Female Inheritance and the Release of “His Christmas Violet, a Regency Second Chance Romance”

Under English law, women were subordinate to their husbands. It was expected that the woman was under the “protection and influence of her husband, her baron, or lord.” The law stated the old adage of “two shall become one.” She was her husband’s “feme covert.” Any property she owned—real or personal—came under his control. A married woman could not draft a will or dispose of any property without her husband’s consent.

Women rarely inherited property. She could inherit “personal” belongings such as, furniture, jewelry, clothing, moveable goods, etc. But that does not mean that a woman could NOT inherit real property (which means she could inherit land, or what we now call “real estate”). The practice of primogeniture under English law presented the oldest son with the real property upon the death of the father. [Note: Matrilineal primogeniture, or female-preference uterine primogeniture, is a form of succession practiced in some societies in which the eldest female child inherits the throne, to the total exclusion of males. The order of succession to the position of the Rain Queen is an example in an African culture of matrilineal primogeniture: not only is dynastic descent reckoned through the female line, but only females are eligible to inherit.] Daughters could only inherit in the absence of a male heir. The law of intestate primogeniture remained on the statue books in Britain until the 1925 property legislation simplified and updated England’s archaic law of real property.

Aware of their daughters’ unfortunate situation, fathers often provided them with dowries or worked into a prenuptial agreement pin money, the estate which the wife was to possess for her sole and separate use not subject to the control of her husband, to provide her with an income separate from his.

In contrast to wives, women who never married or who were widowed maintained control over their property and inheritance, owned land and controlled property disposal, since by law any unmarried adult female was considered to be a feme sole. Some of the peeresses, in their own right had property, as well as the title which the husband couldn’t touch. Still, inheritance through the female of a peerage by patent was  extremely rare and usually only  put into the patent while the 1st peer was alive. Usually, the patents didn’t allow for female inheritance. It was rare for a woman to be able to inherit a peerage created by patent. The Duke of Marlborough had his patent changed when it was obvious he would not have a son, but that was a rare occurrence. Most females succeeded to a lesser peerage created by writ. Once married, the only way that women could reclaim property was through widowhood.

Book Blurb:

His Christmas Violet: A Second Chance Regency Romance 

Sir Frederick Nolan has stayed true to his late wife through all their years of marriage, but now he is widower and has waited the proper mourning period, he sees no reason he should not finally know the happiness of having Lady Violet Graham at his side. He meant to marry Violet when he was fresh from his university years and she was but a young lady; however, the realization she was perfect for him had come too late, and Violet had already accepted the proposal of Lord Graham. 

Lady Violet Graham had never strayed from the love she held for Sir Frederick, but she had proven herself a good wife to her late husband, serving dutifully as Lord Giles Graham’s chatelaine and presenting him three sons. Now, her widow’s pension and the use of the dower house will provide her the only freedom she has ever known as a woman. She cannot think to become another man’s “property,” even when that man is the only one she has every loved. Enough is enough of not having a voice in her own future. 

They have loved each other since they were children, but how does Sir Frederick convince Lady Violet to marry him, when she is most determined never again to permit any man dominion over her person?

Excerpt from the first part of Chapter One of His Christmas Violet

      Lincolnshire, mid November, 1819

Lady Violet Graham smiled upon her friend Mrs. Emily Bowers, even though, Violet thought her ears would soon begin to bleed from overuse. She and Emily were supposed to be “enjoying” tea together, but since Emily had claimed her seat in the tea room, her friend had barely come up for air, listing a litany of complaints about her various aches and pains, as well as belying the merits of the number of gentlemen who had refused to do more than provide Emily a “Good day.” 

“What is the use of sporting a new bonnet if no one is polite enough to comment on it?” her friend demanded. 

Violet also had not commented on the bonnet, not that doing so was beyond her notice, but because her friend’s headwear was so extravagant Violet wondered how Emily had fit through the tea shop’s door while wearing it. Instead, when the opportunity arrived, she suggested, “You are not likely to entice another gentleman into extending his hand in marriage if you provide him a complete list of your ailments beforehand. It would seem to me, a man of a certain age would prefer a woman who would tend to his complaints, rather than him attending to hers. Most gentlemen of society expect their wives to do more than sniff smelling salts all day.” 

Emily’s frown lines deepened. “I suppose you are correct. The late Mr. Bowers was very rarely sympathetic to my issues.” She asked in doubtful tones, “Do you suppose either of us will ever marry again?”

Violet laughed easily. It was necessary for her to allay such notions immediately. She and Emily were often in agreement, but not on this particular subject. “I have no desire to remarry. My life at Graham Hall is all for which I could ask. My daughter-in-marriage has assumed many of the duties I once shouldered, and I am considering moving into the dower house soon, for my Jeremiah and Ruth are expecting their first child by early spring. I shall then be a grandmother once more. 

