Entails, Marriage Settlements, and Dower


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.

Marriage Settlements

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

Table of Contents

Titles of Nobility In Britan
Peerage Basics
Hereditary Peerages, including Royal Titles
Life Peerages
Courtesy Titles
Rights and Privileges of Peers
A Peeress "in her own right"
Dowager Peeresses
Entails, Marriage Settlements, and Dower
Correct Forms of Address
The 1st Duke of Marlborough
Links to other Sites