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29 January 2012 @ 01:01 am
Mary to Inherit Downton in 1925?  
I was reading Salon's article about piracy and Downton Abbey and nestled in the tenth page of comments was this brow-raising salvo:

The position in grave danger of elimination is that of Matthew Crawley's: direct male heir. Given the Law of Property Act in England will occur in 1925, less than ten years from the current time frame, Matthew is unnecessary as Lady Mary will then be able to inherent the estate and its associated fortune by simple gift or will from her father. Lord Grantham is unlikely to pass away prior to the reform of fee titles that make Matthew necessary. (Hugh Bonneville who plays Lord Grantham is only 48, which seems about right for a man whose eldest daughter is around 25, but even if we make Lord Grantham 55, he will only be 65 by the time the entail is legal nullified. Given His Lordships fine health, I think he will live to see 1925.)


I immediately Googled the 1925 Law of Property Act; the Wikipedia entry is rather sparse, but when I Google it an "entail", Wikipedia says this:

The Statute of Westminster II, passed in 1285, created and stereotyped this form of estate. The new law was also formally called the statute De Donis Conditionalibus (Concerning Conditional Gifts). Fee tail was abolished by the Law of Property Act in England (as a legal estate) in 1925.


If Downton is extended into the 1920s, what do you think this new law would do to Mary and Matthew's relationship? Given her frustration over the entail in S1, how would Mary take this news that she could now be the heiress to Downton and its estate?
 
 
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( 27 comments — Leave a comment )
Claire: Happiness!clunkhall on January 29th, 2012 09:29 am (UTC)
Oh, that's interesting!

I honestly don't think it'll make a difference to their relationship. Matthew might well be happy for her to inherit over him; they'd be married by then anyway but even if they weren't... I think it was proved over and over in Series 2 that Mary would happily be Matthew's wife whatever his prospects.

Whichever of them inherited, they'd still be Earl and Countess together - nothing much seems to matter beyond that; which of them had inherited just seems a quibble! And I can actually see Matthew being very happy that it could be passed to Mary; he always felt in S1 that it was unfair/unjust, even though he came to appreciate it for himself. But honestly, I don't think it'd matter to either of them - it'd be sentiment.

Well, those are my thoughts, anyway!
sarapellow on January 29th, 2012 10:11 am (UTC)
Agree 100%. I don't think it would (negatively) affect their relationship at all. If it hadn't been for the entail they would never have met, and I think that would be uppermost in Mary's mind.
shineback on January 29th, 2012 10:35 am (UTC)
I agree with posters above.
In season 2 we learn that Mary would marry Matthew "on any terms" and by the time the law would pass they would already be married.

Matthew would just be glad for Mary, since she is finally able to inherit something that should have been hers anywyay.
the once and future fangirl: da mary matthew shine by comparisonmollivanders on January 29th, 2012 05:34 pm (UTC)
I pretty much agree with this; it hardly seems a matter of dispute anymore. Come 1925 though, Mary and Matthew might well have a child - and if it's a daughter, well! That would be a nice gesture, to let her inherit :) But other than that, I can't see how it would affect them. Mary's not marrying Matthew for money and they both end up with the property regardless.
mirandascully: fracturedshapes marydowntonmirandascully on January 29th, 2012 10:31 am (UTC)
very interesting! I think Mary's future won't really change, given that she marries Matthew and therefore the estate would be already hers along with the title of Countess. Even if their collective prospect won't change, I could see Matthew insisting so that formally the estate might be passed directly to her but I don't think that matters all that much for Mary now. Matthew and her are now...a team, and the entail - that was season1 great matter - is now an afterthought.

BUT it wouldn't put much pressure on her to produce a male heir. I'm happy because once she has a little girl, she'll know that she won't have to go through the emotional trauma of seeing her house passed onto some distant cousin because they managed to grow a penis. Which is a great victory for Mary.
trapperiitrapperii on January 29th, 2012 09:27 pm (UTC)
BUT it wouldn't put much pressure on her to produce a male heir. I'm happy because once she has a little girl, she'll know that she won't have to go through the emotional trauma of seeing her house passed onto some distant cousin because they managed to grow a penis. Which is a great victory for Mary.

