Gavelkind, Inheritance in Opposition of Primogeniture + Release of “Angel Comes to the Devil’s Keep” + Excerpt + Giveaway

Gavelkind, Inheritance in Opposition of Primogeniture + Release of “Angel Comes to the Devil’s Keep” + Excerpt + Giveaway


http://www.legalgenealogist. com/2012/07/06/gavelkind-and-borough-english/

In the past on Austen Authors, I discussed the 19th Century Entail and the legalities of primogeniture during the Regency period. Today, I am adding the exceptions to the practice of the eldest son inheriting everything. Customs throughout the world vary. Some peoples divide their land and moveable property equally among all the sons, or among all the children, present it to the eldest, to the youngest, to the daughter(s), or to the child who cares for his/her parents until their deaths, or deal it out to each child when he/she marries.

However, in the county of Kent (yes, the Kent that is Lady Catherine De Bourgh’s home shire in Pride and Prejuidice), Ireland, and Wales there was a system of land tenure referred to as “Gavelkind.” Gavelkind is a system of partible inheritance, which resembles Salic patrimony. [Salic patrimony, or inheritance or land property, after the legal term Terra salica used in the Salian code, refers to clan-based possession of real estate property.] Gavelkind appears to have its roots in some sort of ancient Germanic tradition. Under Gavelkind, land was divided equally among sons or other heirs.

These practices were in place until the Administration of Estates Act of 1925. Until then, there were a number of estates “degaveled.”

“All land in Kent was presumed to be held in gavelkind until the contrary was proved. It was more correctly described as socage tenure (or Borough English), subject to the custom of gavelkind. The chief peculiarities of the custom were the following:

**A tenant could pass on part or all of his lands as a fiefdom from fifteen years of age.

**On conviction of a felony, the lands were not confiscated by The Crown.

**Generally the tenant could always dispose of his lands in his will.

**In case of intestacy [Intestacy is the condition of the estate of a person who dies without having made a valid will or other binding declaration. Alternatively this may also apply where a will or declaration has been made, but only applies to part of the estate; the remaining estate forms the “intestate estate”.], the estate was passed on to all the sons, or their representatives, in equal shares, leaving all the sons equally a gentleman. Although females claiming in their own right were given second preference, they could still inherit through representation. [Hello, Anne De Bourgh!!! Plot Point!!!! It seems Miss De Bourgh could inherit Sir Lewis’s estate!]

**A dowager was entitled to one half of the land. [Another plot point! Lady Catherine De Bourgh could own half of her Rosings Park.]

**A widow who had no children was entitled to inherit half the estate, as a tenant, as long as she remained unmarried.

“Gavelkind, an example of customary law in England, was thought to have existed before the Norman Conquest of 1066, but generally was superseded by the feudal law of primogeniture. Its survival in one part of the country, is regarded as a concession by the William the Conqueror to the people of Kent.” [R. J. Smith, “The Swanscombe Legend and the Historiography of Kentish Gavelkind,” in Medievalism in the Modern World. Essays in Honour of Leslie J. Workman, ed. Richard Utz and Tom Shippey (Turnhout: Brepols, 1998), pp. 85-103.]

Monument at Swanscombe recording the legend of how Kent managed to extract concessions from William the Conqueror. Wikipedia
Monument at Swanscombe recording the legend of how Kent managed to extract concessions from William the Conqueror. Wikipedia


Wales held a similar custom to gavelkind. It was known as cyfran. Under cyfran, upon the landowner’s death, the property was divided equally among all the man’s sons, including any illegitimate sons. This dividing of ever smaller pieces of land by successive generations of sons created a sort of “Theban war” among brothers, according to Welsh historian, Philip Yorke. The Welsh eventually took up the idea of primogeniture, but the custom of gavelkind was not replaced completely. Like those in Kent, there were pockets of resistance.

