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A posthumous birth is a birth of a child after the death of a parent. A person born in these circumstances is called a posthumous child or a posthumously born person. Most instances of posthumous birth involve the birth of a child after the death of its father, but the term also is applied to infants delivered after the death of the mother, usually by caesarean section.
Legal implications of posthumous birth
Posthumous birth has special implications in law, potentially affecting the child's citizenship and legal rights, inheritance, and order of succession. Legal systems generally include special provisions regarding inheritance by posthumous children and the legal status of such children. For example, Massachusetts law states that a posthumous child is treated as having been living at the death of the parent, meaning that the child receives the same share of the parent's estate as if the child had been born before the parent's death. Another emerging legal issue in the United States is the control of genetic material after the death of the donor. United States law holds that posthumous children of U.S. citizens who are born outside the United States have the same rights to citizenship that they would have had if the deceased U.S. citizen parent had been alive at the time of their birth.
A posthumous birth[clarification needed] has special significance in the case of hereditary monarchies following primogeniture. In this system, a monarch's own child precedes that monarch's sibling in the order of succession. In case the widow of a childless king is pregnant at the time of his death, the next-in-line is not permitted to assume the throne, but must yield place to the unborn child, or ascends and reigns until the child is born. In monarchies that follow male-preference cognatic primogeniture, the situation is similar where the dead monarch was not childless but left a daughter as the next-in-line, as well as a pregnant widow. A posthumous brother would supplant that daughter in the succession, whereas a posthumous sister, being younger, would not. Similarly, in monarchies that follow agnatic primogeniture, the gender of the unborn child determines the succession; a posthumous male child would himself succeed, whereas the next-in-line would succeed upon the birth of a posthumous female child.
Posthumous conception by artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization, whether done using sperm or ova stored before a parent's death or sperm retrieved from a man's corpse, has created new legal issues. When a woman is inseminated with her deceased husband's sperm, laws that establish that a sperm donor is not the legal father of the child born as a result of artificial insemination have had the effect of excluding the deceased husband from fatherhood and making the child legally fatherless. In the United Kingdom before 2000, birth records of children conceived using a dead man's sperm had to identify the infants as fatherless, but in 2000 the government announced that the law would be changed to allow the deceased father's name to be listed on the birth certificate. In 1986 a New South Wales legal reform commission recommended that the law should recognize the deceased husband as the father of a child born from post-mortem artificial insemination, provided that the woman is his widow and unmarried at the time of birth, but the child should have inheritance rights to the father's estate only if the father left a will that included specific provisions for the child. In 2001, the Massachusetts Supreme Court was asked to consider whether the father's name should appear on the birth record for a child conceived through artificial insemination after her father's death, as well as whether that child was eligible for U.S. Social Security benefits. The court ruled in January 2002 that a child could be the legal heir of a dead parent if there was a genetic relationship and the deceased parent had both agreed to the posthumous conception and committed to support the child. Different U.S. state courts and federal appellate courts have ruled differently in similar cases. In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Astrue v. Capato that twins born 18 months after their father's death using the father's frozen sperm were not eligible for Social Security benefits, which set a new precedent.
Naming of posthumous children
In the Middle Ages, it was traditional for posthumous children born in England to be given a matronymic surname instead of a patronymic one. This may in part explain why matronyms are more common in England than in other parts of Europe.
Notable people born posthumously
Royalty and nobility
- Shapur II of the Sassanid Empire — born 309, after the death of his father Hormizd II; he is believed to be the only monarch in history who was crowned in utero
- Chlothar II, King of the Franks — born 584; his father Chilperic I had died earlier the same year
- Robert I of France - born 15 August 866, after the death in battle of his father Robert the Strong
- Charles III of France "The Simple" — born September 879, five months after the death of his father Louis the Stammerer
- Lothair III, Holy Roman Emperor — born June 1075, shortly after the death of his father Gebhard of Supplinburg
- King Baldwin V of Jerusalem — born 1177, a few months after the death of his father William of Montferrat, Count of Jaffa and Ascalon
- Arthur I, Duke of Brittany — born 29 March 1187, seven months after the death of his father Geoffrey II, Duke of Brittany (a son of King Henry II of England)
- Theobald I of Navarre, King of Navarre 1234-53 — born 30 May 1201, after his father's death
- Przemysł II, King of Poland — born 14 October 1257, a few months after the death of his father Przemysł I of Greater Poland
- King John I of France — born 15 November 1316, five months after the death of King Louis X. He lived for only six days, but was a king for his entire short life. He is sometimes known as "John the Posthumous".
- John, 3rd Earl of Kent (1330-1352) — born three weeks after Edmund of Woodstock, 1st Earl of Kent was executed.
