Dower

Dower

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Not to be confused with dowry
Dowry
A dowry is the money, goods, or estate that a woman brings forth to the marriage. It contrasts with bride price, which is paid to the bride's parents, and dower, which is property settled on the bride herself by the groom at the time of marriage. The same culture may simultaneously practice both...

, or with Dour
Dour
Dour is a Walloon municipality located in the Belgian province of Hainaut. On 1 January 2006 the municipality had 16,810 inhabitants. The total area is 33.32 km², giving a population density of 505 inhabitants per km²....

.


Dower or morning gift (Latin doarium, or Latinized Germanic morganaticum; Fr
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

. douaire, German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 Morgengabe [Morgen, "morning," + Gabe, "gift"]) was a provision accorded by law to a wife for her support in the event that she should survive her husband (i.e., become a widow
Widow
A widow is a woman whose spouse has died, while a widower is a man whose spouse has died. The state of having lost one's spouse to death is termed widowhood or occasionally viduity. The adjective form is widowed...

). It was settled
Settlement (law)
In law, a settlement is a resolution between disputing parties about a legal case, reached either before or after court action begins. The term "settlement" also has other meanings in the context of law.-Basis:...

 on the bride by agreement at the time of the wedding, or provided by law. ("Settled" here refers to a gift into trust
Trust instrument
A trust instrument is an instrument in writing executed by a settlor used to constitute a trust...

.)

The term "morning gift" derives from the Germanic practice of the bridegroom's officially granting the gift on the morning after the wedding night; making such a settlement was evidence that the marriage had been consummated and the bride had proven to be a virgin. However, in popular parlance, the term may be used for a life interest
Life interest
A life interest is some form of right, usually under a trust, which lasts only for the lifetime of the person benefiting from that right. A person with a life interest is known as a life tenant....

 in property settled by a husband on his wife at any time, not just at the wedding. The verb is to dower (dower, dowers, dowered).

In popular usage, the term dower may be confused with:
  • A dowager
    Dowager
    A dowager is a widow who holds a title or property, or dower, derived from her deceased husband. As an adjective, "Dowager" usually appears in association with monarchical and aristocratic titles....

    is a widow (who may receive her dower). The term is especially used of a noble or royal widow who no longer occupies the position she held during the marriage. For example, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon
    Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon
    Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon was the queen consort of King George VI from 1936 until her husband's death in 1952, after which she was known as Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, to avoid confusion with her daughter, Queen Elizabeth II...

     was technically the dowager queen after the demise of George VI
    George VI of the United Kingdom
    George VI was King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth from 11 December 1936 until his death...

     (though she was referred to by the more informal title "Queen Mother
    Queen mother
    Queen Mother is a title or position reserved for a widowed queen consort whose son or daughter from that marriage is the reigning monarch. The term has been used in English since at least 1577...

    "), and Princess Lilian
    Princess Lilian, Duchess of Halland
    Princess Lilian, Duchess of Halland is a Welsh former fashion model who has been a member of the Swedish Royal Family since marrying Prince Bertil , an uncle of King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, in 1976.-Early life:Born in Swansea, Wales, the daughter of William John Davies and wife Gladys Mary...

     is currently the Dowager Duchess of Halland in heraldic
    Heraldry
    Heraldry is the profession, study, or art of creating, granting, and blazoning arms and ruling on questions of rank or protocol, as exercised by an officer of arms. Heraldry comes from Anglo-Norman herald, from the Germanic compound harja-waldaz, "army commander"...

     parlance. Such a dowager will receive the income from her dower property. (The term "Empress Dowager
    Empress Dowager
    Empress Dowager was the title given to the mother of a Chinese, Korean, Japanese or Vietnamese emperor.The title was also given occasionally to another woman of the same generation, while a woman from the previous generation was sometimes given the title of Grand empress dowager. Numerous empress...

    ", in Chinese history, has a different meaning.)
  • Property brought to the marriage by the bride is called a dowry
    Dowry
    A dowry is the money, goods, or estate that a woman brings forth to the marriage. It contrasts with bride price, which is paid to the bride's parents, and dower, which is property settled on the bride herself by the groom at the time of marriage. The same culture may simultaneously practice both...

