more real cases
Posted by Laura Wallace on November 18, 1997 at 13:08:35:
In response to Yet another question about inheritance, written by Bill on November 18, 1997 at 09:46:20
What was the legal standing of a first-born illegitimate son? Would his properly docuemented claim for a share of estate be upheld by the court?
An illegitimate child had no standing at all.
When the 3rd Lord Holland eloped with Sir Godfrey Webster's wife, they had a son before the divorce was granted and they were married. He was known as "General Fox" in his adult life. The 4th Lord Holland was the first legitimate son of the 3rd Lord Holland by his wife.
Illegitimate children, while they could not make a claim to an estate or title, could still inherit from their parents if they were left a specific bequest. Often illegitimate children were raised alongside legitimate children as a family, and many (girls especially) made good marriages. The 5th Duke of Devonshire's illegitimate children by Lady Elizabeth Foster (who lived with the Duke and Duchess) were raised in the same household with his legitimate children. One married a younger son of Viscount Melbourne and the other was himself raised to the peerage later.
Furthermore, by law a child born to a woman who was married was the legitimate child of her husband. So, in the case of Lady Bessborough, her two children generally considered fathered by Granville Leveson Gower (younger son of the Marquess of Stafford and later 1st Earl Granville) were nonetheless legally the Earl of Bessborough's children. However, in that case I don't believe the children were raised by Lord Bessborough; they took the surname Stuart, Granville's mother's maiden name. Even if he did not acknowledge them, however, they were still legally his, and if his own sons had died without heirs, his peerage would have descended to Granville's son. The daughter married a duke.
Further complications, for those interested in this sort of thing: Lady Bessborough was the sister of the 5th Duke of Devonshire's wife. They were daughters of Earl Spencer. Henrietta married Lord Bessborough, whose surname was Ponsonby. One of their children was Caroline, who grew up to marry William Lamb, who later (after Caro died) inherited the Melbourne Viscountcy and became prime minister to Queen Victoria. Caroline, of course, is the one who went a little crazy over Byron.
One of the Duke of Devonshire's children by Lady Elizabeth Foster was also called Caroline. She married a younger brother of William Lamb's. She was raised at Devonshire house with her half-siblings and her cousins, including Caroline Ponsonby.
The Duke's youngest legitimate daughter was Hariiet Cavendish. She eventually married Granville Leveson Gower, her aunt's former lover.
A note I found ironic is a description in a letter by the 13-year-old Harriet Cavendish of a trip to Astley's Ampitheatre, where they saw Lady Holland in a terrace box. The adults in Lady Harriet's party were embarassed and obviously uncomfortable with exposing their charges to the likes of Lady Holland. Lady Harriet thought it was funny, but at the time didn't know Lady Holland's story. The menage a trois in her father's house make's Lady Holland's escapade look a little tame, IMO.
Sorry this has grown into a treatise-- I could go on and on about this stuff!
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