Inheriting a Peerage During the Regency
The manner in which a peerage is passed from one generation to the next depends upon how it was created. A peerage/title can be created by a writ of summons, which means the individual is summoned to Parliament to present himself before the House of Lords to prove he is the proper heir, or by letters patent, which actually creates a new peerage and names the dignity in question. Peerages originally created by writ are generally baronies. A feudal barony was the highest degree of feudal land tenure. William the Conqueror established his favored followers as barons by enfeoffing them as tenants-in-chief with great fiefdoms. There were none of the other titles invented when baronies (except earls, which then were exclusively sons or cousins of the sovereign) were first established. The ones which survive are naturally the most ancient titles. A writ entitled the peerage to pass to the “heirs general,” not the “heirs male” as specified in almost all Letters Patent peerages.
Although some peerages are created for life and cannot be inherited, most peerages are created to be hereditary, to be passed from father to son or to another appropriate heir. The person holding the title cannot will it to another, even if, for example, he despised his eldest son, the son would still receive the title/peerage after his father’s death. [Remember this has nothing to do with wealth or unentailed property. The father could leave his despised son a debt-ridden estate and title, while leaving his wealth to whomever he pleased.] The terms of the original creation determines how the peerage passes from one individual to another. Generally, it passes from father to son.
Yet, what happens if there is no son available to succeed the man? Let us look at the perfect scenario to explain this situation. William George Spencer Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire (May 1790 – January 1858) was known as the “Bachelor Duke.” He intended to marry Lady Caroline Ponsonby, but she chose William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne, over him; therefore, he never married. Without a legitimate son to succeed the 6th Duke, upon his passing, those in charge had to go back one generation, to the 6th Duke’s father, William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire (1748 -1811) and trace the next eldest direct lineal descendant.
Oops! Guess what? Although he was married twice (first to Lady Georgiana Spencer and then to Lady Elizabeth Foster – you remember that whole mess from the movie “The Duchess”) the 5th Duke of Devonshire had only the one legitimate son, William Cavendish, who was the 6th Duke of Devonshire.
Therefore, those seeking the 6th Duke’s successor had to go back one more generation to the 4th Duke of Devonshire, another William Cavendish (1720 – 1764). Now, the 4th Duke had two sons: William, who was the 5th Duke, and Lord George Cavendish. Lord George died while his nephew William served as the 6th Duke; otherwise upon William’s death, Lord George would have become the 7th Duke. However, Lord George produced a son, Mr. William Cavendish (1783-1812), who also died during the 6th Duke’s lifetime, but that particular Mr. William Cavendish produced a son, another Mr. William Cavendish (1808 – 1891), who was 50 years of age when the 6th Duke of Devonshire passed. That William Cavendish became the 7th Duke of Devonshire. [Note: If Lord George had no son or grandson, those in power would have continued to search through the descendants of the 3rd Duke, 2nd Duke, and 1st Duke of Devonshire to find an heir. The line passes from through the eldest of the title holders sons and then through his other sons and surviving legitimate male issue.] If there are no legitimate surviving male descendants, then the title becomes “extinct.”
“However, if there was a legitimate surviving male descendant of his father, the 3rd Earl of Devonshire, then that person would inherit the earldom. In this way distant cousins can sometimes inherit lesser titles while the highest peerage dies out. What’s most important to remember is that if a man inherits a peerage, it is because he is the eldest surviving legitimate male who can trace a direct (father to son) lineage back to an earlier holder of the peerage. In other words, he doesn’t inherit because he was the brother or the cousin or the uncle of his predecessor, but because his own father, or grandfather, or great-grandfather, or great-great-grandfather, etc., was an earlier holder of the peerage. [“Eldest” in this context doesn’t mean that he happens to be the oldest of several different living men who can trace a direct line back to an earlier holder of the peerage, but rather that his line is the eldest, i.e., eldest son of eldest son; all other lines senior to his have died out.]” (“Hereditary Peerages”)
Letters patent customarily state the order of descent, usually through the male line. Only legitimate children (meaning the parents are married at the time of the child’s birth—not necessarily the time of his conception) are permitted to succeed to a peerage.
Edward IV introduced a procedure in which the eldest son of a peer with multiple titles can sit in the House of Lords by virtue of one of his father’s titles. This is called a writ of acceleration.
“In remainder” means the person is a possible heir to a peerage. A title becomes extinct (the opposite to extant, alive) when all possible heirs (as outlined by the original letters patent) have died out. In other words, there is nobody in remainder at the death of the holder. A title becomes dormant if nobody has claimed the title, or if no claim has been satisfactorily proven to the Committee on Privileges of the House of Lords. A title goes into abeyance if there is more than one person equally entitled to be the holder.
A peerage can become “extinct.” It can become extinct “by attainder,” which means the king/queen revokes the peerage. This forfeiture of the peerage comes under Acts of Parliament and are the result of treason on the part of the title holder. The descendants of the person committing treason are considered “tainted by blood,” and, therefore, they cannot inherit the title. However, if all the descendants of the attainted peer die out, then an heir from a different branch of the family tree—one not affected by the accusations of treason—could inherit the title/peerage. An extinct peerage reverts to the Crown. The king/queen can choose to present the title to a member of a different family—either another branch of the the original title holder’s family or to a completely unconnected family. This new creation would require new letters patent and a new line of descent.
