Was Jane Austen (Gasp!) Wrong About Entails?

Was Jane Austen (Gasp!) Wrong About Entails?

There are certain historical inaccuracies which often pop up in Pride and Prejudice variations which catch my eye when I come across them, mostly because I tend to find them annoying. No one is perfect—I certainly do not get everything right. But with the awesome power of the internet, we, as authors, should be able to get most of it right, especially those subjects which are easily researched. Some previously prominent errors, such as the idea diners at Regency dinner parties would be seated by place settings rather than by precedence (which was prevalent in Victorian times but not during the Regency era), have largely disappeared in recent years. Others, such as inaccuracies concerning mechanics of entails still show up frequently. It is the entail I thought to discuss today.

In planning for this post, I did some research rather than spouting off what I knew (or thought I knew) and potentially getting it all wrong. Nineteenth century English land law is not a topic one will find in great abundance, even with the power of the internet. There is a paucity of information no matter how hard you look, and as I am not a lawyer, deciphering what is available can be difficult. Having said that, I found more than I expected, for I found that while I am right about entails in general, I, and many others (including Jane Austen herself!) are wrong for other reasons. My apologies in advance as this will be a long and involved post. But it’s important to share what I learned, and to explain why I think it both matters and doesn’t matter to the plots of our favorite books.

The most interesting and complete source I discovered in my research is a paper entitled: A Funhouse Mirror of Law: The Entailment in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice by Peter A. Appel of the University of Georgia. I have included a link below, and though I will attempt to summarize what I’ve learned, I’ll note again that I’m not a lawyer and may have misinterpreted some of this information, despite my best efforts. This paper is not by any means my only source, but I will paraphrase what it taught me in the latter half of this post. If you want the full explanation, how it relates to Pride and Prejudice along with the author’s conclusions, I suggest you go there.

First, let’s talk about the entail itself. Entails were created for several reasons, the chief among these being to ensure dynastic succession and to prevent an estate from being broken up, sold, or run into the ground by profligate masters. The basic tenet of an entail is to ensure the property is passed down by rules of primogeniture, or in other words, from father to son or other male heirs. Where this runs into issues is when there are no male heirs remaining to inherit. When this happens, a male heir from another line must be found based on certain conditions. By the laws of the time, males were always preferred over females, though the notion that females could not inherit is erroneous. But that is a discussion for another time. For the purposes of an entail, the heir is always male.

There are a few rules which must be understood for an entail to be portrayed correctly, but for the purposes of this post, I’ll focus on one. That is the concept of “male heirs of the body.” Basically, what this means is that descendants of the person who enacted the entail are the only ones who can inherit, and they must be in an unbroken male line. This is very important and is the rule I see broken most often.

For example, let’s assume that the master of Longbourn, A, created an entail on his property. If A had a sister, Z, none of Z’s descendants could inherit the property, male or female, because they are not heirs of A’s body. The same follows for any brothers A might have had. Thus, only his descendants could inherit. Let’s say A had two sons, B and C, and a daughter, D. The only heirs who could inherit in future generations were the descendants of B and C, and not D’s children. This is because an entailed estate could only be passed down in a direct male line. Unlike ancient royal families, where the son of a branch of the family descended from a woman could become king, entail laws did not allow this. Thus, if B’s family eventually died off, or all direct male heirs died off, the estate would devolve to C’s direct descendants, again as long as they were descended in a purely male line.

As an aside, this brings up an interesting point regarding Pride and Prejudice itself. By these rules, Mr. Collins must have been a direct descendant through a male line—otherwise, he could not have been Mr. Bennet’s heir. The most likely possibility for the difference in surnames is that Mr. Collins’s descendant married into another family and changed his name to that of his wife. This was common in those times, especially when a son of one family was marrying into another family of greater consequence or prominence in society. It was also prevalent when an estate was unentailed, a daughter was the heir, and her husband changed his name to ensure the family name continued as a condition of their marriage. The change of name is immaterial—he would still be a direct descendant of the estate in question and be eligible under the entail.

This begs the question of what happens if there are no more direct male heirs before the term of the entail has passed. It’s the one question I’ve not been able to answer satisfactorily in my research, though the possibility must have been understood and accounted for. What I’ve typically done in this situation is to assume the entail was broken and that the last master of the estate could leave it to whoever he chooses. While this seems to make sense, I cannot claim it is historically accurate. It is equally possible, as a friend of mine suggests, that an estate without a legal claimant would have devolved back to the crown.