The Irish system was closer to the tradition of tribal succession. Unlike the Welsh system of dividing the land among all the sons, the Irish placed the property into “common stock,” where the property was redivided among the surviving member of the sept. [Sept comes from Síol, a Gaelic word meaning “progeny” or “seed” that is used in the context of a family or clan with members who bear the same surname and inhabit the same territory.] Under Irish law, the land was divided among the landowner’s sons. It was the Norman conquerors who gave this Irish inheritance law the name Gavelkind for its apparent similarity to the Saxon Gavelkind inheritance found in Kent.

So what does all this have to do with my recent Regency romantic suspense release? In Angel Comes to the Devil’s Keep, there are multiple questions of inheritance. The hero, Huntington McLaughlin, cannot fulfill his duties to the dukedom because of a debilitating accident. The heroine’s father learns he is the new heir apparent to the Earl of Sandahl, a brother who despises him and will do anything (including murder) to prevent his younger brother from inheriting.

“Angel” is the first book in a new trilogy: The Twins. It is a “sweet” romantic suspense set in the Regency, which will appeal to a general audience.

Book Excerpt:

Another hour passed before Angel could speak privately with her father. “What did the duke say?”

Horace Lovelace frowned, and the chiseled hardness upon his lips took Angel by surprise. “It was an odd conversation. Devilfoard appeared both mollified and concerned over my reunion with Sandahl. Even so, the duke did not demand my withdrawal. In fact, Devilfoard summoned his duchess to his study and explained the situation. The duchess expressed a like determination to act in a responsible manner. It was as if I played a role in an intricate dance. As crass as it sounds to say so, I felt as if my appearance brought the duke and duchess to a new understanding.”

“But, Papa,” Angel protested. “The duke and duchess chose Sandahl’s daughter as Lord Malvern’s future mate. If the situation deteriorates, we shall be asked to leave. Would it not be better to depart upon our terms, rather than to be driven from the duchess’s festivities?”

Her father’s steady gaze made Angel uneasy, but she remained in place. “What is the truth of your objections, Angel? Is Lord Malvern your concern in this madness?”

“No, sir.” She dropped her eyes in submission. “But I would not have you humiliated. Mama would not wish it.”

“What do you know of your mother’s wishes?” he asked harshly, and Angel flinched. “Victoria suffered every day of our married years because our impetuous joining robbed both of us of the blessings of family. If Lady Victoria Lovelace were here at this moment, she would demand I face Carpenter again. My brother did all he could to destroy my marriage felicity. It will be good for him to know his disdain only served to strengthen Victoria’s commitment to my success. To our success.”

Angel’s bottom lip trembled. “What if my uncle chooses to challenge you to a long overdue duel? I could not bear to lose you, Papa.”

Her father gathered her into his embrace. “What, ho?” he said teasingly. “You think your papa too old to defend his family?” He chucked her chin lovingly. “Have you forgotten I am the youngest of Jonathan Lovelace’s sons?”

“No—o—o,” she sobbed.

Horace gave an uncharacteristic snort of disapproval. “If Carpenter would be so foolish, my brother would lose. I would have the choice of weapons, and although I have lost my touch with a sword, I am still quite accurate with a gun.”

It bothered Angel to hear her father speak with such coldness. This was a side of him she never knew. “You could not kill your brother.”

“In a duel, death is not necessary,” he assured. “Surrender is all that is required.”

“But if you would accidentally kill Lord Sandahl?” she pleaded.

Her father smiled with irony. “I would be forced to flee to the Continent or even go to America.”

“Do not jest.”

Her father embraced her more tightly. “Trust me, Angel. I find no humor in this situation. However, nothing worth possessing comes easily.”

She clutched his lapels. “Please promise me you will take care in this matter. If you did not consider it previously, you are now Sandahl’s heir apparent. He has no male heirs, and at Lady Sandahl’s age, she is not likely to present him with one.”

“I did not think upon the title in that respect. You opened my eyes, Angel.”