Introducing The Earl Claims His Comfort: Book 2 in the Twins’ Trilogy, releasing September 16, 2017, from Black Opal Books
– a 2016 Hot Prospects 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.
Black Opal Books https://black-opal-books.myshopify.com/products/the-earl-claims-his-comfort
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“Cannot recall the last time I slept in my own bed,” he murmured to no one in particular as he stood to gain his bearings. The room swirled before his eyes, but Rem shook off the feeling. Of late, it was common for him to know a dull vibrating sound marring his thinking.
Levison Davids, the 17th Earl of Remmington, set the glass down harder than he intended. He had consumed more alcohol than he should on this evening, but as his home shire often brought on a case of maudlin, he had drowned his memories. He turned toward the door, attempting to walk with the confidence his late father always demanded of his sons. Lev was not trained to be the earl. His father had groomed Rem’s older brother Robinson for the role, but Fate had a way of spitting in a man’s eye when he least expected it.
Outside, the chilly air removed the edge from the numbness the heavy drink provided him, and for a brief moment Rem thought to return to the common room to reinforce the black mood the drink had induced. A special form of “regret” plagued his days and nights since receiving word of his ascension to the earldom some four years prior, and he did not think he would ever to be comfortable again.
“Storm comin’,” the groom warned when he brought Rem’s horse around.
“We’re in Yorkshire,” Remmington replied. “We are known for the unpredictable.”
Customarily, he would not permit the groom to offer him a leg up, but Rem’s resolve to reach his country estate had waned. He had received a note via Sir Alexander Chandler that Rem’s presence was required at the Remmington home seat, and so he had set out from France, where he had spent the last year, to answer a different call of duty.
Sir Alexander offered little information on why someone summoned Rem home, only that the message had come from the estate’s housekeeper. Not that it mattered who had sent for him. Tegen Castle was his responsibility. The journey from France had required that Rem leave an ongoing investigation behind, a fact that did not please him, even though he knew the others in service to Sir Alexander were excellent at their occupations. Moreover, the baronet had assured Rem that several missions on English shores required Remmington’s “special” skills, and he could return to service as quickly as his business knew an end.
He caught the reins to turn the stallion in a tight circle. Tossing the groom a coin, Rem kicked Draco’s sides to set the horse into a gallop.
As the dark swallowed them up, Rem enjoyed the feel of power the rhythm of the horse’s gait provided. He raced across the valley before emerging onto the craggy moors. At length, he skirted the rocky headland.
He slowed Draco as the cliff tops came into view. When he reached Davids’ Point, he urged the stallion into a trot. Rem could no longer see the trail, but his body knew it as well as it knew the sun would rise on the morrow. After some time, he jerked Draco’s reins hard to the left, and, as a pair, they plunged onto the long-forgotten trail. He leaned low over the stallion’s neck to avoid the tree limbs before he directed Draco to an adjacent path that led upward toward the family estate, which sat high upon a hill overlooking the breakwaters.
When he reached the main road again, he pulled up on the reins to bring the animal to a halt. Rem patted Draco’s neck and stared through the night at his childhood home, which was framed against the rising moonlight. It often made him sad to realize how much he once loved the estate as a child and how much he now despised it.
“No love left in the bricks,” he said through a thick throat. “Even the dowager countess no longer wishes to reside here. How can I?”
It was not always so. Although he was a minor son, Rem always thought to share Tegen Castle with his wife and children—to live nearby and to relate tales of happier days.
“But after Miss Phillips’s betrayal and then, likewise, that of Miss Lovelace, I possess no heart to begin again.”
In truth, of the two ladies, Rem had only loved Miss Delia Phillips.
“Fell in love with the girl when I was but fourteen and she, ten.”
He crossed his arms over the rise of the saddle to study the distant manor house.
“Perhaps Delia could find no solace here,” he murmured aloud.
Even today, it bothered him that Delia had not cared enough for him to send him a letter denying their understanding. He had learned of Delia’s marrying Baron Kavanagh from Sir Alexander, with whom Rem had served upon the Spanish front. Sir Alexander’s younger brother delivered the news in a cheeky letter.
“I suppose Delia thought being a baroness was superior to being Mrs. Davids. Little did she know I would claim the earldom. More is the pity for her.” A large raindrop plopped upon the back of his hand. “If we do not speed our return to the castle, my friend, we will arrive with a wet seat.”
He caught up the loose reins, but before he could set his heels into Draco’s sides, a shot rang out. By instinct, Rem thought to dive for the nearby ditch. Yet, the heavy drink slowed his response, and before he could act, Remmington knew the sharp sting of the bullet in his thigh.
Draco bolted forward before Rem had control of the stallion’s reins. He felt himself slipping from the saddle, but there was little he could do to prevent the impact. He slammed hard into the packed earth just as the heavens opened with a drenching rain. The back of his head bounced against a paving stone, and a shooting pain claimed his forehead. Even so Rem thought to sit up so he might take cover, but the effort was short coming. The piercing pain in his leg and the sharp sting claiming his vision fought for control. The blow to his head won, and Rem screwed his eyes closed to welcome the darkness.
Also check out 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?
My kind of historical romance – looking very much to reading!!!
Thank you for joining me, Melanie. I appreciate your kindness.