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Did heiresses have command over their property?

In modern times we are fairly used to a (monetary) heiress being in sole command of her posessions. But this only became law in England in the 19th century; prior to that the husband took charge and some of them abused the trust that may have been placed in them.

In a fascinating study, "English Noblewomen in he later middle Ages", Jennifer Ward showed that the heiresses lived in enormous style and that when widowed they did indeed have command of their estates. Later, in "The Barrington Family Letters", Arthur Searle shows a widow, albeit not an heiress, to be living in considerable style with most of the family's revenue passing through her hands and with considerable deference from her correspondents. Widows were in command.

But wives were not. The Testamenta Vetusta collection of medieval wills shows that they even had to ask their husband's permission to leave money of their, the wife's, inheritance to whoever they chose.

By and large the husband expected to take command of his heiress wife's affairs during his life time and to assume any title she may have brought.

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