Now that we have dealt with the rules of the entail, that should be all we need to know, right? Not so fast. This is where a nasty can of worms gets opened. Entails were common enough, but by the time of the Regency, they were archaic, and were only used in conjunction with a stronger legal mechanism. By itself, an entail’s fatal flaw was the use of a legal process called “common recovery.” If an estate was entailed, the current master (AKA Mr. Bennet in the case of Pride and Prejudice) could “bar” the heir from inheriting using a simple legal procedure. Once that was completed, Mr. Bennet could have then sat back in his library, sipped his port and read his books, and once he was gone pass the estate to any daughter (or all of them) he chose, thereby assuring their futures.

Let that sink in for a minute. Pride and Prejudice was built on an archaic legal device which had a fatal flaw. Do you feel those worms crawling around just yet? Why did Jane Austen set it up that way? The most likely explanation is that she simply did not understand the laws of the time. Land laws were murky at best, and many solicitors themselves likely did not understand them fully. It also seems likely most of her audience also did not understand the laws, or her work would have been derided as implausible.

The history of the entail losing its legal power is long and dates back to the English civil wars of centuries earlier. If a certain baron was rebellious and fought against the king, defeating him would do little, even if the king had him executed or killed in battle. Entail laws would kick in, his son would inherit, and could take up his father’s banner, and have the means and the motive to continue the struggle. In order to remove the power of a rebellious noble, the king needed a mechanism by which he could remove that which endowed the man with his power: his lands. Thus, common recovery was devised as a method to do this. The legal implications of common recovery are rather foggy and its legality questionable as it was essentially a coercive land grab. But by Regency times, it had become precedent.

As an aside, there is an interesting dichotomy between English and Scottish law on the subject of entail. The English law, as I have said, stated that an entail could be broken, and the heir barred from taking possession of the estate using common recovery. By contrast, Scottish law held that an entail was unbreakable until the middle nineteenth century. (Note that all entails historically had one out: the master and the heir could jointly agree to end it.) The Scottish law is not particularly relevant, but notable as different from that of England. (Marriage laws are another example, which is why Gretna Green was such a popular destination for the young and foolish.)

By Regency times, another method had been devised to ensure estate integrity and prevent it from being sold off or broken up. This method was called “strict settlement.” In a basic sense, strict settlement ensured that the master of an estate did not have full control over it. The future master of the estate would be set up as a “life tenant” of the estate with certain limitations on what he could do and could not do. Thus, rather than being an outright owner, he would have only the tenancy of the estate as long as he was alive. In this manner, a landowner could ensure the estate remained intact for future generations, and could choose his own heir if he only had daughters (either one of his daughters or a more distant relation who would care for them if necessary).

Why would the heir agree to this? For several reasons. First, the legalities were difficult to understand, and as the conversation would likely not be well understood, the son might agree based on the advice of his father. An agreement could also be reached because the heir was a dutiful son, because he wished to have done with it and get on with his life, or even because of the threat of being barred from inheriting. Furthermore, this legal discussion was likely one which a man would have only twice in his life—once as a young man with his father, and again as a father with his son. It’s not the sort of thing that would come up on a daily basis. A profligate son could be reined in or passed over entirely in favor of a younger son, or even a daughter using this procedure. Even if a profligate son resented his father for trapping him in a life tenancy, there was no way for him to break it.

While it was technically possible for a strict settlement to disinherit female descendants, it was almost never done. Provisions would usually be made for younger sons and daughters of the family estate using the available capital of the estate. Strict settlement benefitted all the members of the family rather than just the heir.

There you have it. I hope I’ve been accurate and portrayed the legalities properly. If you wish to read a discussion of Pride and Prejudice as seen under the lens of this information, go to the essay I referenced above, which you can find here, as I will not go into that discussion. Be prepared, however, to read it several times to understand it completely. (I still don’t grasp it completely, and I read it at least 3 or 4 times!)

The question then becomes, should we change the way we write these adaptations? Possibly. I have a few ideas of how this could be used in the plot of a book, and you may see it show up at some time or another. I think it is important to understand historically accurate facts and to utilize them whenever possible, though the act of writing fiction does give an author a certain poetic license. While the creative use of anachronism is useful and enjoyable at times, inserting inaccuracies into a plot because of ignorance is irksome for the reader.