    . But the word dower has been used since Chaucer (The Clerk's Tale) in the sense of dowry, and is recognized as a definition of dower in the Oxford English Dictionary
    Oxford English Dictionary
    The Oxford English Dictionary , published by the Oxford University Press, is the self-styled premier dictionary of the English language. Two fully bound print editions of the OED have been published under its current name, in 1928 and 1989. The first edition was published in twelve volumes , and...

    .
  • Property made over to the bride's family at the time of the wedding is a bride price
    Bride price
    Bride price, also known as bride wealth, is an amount of money or property or wealth paid by the groom or his family to the parents of a woman upon the marriage of their daughter to the groom...

    . This property does not pass to the bride herself.

Meaning


Being for the widow and being accorded by law, dower differs essentially from a conventional marriage portion such as the dos of the old Roman law
Roman law
Roman law is the legal system of ancient Rome, and the legal developments which occurred before the 7th century AD — when the Roman–Byzantine state adopted Greek as the language of government. The development of Roman law comprises more than a thousand years of jurisprudence — from the Twelve...

, the French
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 dot, or the English
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 dowry
Dowry
A dowry is the money, goods, or estate that a woman brings forth to the marriage. It contrasts with bride price, which is paid to the bride's parents, and dower, which is property settled on the bride herself by the groom at the time of marriage. The same culture may simultaneously practice both...

.

The bride received a right to certain property from the bridegroom or his family. It was intended to ensure her livelihood in widowhood, and it was to be kept separate and in the wife's possession.

Dower is the gift given by the groom to the bride, customarily on the morning after the wedding (hence morning gift, though all dowerings from the man to his fiancée, either during the betrothal period, or wedding, or afterwards, even as late as in the testamentary dowering, are understood as dowers if specifically intended for the maintenance of the widow).

Dower has been a property arrangement for marriage used apparently first in early medieval German cultures (such as Langobards and Goths
Goths
The Goths were an East Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin whose two branches, the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths, played an important role in the fall of the Roman Empire and the emergence of Medieval Europe....

), and the church drove its adoption into other countries, in order to improve the wife's security by this additional benefit.

The practice of dower was prevalent in the Germanic
Germanic languages
The Germanic languages constitute a sub-branch of the Indo-European language family. The common ancestor of all of the languages in this branch is called Proto-Germanic , which was spoken in approximately the mid-1st millennium BC in Iron Age northern Europe...

-descending and Scandinavic
Scandinavia
Scandinavia is a cultural, historical and ethno-linguistic region in northern Europe that includes the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, characterized by their common ethno-cultural heritage and language. Modern Norway and Sweden proper are situated on the Scandinavian Peninsula,...

-descending parts of Europe, such as Sweden, Germany, Normandy and successor states of the Langobardian kingdom.

The husband was legally prevented from using the wife's dower — as contrasted with her dowry
Dowry
A dowry is the money, goods, or estate that a woman brings forth to the marriage. It contrasts with bride price, which is paid to the bride's parents, and dower, which is property settled on the bride herself by the groom at the time of marriage. The same culture may simultaneously practice both...

, which was brought to the marriage by the bride and used by both spouses. This often meant that the woman's legal representative, usually a male relative, became guardian or executor
Executor
An executor, in the broadest sense, is one who carries something out .-Overview:...

 of the dower, to ensure that it was not squandered.

Usually, the wife was free from kin limitations to use (and bequeath) her dower to whatever and whomever she pleased. It may have become the property of her next marriage, been given to an ecclesiastical institution, or been inherited by her children from other relationships than that from which she received it.

Code of Hammurabi


The Code of Hammurabi
Code of Hammurabi
The Code of Hammurabi is a well-preserved Babylonian law code, dating to ca. 1780 BC . It is one of the oldest deciphered writings of significant length in the world. The sixth Babylonian king, Hammurabi, enacted the code, and partial copies exist on a human-sized stone stele and various clay...

 from ancient Babylon prescribed what the widow was entitled to from her husband's estate. This included both the value of her dowry
Dowry
A dowry is the money, goods, or estate that a woman brings forth to the marriage. It contrasts with bride price, which is paid to the bride's parents, and dower, which is property settled on the bride herself by the groom at the time of marriage. The same culture may simultaneously practice both...

 and whatever her husband deeded to her. It is one of the earliest surviving legal documents.

