borough-English

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borough English was the custom that lands should descend to the youngest son or daughter, or, in default of issue, to the youngest brother of the deceased. Also known as ultimogeniture, it was therefore the opposite of primogeniture, the more widespread convention. The name originated from a case in Nottingham in 1327 when the English borough, or part of the town, held to ultimogeniture, the French (Norman) part to primogeniture. In fact it was not particularly common in boroughs. It was found more especially in the south-east and not at all in the north. The origin and intention of the custom has been much discussed but scarcely illuminated. Even Maitland is less persuasive than usual, suggesting that the youngest is the ‘hearth-child’ and that the custom may be a trace of an ancient religion centred on the hearth. It survived in some places until 1925.

J. A. Cannon