- William of Bavaria-Munich — born and died 1435, German noble
- Ladislaus the Posthumous, King of Bohemia, Hungary and Croatia, and Duke of Austria — born 22 February 1440, four months after the death of his father King Albert II of Germany
- King Henry VII of England — born 28 January 1457, two months after the death of his father Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond.
- Alexander Stewart, Duke of Ross — born April 1514; his father had died at the Battle of Flodden, September 1513; he himself died at the age of only 20 months, but during his short life he was heir presumptive to the throne of the Kingdom of Scotland.
- King Sebastian of Portugal — born 20 January 1554, eighteen days after the death of his father John Manuel, Prince of Portugal. After his birth, Sebastian immediately became Crown Prince.
- Frederick William II, Duke of Saxe-Altenburg — born 12 February 1603, seven months after the death of his father
- François-Henri de Montmorency, duc de Luxembourg (1628-1695) - born six months after the execution of his father for dueling.
- King William III of England and Ireland, aka William II of Scotland — born 14 November 1650, eight days after the death of his father William II, Prince of Orange. He was born Prince of Orange
- William August, Duke of Saxe-Eisenach — born 30 November 1668, eight days after his father's death
- William IV, Prince of Orange — born 1 September 1711, six weeks after the death of his father John William Friso, Prince of Orange.
- Queen Caroline Mathilde of Denmark, consort of King Christian VII of Denmark — born 11 July 1751, five months after the death of her father Frederick, Prince of Wales
- Henry, Count of Chambord, French prince and pretender to the throne — born 29 September 1820, seven months after the death of his father Charles Ferdinand, duc de Berry
- Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha — born 19 July 1884, four months after the death of his father Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany (a son of Queen Victoria)
- King Alfonso XIII of Spain — born 17 May 1886, six months after the death of his father King Alfonso XII.
- Queen Alexandra of Yugoslavia, consort of King Peter II of Yugoslavia — born 25 March 1921, five months after the death of her father King Alexander of Greece
- Archduchess Elisabeth of Austria (1922–1993) — born 1922, two months after the death of her father Charles I of Austria
- Muhammad, the prophet of Islam — born c. 570, six months after his father died.
- St Raymond Nonnatus, Catalan Catholic saint born in 1204, is believed to have been delivered from his mother's womb after she died during childbirth.
- Pope Clement VII — born 26 May 1478, one month after his father, Giuliano di Piero de' Medici, was assassinated in the Pazzi Conspiracy.
- Francoise d'Orléans-Longueville, born 1548, six months after her father's death.
- Ben Jonson, Elizabethan playwright, born c. 11 June 1572, a month after his father's death.
- St Joseph of Cupertino, Italian saint — born 17 June 1603.
- Sir Isaac Newton, English scientist — born 4 January 1643, three months after his father's death.
- Jonathan Swift, Irish writer — born 30 November 1667, seven months after his father died.
- Edward Ward, 9th Baron Dudley, born 1704, after his father’s death.
- Georg Wilhelm Richmann, German physicist - born 22 July 1711, after his father's death.
- Robert Petre, 8th Baron Petre, British peer and horticulturist - born 3 June 1713, three months after his father's death.
- John Morton, U.S. politician - born 1725, after his father's death.
- Sir Brook Bridges, 3rd Baronet, born 1733, after his father’s death.
- Thomas Chatterton, English poet and forger, born 20 November 1752, four months after his father's death
- Benedict Joseph Flaget, U.S. bishop - born 7 November 1763, after his father's death.
- Andrew Jackson, U.S. president — born 15 March 1767, three weeks after the death of his father Andrew Jackson, Sr. in a lumber accident.
- Tenskwatawa, Native American religious leader - born 1775, after his father's death.
- Arthur MacArthur, Sr., Scottish born lawyer, Governor of Wisconsin and the paternal grandfather of General Douglas MacArthur - born 26 January 1815, seven days after his father's death.
- Rutherford B. Hayes, 19th President of the United States - born 1822, one month after his father died.
- Anna Leonowens, British teacher and heroine of The King and I - born 26 November 1831, after her father's death.
- Horace Tabberer Brown, British chemist - born 1848, after his biological father's death.
- Samuel Alexander, Australian-born philosopher - born 1859, shortly after his father's death.
- George Washington Carver, U.S. botanical researcher and educator — born c. 1864 after his father had been killed.
- Breaker Morant, Australian soldier and folk hero — born December 1864.
- Frank Anstey, Australian politician - born 18 August 1865, five months after his father's death.
- George Washington Thomas Lambert, Russian-born Australian artist - born 13 September 1873; his father (also George Washington Lambert) was an American who died in London on 25 July 1873, seven weeks before his son was born.
- Carl Schuricht, German conductor - born 3 July 1880, three weeks after his father drowned while trying to save a friend in distress.
- Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, US admiral - born 24 February 1885, after his father's death.
- Clara Sipprell, Canadian photographer - born 31 October 1885, after her father's death.
