So I’m jumping to one conflict which may cause the reader to pause and question. The conflict involving our hero not inheriting may seem like an improbable one. Truth the law governing inheritance were fairly well set after the Norman invasion but, we all know that laws can be gone around and they are never simple.
Where inheritance is concerned from about 1000 CE to about 1200 CE the only rule/law that was in place was that of Primogeniture, meaning the oldest (male) inherits. Any other child was left out completely. But reality shows this was more a façade than a fact. And it wasn’t only males who inherited.
Those who had land or wealth accumulated through their lives were not commonly so willing to give their hard earned gains to just any child be he first born or not. Father’s then, like now, wanted to insure their life’s work and reputation wasn’t going to be lost with death. So how did inheritance work exactly?
Primarily it worked with the first born son being groomed to inherent as the laws prescribed however, widows had first dibs on anything their husbands had accumulated so before a son could take position they had to wait for their late father’s wife to pass and nothing stopped that woman from remarrying and having more children although the new husband became completion for the properties he did not become the owner. And nothing could stop a widow from simply going on a spending spree so to speak and leaving the son not only without and inheritance but with huge debt.
But assuming the mother was aged and wished to retire to a convent or to a residence of another female relation or even that she was sent to her maker before the father, it still may not have all gone to the eldest son. Father’s could in a legal move known as maritagium “gift” some of his holdings to younger sons when they married. We know this as a “dowry” gift when it concerns a daughter. The difference being while a daughter had the legal right to demand this gift upon marriage a younger son needed his older brother’s consent. The father couldn’t, at least “legally”, just gift lands and monies to a younger son. Although no one could stop a land owner from using whatever means he felt necessary to insure his possessions went to the heir he felt most responsible. So while an older son would obtain any hereditary title he could find himself a lord without a castle.
It is this concept which I use in the story to set up the conflict which keeps the hero from just taking what he wants and while it works I bet you are still asking yourself well what about if there is no son only a daughter?
So I will tell you. In the case where the only person left to inherit was a daughter the daughter inherited. Unlike common misconceptions would have people believe the inheritance didn’t go to an uncle or a devious male guardian who was going to use the poor girl for his own purposes. The eldest daughter, like the eldest son, got everything. Although later it would change for daughters and the inheritance would be divided a little more equally if there was more than one living female child.
Inheritance in the early renaissance was less a matter of law and more a matter of how to get around laws. While common law was the rule there was always the exception and widows, sons and daughters equally had the opportunity to become powerful land owners upon the death of the family patriarch.
To see how all this factual stuff plays into the plot read the books.
Till next time READ ON!!