlotte told Insider. It will have to be resubmitted to be considered in the next session, which began in May.

They're urging the British Prime Minister to show support 

In a statement shared with Insider, Baldwin said that while the bill lapsed, she was pleased with the way that it was received by her fellow MPs and hopes the "issue is being considered seriously by Government."

"The reality is, I'm now at the stage that unless Boris [Johnson] personally supports it, it's never going to go through," Charlotte told Insider.

"Will Boris see it for what it is — a small but symbolic change for women in our society — or is he going to stick his head in the sand and say, 'It affects so few people, can't be bothered?'" she added.

A spokesperson for Prime Minister Boris Johnson declined to comment when contacted by Insider.

Read the original article on Insider