Roman era


Dower is thought to have been suggested by the marriage gift which Tacitus
Tacitus
Publius Cornelius Tacitus was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. The surviving portions of his two major works—the Annals and the Histories—examine the reigns of the Roman Emperors Tiberius, Claudius, Nero and those who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors...

 found to be usual among the Germans
Germans
The Germans are a Germanic ethnic group native to Central Europe. The English term Germans has referred to the German-speaking population of the Holy Roman Empire since the Late Middle Ages....

. This gift he terms dos, but contrasts it with the dos of the Roman law, which was a gift on the part of the wife to the husband, while in Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 the gift was made by the husband to the wife. There was indeed in the Roman law what was termed donatio propter nuptias, a gift from the family of the husband, but this was only required if the dos were brought on the part of the wife. So too in the special instance of a widow (herself poor and undotated) of a husband rich at the time of his death, an ordinance of the Christian Emperor Justinian secured her the right to a part of her husband's property, of which no disposition of his could deprive her.

Establishment in Western Europe


The general establishment of the principle of dower in the customary law of Western Europe
Western Europe
Western Europe is a loose term for the collection of countries in the western most region of the European continents, though this definition is context-dependent and carries cultural and political connotations. One definition describes Western Europe as a geographic entity—the region lying in the...

, according to Maine
Henry James Sumner Maine
Sir Henry James Sumner Maine, KCSI , was an English comparative jurist and historian. He is famous for the thesis outlined in Ancient Law that law and society developed "from status to contract." According to the thesis, in the ancient world individuals were tightly bound by status to traditional...

, is to be traced to the influence of the Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

, and to be included perhaps among its most arduous triumphs. Dower is an outcome of the ecclesiastical practice of exacting from the husband at marriage a promise to endow his wife, a promise retained in form even now in the marriage ritual of the Established Church in England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

. Dower is mentioned in an ordinance of King Philip Augustus of France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 (1214), and in the almost contemporaneous Magna Carta
Magna Carta
Magna Carta is an English charter, originally issued in the year 1215 and reissued later in the 13th century in modified versions, which included the most direct challenges to the monarch's authority to date. The charter first passed into law in 1225...

 (1215); but it seems to have already become customary law in Normandy
Normandy
Normandy is a geographical region corresponding to the former Duchy of Normandy. It is in France.The continental territory covers 30,627 km² and forms the preponderant part of Normandy and roughly 5% of the territory of France. It is divided for administrative purposes into two régions:...

, Sicily
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

, and Naples
Naples
Naples is a city in Southern Italy, situated on the country's west coast by the Gulf of Naples. Lying between two notable volcanic regions, Mount Vesuvius and the Phlegraean Fields, it is the capital of the region of Campania and of the province of Naples...

, as well as in England. The object of both ordinance and charter was to regulate the amount of the dower where this was not the subject of voluntary arrangement, dower by English law consisting of a wife's life estate in one-third of the lands of the husband "of which any issue which she might have had might by possibility have been heir".

England and other Common Law Countries


There is judicial authority of the year 1310 for the proposition that dower was favoured by law, and at a less remote period it was said to be with life and liberty one of three things which "the law favoreth". In England in the late 18th century, it became common for men to hold land with a trust that prevented their wives' acquiring dower. Accordingly the English statute, the Fines and Recoveries Act of 1833 was passed to impair the inviolability of dower by empowering husbands to cut off by deed or will their wives from dower. Wives married before the Act still had (in certain cases) to acknowledge the deed before a commissioner to bar their right to dower in property which their husband sold. This was simpler than the previous procedure, which had required a fine
Fine of lands
A fine of lands was a species of conveyance abolished in England in 1833. It took the form of a fictitious suit compromised or terminated by the acknowledgment of the previous owner that such land was the right of the other party...

 to be levied in the Court of Common Pleas
Court of Common Pleas (England)
The Court of Common Pleas, or Common Bench, was a common law court in the English legal system that covered "common pleas"; actions between subject and subject, which did not concern the king. Created in the late 12th to early 13th century after splitting from the Exchequer of Pleas, the Common...

, a fictitious proceeding
Legal fiction
A legal fiction is a fact assumed or created by courts which is then used in order to apply a legal rule which was not necessarily designed to be used in that way...

, by which she and her husband formally remitted their right to the property to the purchaser.