- Stanley Kunitz, Lithuanian-U.S. poet — born 29 July 1905, six weeks after his father's death by suicide.
- Xiao Qian, Chinese essayist - born 27 January 1910, after his father's death.
- John Jacob Astor VI, born 14 August 1912, four months after his father's death on the RMS Titanic.
- Red Skelton, U.S. actor and comedian — born 18 July 1913, shortly after the death of his father.
- Alfred Shaughnessy, English writer and television producer - born 19 May 1916, two months after his namesake father was killed in the First World War.
- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Russian novelist — born 11 December 1918; his father was killed in a hunting accident shortly after his wife became pregnant.
- Stephen Wurm, Hungarian-Australian linguist - born 19 August 1922, after his father's death.
- Anthony Earnshaw, English anarchist - born 9 October 1924, after his father's death.
- Felipe Rodríguez, Puerto Rican singer - born 8 May 1926, after his father's death.
- Earl Holliman, U.S. actor - born 11 September 1928, after his biological father's death.
- Thomas Sowell, U.S. economist - born 30 June 1930, after his father's death.
- Brian Sewell, British art critic, born 15 July 1931, seven months after the accidental death (or suicide) of his natural father, the composer Peter Warlock (Philip Heseltine).
- Don Durant, U.S. actor - born 20 November 1932, two months after his father was killed in a truck accident near Bakersfield, California.
- Lee Harvey Oswald, assassin of U.S. President John F. Kennedy - born 18 October 1939, two months after his father's death.
- Sir Henry Cecil, British champion racehorse trainer - born 11 January 1943, about a fortnight after his father died in the Second World War. 
- Sylvester McCoy, Scottish actor (Doctor Who) - born 20 August 1943, one month after his father Percy Kent-Smith was killed in World War II on 18 July 1943.
- Sir Ranulph Fiennes, 3rd Bt, British explorer and adventurer - born 7 March 1944, shortly after the death of his father the 2nd Baronet, who was killed in action at the Battle of Monte Cassino
- Bernard Collaery, Australian politician, born 12 October 1944, four months after the death of his father on active service
- Frederica von Stade, U.S. operatic soprano - born 1 June 1945, two months after her father was killed in World War II
- Bill Clinton, U.S. president — born 19 August 1946, three months after his father William Jefferson Blythe, Jr. drowned following a motor accident
- Peter Kocan, Australian attempted assassin of Opposition Leader Arthur Calwell in 1966, later a poet - born 4 May 1947, three months after his father's death
- Jett Williams, U.S. singer — born 6 January 1953, five days after the death of her father, legendary country singer Hank Williams
- Tyrone Power, Jr., U.S. actor — born 22 January 1959, three months after the death of his father Tyrone Power.
- Antwone Fisher, U.S. author, screenwriter, and film producer — born 3 August 1959.
- Rory Kennedy, U.S. documentary film maker — born 12 December 1968, six months after the assassination of her father Robert F. Kennedy.
- Uhm Tae-woong - South Korean actor and singer.
- Diana Yukawa, Japanese-British violinist and songwriter - born 16 September 1985, one month after her father Akihisa Yukawa was killed in the Japan Airlines Flight 123 crash.
The Irish Republican song The Broad Black Brimmer was about a boy whose father died before he was born.
On Nightmare on Elm Street 5 The Dream Child, baby Jacob was born after his father Dan was killed by Freddy.
John Connor, a principal character in the Terminator franchise, and son of Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese (a time traveler from the future), was conceived shortly before his father was killed. As an adult, John was in fact responsible for selecting Reese (who was unaware of their relation) to go back in time.
- THE ETHICAL AND LEGAL QUAGMIRES OF POSTMORTEM REPRODUCTION, by Christie Brough, 21st National Conference on Undergraduate Research, Dominican University of California, April 2007
- Christine Quigley, The Corpse: A History, McFarland, 1996, ISBN 0-7864-0170-2, pages 180 to 181.
- Renee H. Sekino, Posthumous Conception: The Birth of a New Class, Boston University Journal of Sci. and Tech. Law, 2001.
- "Frozen in Time: Planning for the Posthumously Conceived Child". The National Law Review. Fairfield and Woods P.C. 2009-07-09. Retrieved 2012-04-07.
- U.S. Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual Volume 7 – Consular Affairs, 7 FAM 1180 Posthumous Children, 4-07-2006
- Report 49 (1986) — Artificial Conception: Human Artificial Insemination, 12. AIH and Posthumous Use of Semen, Law Reform Commission, New South Wales
- Posthumous fathers to be recognised, BBC News, 25 August 2000
- Bowman, William Dodgson. The Story of Surnames. London, George Routledge & Sons, Ltd., 1932. No ISBN.
- Posthumous Child (i.e., Born After Father's Death), Adoption.com