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Old 11-15-2010, 09:57 PM   #1
idempotent1729
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18th century England inheritance laws

Hello, I have a question about inheritance laws in late-18th century England which I wonder if anyone can help me answer. Actually the question divides into two parts:

1. As the holder of a hereditary title (baronet), you could only pass this title to your male descendants, right? Could you pass it to your male descendants by marriage (e.g. your wife's nephew) if you had no blood descendants of your own?

2. Were there legal restrictions on whom you could bequeath your estate and property to? Could you only leave it to your male heirs, or could you leave it to female heirs or even to unrelated people?

Thank you so much! I appreciate any help a lot, especially if you can cite some sort of reference for these things!
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Old 11-16-2010, 03:55 AM   #2
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1. As the holder of a hereditary title (baronet), you could only pass this title to your male descendants, right? Could you pass it to your male descendants by marriage (e.g. your wife's nephew) if you had no blood descendants of your own?

In some cases, a title could pass through a female. However, the female would have to be an heir by blood, not the wife's relatives. Example: baronet has no boys, only girls --the title could be passed through the eldest daughter (who would be a baronetess in her own right and called 'Dame X' not 'Lady X') to the daughter's children.

2. Were there legal restrictions on whom you could bequeath your estate and property to? Could you only leave it to your male heirs, or could you leave it to female heirs or even to unrelated people?

Unentailed properties could be left to whoever they wanted to. In instances of aristocratic titles tied to land/estates, those estates were usually entailed with the title and under no circumstances could they be passed to anyone but the heir. Entailed properties couldn't even be seized by creditors, only the king for something like treason.
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Old 11-16-2010, 04:18 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by idempotent1729 View Post
Hello, I have a question about inheritance laws in late-18th century England which I wonder if anyone can help me answer. Actually the question divides into two parts:

1. As the holder of a hereditary title (baronet), you could only pass this title to your male descendants, right? Could you pass it to your male descendants by marriage (e.g. your wife's nephew) if you had no blood descendants of your own?

2. Were there legal restrictions on whom you could bequeath your estate and property to? Could you only leave it to your male heirs, or could you leave it to female heirs or even to unrelated people?

Thank you so much! I appreciate any help a lot, especially if you can cite some sort of reference for these things!
Women had many financial and hereditary restrictions during this time.

There is only one title that may pass to a female provided that the entire male line dies out and that is the Dukedom of Marlborough. If you married, you took on whatever title your husband has. Titles do not pass from the wife's father to the husband.

As far as inheritance, women could only inherit provided that there are no male heirs at all. So if there is a male cousin, the property (provided it was not needed to pay debts) would pass to the cousin. That is why there was great pressure for women to marry and marry well.

A good resource for more information is located at here.
The link will connect you to the University of Alabama where they discuss the female condition of the 18th and 19th centuries.
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Old 11-16-2010, 05:41 PM   #4
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Wow, thank you so much, Artemis and San Remo! I really appreciate your help! This is great!
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Old 11-16-2010, 05:41 PM   #5
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And thank you for the link, too! I will check that out for sure!
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Old 11-16-2010, 09:25 PM   #6
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Jane Austin might be on the late end of what you're looking for but both Sense & Sensibility and Pride & Prejudice deal with female MC's whose family lands are being entailed away to either their brother (S&S) or cousin (P&P).
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Old 11-16-2010, 09:43 PM   #7
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Jane Austin might be on the late end of what you're looking for but both Sense & Sensibility and Pride & Prejudice deal with female MC's whose family lands are being entailed away to either their brother (S&S) or cousin (P&P).
Thanks, Dirtsider - this is true that both the Dashwood and Bennet entail situations illustrate the difficulties for women w.r.t. inheritance. What I was wondering was whether this was a blanket legal restriction, or just a customary one (or whether it was limited to old family estates rather than properties the character built himself). It looks as though it was most likely a blanket legal thing...
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Old 11-17-2010, 06:30 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by idempotent1729 View Post
Thanks, Dirtsider - this is true that both the Dashwood and Bennet entail situations illustrate the difficulties for women w.r.t. inheritance. What I was wondering was whether this was a blanket legal restriction, or just a customary one (or whether it was limited to old family estates rather than properties the character built himself). It looks as though it was most likely a blanket legal thing...
No, it's based on legal ties between the original title and lands granted with the title, so it stays intact and doesn't get divvied up between multiple heirs. They were written into the original deed when the feudal lord (or king) granted the land.

