Advowson

Advowson

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Advowson is the right in English law
English law
English law is the legal system of England and Wales, and is the basis of common law legal systems used in most Commonwealth countries and the United States except Louisiana...

 of a patron (avowee) to present or appoint a nominee to a vacant ecclesiastical benefice
Benefice
A benefice is a reward received in exchange for services rendered and as a retainer for future services. The term is now almost obsolete.-Church of England:...

 or church living, a process known as presentation. In effect this means the right to nominate a person to hold a church office in a parish
Parish
A parish is a territorial unit historically under the pastoral care and clerical jurisdiction of one parish priest, who might be assisted in his pastoral duties by a curate or curates - also priests but not the parish priest - from a more or less central parish church with its associated organization...

. It is also known as advocation or patronage.

An advowson was regarded as property and could be bought, sold, or bequeathed but following reforms of parish administration in the 19th century it had little commercial value. Advowsons were valued for a number of reasons, including as a means for the patron to influence the parish through the appointee or to simply reward the appointee for services rendered. A benefice could include a house as well as the income, which would provide for the incumbent
Incumbent (ecclesiastical)
In Anglican canon law, the incumbent of a benefice, usually the parish priest, holds the temporalities or assets and income.Depending on the terms of governance of each parish an incumbent might be either:...

, and the value of the advowson would vary accordingly. Occasionally, advowsons were purchased to provide for descendants of a family, but most appointments were subject to the approval of the bishop of the diocese. At one time annexed to a manor or estate (which provided the land on which the church was built if not the building as well), many advowsons were sold off.

The right to advowson originated in the rights of a feudal lord to control the churches on his estates. Canon law, however, by the 12th century, decreed that the right to present belonged to the saint the church was dedicated to and that only church courts could rule on cases involving advowsons. King Henry II
Henry II of England
Henry II ruled as King of England , Count of Anjou, Count of Maine, Duke of Normandy, Duke of Aquitaine, Duke of Gascony, Count of Nantes, Lord of Ireland and, at various times, controlled parts of Wales, Scotland and western France. Henry, the great-grandson of William the Conqueror, was the...

's Constitutions of Clarendon
Constitutions of Clarendon
The Constitutions of Clarendon were a set of legislative procedures passed by Henry II of England in 1164. The Constitutions were composed of 16 articles and represent an attempt to restrict ecclesiastical privileges and curb the power of the Church courts and the extent of Papal authority in England...

 held otherwise, and, after Thomas Becket
Thomas Becket
Thomas Becket was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 until his murder in 1170. He is venerated as a saint and martyr by both the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion...

's murder, the king once more issued rules requiring cases involving advowsons to be heard by secular courts.

Advowsons were one of the earliest incorporeal hereditaments. As such, courts will still occasionally look to the common law
Common law
Common law is law developed by judges through decisions of courts and similar tribunals rather than through legislative statutes or executive branch action...

on the transfer of advowsons for guidance on the transfer of modern incorporeal hereditaments, such as farming allotments. See First Victoria Nat'l Bank v. United States, 620 F.2d 1096 (5th Cir., 1980).