Ultimately, however, I will argue this mistake concerning entail law doesn’t really affect how we enjoy Pride and Prejudice adaptations. The reason is that it can be easily argued that land laws were convoluted and not well known, and ignorance is an easy card to play. Additionally, if Pride and Prejudice had taken place in Scotland, or two centuries earlier in England, it would have worked out exactly the way Jane Austen wrote it from a legal sense. Finally, there has been so much written on this subject by authors such as Trollope and Heyer (or Lathan, Jeffers, and Silkstone, et al!) that it can also be argued that the use of an entail as an unbreakable contract is a “fictional legal precedent.” Yes, I understand that’s nothing more than sophistry. But it’s worked for a long time now. Who am I to overturn the apple cart!

I hope you enjoyed this little trip into Regency legalese. It was eye-opening for me!

28 Responses to Was Jane Austen (Gasp!) Wrong About Entails?

  1. Actually the more I see about this the more I realize why it’s so confusing to people. It seems really clear to anyone who has studies property law and trusts and estates. But for non lawyers it’s obviously a minefield.

    So here’s a stab at a systematic laymen’s explanation of the core legal concepts:

    “Entailment” is NOT the same as primogeniture. It has nothing to do with property passing to the oldest son. An entailment is simply another way of saying “fee tail” which means the same thing as “lifehold” or “life interest.”

    Fee simple means you own something lock stock and barrel.

    Fee tail means you only own it for life, and then it goes to the next person mentioned in the trust deed.

    When people talk about entails in regency novels they are usually talking about a “fee tail male” which the original “freehold” owner has created by signing a a trust or “settlement” deed that puts property in trust “for A and the male heirs of his body”

    You can also draft a plain old “fee tail” (“to B and the heirs of his body”). Or even a fee tail female which could be used to protect a mother’s dowry and pass it on to her daughters (“to A and the female heirs of her body”)

    The main thing to remember is that an “entailment” is just a written document that locks up property by putting it “in fee tail” so that the first generation of heirs only get to use it for life and don’t truly own it. The details of the “fee tail” in any one family could vary greatly because it was really up to the original “fee simple” owner’s whim what to write into the settlement documents.

    If you hold property in “fee simple” you can create a trust that leaves your property in any way you want and subjects your heirs to any crazy requirements you want unless they are outright illegal or unconscionable. The only limitation is that someone has to inherit in fee simple within “twenty one years after the death of a life in being at the time of the trust’s creation.” In other words, you can only lock up your estate until your grandchildren or in some cases your great grandchildren turn 21.

    That’s the Rule Against Perpetuities. And it’s still good law today just as it was in Jane Austen’s day. And “entail” under another name is also alive and well — just under greatly simplified rules that mean we no longer need to bring a fake lawsuit to end the trust. But we still need the heirs to all be over 21 and all consent to it!

    • Here’s a link to a really good article that helps put all this in context. It’s about the history of the entail through which Jane’s brother inherited Chawton and Godmersham. It shows very well the nebulousness and complexity of inheritance law in 19th century England. It also shows something that every lawyer learns in first year law school: you can’t learn law by memorizing rules, you can only learn it by studying real life examples of what happens when things go wrong!

      The “entail” described here is typical. It may have begun as a true entail, but by the 19th century it was probably better described as a settlement in the male heirs of the body that was perpetually renewed in each generation. This is because the Rule Against Perpetuities forces families who want to keep estates in the male line to renew the entail every generation or two. This means they have to hire new lawyers to draft a new settlement document. And then the current owner and his heir (and usually the heir wife’s father) have to thrash out a new agreement about how the property would go, including not just the original estate but new bits and pieces that are being added onto it through inheritance or marriage. And of course the lawyers will want to incorporate all the latest clever new legal tricks.

      In the Chawton case the family clearly developed a sort of tradition of including kick out clauses in case the male line failed. The general preference seems to have been for passing the estate to a distant male cousin if there was no male heir in the direct line.

      P&P of course turns on a similar clause :

      “Mr. Bennet’s property consisted almost entirely in an estate of two thousand a year, which, unfortunately for his daughters, was entailed, in default of heirs male, on a distant relation.”

      That relation, Jane explains elsewhere is Mr. Collins’s father, and after he dies, Mr. Collins. Jane was smart and knew her inheritance law. No need to strain for explanations of why Mr. Collins has a different name. He’s not in the direct male line of descent; according to Jane his side of the family is the next beneficiary if the direct male line fails. And she explains this in language that is crystal clear to any lawyer today. Jane would have been a formidable solicitor, I don’t doubt 🙂

      Anyway here’s the article … it’s quite good and I think gives a very good sense of how “entails” really worked in the real world….

      http://www.jasna.org/persuasions/on-line/vol34no1/grover.html?