If the current title holder buys a new estate with cash, it would be up to that person who they wanted to inherit --if they wanted it added to the estate or if they wanted to keep it separate so the second son would have an inheritance, for example.

read more -->www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entail
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Old 11-17-2010, 07:08 PM   #9
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No, it's based on legal ties between the original title and lands granted with the title, so it stays intact and doesn't get divvied up between multiple heirs. They were written into the original deed when the feudal lord (or king) granted the land.

If the current title holder buys a new estate with cash, it would be up to that person who they wanted to inherit --if they wanted it added to the estate or if they wanted to keep it separate so the second son would have an inheritance, for example.

read more -->www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entail
Thanks, San Remo! But when you say it would be up to that person who they wanted to inherit, does this mean the person can leave it to his daughter, say, even if there is a male cousin? From the link Artemis posted, it looks as though women could only inherit in the total absence of male descendants.

In Middlemarch, Casaubon was able to leave his estate to Dorothea (with the condition that she doesn't marry Will Ladislaw), so I guess by that time (the novel is set in about 1830 although George Eliot wrote it in the early 1870's) women could legally inherit...although possibly that falls under the category of there being no male descendants eligible to inherit, since Will Ladislaw's family had been cut off by Casaubon's grandparents.

Thanks for the link to the wiki article, too! I'll check that out.
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Old 11-18-2010, 04:16 AM   #10
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Yep, they could leave unentailed property to anyone, even women.

Keep in mind, though, if the woman is married, the property actually becomes the husband's to do with, because what's hers is his, unless it's dowered to her.

An even better place to go to understand the legalities and applications to heirs (including women) would be Courtney Milan's website where she does an exhaustive study. http://www.courtneymilan.com/devises.php
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Old 11-18-2010, 07:33 PM   #11
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Yep, they could leave unentailed property to anyone, even women.

Keep in mind, though, if the woman is married, the property actually becomes the husband's to do with, because what's hers is his, unless it's dowered to her.

An even better place to go to understand the legalities and applications to heirs (including women) would be Courtney Milan's website where she does an exhaustive study. http://www.courtneymilan.com/devises.php
Wow, thank you very much! This helps a lot, and I will definitely check the website too.
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Old 11-20-2010, 08:35 PM   #12
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[QUOTE=idempotent1729;5513240]Hello, I have a question about inheritance laws in late-18th century England which I wonder if anyone can help me answer. Actually the question divides into two parts:

Quote:
1. As the holder of a hereditary title (baronet), you could only pass this title to your male descendants, right? Could you pass it to your male descendants by marriage (e.g. your wife's nephew) if you had no blood descendants of your own?
It depends on how the papers that granted the title were written. Typically the exceptions, such as the title going to the wife's nephew, were written so they could only affect the immediate heirs of the original title holder.

What does the plot need?
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Old 11-22-2010, 09:41 PM   #13
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[QUOTE=Tsu Dho Nimh;5528815]
Quote:
Originally Posted by idempotent1729 View Post
Hello, I have a question about inheritance laws in late-18th century England which I wonder if anyone can help me answer. Actually the question divides into two parts:



It depends on how the papers that granted the title were written. Typically the exceptions, such as the title going to the wife's nephew, were written so they could only affect the immediate heirs of the original title holder.

What does the plot need?
Thanks for the input! Actually the plot really just needs the clarity on this issue - it will work out either way, since this is not the main turning point, though it's better if the wife's nephew is a potential inheritor. The baronet in question is the original title-holder, so that checks out. I think it should also be the case that the Crown granted the baronet some land along with his title, and said baronet built his manor on the land. So this means the land and title are entailed together.
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