Friday, 8 July 2016

To shoot a son, or not to shoot him!.

Here's a legitimate way for authors of Georgian & Regency (other) novels to tackle the tricky business of a livid duke or earl who is hell-bent on taking steps to disinherit a son without having to shoot him. Read the post carefully (all of it) because not all is quite as one might imagine re titles (land/s) and entailment.

Although across the centuries numerous titles (and in some cases lands) were bestowed by Kings and Queens to persons who served them well, not all titles came with land or houses initially, or bestowed at a later date. Thus several dukes' received no dom, earls neither, and they had to make do with what they had, even if it was little more than a modest family abode plus an apartment within the royal court - subject to the monarch's whim. In some cases land was gifted by a sovereign for exemplary service at court or for some great feat in battle et al, such as the Duke of Marlborough, thence it was expected of the recipient to build a “house” fit to entertain his monarch. See below: change of entailment by letters patent re the Duke of Marlborough.

As for entailment of land to a title, this was not always applicable nor writ as deed when bestowed *couldn’t be when a title had no land* and such restrictions ultimately fell to the recipient to assign a lawyer to fulfil his wishes for future generations in the event of acquisition of land etc., if he thought it necessary. It was known Queen Bess (Elizabeth I) did stipulate within a few titles and land bestowed that a daughter, in the instance of no living legitimate sons, were entitled to assume the female equivalent (Duchess/Countess) in her own right, though should she marry the husband would take the male title, as would sons or daughters in perpetuity. Similar happened during Charles II’s reign when he bestowed titles upon several of his mistresses, Duchess of Cleveland and Duchess of Portland et al. Similarly, not all subsidiary titles such as Marquis have a marquisate = land associated to and with the title!
The case in which the Duke of Marlborough encountered was devastating:

Quote: When the Duke’s only son contracted smallpox and died, he was 16. The Marlboroughs’, of course, were devastated. They had four daughters, but no surviving son. All they had worked for seemed destined to slip into obscurity.

A few years later, on 21 December 1706, Parliament passed an Act which noted that the Duke's titles and honours had been awarded by earlier letters patent "to him and the heirs male of his body" (boilerplate letters patent language). The Act amended the letters patent so that, "failing the heirs male of his body, [the titles and honours would pass] to Lady Harriet, his eldest daughter, wife of Francis Godolphin [later 2nd Earl of Godolphin], and the heirs male of her body." Failing the heirs male of her body, then to her sister, Anne (2nd daughter), Countess of Sunderland, and the heirs male of her body. Failing the heirs male of her body, then to her sister, Elizabeth (3rd daughter), Countess of Bridgewater, and the heirs male of her body. Failing the heirs male of her body, then to her sister, Mary (4th daughter), later Duchess of Montagu, and the heirs male of her body. After an allowance for future daughters of the Duke and their heirs male, the titles will go to the first daughter of Lady Harriet, and her heirs male; failing them, to the second daughter of Lady Harriet and her heirs male, etc.; and so on through each of the lineal descendants of each of the Duke's daughters; and lastly:"to all and every other the issue male and female, lineally descending of or from the said Duke of Marlborough, in such manner and for such estate as the same are before limited to the before-mentioned issue of the said Duke, it being intended that the said honours shall continue, remain, and be invested in all the issue of the said Duke, so long as any such issue male or female shall continue, and be held by them severally and successively in manner and form aforesaid, the elder and the descendants of every elder issue to be preferred before the younger of such issue."

All persons to whom the said honours shall descend shall have the same precedence as was then enjoyed by the said Duke in virtue of the said letters patent bearing date 14 December (1702) I Anne. So you see, and act of Parliament could then be utilised to 

As an aside: During the period of the English Civil Wars (1642-1649) - a lot of the old aristocracy who fought for King and Country (Royalists) duly had land and property sequestered by Parliament as early as 1645, much of it never, not even when Charles II returned to English shores (1660 -Restoration Period), did he grant favours many expected of him, by overturning sequestered land and property to former owners. Thus many aristocrats who returned from exile overseas had titles and no land, (Duke of Buckingham), who thought it canny to court and marry the Parliamentarian General Sir Thomas Fairfax’s daughter in hope his father-in-law would be kind of heart and give back all the D of B’s holdings. Oliver Cromwell having prior given to his General: but father-in-law (Fairfax) didn’t, simply to safeguard his daughter’s future as wife to a known courtly rake: (another story).
Which brings us to the subject of a duke or an earl disinheriting his son – something that cannot be done on a whim if the title and the estate (land) is entailed. But, and this is where authors of Georgian & Regency novels can take a perfectly legitimate spanner to the belief wheel that *all titles and lands* were and are entailed, thus it is perfectly plausible for a duke or earl (lesser) to threaten his son with disinheritance, meaning the title will be his, but not necessarily the whole of the estate. Landed aristocrats were notorious for acquisition of property or land/s as *safe deposits* much like storing gold/dosh under the bed, and there were those who were indeed reckless gamblers, hence tenant rents funded the gambling or properties were heavily mortgaged, sometimes having resulted in insolvency, and in some cases to this day, estates have and are broken up and sold off bit by bit by differing generations.