“Gabriel and Elizabeth will spend Christmastide with us, and we will all be able to, at last, enjoy baby Henry. Simon means to offer for Miss Applebaum once her father returns to Lincolnshire upon completing his service to England on the Continent. Soon the care of each of my sons will be in the hands of a young lady I admire. 

“In truth, I do not require a man to complete my identity. Lord Giles Graham and I rubbed along well together. He provided for me upon his death. Jeremiah and Ruth have asked me to stay on at Graham Hall, but, if I choose, the dower house is set aside for my use. There is nothing a new husband could provide which I require in my life.” For Violet, the concept of freedom—of not having a man in control of each of her choices—was too liberating to abandon. 

Emily leaned closer to whisper, “Not even the closeness you shared in Lord Graham’s bed? I miss the heat of Charles’s body along mine. A Lincolnshire winter can be very cold for a woman of my nature. I would be remiss if I did not say I often wish for Mr. Bowers’s tenderness.”

“I recall,” Violet said with a lift of her eyebrows in challenge, “how you complained about Mr. Bowers withholding your pin money and his forbidding you afternoons such as this one.” Violet had learned to hold Giles Graham in affection, as was proper for a woman in her position, but she could not look with any favor upon how Giles controlled every facet of her life. To her, the bit of liberty she had already claimed had proven quite intoxicating. She refused to submit to another man: She would not make the same type of mistakes as she did at age sixteen. 

“Most assuredly,” Emily said, “every man likes to have his own way in the world.” 

“You may wish for the type of relationship you describe, but I cannot readily concur,” Violet admitted. “I prefer the freedom of widowhood. I have legal rights and social rights I have never known previously. If you miss a man in your bed, why not take a lover?” 

Violet thoroughly believed she had finally grown into her “independence.” She was certainly no ape leader or bluestocking, but she enjoyed the few privileges bestowed upon her as a widow. She could now own land and sign legal contracts and documents. Moreover, she was permitted an opinion, which was certainly not a guarantee when Giles was alive. Her late husband only permitted her to speak when her thoughts aligned with his. 

Emily asked in a whisper, “Would you consider taking a lover?”

Violet shook off the idea, but, in truth, there was one man with whom she wished she could spend an afternoon. He had fascinated her since she was a child. “I do not desire anything which can be stolen away by a man’s dominion over me.”  

Emily attested, “Mr. Bowers could upon occasion be a bit dictatorial, but not always. Many times, he showed me a great kindness. In truth, my lady, I am fond of the idea of another making the ‘grand’ decisions for me. Essentially, I require a man in my life.” 

“Whereas, my courage rises with every attempt to intimidate me,” Violet declared, although she knew such was not completely the truth. More times than often, she had permitted Giles his way so as to avoid an argument. 

“You may keep your cold bed,” Emily countered. Her friend glanced around as if to assure their privacy. “I asked the vicar if he knew of a gentleman of a certain age who was seeking a second wife, or, even, a first for that matter.” 

“And did Mr. Williams have any suggestions?” Violet asked with a conspiratorial grin. She would have enjoyed listening in on that particular conversation. She was certain Mr. Williams found the visit from Emily quite uncomfortable. 

“There are only a few within the neighborhood,” Emily admitted. “Benjamin Chaud’s wife passed recently, but it is likely too soon for him to consider taking another wife. A few tradesmen and merchants in the area, according to Mr. Williams, could be considering a possible mate, but such would mean my no longer living on an estate. I could possibly tolerate a large farm, but I am not so pleased with how easily those in town take to drink. I would fear a man who was too often in his cups.” 

“Mr. Matthews is a widower,” Violet suggested, “and, like mine, his two children are full-grown. They still live on the estate. Just keep in mind, in such a match, you would be taking on three men, all set in their ways.” 

The last of her words had barely left Violet’s lips before the door to the tea room opened, and Sir Frederick Nolan stepped inside. His muscular frame and dark countenance were impressive enough to draw the attention of the room’s occupants, including Violet’s. His eyes scanned the room until they collided with her steady gaze, and then his smile turned up the corners of his lips. 

Surprisingly, or not so surprisingly, there had been a time they had often been in company. Sir Frederick, or “Freddie,” as her brother George had called him, had been George’s best chum, and the three of them had grown up together in another shire. Frederick and George had been inseparable, and she had followed them about, attempting to be a part of all their schemes. As a girl of twelve, she had professed her “love” to Freddie, but he and George were beginning their first university terms, and Frederick had had no use for “a silly girl.” Heartbroken, she had sworn never to speak to him again. 

Later, he had had second thoughts and had come to call upon her; yet, she was then betrothed to Giles. At the time, it had felt like sweet revenge to offer her denials of his hand. Ironically, Frederick had then married one of Violet’s childhood friends, Alice Wooden, and, as luck would have it, the estate he inherited had proven to be the second largest one in the same shire as was Giles’s. Not unlike Giles’s barony, Sir Frederick’s baronetcy was an important part of the shire, and she and Giles had often spent time with Sir Frederick and Lady Nolan.

