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|Second sons and money
Written by JulieW
(1/29/2004 6:07 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Second sons..., penned by Mandy N
Younger children(and that included sons and daughters in legal terminology) were usually provided for by the terms of their parents marriage settlement.
A sum of money would be reserved for them upon marraige or upon attaining their majority.Usually the money came from the "portion" or fortune provided by their mother upon her marriage to their father.Sometimes their father would agree to add to this money.
In many settlements the normal practice was to allocate a fixed sum of money to be divided on terms beween the "younger children" at the beginning of the marriage,before it was known how many children of that marraige there would be( and therefore as Eileen Spring has argued ,before their parents got attatchted to thrm and were minded to make a more generous disposition of moneyto them, to the detriment of the eldest son.Frankly,I am in two minds about this line of arguement,and it's probably not the place to go into it here).
However Randolph Tumbach in his workThe Rise of the Egalitarian Family found from his studies of marriage settlements made in the English aristocracy from 1720, that the predominant practice was to leave a lump sum for all the younger childen,but the terms of the settlement prodivded that;
"It was to be at a parent's discretion to decide what share each child should receive"
"it was to be equally shared only if no disposition had been made befreo the parents death.).
Obviously in an ideal world that money was invested on the childens behalf and when it was needed, it was paid to them,but we know from , for example,Sir Walter Elliott's case, that this was not always so; indeed mortgaging the estate to pay portions sems to have been rife in the late 18th century.
So- Colonel Fitwilliam would probably have recived some money as a result of his parent's marrriage settlement.This would have, perhaps, paid for his commission in the army, and has enabled him to prosper.It would also give him something upon which to live, in addition to his army income.
He did, however, need to marry prudently if he wished to maintian the lifestyle of the younger son of an earl ;-) and someone like Lizzie ,with only her thousand pounds invested at 4% which she would receive on her mother's death (£40 per year),was not a prudent choice.
So to state that younger sons "got nothing "is a simplification of the situation.But I agree, that when compared with the inheritacen of the eldest son, the younger son's portion may have seemed paltry;but then the operation of primogentiure ( the rule that the eldest son inherits the majority of his father's estate)was by its very nature arbitary.
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