Oh yes, I like this point very much indeed! Like other posters, I don't think the Act would affect Mary and Matthew's relationship, but I like the idea that the next generation will be spared what Mary had to go through.
ravenclawwitravenclawwit on January 29th, 2012 10:43 am (UTC)
I agree with clunkhall that it might not make much difference. The Law of Property Act might have put the kebosh on the injustice of entails, but Matthew will still inherit the title, and since Robert said in season one that for him it was not just about the law, but rather his reluctance to bankrupt the title (making any heir a landless peer), even if the law allows him to transfer the property to Mary, he might still choose not to. That might certainly create some tension between father and daughter, but I honestly don't think Matthew would care. They will most likely be married by then and he'd probably take her side. Not to mention that we already know that season 3 only goes from 1920-1921. If they stick with that sort of pacing (and I think it's likely given how much crit they received for jumping six years over the course of season 2), 1925 would be several seasons from now. Who knows if the show will still be on by then. And then of course, even if the series does make it into 1925, the writers might just choose to ignore that whole minefield, especially if Matthew and Mary are already married by then.
hahnsrockstar: Downton Abbey_Mary-Matthewhahnsrockstar on January 29th, 2012 03:09 pm (UTC)
Based on this information, my latest theory is that Patrick will come back and be established as the heir. Mary and Matthew will go through a whole bunch of stuff over what this means for the both of them, their relationship, how this changes their lifestyle, blah blah. When they finally get to a point where they are resigned to be together as a middle class lawyer and his wife, this law takes effect.
O, Hai!: Downton Thomas Daisy Bearhaikitteh on January 29th, 2012 03:53 pm (UTC)
Good twist! It would certainly make Patrick seem less like a plot device.
hahnsrockstar: Downton Abbey_Mary-Matthewhahnsrockstar on January 29th, 2012 03:59 pm (UTC)
Or a huge waste of time. :D
3down1up3down1up on January 29th, 2012 03:54 pm (UTC)
This would make the storyline more interesting, but I can't help but wonder if JF would go down that road? The P. Gordon plot was so poorly handled in series 2. And if P. Gordon returns, Edith would somehow now be involved . . .

It's a potential idea - if JF has the time and dedication to make it work.
hahnsrockstar: Downton Abbey_Mary-Matthewhahnsrockstar on January 29th, 2012 03:58 pm (UTC)
And can you imagine if Edith gets engaged to Patrick thinking he would be the heir and she starts lording that over Mary? The fall from that would be epic.
meg: downton - hallway Marybakerlooline on January 29th, 2012 04:06 pm (UTC)
I think the inheritance storyline has pretty much been put to bed, so I doubt JF will re-hash it for Mary and Matthew if DA makes it to 1925. I agree with everyone else that says it probably wouldn't change their relationship or way of life much if they marry before the law takes effect. Because of that I could see Lord Grantham not doing much about it. I could, however, see Mary and Matthew deciding to bequeath the estate/title to their first born, regardless of sex. I think if this law gets any kind of mention in DA it'll be with respect to the next generation of Downton inhabitants.
mirandascully: selfmade marymirandascully on January 29th, 2012 05:29 pm (UTC)
I agree - the law would affect Mary's children, and for her it'll be a huge victory being able to pass the inheritance over to her firstborn regardless the sex. What she wasn't allowed to have, her daughter will be able to claim. I think Mary would be ecstatic.
megbakerlooline on January 29th, 2012 05:40 pm (UTC)
I completely agree. I think it would be a very happy (and relieving) day for Mary to know that if her first born is a daughter she won't have to go through the same strife Mary did over the whole thing.
ctrent29ctrent29 on January 29th, 2012 05:51 pm (UTC)
Even if Mary and Matthew only had daughters and they would be able to hand over the estate to the eldest daughter, the title of Earl of Grantham would still go to the next male in line, unless Robert Grantham is able to find a way to personally revised this law for his estate.

If I'm wrong, I would be curious to know the real truth.
mirandascullymirandascully on January 29th, 2012 05:53 pm (UTC)
The title would be lost, but in all honesty I think the estate would be more valuable than a title. Maybe it could die with Matthew, without going so far as finding the new heir of a homeless title.
KB: Twirling Sherlockpsyko_kittie on January 29th, 2012 08:54 pm (UTC)
Money more valuable than title is a matter of opinion in these cases. Violet Crawley makes it known how much she hated that Lady Rosamund married a wealthy banker and not a man with a title.

And I think that if Matthew and Mary's first child is a girl, there will still be pressure on her to marry a titled man, regardless of the new property law. Just as there will still be that societal pressure for Matthew and Mary to have a boy in order to carry on the family line, because that's how it was. But if they did have a son, the point of an eldest daughter would be mute, he would get the title and most likely the estate. Because sons still won over daughters, regardless of the order of their birth.
mirandascully: matthew chinmirandascully on January 29th, 2012 09:02 pm (UTC)
this is true. If they have a male heir, then nothing will change. Considering he will have the title, how could they deprive him of the estate? The scenario of a woman inheriting would be likely just if there were no male offspring (not saying it's fair, but that's how it is). In which case, I think the girl would rather inherit the estate without the title that the other way round. After all, times HAVE changed. Mary was going to marry a media mogul, and even if Violet didn't like him, it was socially acceptable and even profitable. So I think that a good place in society, with a solid amount of money, was valuable as much as a title that brought no capital with it - like Lord Hepworth in the CS. A fortune hunter, even an aristocrat, is surely not a better fate than a rich although title-less woman.
Jadejadeandlilac on January 29th, 2012 04:36 pm (UTC)
That's really interesting! But isn't S3 only slated to cover 18 months between 1920-1921?

