Jurisprudential Reform of Illegitimacy in Seventeenth-Century France

Matthew Gerber

in Bastards

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780199755370
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199932603 | DOI:
Jurisprudential Reform of Illegitimacy in Seventeenth-Century France

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  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)


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In the seventeenth century, jurists who wished to circumscribe rights traditionally enjoyed by extramarital offspring achieved this through litigation and case law jurisprudence. While the Edict on the Taille (1600) broke with tradition by excluding bastards from the nobility, it was preceded by sixteenth-century litigation over the issue. In 1656, the watershed case of Bourges v. Roussel determined that extramarital offspring could not receive as much property from their parents through gift or legacy as could a stranger. Several rulings also determined that legitimation by letters-patent of the king did not convey inheritance rights, even if acquired with the consent of the parents. Although reform-minded jurists successfully used judicial precedents to exclude extramarital offspring more fully from the family, they gradually abandoned the doctrine that bastardy was a form of criminal taint and personal degeneracy, replacing it with arguments for exclusion grounded on public decency and social interest

Keywords: litigation; noble bastards; gifts; legacies; legitimation by royal rescript; public decency; social interest

Chapter.  10878 words. 

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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