The Secret Case on Conditional Inheritance – Dr Ewan Forbes-Sempill

The landed gentry may often be faced with questions regarding the inheritance of their hereditary honours. In this case the baronetcy of the Sempill line, conditional upon there being a next male heir, faced unprecedented questions when it passed to Dr Ewan Forbes-Sempill, who was registered at birth as female.

The challenger to Dr Ewan’s claim as 11th Baronet of Craigievar was his cousin, John Forbes-Sempill, who argued that Dr Ewan’s 1952 re-registration was invalid and that he was still legally female. The following claim was shrouded in secrecy, with no papers being publicly filed and no proceedings heard in open court. Dr Ewan himself was dragged privately through 12 medical experts.

This proved worth it however, and Dr Ewan was declared the rightful heir, despite subsequent appeals spanning three years and ascending to the Home Secretary of the time, James Callaghan, who made the final decree in Dr Ewan’s favour in 1968.

The legal secrecy of the case made its use as a precedent impossible, potentially hindering progress in subsequent cases of gender variation.

A link to a full report can be found below:-