The old family name

Surnames, apparently, tend to have little social mobility: they’re established at a particular point on the food chain, and they tend to stay there. Steve Sailer suggests a reason why this may be so in certain cases:

[H]igh status surnames can recruit new female talent. For example, John Churchill, the first duke of Marlborough, enjoyed a spectacular career as a politician-adventurer, eventually winning the crucial battle of his generation over the French at Blenheim. He was made the first Duke of Marlborough and given a palace and then … not much happened talentwise for five or six generations of Churchills. But then the dull 6th or 7th Duke of Marlborough married a woman of energy and ambition, and their son Randolph landed an American heiress, Jennie Jerome, who was a tigress, and, voila, Winston Churchill.

The seventh, actually.

While I was checking that out, I found this little tidbit: Marlborough is the one and only dukedom in the UK that can pass to, or through, a female. The succession order:

  1. The heirs-male of the 1st Duke’s body lawfully begotten;
  2. his eldest daughter and the heirs-male of her body lawfully begotten;
  3. his second and other daughters, in seniority, and the heirs-male of their bodies lawfully begotten;
  4. his eldest daughter’s oldest daughter and the heirs male of her body lawfully begotten;
  5. his eldest daughter’s second and other daughters, in seniority, and the heirs-male of their bodies lawfully begotten;
  6. all other daughters of his daughters, in seniority, and the heirs-male of their bodies lawfully begotten;
  7. and other descendants into the future in like fashion, with the intent that the Marlborough title never become extinct.

The first two contingencies are now lapsed; the current Duke (the eleventh, John George Vanderbilt Henry Spencer-Churchill) comes from section 3. And yes, it’s that Spencer.







6 comments

  1. McGehee »

    5 February 2014 · 9:31 pm

    IIRC, Winnie’s middle name was Spencer.

  2. CGHill »

    5 February 2014 · 9:52 pm

    He was properly Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, it seems.

  3. Roger Green »

    6 February 2014 · 3:51 am

    Spencer, as in Diana Spencer?

  4. CGHill »

    6 February 2014 · 7:03 am

    That’s the one.

  5. Roger Green »

    6 February 2014 · 7:59 am

    My wife is related to the Spencers . http://www.rogerogreen.com/2011/10/14/the-olin-international-family-reunion/

  6. McGehee »

    6 February 2014 · 8:04 am

    Sometimes I remember correctly, and sometimes I remember close enough for government work.

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