  2. No. Jane Austen was not wrong. A lot of what you explain about barring entails by Common Recovery is correct, and this was a frequently used and accepted process. However you are missing a subtlety that easily slips past non-lawyers.

    Common Recovery is basically a fake lawsuit between the Life Tenant and the Heir. Typically this would be a father and son. A very simplified description: the son sues the father for the entailed property and the father fails to show up at court so that a default judgement is entered for the son. At the end of this process the SON – not the father – now owns the estate in fee simple.

    A father cannot disinherit his oldest son through a Common Recovery. What Common Recovery did was pass the property to that son without the entail. Very useful if for example you want your super responsible son to help you mortgage land to expand your other businesses, or if you want to renew the entail to HIS grandson before your wastrel grandson gets hold of it … but not at all useful for Mr. Bennet since the last thing he wants is to hand the whole estate over to Mr. Collins!

    In P&P there is also an additional wrinkle. Mr. Collins is not the heir but only the heir presumptive. Until Mr. Bennett has been dead for nine months there IS no heir because he could still legally (even if not biologically) have a legitimate son. The heir and the heir presumptive cannot bring an action for Common Recovery. So what Jane Austen has cleverly done is describe a bizarre limbo situation in which the entail is unbreakable because the person who could break it has not been born. This is part of why modern English law abolished entails. However the same setup lives in in trusts and estates. And you can definitely end up with very weird situations.

    I could be wrong about this. But I am a trusts and estates lawyer and I’m pretty sure I’m not wrong.

    • Dug around a little more and found this link to the Duke of Portland’s marriage settlements. This is a great example of how multiple settlements were used to lock up a large estate, and how common recovery was used to break old entails in order to form new ones. In many cases the common recovery “demandant” is not the heir but some agent of the trustees. However, these common recoveries would have been sanctioned by courts because the trustees — some of the most powerful aristocrats in England — were considered reliable guardians who could be trusted to represent their heirs’ interests. The language used is also instructive. “Entail” and “settlement” are almost used interchangeably in many cases. Both terms by now are denoting flexible and adaptable legal instruments that begin to look very much like modern trusts….

      https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/manuscriptsandspecialcollections/researchguidance/deedsindepth/settlements/complex.aspx

  3. My comment didn’t post. No, Jane didn’t make a mistake. By the regency the concurrence of a man and his adult oldest son seems to have been necessary to bar an entail. Everything I have read shows that a son was necessary to bar an entail. The Duke of Devonshire and others had to get private bills through Parliament to sell entailed land in the 19th . Too many stories abound of men not being able to sell entailed property because they had no sons for me to believe it was something a man without a son could do. Mr. Bennet’s brother in-law was a solicitor and would have informed him how to bar the entail if it had been possible. he would have done it to save his wife’s nerves.– and to keep Mr. Collins from having it.

    • Hi Nancy. I’m going to assume you authored both this comment and the one below and respond once.

      I’d be interested to know your sources, as my understanding of entails before I undertook this research was exactly as you stated. If there is conflicting information, I’d like to look at it. Having said that, I’d be more likely to trust someone familiar with the law, rather than authors who write stories. We’re in the entertainment business, not professionals, though we try to get it right as much as we can. I can easily see how an author might write something incorrect and have others follow that author’s example without realizing it’s wrong.

      As for the information about common recovery and strict settlement, it comes directly out of the article I mentioned. The link is in the post. He also references other articles by other authors in which they discuss the discrepancy between the laws of the time and P&P. For a greater understanding of his points rather than just my attempt to paraphrase, go directly to the article. It’s worth the read.

      • Yes but … the key thing to understand is that barring an entail through Common Recovery requires collusion by both the current life fee holder and a competent adult heir. That’s why you can’t do it unless your heir is 21.

        Basically a Common Recovery is a fake default judgment (there also has to be a warranty proceeding to make it work, but let’s ignore that for the sake of clarity).

