Legitimacy in a child’s birth is less important than it used to be. Throughout history, legitimacy has determined many factors for a child. However, although illegitimate children are generally not supposed to ascend to the throne of a kingdom, there have been many illegitimate children able to gain royal hereditary titles.
Legitimacy remains relevant when discussing hereditary titles. A hereditary title is generally considered to be a title or position that remains in a family. Children who lacked legitimacy used to not be considered valid members of a family. Accordingly, they were not given the same legal or civil rights that legitimate children had. In today’s society, legitimacy does not determine how the child will be treated under the law, but legitimacy and hereditary titles are still related.
Hereditary succession is a method by which one’s title is passed onto their children upon their death. Modern day society now mostly uses elections to determine political power. Generally, hereditary titles tend to fall to the eldest son in a family. If there is no son, then it is possible for a hereditary title to fall to a daughter, although it was less desirable. A daughter lacking legitimacy was not always considered an option when it came to leaving a royal title to an heir. However, Elizabeth I of England took the throne despite the fact that her parents’ marriage had been annulled.
Other famous royalty who lacked legitimacy included William the Conqueror and Henry II of Castile, from Portugal. William the Conqueror became the King of England after conquering it in 1066. He was also called William the Bastard, as a nod to the fact that he lacked legitimacy. His hereditary title was won rather than inherited.
Henry II of Castile had a different kind of story. He murdered his legitimate half brother, Pedro the Cruel, in order to take power from him. The Portuguese people chose to recognize his claim to power and the heredity title over his half niece.
Many countries consider the term illegitimate to be one that has no legal or social bearing on anyone’s lives anymore. However, hereditary titles do sometimes rely on legitimacy, depending on the circumstances.
While obtaining a royal hereditary title may rely on one’s legitimacy, there are still times when a child who is born to unmarried royalty may obtain a title, though they were born out of wedlock.