Lucy Monoux, 1777-1843, was the daughter of a baronet, and rich, owning at least one farm and a large house with its own land. She wrote a will in 1841 leaving ownership of most of her estate to trustees who were to hold it for the use of Charlotte Gordon. Charlotte was born in Madras in 1804, daughter of William Hesse Gordon, paymaster for the East India Company. The family probably moved back to London before 1813. Charlotte was unmarried when the will was made. But there was a catch:
... in trust to pay such rents, profits and proceeds to the said Charlotte Catherine Gordon during the term of her natural life, provided she shall not marry any person not born a subject of Great Britain.
Lucy was serious about this:
And from and after the decease of the said Charlotte Catherine Gordon, or if she (the said Charlotte Catherine Gordon) shall intermarry with any person not born a subject of Great Britain, then immediately from and after such marriage, upon trust, to pay such rents, profits and annual proceeds unto, and to stand possessed of, such part of the remainder of my personal estate as shall not consist of money, or securities for money, and shall not have been disposed of as hereinbefore directed, for and for the sole use of the said Frances Sally Gordon for the term of her natural life, provided she do not marry any person not born a subject of Great Britain.
Spinster Charlotte could live in luxury and ease, but marry a foreigner and she'd be out on her ear the next day. The same for Frances, who was Charlotte's sister and second in line. If she married a foreigner, she was to be turfed out and one trustee got to keep everything himself.
I know it was common in the past for testators to try and exercise control over their legacy after their death, but I'm puzzled as to just what was going on here.
- Was it common in 19th century English wills to stipulate that the beneficiary could not marry a foreigner?
I have tried searching other wills online, but unfortunately "intermarry" is Victorian legalese for "marry", so it turns up lots of results just talking about marrying anyone, not someone with a different status. I'm hoping someone here is familiar with the wills of the time.
I did wonder if this shows Lucy's racism. Charlotte was a child in India and may have had Indian friends and spoken kindly of them, and Lucy was horrified at the idea Charlotte might marry a brown person. But the will specifies "born a subject of Great Britain", prohibiting Charlotte marrying, say, someone from Germany. Queen Victoria had married a German the year before, so that was definitely socially acceptable, but Lucy wouldn't allow it. So was Lucy driven by an extreme nationalism, xenophobia rather than racism? Or, was there some obscure legal reason why the beneficiary of a trust couldn't be allowed to marry abroad, some quirk of ownership of the trust?
Did English 19th century wills ever specify that the beneficiary could only marry someone with white skin?
From knowledge of typical wills of the time, can we tell whether Lucy was expressing her racism? Or whether she was driven by extreme nationalism? Or some legal quirk?
Charlotte was at least slightly touchy about her origins. In the 1871 census, under "Where born", Charlotte has "Madras India British Subject".
In fact, Charlotte married a rich Englishman in 1842, inherited in 1843, and lived until her death in 1885 on the estate left for her use. Frances died before 1885, so the trustees sold everything off then.