#atozchallenge: E is for…Earl and Entail
In April, I’m posting 26 blogs, one for every letter of the alphabet. I write historical romance set in Regency England, and I’m offering a brief lexicon of words to help you understand the story world of my Regency characters. Follow the links for more in depth information.
E is for Earl:
In the peerage of England, an earl is the third highest rank.
If you’ve been watching the television series The Vikings, you’ll recognize “earl” as a Scandinavian title. Wikimedia tells us that back in those early times, an earl was more equivalent to the modern duke. The current title equates to the European title of count. Thus, Lady Violet Crawley, who I mentioned yesterday, was married to an earl and was a countess.
The title is hereditary. Here we have John Pitt, the 2nd Earl of Chatham, son of William Pitt the elder, 1st Earl of Chatham.
His younger brother, William Pitt the younger, never became Earl, but he did share another title his father held, Prime Minister. He served in that role during the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars and is far more famous this his elder brother. You might hear him mentioned in a Regency story.
And, E is for Entail:
I do believe that one of the biggest stumbling blocks for young Americans struggling through Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is this concept of the entail. What? You mean Mr. Bennett cannot bequeath his home to his wife and daughters?
The entail, or fee tail, is a legal provision that keeps great estates intact from generation to generation. Entails did not have to go on forever; the original trust or legal establishment of the title or estate could specify a certain number of generations.
Generally, under an entail a title and property pass to the eldest legitimate son, but in some rare cases, a daughter could inherit. Madeline Hunter‘s The Charmer is an interesting tale of a daughter inheriting a dukedom.
As Jane Austen shows us, entails are a great plot device for plunging our heroines into trouble.
Questions? Comments? Visit tomorrow for the letter F!
Images: badge, a-to-zchallenge.com; all others, Wikimedia