Primogeniture – Meaning and Explanation

This term commonly refers to a firstborn son or sometimes the firstborn daughter’s right by law which is paternally recognized to inherit his parent’s entire wealth or many times the real estate. In addition to that, it is commonly seen that sons take over before daughters. The other laws say that when they are no male descendants, a daughter succeeds or a brother or a relative if there is an absence of both but it always goes in this order. This type of inheritance system has been prevailing for a long time in history and has been extended to real property (land), titles, offices and many monarchies until they were modified or later abolished. Many modifications in the primogeniture custom were seen wherein in the West since World War II, the liking for male over female has been removed. Many monarchies, particularly in Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands etc., have also said no to the preference of male over female in succession. In addition to this, there are still a few monarchies whose succession rules greatly contradict with primogeniture.

For example, Saudi Arabia whose succession rules are a form of lateral agnatic seniority more likely the Kevian Rus’, the Mongol Empire or later Ottoman Empire.

There are a wide variety of variations seen in the world monarchies. The European, the African, the Middle Eastern, the Southeast Asian have some of these monarchies under them. They are listed in order of their succession as under:

  • Absolute primogeniture
  • Elective and Agnatic primogeniture
  • Agnatic primogeniture
  • Elective
  • Male-preference  primogeniture
  • Agnatic seniority


  • Absolute primogeniture:

   Absolute also means equal or lineal primogeniture was not prevalent prior to 1980. Under this primogeniture, the sex of a person is not important for inheritance.

  • Agnatic primogeniture:

It is also referred to as patrilineal primogeniture wherein the level of relationship is known by tracing shared descent from the nearest common ancestor.

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