In English law, dower was one third. However, in the early modern period, it was common for a wife to bar her right to dower in advance under a marriage settlement, under which she agreed to take instead a jointure, that is a particular interest in her husband's property, either a particular share, or a life interest in a particular part of the land, or an annuity. This was often part of an arrangement by which she gave up her property to her husband in exchange for her jointure, which would accordingly be greater than a third. Strictly dower was only available from land that her husband owned, but a life tenant under a settlement was often given power to appoint a jointure
Jointure
Jointure is, in law, a provision for a wife after the death of her husband. As defined by Sir Edward Coke, it is "a competent livelihood of freehold for the wife, of lands or tenements, to take effect presently in possession or profit after the death of her husband for the life of the wife at...

 for his wife. The wife would retain her right to dower (if not barred by a settlement) even if her husband sold the property; however this right could also be barred by a fictitious court proceeding known as levying a fine. The widow of a copyhold
Copyhold
At its origin in medieval England, copyhold tenure was tenure of land according to the custom of the manor, the "title deeds" being a copy of the record of the manorial court....

er was usually provided for by the custom of the manor
Manorialism
Manorialism, an essential element of feudal society, was the organizing principle of rural economy that originated in the villa system of the Late Roman Empire, was widely practiced in medieval western and parts of central Europe, and was slowly replaced by the advent of a money-based market...

 with freebench, an equivalent right to dower, but often (but not necessarily) a half, rather than a third.

Scotland


Under Scots law
Scots law
Scots law is the legal system of Scotland. It is considered a hybrid or mixed legal system as it traces its roots to a number of different historical sources. With English law and Northern Irish law it forms the legal system of the United Kingdom; it shares with the two other systems some...

, the part of the estate that cannot be denied to a surviving wife is referred to as jus relictae
Jus relictae
Jus relictae : The right of the surviving spouse in the movable goods of the deceased spouse.Jus relictae is the term used for a surviving wife, and jus relicti is the term used for a surviving husband...

.

United States


It was the law of dower unimpaired by statute, which according to the American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 commentator Chancellor Kent has been "with some modifications everywhere adopted as part of the municipal jurisprudence of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

". But while the marriage portion, dot, is, yet dower is not, known to the law of Louisiana
Louisiana
Louisiana is a state located in the southern region of the United States of America. Its capital is Baton Rouge and largest city is New Orleans. Louisiana is the only state in the U.S. with political subdivisions termed parishes, which are local governments equivalent to counties...

, and it has now been expressly abolished in some other States and in some territories. The instances of legislative modifications are numerous and important.

Relationship to religious profession


During the pre-Reformation
Protestant Reformation
The Protestant Reformation was a 16th-century split within Western Christianity initiated by Martin Luther, John Calvin and other early Protestants. The efforts of the self-described "reformers", who objected to the doctrines, rituals and ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Catholic Church, led...

 period, a man who became a monk and made his religious profession in England was deemed civilly dead, "dead in law" ; consequently his heirs inherited his land forthwith as though he had died a natural death. Assignment of dower in his hand would nevertheless be postponed until the natural death of such a man, for only by his wife's consent could a married man be legally professed in religion, and she was not allowed by her consent to exchange her husband for dower. After the Reformation and the enactment of the English statute of 11 and 12 William III
William III of England
William III & II was a sovereign Prince of Orange of the House of Orange-Nassau by birth. From 1672 he governed as Stadtholder William III of Orange over Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Guelders, and Overijssel of the Dutch Republic. From 1689 he reigned as William III over England and Ireland...

, prohibiting "papists" from inheriting or purchasing lands, a Roman Catholic widow was not held to be debarred of dower, for dower accruing by operation of law was deemed to be not within the prohibitions of the statute. By a curious disability of old English law a Jewish widow born in England would be debarred of dower in land which her husband, he having been an Englishman of the same faith and becoming converted after marriage, should purchase, if she herself remained unconverted.

Modern status


Of dower (douaire) as it existed in the old French law no trace is to be found in the existing law of France. But brought to Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 from the mother country in pre-Revolutionary times, customary dower accruing by operation of law is yet recognized in the law of the former French province of Quebec
Quebec
Quebec or is a province in east-central Canada. It is the only Canadian province with a predominantly French-speaking population and the only one whose sole official language is French at the provincial level....

. The civil death which by English law seems to have applied to men only, might be by the French law incurred by women taking perpetual religious vows. Therefore, a widow entering into religion would lose her dower, although in some regions she was allowed to retain a moderate income. And now by the law of Quebec a widow joining certain religious orders of the province is deemed civilly dead and undoubtedly would suffer loss of dower.

