by Phyllis Irene Radford
Continuing with the series on the Magna Carta as a foundation for modern lawmakers instead of or including the U.S. Constitution:
For the entire document, you may go here: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/magnacarta.asp
For a more scholarly analysis of the Charter and its relevance to modern life: http://www.middle-ages.org.uk/magna-carta.htm
In feudal England land was the source of wealth. Therefore many of the clauses in the Magna Carta address the issues of inheriting, distributing, and administering the land. Both the king and the barons need codification of this essential issue before moving on to other matters.
This was a time when women rarely were allowed to inherit from a husband or a parent, either land or titles, in their own name. Men had a bad habit of getting themselves killed in the perpetual wars that justified the entire system of protection in return for service and taxes. If the newly deceased male had no children by his current wife, or if he had sons by a previous wife, the widow needed some guarantees that she’d come away with enough money to survive, and that her dowry or marriage portion wouldn’t be stolen by the new owner, presuming the deceased hadn’t squandered her money on things like armor and horses and hiring men-at-arms, or upkeep on the home. Even castles need new roofs upon occasion.
Today we view two clauses that deal with pesky widows and their demands for means to support themselves, or attract a new husband who would take care of her.
7. A widow, after the death of her husband, shall forthwith and without difficulty have her marriage portion and inheritance; nor shall she give anything for her dower, or for her marriage portion, or for the inheritance which her husband and she held on the day of the death of that husband; and she may remain in the house of her husband for forty days after his death, within which time her dower shall be assigned to her.
If a woman’s husband expanded the estate by purchasing land, or fisheries, or mines, or other money making schemes, while they were married, she could inherit those. Any money or land she brought to the marriage were also hers; for her heirs. However, if her family didn’t need to marry her off to someone else, she was subject to a guardian.
If you are a fan of Jane Austen you will see a similar problem in Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility and also in Persuasion. All three books look at the problem of women legally thrown to the wolves because a man must inherit and he didn’t care to continue supporting the widow and her daughters.
8. No widow shall be compelled to marry, so long as she prefers to live without a husband; provided always that she gives security not to marry without our consent, if she holds of us, or without the consent of the lord of whom she holds, if she holds of another.
That’s right, if she’s got enough money in her own name from that dowry, marriage portion, and joint purchases, she can’t be forced to marry. But again, she can’t marry just anyone. Her guardian and overlord must give his permission. Even if the next husband is chosen for love, or friendship, or compatibility when lonely, new marriage treaties and alliances must be arranged with new conditions on who gets what when one or both die.
Aren’t there some cults in our country, and around the world, doing the same thing?
Have to keep those independent, free thinking women in control unless they rebel against the God given authority of a man.
Phyllis Irene Radford is a founding member of the Book View Café. Though raised in the seaports of America she was born in Portland, Oregon and has lived in and around the city since her junior year in high school. She thrives in the damp and loves the tall trees.
For more about her and her fiction please visit her bookshelf here on BVC http://www.bookviewcafe.com/index.php/Phyllis-Irene-Radford/
Or her personal web page ireneradford.net