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Losing One’s Inheritance

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Chapter Summary

This chapter sets out to show that both before and after the Reformation women who engaged in pre-marital sexual relations or who married without the agreement of their guardian risked losing their inheritance. The Landslaw states that unmarried women who initiated sexual relations were to lose both their paternal and maternal inheritance to their next-of-kin, while women who married without the agreement of their guardian were to lose their entire inheritance to their next-of-kin. As Mia Korpiola stresses, the threat of being disinherited was probably a powerful argument which ensured that (most) headstrong daughters reconsidered their options. The principle of voluntary consent in combination with the prohibition of divorce could lead to long-lasting catastrophic consequences for the land-owning classes. Siblings of women who had illegitimate sexual relations deliberately used the legal possibilities available in order to get their hands on their sisters inheritance.

Keywords: divorce; maternal inheritance; pre-marital sexual relation



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