Legal question: Tarzan, his cousin, and the House of Lords

Not sure if this belongs in CS or IMHO.

It is the late 19th Century.

John Clayton, Viscount Greystoke, disappears.

While missing, his son and heir, John Junior, is born.
One day, the child is playing with his father’s inkwell, and gets handprints on a page of the father’s diary. John Sr writes about the incident, and records the owner of the fingerprints.

John Sr dies. John Jr grows up to be Tarzan of the Apes.

20 years pass. John Sr’s body is discovered, along with a skeleton erroneously assumed to be John Jr. The father is now known to be dead, and the son is believed to be dead. The peerage of Greystoke passes to a cousin, William Cecil Clayton.

A couple of years later, John Junior is revealed to be alive, and fingerprints prove his identity. On his deathbed, William confesses that he had eventually learned that Tarzan was the legitimate heir to the peerage.

During the years when John Sr was missing, and John Jr was unknown, could William have had him legally declared dead, and taken the seat in the House of Lords, and voted on legislation?

During the years when John Jr was believed to be dead, I presume William could have sat in Parliament and voted on legislation. When John Jr’s existence and identity were revealed, would this affect the validity of any legislation on which William had voted? If a bill had passed by a single vote, could the opposition overturn the law?

Nm. Good question.

Before John Jr. was discovered I would think that with everyone truly believing the title was vacant, then actions taken when said title passed to William would be valid. Not sure for the period when William knew he had a cousin who ranked above him in the order of inheritance. But laws are weird, and I’m just guessing.

Does the heir have to speak English? John Jr. spoke ape and French, and he could read English but not speak it until later.

So there is real life precedent in Lord Lucan. It took decades, and an act of parliament for his successor to receive his title:

In the 1990s the Probate Registry (a division of the High Court of Justice) gave leave for the 7th Earl to be sworn dead by his trustees, and the family was granted probate over his estate in 1999, but no death certificate was issued.[7] In 1998, Bingham, supported by sworn statements from his entire living family save for his mother, and by the Metropolitan Police, applied for his father to be declared dead for House of Lords purposes. The Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine of Lairg, decided he was unable to issue Bingham his writ of summons to the Lords without a death certificate for his father.[8] In October 2015, twelve months after the Presumption of Death Act 2013 came into effect,[9] Bingham sought for his father to be declared dead at the General Register Office (GRO), which issues death certificates; in this case, an application to the High Court was necessary.[10] On 3 February 2016, a judge declared the GRO could issue the certificate, allowing Bingham to inherit the peerages.[11][12

Peers attend Parliament on the basis of a writ of summons. If someone gets a summons as a peer based on an honest mistake, I’d be pretty confident that their attendance and participation is valid and effective, and Acts of Parliament and the like won’t be later annulled because it is discovered that they were summonsed in error.

The writ of summons is indeed the key. The law in the early twentieth century was that a writ of summons to sit in the House of Lords in itself established the right of the recipient and their heirs to sit in all subsequent Parliaments. Thus, in the absence of any other grant, the writ created a new peerage. That applied even if the writ had been issued by mistake.

Such cases have happened. The most famous is that of the Strange peerages. The writ of summons for the existing Strange barony was sent in 1628 to the wrong person, because of confusion as to who had inherited it. It was later decided that this had created a new Strange barony, so there were simply two Barons Strange, both entitled to sit in the Lords. This would have provided a straightforward precedent for the Greystoke titles.

So Burroughs didn’t even need to kill off William. Neat.

Coincidentally, Lucan was a short-lived live action Saturday morning show about a man who had also been raised by wild animals, in this case, wolves.