Angel Comes to the Devil’s Keep

Huntington McLaughlin, the Marquess of Malvern, wakes in a farmhouse, after a head injury, being tended by an ethereal “angel,” who claims to be his wife. However, reality is often deceptive, and Angelica Lovelace is far from innocent in Hunt’s difficulties. Yet, there is something about the woman that calls to him as no other ever has. When she attends his mother’s annual summer house party, their lives are intertwined in a series of mistaken identities, assaults, kidnappings, overlapping relations, and murders, which will either bring them together forever or tear them irretrievably apart. As Hunt attempts to right his world from problems caused by the head injury that has robbed him of parts of his memory, his best friend, the Earl of Remmington, makes it clear that he intends to claim Angelica as his wife. Hunt must decide whether to permit her to align herself with the earldom or claim the only woman who stirs his heart–and if he does the latter, can he still serve the dukedom with a hoydenish American heiress at his side?

Early Reviews

The story is charming, with interesting and realistic characters, a complex plot with plenty of surprises, and a sweet romance woven through it all. The author has a good command of what it was like to be a woman in nineteenth-century England–almost as if she had been there.

Angel Comes to Devil’s Keep is a well-written tale of courage and sacrifice and what women went through in order to marry well in Regency England. The author did her homework and it shows in an authenticity that we don’t often see in Regency romances.

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Black Opal Books (both eBooks and Print copies available ~ Print copies include an autographed bookplate)

GIVEAWAY: I have 2 eBOOK COPIES OF Angel Comes to the Devil’s Keep available to those who comment on the post. The giveaway ends at midnight EDST on August 18.

21 Responses to Gavelkind, Inheritance in Opposition of Primogeniture + Release of “Angel Comes to the Devil’s Keep” + Excerpt + Giveaway

  1. I did read and enjoy this book…and posted a review. I have read a lot of your books but with everything out there demanding attention I can’t even come close to keeping up with excellent recommendations. Thanks for the information about inheritances, etc.

  2. Great article as usual. Just to emphasize that gavelkind & all other means of inheritance came into play only when one died intestate– without a will or deeds or settlements that laid out disposition of the property.
    What southern state required your ex to sign off on the property?
    My husband wrote a will but the state of GA declared it invalid . He didn’t have much so the house was put into the names of myself and my three children who were 7, 12, and 16 by the time probate . That meant I couldn’t sell or do anything like get a second mortgage for the property until the youngest was of age.
    Interesting excerpt though I am not sure about the relationships between everyone. need to read the book.

  3. This was an excellent novel and well written. I am looking forward to the next in this trilogy! Do not enter me to win as I have an e-copy already thanks to you!
    Keep writing as you have a way with words and getting the history component into the story. I love the history part as well getting to read a wonderful plot!

  4. This is the first time that I have ever heard the term Gavelkind. Thank you for this historical information! I love mysteries and thank you for the giveaway.

    • I find it fascinating that Kent had a different system than did most of England, and then Wales and Ireland also practiced a form of inheritance in opposition to England.

  5. Interesting inheritance information. I’m glad things have changed. Thanks for the chance to win – and congratulations on the new book!

        • The second book is Remmington’s and the third is for Sir Alexander Chandler. I am writing that one now. It will be called Lady Chandler’s Sister. This is the Twins’ trilogy so all the books have a “twin” element.
          Moreover, the girl in The Earl Claims His Comfort, is Comfort Neville. She is the cousin to Isolde Neville, the heroine opposite John Swenton in A Touch of Honor, book 7 of the Realm series. Swenton and Isolde make an appearance in Remmington’s book. I love the familiarity of finding characters from previous books when I am reading so I add them when I write.

          • How fun to see a blast from the past. I am excited to see Sir Alexander s story as well! This will be a fun series!

  6. Interesting article on land inheritance, as I,myself, have just finished going through the process of inheriting property. Your new book sounds marvelous from the excerpt. I like a mystery and all the and all the twist and turns one affords. Thanks for the chance to win a copy.

    • Thanks, Mary. I was quite shocked when I moved to the South and attempted to purchase a house. It was necessary for me to get my ex to sign off on the purchase that he would not make any claims on the property. Thankfully, my ex and I are on relatively good terms, but if not… Heaven forbid!

  7. Just finished the story and I loved it! Was very intriguing and loved the twist and turns to unravel the mystery. Can’t wait for the next book. Awesome post about inheritance, it answers lots of questions.

  8. Wow! Looks like a very interesting story with well-researched historical background. Thanks for sharing!

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