Morganatic marriage: a post-medieval application


Some well-born persons have been prone to marry an ineligible spouse. Particularly in European countries where the equal birth of spouses (Ebenbürtigkeit) was an important condition to marriages of dynasts of reigning houses and high nobility, the old matrimonial and contractual law provision of dowering was taken into a new use by institutionalizing the morganatic marriage
Morganatic marriage
In the context of European royalty, a morganatic marriage is a marriage between people of unequal social rank, which prevents the passage of the husband's titles and privileges to the wife and any children born of the marriage...

. Marriage being morganatical prevents the passage of the husband's titles and privileges to the wife and any children born of the marriage.

Morganatic, from the Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 phrase matrimonium ad morganaticam, refers to the dower (Latin: morganaticum, German: Morgengab, Swedish: morgongåva ). When a marriage contract is made that the bride and the children of the marriage will not receive anything else (than the dower) from the bridegroom or from his inheritance or patrimony or from his clan, that sort of marriage was dubbed as "marriage with only the dower and no other inheritance", i.e. matrimonium ad morganaticum.

Neither the bride nor any children of the marriage has any right on the groom's titles, rights, or entailed property. The children are considered legitimate on other counts and the prohibition of bigamy
Polygamy
Polygamy is a marriage which includes more than two partners...

 applies.

The practice of "only-doweried" is close to pre-nuptial contracts excluding the spouse from property, though children are usually not affected by prenuptials, whereas they certainly were by morganatical marriage.

Morganatic marriage contained an agreement that the wife and the children born of the marriage will not receive anything further than what was agreed in pre-nuptials, and in some cases may have been zero, or something nominal. Separate nobility titles were given to morganatic wives of dynasts of reigning houses, but it sometimes included no true property. This sort of dower was far from the original purpose of the bride receiving a settled property from the bridegroom's clan, in order to ensure her livelihood in widowhood.

The practice of morganatic marriage was most common in historical German states, where equality of birth between the spouses was considered an important principle among the reigning houses and high nobility. Morganatic marriage has not been and is not possible in jurisdictions that do not allow sufficient freedom of contracting, as it is an agreement containing that pre-emptive limitation to the inheritance and property rights of the wife and the children. Marriages have never been considered morganatic in any part of the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

.

Islam



A settlement from the groom to the bride is an essential part of current traditional Muslim marriages: a man must pay mahr to his bride. It is considered a gift which she has to agree on. The dower can be any value as long as it is agreed upon by both parties. When the groom gives his bride the dower, it becomes her property. In case of a divorce, she won't have to give up her dower unless she is the one who requested the divorce. In the latter case, her husband may ask her to return the dower to him. However, if she has requested the divorce due to her suffering any form of abuse, or has other acceptable reasons for a divorce in Islamic laws (such as her husband suffering from illness or being impotent, etc.), the current judge often will not ask her to give the dower back to her husband.

The amount promised or paid to the bride forms part of her personal property and is of assistance to her in times of financial need, such as a divorce or desertion by the husband. While the Mahr is usually in the form of cash, it may also be a house or viable business that is put in her name and can be run and owned entirely by her if she so chooses.

Dower in the Bahá'í Faith


According to the Kitáb-i-Aqdas
Kitáb-i-Aqdas
The Kitáb-i-Aqdas is a central book of the Bahá'í Faith written by Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the religion. The work was written in Arabic under the Arabic title , but it is commonly referred to by its Persian title, Kitáb-i-Aqdas , which was given to the work by Bahá'u'lláh himself...

, the Bahá'í Faith
Bahá'í Faith
The Bahá'í Faith is a monotheistic religion founded by Bahá'u'lláh in 19th-century Persia, emphasizing the spiritual unity of all humankind. There are an estimated five to six million Bahá'ís around the world in more than 200 countries and territories....

's most holy book, the dower is paid from the groom to the bride. The dower, if the husband lives in a city, is nineteen mithqáls (approx. 2.2 troy ounce
Troy ounce
The troy ounce is a unit of imperial measure. In the present day it is most commonly used to gauge the weight of precious metals. One troy ounce is nowadays defined as exactly 0.0311034768 kg = 31.1034768 g. There are approximately 32.1507466 troy oz in 1 kg...

s) of pure gold, or, if the husband lives outside a city, the same amount in silver.