Monday, December 08, 2008


...was established in the 11th century, to assure succession and inheritance by the eldest son. It is a major component of the rivalry between the sons of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II of England.

I am almost finished with Devil's Brood, and even as the book details all the broken promises and political machinations of England and Aquitaine's first family, I can't help but relate to the inheritance predicament. As a first-born child and the daughter of the family, to boot, I will be shouldering most responsibilities when called to step in and help my aging or ailing mother. It isn't the 11th century, so I am the go-to gal, rather than my younger brother. I'm unsure how much of this is a first-born thing, a mother-daughter thing, or just a personality thing (I'm a problem-solver type.)

When Eleanor and Henry's son Geoffrey, the Duke of Brittany, died unexpectedly as the result of a tournament injury, his young widow was immediately assessed for marriageability, while still pregnant with Geoffrey's unborn son. The kings of France and England (her father-in-law), wrangled for control of her children, and most importantly, their inheritance. She was not consulted about whether she could even consider another marriage (in which she would immediately be supposed to produce another heir), or how she would want her children to be brought up and where. As a single mom who gets to call all the shots (and also do all the work - "Mommy, why are you always working?" she asked me last night), this is unfathomable.

Death in families is always hard, fraught with emotional and financial issues. I hope that there will be no wrangling when the time comes and I will be called on to administer an estate, albeit one not nearly as vast as what was at stake for the heirs of Devil's Brood.


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