Arlene Sindelar provided the following explanation of the English common
law of inheritance to help explain why daughters assume the precedence of their eldest
brother: it is a remnant of the parcener principle.
"Under the common law, the right of inheritance of land held by military tenure (where the original holder of the title to the land owed his lord military service) belonged to the eldest son. If the son had died, but left children, then the younger brothers and sisters were skipped, and his eldest surviving son inherited. If he had no children, then the next eldest son inherited and so on.
"But if there were no sons at all or if they had died without children, then all the daughters would inherit title to the land equally. This rule applied in every generation. Daughters were always preferred over uncles.
"So, say John had three younger brothers Tom, Dick and Harry. If John had died before his parents, all land they held by military tenure in common law would descend to John's eldest son. If he left daughters only, Tom, Dick and Harry still would not inherit. Instead John's three daughters would all inherit equally between them (they were called parceners).
"By the eighteenth and nineteenth century, marriage settlements, trusts and other methods of entailing land circumvented these common law rules (usually to the detriment of the daughters' estates--these entails almost always were designed to send the property intact to the uncles or male cousins instead of being split among the daughters).
"Titles, of course, could not be shared, and often were specifically tied to male issue, but this sharing of the elder brother's status is a result of applying the parcener principle to a related situation."
Would the money that Fanny inherited from Serena's father become the property of
Hector when she marries him?
That depends upon the original Spenborough marriage settlements. Most marriage settlements provide that the money she brings to the marriage (her dowry) will revert to her in widowhood or, if she does not survive her husband, be inherited by her (often female) children. Sometimes she would retain the right to leave it as she chooses upon her death. It's a contract, so the parties could agree to whatever they want.
But Fanny probably did not bring much dowry-money to the marriage. We know from the first few chapters that she was "amply provided for," which suggests that she was given something, not that she reclaimed something which was hers. Traditionally, she would have been entitled to 1/3 of the income ("dower") from her late husband's estate, but the contract may have provided otherwise; indeed, the purpose of marriage settlements was to avoid the common law rules of dower and parcener. It is extremely unlikely that she actually inherited any money (capital) from Lord Spenborough. Usually, she would have been granted a right to part of the income from the estate, which was inherited by the new earl. This right to income was granted to her and her alone; i.e., she could not give it away, or leave it for her children. It would terminate with her death, or perhaps earlier (for example, if she married again), as specified in the contract.
I think it was fairly common to provide remarriage clauses in a marriage settlement contract. It would be entirely up to the parties whether she would retain her right to income from the Spenborough estate after remarriage, but in my opinion, it is likely that she would lose her right to any income from the Spenborough estate when she remarries.
On to Correct Forms of Address
If you dispute a fact from these pages, please contact me, and if you can, provide a contradicting source. These pages are a work in progress and I expect them to change in the future, although what I present today is as accurate as I can make it.
Laura A. Wallace
12 June 2004
Hereditary Peerages, including Royal Titles
Rights and Privileges of Peers
A Peeress "in her own right"
Entails, Marriage Settlements, and Dower
Almack's (coming soon!)
Biographical Details of Real Regency People (coming soon!)
Correct Forms of Address
The 1st Duke of Marlborough
Links to other Sites