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BastardsPolitics, Family, and Law in Early Modern France$
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Matthew Gerber

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199755370

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199755370.001.0001

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Jurisprudential Reform of Illegitimacy in Seventeenth-Century France

Jurisprudential Reform of Illegitimacy in Seventeenth-Century France

(p.49) 2 Jurisprudential Reform of Illegitimacy in Seventeenth-Century France

Matthew Gerber

Oxford University Press

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

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