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Ultimogeniture, also known as postremogeniture or junior right, is the tradition of inheritance by the last-born of the entirety of, or a privileged position in, a parent's wealth, estate or office. The tradition has been far rarer historically than primogeniture, inheritance by the first-born; or partible inheritance, division of the estate among several children.

Advantages and disadvantages[edit]

Ultimogeniture might be considered appropriate in circumstances where the youngest child had been assigned the role of "keeping the hearth", taking care of the parents and continuing at home, whereas elder children had had time and opportunity to succeed in the world and provide for themselves. In a variation on the system, elder children might have received a share of land and moveable property at a younger age, for example when marrying and founding their own family. Ultimogeniture might also be considered appropriate for the estates of elderly rulers and property-owners, whose children were likely to be mature adults.

Disadvantages included the fact that elder siblings deprived of property could potentially use their experience to coerce younger siblings into relinquishing some or all of their inheritance.[clarification needed] In addition, fratricide and other extreme measures might be committed to eliminate potential challenges from younger siblings and their political supporters, as in the case of Alexander the Great's succession to the Macedonian throne.

Usage examples[edit]

  • In medieval England, the principle of patrilineal ultimogeniture (i.e. inheritance by the youngest surviving male child) was known as Borough English. In 1327, a court case found it to be the tradition in the borough of Nottingham, whereas in areas influenced by Anglo-Norman culture, primogeniture was prevalent. The tradition was also found across many rural areas of England where lands were held in tenure by socage.[1] It also occurred in copyhold manors in Surrey, Middlesex, Suffolk and Sussex.
  • In the German Duchy of Saxe-Altenburg, land-holdings traditionally passed to the youngest son, who might then employ his older brothers as farm workers.[2]
  • In some southwestern areas of Japan, property was traditionally apportioned by a modified version of ultimogeniture known as masshi souzoku (末子相続). An estate was distributed equally among all sons or children, except that the youngest received a double share as a reward for caring for the elderly parents in their last years. Official surveys conducted during the early years of the Meiji era demonstrated that the most common family form throughout the country during the Edo period was characterized by stem structure, patrilineal descent, patrivirilocal residence and patrilineal primogeniture, but in some southwestern areas this combination of partible inheritance and ultimogeniture was sometimes employed.[3]
  • In early Greek myths, kingship was conferred by marriage to a tribal nymph, who was selected by ultimogeniture or success in a race.[4]
  • Many Biblical characters such as Isaac, Jacob, Ephraim, and David[5] are described as youngest sons or daughters — leading some scholars to infer a prehistoric ultimogeniture tradition in the Holy Land, although such theory is mostly speculative and contradicts explicit biblical evidence. (Deuteronomy 21)[6] The preeminence of youngest siblings is common to most folkloric and theological traditions around the world and has received many different interpretations.
  • Ultimogeniture of the ancestral seat was traditional in Mongolia. Genghis Khan passed the Mongolian homeland of the Mongol Empire to his fourth son, Tolui[7] as the empire with its conquests was partitioned between his four sons. Among Mongols, each son received a part of the family herd as he married, with the elder son receiving more than the younger son, and the youngest son receiving the family tent in addition to his part of the family herd.[8] Likewise, each son inherited a part of the family's camping lands and pastures, with the elder son receiving more than the younger son. The eldest son inherited the farthest camping lands and pastures, and each son in turn inherited camping lands and pastures closer to the family tent until the youngest son inherited the camping lands and pastures immediately surrounding the family tent. Family units would often remain near each other and in close cooperation, though extended families would inevitably break up after a few generations.
  • In areas of northern Myanmar and southwest China, where it is traditional among the Kachin for older sons to move away on reaching maturity and for only the youngest son to remain and inherit.[9]

Other methods of succession[edit]

Main article: Succession order

There are several other ways to organize hereditary succession, including

See also[edit]


  1. ^  Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Borough English". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 
  2. ^ Encyclopaedia Britannica, ed. 9, s.v. Saxe-Altenburg.
  3. ^ Family history revisited: comparative perspectives edited by Richard Wall,Tamara K. Hareven,Joseph Ehmer p.343-344 [1]
  4. ^ [2]
  5. ^ [3]
  6. ^ http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy%2021&version=NIV
  7. ^ [4]
  8. ^ THE INFLUENCE OF THE GREAT CODE “YASA” ON THE MONGOLIAN EMPIRE http://www.mypolice.ca/research_and_publications/MongolianLawCodeYasa.htm
  9. ^ [5]

External links[edit]