24th November 1999

Sark women get the right to inherit

It took until 1999 – 400 years – for Sark’s female residents to be given equal inheritance rights to men. Feudal law, which until then had been used on the island for more than four centuries, had dictated that a deceased’s estate could only pass to his or her eldest son upon their death. Further, it could only pass in its entirety.

So, a man who had five daughters before he had a son could legally only leave his whole estate to the son, whether or not he wanted to, and couldn’t leave any part of it to one or more of his daughters. The only way a daughter could inherit is if there was no son at all, regardless of age.

Finally, following a vote in the Chief Pleas, residents could leave their property not only to legitimate sons and daughters, but also illegitimate offspring – or indeed anybody they chose.

The tides of change

The change was largely driven by the Barclay brothers, owners of the Telegraph newspaper and Ritz Hotel. They had wanted the right to leave the neighbouring island of Brecqhou jointly to David Barclay’s sons and Frederick Barclay’s daughter.

Accusing the Seigneur of being a “medieval dictator”, they had threatened to take the island to the European court of human rights to challenge the status quo. Sark’s Chief Pleas debated the change for almost two hours before voting on it but, when the votes were counted, two-thirds of the island’s representatives had concurred.

This was just the first change in a series of amendments to the way Sark operated over the next few years, the most notable of which was a move away from feudalism and a broader acceptance of democracy. In 2006 the island opted to switch its 40 hereditary rulers and 12 elected representatives for a fully elected Chief Pleas of 28 seats.


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Other events that occured in November

Car plane air crash caused airport fireball 1st
A hospital worker stood accused of murder 2nd
Sark’s vineyards were vandalised 3rd
The original Torteval church was consecrated 4th
Sibyl Beaumont married Robert Hathaway 5th
The papers were excited by a Guernsey execution 6th
The States agrees to pay the Bailiff 7th
States of Guernsey hired its first independent vet
The Little Theatre was reprieved… for a while 8th
Guernsey was declared free of cholera 9th
Guernsey optician Specsavers was founded 10th
The court considered a Guernsey porn dealer’s testimony 11th
Guernsey Yacht Club was founded 12th
Guernsey aimed for equal adoption rights 13th
Jethou’s tenant fell off his own cliff 14th
Dad’s Army actor John le Mesurier died 15th
A Guernsey recruit regretted signing up 16th
Horticultural painter William Caparne was born 17th
German forces confiscated Guernsey’s radios 18th
A plane crashed on Crevichon 19th
Sark featured in the music charts 20th
Guernsey recruits caused concern in Parliament 21st
First Guernsey competitor took part in Miss World 22nd
A Lancaster bomber crashed on Sark 23rd
Sark women get the right to inherit 24th
Spanish flu arrived on Guernsey 25th
Guernsey held its first full marathon 26th
Admiral Thomas Le Marchant Gosselin died 27th
HMS Boreas sank at Hanois 28th
Radio station Contact 94 went off the air 29th
Royal Guernsey Light Infantry memorial was unveiled 30th