Could an American Inherit an English Title or Peerage?
In both of my first two books from the Twins’ trilogy, the issue of whether an American could inherit a title/peerage comes into play as part of the plot. In Angel Comes to the Devil’s Keep, Angelica Lovelace’s parents had run off to America, specifically the United States, to live because they married against the wishes of their families and were disowned. As the third son, Horace Lovelace never thought to inherit, but fate (especially in the hands of a writer) has a way to make his inheritance a reality, while staying within the law of the land at that time. For Lovelace, in determining whether he could inherit a peerage in England after living in the United States for more than twenty years, we must first consider that he and his wife were both born in England. However, the question would arrive as to whether they became American citizens by denouncing their English roots or perhaps by simply living in the States and “presenting” themselves in business and socially as an “American.” Moreover, if Lovelace can inherit, what happens to his son’s rights to the earldom when the boy comes of age? What laws would affect the Lovelace’s situation when he returns to England?
In The Earl Claims His Comfort, Book 2 of the Twins’ Trilogy, I present a different sort of “inheritance” question. The man in question was born in England, but was taken to live in Canada from the time he was a toddler until his mid twenties. Eventually, he is told that he is the rightful heir of the 15th Earl of Remmington. The man was English by birth, and Canada was a British province at the time. Would that make a difference?
What was the law about those born elsewhere during the Regency? If a person was born in England, would he automatically be a citizen and not an alien?
Before we address British law, let us first look at the U. S. laws. The U. S. Constitution contains the Title of Nobility Clause (Article I, Section 9, Clause 8). This clause prohibits the federal government from granting titles of nobility. It also restricts members of the government from receiving gifts, emoluments, offices or titles from foreign states without the consent of the United States Congress. The idea was to shield the young “republic” being created by the founders of the U.S. Also known as the Emoluments Clause, this piece of legislation was written to eliminate so-called “corrupting foreign influences.” A corresponding prohibition exists on state titles of nobility in Article I, Section 10, and is reinforced by the Republican Guarantee Clause in Article IV, Section 4. The Framers’ intentions for this clause were twofold: to prevent a society of nobility from being established in the United States and to protect their republican form of government from being influenced by other governments. (Title of Nobility Clause)
Now for the English side of the issue. The British Empire came into existence between the 16th and 18th Centuries. During that time, The Crown’s dominion included not only those person within the United Kingdom, but also the British colonies and the self-governing dominions of Australia, Canada, Newfoundland, New Zealand, and South Africa. Children born in the dominions were British citizens, regardless of the status of their parents. Children born to visitors or foreigners acquired citizenship through Jus soli, meaning “right of the soil,” commonly referred to as birthright citizenship, which is the right of anyone born in the territory of a state to citizenship. This reflects the rationale of natural-born citizenship: that citizenship was acquired because British-born subjects would have a ‘natural allegiance’ to the Crown as a ‘debt of gratitude’ to the Crown for protecting them through infancy. Therefore, citizenship by birth was perpetual and could not, through common law, be removed or revoked regardless of residency.
In opposition, a foreign-born resident was seen as being unable to revoke his relationship with his place of birth. Therefore, foreign-born individuals could not become citizens through any procedure or ceremony. Under common law, children born to those serving the British Crown as diplomats, etc., were the exception. The Status of Children Born Abroad Act 1350 (25 Edw. 3 Stat. 1) permitted children born abroad to two English parents to be English. The British Nationality Act 1772 (13 Geo. 3 c. 21) permitted natural-born allegiance if the father alone was British.
None of this permitted a “foreigner” born to non-British parents to become a British citizen. In such an instance, the person could, however, gain some rights of citizenship if he became ‘naturalised.’ This process would provide him all the legal rights of citizenship, except holding political office and the like. Naturalisation required an act of parliament, making it a legislative issue. He could also consider denization, which permitted the person all rights of citizenship except political rights. Denization was granted by the monarch, making it an executive issue, as royal prerogative through letters patent.
Denization was the customary manner by which foreign-born persons became British citizens. The subjects would swear an allegiance to the Crown. There were some naturalisation acts passed that aided the situation, but they would be some 20+ years later than the settings in the first two books of the trilogy. Naturalisation Acts were passed in 1844, 1847 and 1870. The 1870 act preserved the process of denization. However, by introducing administrative procedures for naturalising non-British subjects naturalisation became the preferred process. The 1870 legislation also introduced the concept of renunciation of British nationality, and provided for the first time that British women who married foreign men should lose their British nationality. This was a radical break from the common law doctrine that citizenship could not be removed, renounced, or revoked.
Are you still confused? If not, I would be surprised, for attempting to get the history correct in my books often has my head spinning. In the situation with Angel Comes to the Devil’s Keep, as long as Horace Lovelace has not renounced his British citizenship, he is British and could inherit. His son, Carson, however, was born in the United States. The boy is only ten years of age in the book, and the issues could easily be addressed. Lovelace possesses important friends/associates that would have the King’s ear, if necessary. When the boy became of age, naturalisation or denization could be achieved. In The Earl Claims His Comfort, the hero encounters a man putting claims on the earldom. The man was born in England and has lived in Canada. By all rights, he is English and could be considered as a legitimate heir to replace the hero, Levison Davids’s title as the 17th Earl of Remmington.