        Here’s how barring an entail through Common Recovery actually works:

        Father sells the entailed land to a third party, which he obviously cannot legally do.
        Son sues to contest the sale, a suit he will obviously win as long as he bothers to show up in court on the right day
        Father then purposely fails to show up in court on the right day, so the son wins by default.
        The son now owns the property in fee simple and the entail has been “barred” or “broken” (the father gets the warrantee I mentioned earlier, but that really is a legal fiction because he never collects on it)

        So yes you are correct that Common Recovery is a legal fiction. But it is a legal fiction that only works with the consent of the adult heir. The only person who can end up with full ownership of the entailed property is the heir. When you break a trust it all goes to the heir — nothing goes to the life tenant.

        In P&P for example if Mr. Bennet barred the entail, then Mr. Collins would just end up owning Longbourn right now instead of having to wait for him to die. So yes technically you’re right — Mr. Bennet can break the entail.

        In real life most families that used Common Recovery did it to extend an entail not break it. They were therefore very careful to create a seamless transition so that the heir locked it right up again in a new entail. They might put a clause in the original settlement documents saying that if the entail was barred or found invalid then the current lord and two other adult males in the family had to make all decisions together. Or they might bar the entail as part of the heir’s marriage settlements. The wife’s relatives would ensure that the old entail was broken and the new entail signed all in one session as part of her marriage settlements — just like in modern corporate law where you make a bunch of contracts all dependent on each other in order to put a complex financial deal together.

        • Sorry – I left out a sentence above. My point was that YES Mr. Bennet COULD theoretically bring an action to bar the entail. But that would just let Mr. Collins step in and claim the estate immediately since he is the heir with the future fee simple interest. A somewhat counterproductive result!

  4. I keep reading that Mr. Bennet could have broken the entail by a common recovery. However, people keep forgetting the mention of a son. I know it is thought that a son could inherit and make sure his mother and sisters would be cared for. However, many law books say that a man and his adult son could bar the entail. The incumbent couldn’t bar the entail when he didn’t have a son because he would be taking the property from another. However, if he and his adult son barred the entail , they could sell parts or make other arrangements. usually, it was thought that the properties would be put into another entail or tied up in a marriage settlement when the son married. An adult son was needed to bar an entail. Nothing I have read says that Mr Bennet could have done it alone. Lord Donegal had to wait until his oldest son was of age. All the reports I have read of it say that it was a man and his oldest son who was at least 21years of age.
    Jane Austen wouldn’t have made such a mistake and Mr Bennet wouldn’t have sat around doing nothing , especially when his daughters were old enough to marry, if he could do it alone. Remember his brother in law was a solicitor.
    Some critics have said that Jane Austen must have meant a strict settlement and not an entail which would account for the fact that Mr. Collins had a different surname. As the end result is the same I don’t know that it matters much. Of course, a man and his adult son could bar an entail but couldn’t change a strict settlement/.
    People were always changing names when they married. men and women changed surnames for legacies or at marriage.
    Whether strict settlement or entail governed the property, it could only go to a son of Mr. Bennet. If no son was born it returned to the Collins’ family without a hint of entail.
    I once imagined, Mrs. Bennet dying of too much cheer at her daughters being married and Mr. Bennet marrying Mary Crawford who presented him with 3 boys.
    Jane Austen didn’t make a mistake about this. Neither did she make a mistake about the apple blossoms as someone has proved in an essay.

    • Yes. Correct. There is a precise legal explanation for this. Under a strict settlement — which is almost certainly the way Longbourn was held — the father and son needed to cooperate to do a common recovery because neither of them held enough rights by himself.

      Common recovery converts a fee tail into a fee simple. The father holds a life tenancy. The son holds a fee tail minus a life tenancy. In order to do a common recovery the father and son need to add their two interests together to get a full fee tail. Otherwise, you can’t even get through the courtroom door because you don’t have the right deed.

      I know there is a law review article that argues Longbourn was held in true entail. But this makes no sense. Jane calls it an entail, which is common usage throughout the 19th century. But true entail had become unenforceable more than a century before Jane was even born. No competent lawyer could have drafted anything but a strict settlement in the late 18th century. It would have been flat out malpractice.

      More important, the fact that Mr. Bennet needs his son to sign tells you clearly that he is the first donee in a strict settlement.