During those brief interludes, Violet realized her attraction to the man still existed. In those instances, she had felt guilty for pining for something which was not meant to be. Unfortunately, for her, the man had an unspoken power over her. 

Even now, awareness zinged through her veins as he approached the table. Violet unconsciously licked her lips, her mouth suddenly quite dry. Emily turned in her chair to view what, or rather who, had captured Violet’s attention. She heard her friend say, “What about him?” Like it or not, Violet frowned in what could only be jealousy, that is, if she dared to present the emotion she was experiencing with a name. 

Sir Frederick stopped before her, removed his hat and bowed. “Good afternoon, my lady. Mrs. Bowers,” he said politely. “Might I join you?”

Emily responded before Violet could gather her wits about her. “Please do, sir.” Violet noted Emily’s use of coquettish tones, and she turned to her friend to present Emily a “how dare you” glare, but Emily was too busy batting her eyelashes at Sir Frederick to take note of Violet’s disapproval. Thankfully, Frederick had yet to present Emily more than a cursory glance. Instead, his attention had landed fully on Violet, and she resisted the urge to squirm. 

He adjusted his chair and sat between her and Emily before motioning the owner to deliver a fresh pot of tea. “And what are you ladies doing in town?”

Violet said, “I was just about to ask the same of you.” 

He smiled at her. “I came to speak to my man of business and thought I might also call in at the stable. You see, my lady, I am seriously considering in acquiring both a new horse and a new wife. I wish to make certain the lady will be provided for properly.” 

His news was a shock for Violet, but, before she could compose her thoughts, Emily asked, “You have already chosen a new mate?” Her friend appeared quite dumbfounded by the possibility. 

“I have, ma’am,” he said simply. 

“Have you made an offer of your hand?” Emily continued to question him. 

He glanced to Violet, but appeared quite satisfied in answering Emily’s inquiries. “I have yet to win the lady’s permission to court her, but I pray she will agree. She is the only woman I might consider marrying.” 

“I . . . I see,” Emily stammered, as she gathered her belongings. “Then . . . then I wish you success, sir.” She turned to Violet. “I despise leaving so suddenly. I just took note of the time and realized I promised Mrs. Williams I would call upon her today about the charity’s need to assist the poor.” 

Violet knew Emily had already called upon the vicar’s wife on this day, but she assumed her friend knew a bit of mortification for flirting with a man who meant to marry another. “I am sorry you must leave so soon. I shall send a note around later in the week, and we may continue our conversation then.” 

Emily nodded her agreement and rose quickly. Frederick also rose to bid her a ‘“Farewell,” and within seconds Emily was gone. 

“That was odd,” Sir Frederick said as he resumed his seat. “Was it something I said which offended her?” 

Violet frowned again. “Emily is at sixes and sevens since her widowhood. The Williamses provide her counsel, and she finds the church’s charities worthy of her time.” 

Frederick tilted his head in serious consideration. “Then she was truly flittering with me? I assumed so, but I did not want to appear presumptuous.” 

“Some women are lost without a man’s guidance,” Violet observed. 

The tea arrived, and their conversation paused until they were alone again. 

“I assume you are not one of those women,” he observed with a lift of his brows. 

“If you are asking if I ever see myself remarrying, I would be remiss if I did not dissuade you or anyone else foolish enough to ask. Lord Giles Graham was a good man, but you and I are both aware my late husband was also a very regimented man, who despised any sort of spontaneity or disorder. You have known me since I was a child and will likely realize ‘perfect order’ was often difficult for me. Therefore, I do not wish to place myself under the rule of another man.”

Feeling a bit uncomfortable with her statement, Violet sipped her tea before saying, “Now, tell me, who is the fortunate woman on the receiving end of your affection?”

He chuckled easily. The sound of his laughter rumbling about in his chest brought a shiver of awareness to Violet’s spine. “After your most eloquent speech, I should likely be silent on the subject, but, as I know how ‘spontaneity’ is part of your nature, you will recognize a certain plainspoken tendency as part of mine.”

“I do,” she murmured, waiting with anticipation for his pronouncement. 

“Then you will hear my honesty when I say, I have no wish to remarry unless my next bride is you, Lady Violet.” 

The deep timbre of his voice and his closeness set her heart racing. 

It was her turn to be dumbfounded, but she had no opportunity to respond, for he stood suddenly. “Think upon it, Violet.” With that, he turned and placed several coins in the hand of the proprietor, before exiting the shop. 

All Violet could do was stare at the door through which he had departed. Sir Frederick Nolan wished to marry her? Her? She shook her head in denial. Even for the most compelling gentleman of her acquaintance, and Sir Frederick definitely fit those words perfectly, Violet was not about to abandon her well-earned freedom. Setting her shoulders in renewed resolve, she rose also, gathered her belongings, thanked the proprietor for his service and returned to her carefully constructed life. It would be a cold day in purgatory before she placed her life in the hands of another man, no matter how deliciously handsome her pursuer might be.

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About Regina Jeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and historical romantic suspense.
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