Introducing The Earl Claims His Comfort: Book 2 in the Twins’ Trilogy, releasing September 16, 2017, from Black Opal Books
– a 2016 Hot Prospects Award finalist in Romantic Suspense
Hurrying home to Tegen Castle from the Continent to assume guardianship of a child not his, but one who holds his countenance, Levison Davids, Earl of Remmington, is shot and left to die upon the road leading to his manor house. The incident has Remmington chasing after a man who remains one step ahead and who claims a distinct similarity—a man who wishes to replace Remmington as the rightful earl. Rem must solve the mystery of how a stranger’s life parallels his, while protecting his title, the child, and the woman he loves.
Comfort Neville has escorted Deirdre Kavanaugh from Ireland to England, in hopes that the Earl of Remmington will prove a better guardian for the girl than did the child’s father. When she discovers the earl’s body upon a road backing the castle, it is she who nurses him to health. As the daughter of a minor son of an Irish baron, Comfort is impossibly removed from the earl’s sphere, but the man claims her affections. She will do anything for him, including confronting his enemies. When she is kidnapped as part of a plot for revenge against the earl, she must protect Rem’s life, while guarding her heart.
Barnes and Noble
Angel Comes to the Devil’s Keep: Book 1 of the Twins’ Trilogy
-a 2017 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense finalist
-a SOLA’s Eighth Annual Dixie Kane Memorial Award finalist for Historical Romance
Huntington McLaughlin, the Marquess of Malvern, wakes in a farmhouse, after a head injury, being tended by an ethereal “angel,” who claims to be his wife. However, reality is often deceptive, and Angelica Lovelace is far from innocent in Hunt’s difficulties. Yet, there is something about the woman that calls to him as no other ever has. When she attends his mother’s annual summer house party, their lives are intertwined in a series of mistaken identities, assaults, kidnappings, overlapping relations, and murders, which will either bring them together forever or tear them irretrievably apart. As Hunt attempts to right his world from problems caused by the head injury that has robbed him of parts of his memory, his best friend, the Earl of Remmington, makes it clear that he intends to claim Angelica as his wife. Hunt must decide whether to permit her to align herself with the earldom or claim the only woman who stirs his heart–and if he does the latter, can he still serve the dukedom with a hoydenish American heiress at his side?
Excerpt from Chapter 10:
“You have visitors, my lord.”
Rem looked up from the letter he drafted to discover his butler standing in the open door to his study. He frowned in disapproval. “I thought I made it clear that unless it was my cousin Lord Howard, Viscount Rowan, or Sir Alexander, I am not receiving.”
Mr. Bodwin swallowed hard. Since Rem had placed his London staff on notice, his servants had walked about as if on “tiptoes” so as not to meet his wrath. “I understand, your lordship, but the lady was most insistent.”
His frown lines deepened. “Which lady?” he asked suspiciously.
If Miss Dandridge had invaded his house to renew her pleas for protection as his mistress, he would personally drive the woman into the street.
“The Marchioness of Malvern, who is accompanied by Lord Harrison, my lord.”
Rem rolled his eyes to Heaven for patience. He meant to depart for Yorkshire as quickly as he could dispense with his business. He swore under his breath in resignation for he certainly required no apology from Lady Malvern. Rem held no doubts such was the lady’s intent—to speak her regrets in the form of this impromptu call.
“Show the marchioness and Lord Harry into the front drawing room. And have tea served.”
“As you wish, my lord.”
Defiantly, Rem finished his letter to Mr. Holliman regarding Phillips’s agreement to permit Deirdre to remain in Rem’s care before he made his way to the drawing room.
The marchioness and Lord Harrison McLaughlin rose in greeting when Rem entered the room. He purposely did not look upon Lady Malvern with any interest. The idea that she carried Malvern’s child instead of his still foolishly stung Rem’s pride. Men are nothing without their pride, he told himself.
“My lady. Lord Harry,” he pronounced in polite tones. “How kind of you to call upon me. If I had known you were in London, I would have made an appearance at Malvern’s Town house.” He took the hand the marchioness extended to bow over it. “Please return to your seats. There is no need for such formalities.”
Lord Harry supported his sister in marriage as the marchioness lowered her weight to the cushions. Lady Malvern was more than pleasingly plump with child. Even so, in Rem’s opinion, Lady Angelica McLaughlin remained a beautifully delicate woman.
“Thank you for receiving us, my lord,” she said in breathy tones.
Rem eyed her again. Was the marchioness overheated? She appeared a bit flushed.
“It is my pleasure again to be in company, my lady. I’ve ordered tea, but would you prefer something cooler, perhaps?”
Lord Harry answered with a grin. “You must pardon Lady Malvern. We believe my sister is claiming the family tradition of multiples. The least movement causes her to flush with color.”
With the back of her hand, her ladyship swatted Lord Harry’s arm. “How often must I remind you, I shall always be a hoyden in the minds of the ton if you repeat such twitter to the aristocracy.”