  5. Thanks Jann for this great info.
    How fortuitous, I was just reading about entailment a week ago as I was curious how it can be broken or legally nullified.
    One thing I wanted to speculate why Ms Austen made the entailment as is… aside from not having full knowledge of it (I can easily see how the males at that time concealing facts about entailment as there had been gender biased – as shown why females don’t go to certain Universities nor take up certain professions at that time). It might also be to show how lazy Mr Bennett is. As smart as he is, one could expect he would investigate or research about it (Fight it or find loop holes).
    There was a variation that I read that the entailment was put in place by Mr B’s father because Mr B married Mrs B. I can also speculate Mr B just wanted to honor the wishes of his father (since he had disobeyed him and he regretted his decision to disobey him)…

    • Good timing then! The lazy aspect is one thing, but this goes way beyond that. I suspect the most likely reason is just a lack of knowledge on Jane Austen’s part. I think I’ve read the one you mentioned about Mr. Bennet’s father instituting the entail.

  6. Thank you for this information, Jann. It amazes me how convoluted laws can get. Add legalese, and you have to have attorneys to explain everything. I’m keeping your post in case I ever lose my marbles enough to write about it. At least I would have something to fall back on. 🙂

  7. One reason I enjoy JAFF is the historical journeys many of the stories and authors have sent me on. I knew little of English history when I started reading JAFF and can now discuss various wars, historical events, and historical figures with reasonable intelligence. Many of my favourite JAFF stories have been the inspiration for extensive research. I thank you for taking the time and effort to research this topic and for sharing it with us.

  8. Another possibility is that JA did know about common recovery, but used the entail as another subtle way to say that Mr. B was a less-than-ideal parent and even more indolent than perhaps we thought. I guess we’ll never know! Thanks for the post.

    • That is possible, but as the author of the article suggests, it’s more likely that she simply did not know. If he had an out which would protect his family, it’s hard to imagine Bennet would not take it, especially after Elizabeth refusing Mr. Collins. He must have known at that point that the likelihood of charity from Mr. Collins was virtually nil.

    • No. Jane Austen was not wrong. A lot of what you explain about barring entails by Common Recovery is correct, and this was a frequently used and accepted process. However you are missing a subtlety that easily slips past non-lawyers.

      Common Recovery is basically a fake lawsuit between the Life Tenant and the Heir. Typically this would be a father and son. A very simplified description: the son sues the father for the entailed property and the father fails to show up at court so that a default judgement is entered for the son. At the end of this process the SON – not the father – now owns the estate in fee simple.

      A father cannot disinherit his oldest son through a Common Recovery. What Common Recovery did was pass the property to that son without the entail. Very useful if for example you want your super responsible son to help you mortgage land to expand your other businesses, or if you want to renew the entail to HIS grandson before your wastrel grandson gets hold of it … but not at all useful for Mr. Bennet since the last thing he wants is to hand the whole estate over to Mr. Collins!

      In P&P there is also an additional wrinkle. Mr. Collins is not the heir but only the heir presumptive. Until Mr. Bennett has been dead for nine months there IS no heir because he could still legally (even if not biologically) have a legitimate son. The heir and the heir presumptive cannot bring an action for Common Recovery. So what Jane Austen has cleverly done is describe a bizarre limbo situation in which the entail is unbreakable because the person who could break it has not been born. This is part of why modern English law abolished entails. However the same setup lives in in trusts and estates. And you can definitely end up with very weird situations.

      Also – Strict settlement is not a separate thing from entailment. A “strict settlement deed” is one of the several ways you can create an entail. It’s just an entail that also includes portions for younger children. Similarly an entail wasn’t necessarily only to oldest sons. That was just the most common kind. I think this is the main legal concept you’re missing: “fee tail” or “entail” is really just an archaic form of trust. The “real” owner of assets placed in trust is the heir. The current owner only has a “life interest” Which ends when he dies. A basic and very ancient concept in property law is that you can only sell or give away the rights you actually own. This is why — when you cut through the legal jargon — the courts will always require the heir to be at least 21 and agree of his free will to break the trust.

      I could be wrong about this. But I am a trusts and estates lawyer and I’m pretty sure I’m not wrong.

  9. Thanks for sharing your research on entails. I didn’t know about common recovery before and would love to read a variation where Mr. Bennet uses it so that Mr. Collins does not inherit.

  10. I don’t understand legalese very well but it sounds like people had to have an heir preferably a son to pass the estate to. Interesting post.

    • None of this really mattered if they didn’t feel it was necessary to ensure that the estate was passed down in an orderly fashion in a legal sense. Lady Catherine suggests in P&P that an entail was not thought necessary in the case of Rosings, and I’m sure there were many situations in which strict settlement was not thought to be required.

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