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Layla Nahar
02-23-2018, 12:32 AM
Hi all - I'm writing a screenplay set in late Georgian, possibly Regency period. (I still haven't determined the year exactly.)


I have two men competeing for one woman. One is Viscount So & So (maybe he doesn't have to be a viscount) the other is a commoner who is doing well for himeself and hoping to buy land that will allow him to be a gentlman.


The woman is gentry, in possession* of some desirable property, and somehow related to the viscount; there is an expectation on the part of the viscount & his father that the viscount and this woman will marry. (The woman lives somewhere pleasant with her father. Might be the actual property in question.)


I was thinking that some relative might bestow this property on her if she marries by a certain age. I thought I had found online something that said such wills existed. I think what I am talking about might be something different from an entail, but I've failed to find it again.


Is this something that actually existed? Or is it something like the 'droit de seigneur' which, as I understand, is a fabrication.




*probably 'potential possession' or 'conditional possession' might be a better word

Marissa D
02-23-2018, 12:42 AM
That's...kind of convoluted. I suppose it could be unentailed property that is owned by her widowed maternal grandmother (who perhaps originally had it as part of her dowry), who plans to leave it to the grand-daughter in her will (assuming the mother is dead.) The viscount could be a cousin on her paternal side, then. Maybe it just happens to adjoin the viscount's family property (or one of them) which is why they want to get their mitts on it.

Is the viscount a viscount in his own right, or is his daddy an earl or marquis?

"Droit de seigneur" has nothing to do with real estate. ;)

Layla Nahar
02-23-2018, 01:36 AM
yeah, I know - I was wondering if my idea is as fictitious as droit de seigneur -

Thank you for your response, I'm going to read it more thorougly. (I'm at work & have to do it in bit and pieces)

benbenberi
02-23-2018, 03:23 AM
That's...kind of convoluted. I suppose it could be unentailed property that is owned by her widowed maternal grandmother (who perhaps originally had it as part of her dowry), who plans to leave it to the grand-daughter in her will (assuming the mother is dead.) The viscount could be a cousin on her paternal side, then. Maybe it just happens to adjoin the viscount's family property (or one of them) which is why they want to get their mitts on it.

To me this sounds much more convoluted than the original idea.

The main objection to the storyline, actually, is that in England in the 18/early 19c real estate could not legally be conveyed by a will regardless of entail status,. In matters of inheritance, the heir-at-law always inherited the property, and the heir-at-law was determined by blood right, not by anybody's will. Entail was a device to modify inheritance laws by restricting the pool of potential heirs to the male bloodline and exclude the female -- but creating (and under unusual circumstances breaking) an entail was the only way a landowner could change who inherited their land. Wills only applied to personal and movable property, inc money. Never land (or buildings).

Landowners could usually sell their land or give it during their lifetime (donation inter vivos) to whoever they wanted. That was typically the way rich people grew their estates. There were also arrangements that could be made to give individuals a life-use in specified land which would return to the estate after the individual's death.

So the original proposition doesn't quite hold up as stated, but if you substitute a big chunk of money for great tracts of land it's just fine.

Layla Nahar
02-23-2018, 05:14 AM
Hey Marissa, Beri - thank you both very much for your responses. Yah, actually, I had in mind something like what Marissa suggested... I have a problem with convolulted setups...

Ok, so Beri, I think you're suggesting that the Young Lady could be inheriting some heaps of money. That would work. (I had considered that the father had a gambling debt and that that added to the motivation to get his son married to this woman.)

Marissa - he is 'a Viscount' for now, but he doesn't have to be. He needs to be aristocratic, and to have some pull somehow in the navy - either by his own role, or by a family connection.

ULTRAGOTHA
02-23-2018, 05:17 AM
benbenberi, I hadn't heard that. Outside of an entail, I am under the impression Georgian law allowed real property to be willed to whomever. Do you know which laws cover that? Google-fu is just sending me off to Jane Austen and entailment sites.

lonestarlibrarian
02-23-2018, 06:16 AM
Have you tried looking into the laws on freehold property during your time period? Entailed property was entailed, but freehold property could be distributed however he wanted to.

Here's an interesting blog post (https://callynpierson.wordpress.com/2011/07/14/myth-busting-inheritance-law-in-the-regency-era/) on the subject.

It does make the point that entailments could not be set up for an indefinite period of time, and that they could be broken if the owner and his heir both agree to break it.

It also makes the point that "The Law (of Primogeniture?) is only involved in passing on property if the owner dies intestate (without a will)." However, it also points out that the custom of leaving the estate (a) intact and (b) to the eldest son was very, very strong.

I was reading a post-WWI story set in England, so it's about 100 years after your period, during which time I'm sure there was a lot of societal upheaval and change in law and custom. However, the will in this story is set up as---


[The widow said--] "Hubert [the last of his name] left me his will. He said I ought to know. He left me three thousand a year chargeable on the estate, and the dower house or the town house, whichever I preferred. Everything else he left to [his adopted daughter who's actually a cousin], on condition that if she married her husband must take on the name... But then he made a codicil thing-- a few weeks ago, that was. He still left it all to [his adopted daughter], but on condition that she married [a certain financier who was friends with the deceased]. If she married anyone else, it was all to go to his nephew, [so-and-so]."

Further in the comments of the blog post, it does mention the interesting bit of trivia--

There was no legal adoption in Britain until the twentieth century (and even then the adopted child had no right of inheritance from the adoptive parents if they died intestate). There were informal adoptions, and in this case the “parent” would have to make a will specifying the person to inherit by name.