Lord Harry protested, “Remmington is not high in the instep. And anyone with eyes can tell you are nearly as large as Henrietta when our sister delivered her latest pair.”
“But most will not observe me,” the marchioness countered. “Women with child are not out in Society.”
“Then why are we making social calls?” Lord Harry demanded.
“Lord Remmington knows my purpose in coming this day,” Lady Malvern said with confidence.
Yet, before Rem could respond, Bodwin entered with the teacart. “Shall I pour, my lord?”
Rem turned to Lady Malvern for confirmation. A nearly imperceptible nod indicated her agreement. “Please do, Bodwin.”
While his butler filled the teacups and handed around an assortment of cakes, Rem studied Lady Malvern carefully. He had once thought to claim the woman to wife, but the appeal no longer was so pressing. He held no doubt the former Miss Lovelace would have made him an excellent countess, but Malvern was correct when he declared that the lady belonged with the marquess. Rem preferred the blazing tresses of Miss Neville to the silver blonde of Lady Malvern. Odd as it was to consider, Rem realized that despite her streak of independence, Miss Lovelace would not have fared well in the wild Yorkshire countryside. And although both women were intelligent and brave, Rem’s heart knew only Miss Neville would satisfy him. Only Comfort enflamed his passion.
With Bodwin’s exit, it was necessary for his response. “There is no need for my forgiveness, my lady. I have spoken my previous disdain to Malvern. We agreed the rift between us was poorly played. It grieves me that you suffered because of my pride.”
“Malvern assures me there is hope for another,” she said with her customary directness.
“Malvern thinks if I choose another it will relieve him of fault,” Rem said with a smile to lessen the rebuke.
Lady Malvern leaned forward as if sharing a secret. “My husband is not entirely at fault, my lord.”
“No,” Rem conceded. “We each thought the other responsible, but no fault exists—only an undeniable love. The theater was badly executed, but in truth, what occurred was for the best.”
“So Miss Neville is your choice?” the lady pressed.
Rem shook off the suggestion. “Until this business with my imposter is settled, I can commit to no one.” He quickly changed the subject. “I pray your apology was not the reason you traveled to London.”
“My father and his countess mean to call upon Lord Gunnimore. Sir Alexander’s letter, followed closely by your own, and the one from Gunnimore to his mother regarding Lady Jarvis’s dilemma brings them to Town. As Malvern had business with the Earl of Liverpool, I thought to claim my last opportunity for fittings and to spend time with Lord and Lady Sandahl.”
“The names do not roll so easily off the tongue, do they, my lady?” Rem charged.
“No, but it is less problematic to accept another in my mother’s place when I view the contentment upon my father’s countenance. On our return to Warwickshire, I will retrieve my brother Carson from school and escort him to Devil’s Keep. Etta’s boys will join us at the estate in a fortnight. It will be good for Carson to be with the twins again. An American-born heir to the earldom has much to learn of England. Father has had papers drawn up so Carson may deny his American citizenship and become a British citizen when he becomes of age. In that manner, Car might someday inherit the titles belonging to the Lovelace family.”
“I am pleased to hear that Sandahl is coming to terms with all the changes in his life.” Rem sat a bit straighter to indicate their conversation should come to an end. Odd. There was a time he delighted in keeping the lady company. “I mean to set out for my country seat later today.”
“Then you possess a lead in your mystery?” Lady Malvern inquired.
Rem’s gaze switched to Lord Harry. “What I am about to say goes no further than Lord Malvern.”
Lord Harry readily agreed. “Most certainly.”
Rem presented Malvern’s younger brother a warning glare. “I do not wish Lady Kavanagh’s name bantered about more than necessary, but Viscountess Phillips swears the man Lady Delia knew as the father of her child was me. I am convinced my imposter has operated in England for longer than we initially expected. There is the possibility the scoundrel was in Yorkshire and at Tegen Castle while I was away in the war. Thus, learning more of this Troutman character in my home shire is my purpose in returning to my estate.”
“Does Sir Alexander accompany you?” the marchioness questioned.
“The baronet has government business,” Rem informed her.
Lady Malvern struggled to her feet. “Come along, Lord Harry. We must return to Malvern’s home and inform my husband that he will accompany Lord Remmington to Yorkshire.”
Rem protested as he rose. “It is not necessary, my lady.”
The marchioness turned on him. “It is necessary. You are recovering from an attack upon your person. Moreover, I wish to see you happy. You were my champion long before Malvern or Devilfoard took up my cause, and I intend to be your champion in return. If not for my current condition, I would be traveling to Yorkshire with you. The least I can do is to send Malvern. You will wait for the marquess to arrive, sir.”
Disapproval laced Rem’s tone. “I suppose I possess no choice. You would order Malvern after me if I departed without him.”
The marchioness smiled sweetly. “It pleases me that we remain of a like mind, my lord.”
Now for the GIVEAWAY. I have an eBook copy of The Earl Claims His Comfort available to those who comment below. The giveaway will end at midnight EDST on Friday, September 29.