If for some reason the show was brought back for a 4th series, I'd agree with everyone who said that it wouldn't make a huge difference to Mary, as she would (presumably) have already wed Matthew at that point and become Countess in her own right. I suppose 1925 would be a very vindicating year for Mary either way though, especially if she happened to have an eldest daughter to whom she could then bequeath the estate ;)
train wreck waiting to happen: downton abbey-matthew and mary dancingsassynach on January 29th, 2012 09:35 pm (UTC)
Ooh, that's really interesting! I'm in the US, so "technically" don't know how S2 plays out (although I've seen lots of spoiler pics etc) so won't theorize on the show...but it will be interesting to see if the writers stay true to history (why wouldn't they?) and bring this into the life of Downton Abbey.

I would like to think that it wouldn't affect how Mary feels about Matthew though, in all honesty.
sarahkatiejay on January 29th, 2012 10:08 pm (UTC)
bit late here but i think if it did go through it would probably be very sweet. It'd be like the tables have completely turned since S1 finale when Mary was so unsure and Matthew doubted her love for him. I could see Mary using it as a way to prove her love to Matthew regardless of any material advantage. my thoughts anyway..
Cold Ember: Keith Urban Mustangcold_ember_32 on January 30th, 2012 07:19 pm (UTC)
Interesting. This law certainly gives them plenty of room to mess around with the inheritance storyline quite a bit, since it’ll almost certainly be rendered irrelevant by the time that Robert dies.

I was actually watching the Christmas Special again and I was thinking – if Sybil has a boy wouldn’t he then be the heir instead of Matthew since he’d be more directly related to Robert? At least until this law takes effect, anyway. It seems like a more reasonable conflict for the inheritance issue than the whole magical reappearance of a Canadian Patrick thing, but I’m not overly familiar with the early 1900s British system of entails, so maybe I’m completely off on this.
roh_wyn: writing2roh_wyn on January 30th, 2012 10:15 pm (UTC)
if Sybil has a boy wouldn’t he then be the heir instead of Matthew since he’d be more directly related to Robert?

No. Fee tails (or entails) were typically set up to go to "X and his heirs male." But as Sybil is not an heir male of Lord Grantham, her son(s) cannot inherit either. The distance in relationship terms doesn't really matter.

Basically, in the absence of any direct male heirs, the entail was created to go to the eldest male Crawley at the death of the current holder, which turns out to be Matthew in this case.
Cold Ember: Rose keyboardcold_ember_32 on January 31st, 2012 03:56 am (UTC)
Ah, okay. Well, as I said, I know next to nothing about early 1900s British inheritance law, though now I know a bit more. I now know that British people used to be incredibly thorough about their misogyny. Though they weren’t the only ones, I suppose…

It does make me a bit sad to know that we’ll never get to see Violet’s reaction to the idea that the son of an Irish chauffeur would be the next Earl of Grantham haha
roh_wynroh_wyn on January 30th, 2012 10:19 pm (UTC)
If I understand the Law of Property Act correctly, it basically reduced all forms of property ownership to fee simple, i.e. you own the property outright and can bequeath it anyway you like, including to your female children.

Under those circumstances, Mary may become Countess in her own right (assuming the title can be devised by will, and I'm not sure it can be), but wouldn't Robert and Cora be inclined to give Edith and Sybil equal shares (or at least the value of a third part of the estate)?

Cold Embercold_ember_32 on January 31st, 2012 07:51 am (UTC)
Hypothetically, sure, but I doubt they would actually do it because the whole issue with the estate in the first place was that it would be bankrupt if they took Cora’s money out of it, and I doubt that her money accounts for anywhere near 2/3 of the total assets of the estate. Splitting the estate 3 ways would likely have essentially the result as simply taking Cora’s money out of the estate. Even if they were to split up just Cora’s money amongst the girls, Taking 2/3 of her money out of the estate probably wouldn't be much better than taking all of it out, and Robert’s always said that he won’t do anything to endanger Downton. Matthew doesn’t really bring any (comparatively) significant assets to the marriage, which means that they’ll have to run Downton Abbey using the money they inherit from the estate, so it doesn’t seem like Sybil or Edith will see any major increase in their inheritances. While they could, conceivably, have all 3 sisters run Downton together, it would get messy pretty quickly, what with all their kids and the estate being split between all of them, and then their kids’ kids, ect.

It’s been said that all three girls will get a “generous dowry” when they marry and another amount when Robert dies, so it’s not like any of them are getting completely shafted. That aside, Sybil seems perfectly content to part ways with her family’s wealth, so I doubt she really cares about inheriting, anyway. Though Edith might end up getting kinda screwed again.
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