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Travel could be done by several means and determined to a great degree things of mail delivered, trade and the danger encountered. It was considered very physically taxing and therefore not recommended for the frail, such as pregnant women who were frequently described as miscarrying due to the rigors of travel.



Most people and goods travelled over the highways, which is rather lofty description of what often was no more than a sand road, though some paved roads from Roman times remained even then and improvements on such pavements were starting to be made. Mainly, land travel was on foot or in the saddle. In addition to their own two legs, lower classes relied on mules or asses, wagons, and hand carts. The upper class used horses, more elaborate wagons, and carriages. Wealthy or infirm people could also chose to be carried on a litter or a sedan chair, and carts or wagons could also be hired. Pack animals were used to carry goods and pull wagons. By the late sixteenth century private carriages came into fashion for the upper classes, and lighter, smaller coaches were developed and suspended on straps to provide a more comfortable ride.


The Comfort of Coaches

Those of nobility would have used a carriage with six horses “because with a smaller number there was great danger of sticking fast in the mire. Nor were even six horses always sufficient.” Distance covered without overtaxing the animals - approximately 50 miles a day.


Coaches gradually become more comfortable. The most common design, developed in Germany in about 1660, is known as the berlin. The compartment for the travellers has the shape of a shallow U, with a protective roof above. There is a door on each side and the coach can seat four people, in pairs facing each other. The coachman, driving the horses, sits above the front wheels. From 1680 glass windows keep out the weather, where previously there were only blinds. The first simple suspension, protecting the occupants against the bumps of the road, consists of leather straps on which the compartment hangs from the framework. The berlin introduces curved metal springs, which absorb the shocks more effectively.


A much lighter and racier two-wheeled vehicle, the gig, is introduced in Paris during the late 17th century. Relatively cheap, pulled by a single sprightly horse, driven by its owner and alarmingly easy to overturn, the gig is the first type of carriage to make driving an enjoyable activity.


At the other extreme from the gig, the more sedate citizen in 17th-century European capitals often uses human rather than animal power for short journeys. He hails a sedan chair and is carried, in elegant comfort behind glass windows, to his next destination. A sedan with wheels, known in Paris as a brouette, is pulled through the streets in the same way as a rickshaw in the east today.



Canals are not yet in use in England (even though popular at the time in places like Venice and Amsterdam). Full scale introduction in England waited till mid 18th century. However the existing rivers were used as water ways, mainly for trade but it could also be used for a nice mild way of travel for the nobility.


There was of course the international travel over the oceans both in the light yachts that Charles II had introduced after his stay in the United Provinces and the large ships used for trade to for instance East Indian and the New World.


Travel Times

Sending a letter, small package, or even traversing the distance one's self, it is good to know how long the journey will take.


Below is a table of estimated travel times from London to various destinations in England, Scotland, Ireland, and on the Continent by carriage. They are listed in number of days, unless otherwise indicated. If you are traveling by horseback or post horse, you should ask for a timeframe of travel in your compendium.


Portsmouth - 2 days

Dover - 2 days

Manchester - 2 ¼ days

Bristol - 2 ½ days

Birmingham - 2 ½ days

Caernarfon - 3 days

Leeds - 4 days

Liverpool (port to Dublin) - 4 ¼ days

Great Yarmouth (port to Amsterdam) - 4 ½ days

Plymouth (port to Lisbon) - 5 days

Newcastle-Upon-Tyne - 5 ½ days

Penzance - 6 days

Glasgow - 8 days

Edinburgh - 8 days

Aberdeen - 11 days

Dublin (via Liverpool) - 6 days

Galway (via Liverpool) - 10 ½ days

Derry (vial Liverpool) - 11 days

Cork (via Liverpool) - 11 days

Calais (via Dover) - 3 days

Paris (via Calais) - 9 days

Brussels (via Calais) - 7 days

Madrid (via Calais) - 34 days

Lisbon (via Plymouth) - 11 days

Amsterdam (via Great Yarmouth) - 6 days

Antwerp (via Amsterdam or Calais) - 4 days

Venice (via Antwerp) - 3 weeks, 2 days

Constantinople (via Antwerp and Venice) - 7 weeks

Caribbean - 2 months

Tangiers - 2 ½ weeks

India - 3 months


These times assume average conditions and a distance covered of 50 miles per day, by land, and 120 nautical miles per day, by sea. Obviously, a tail wind will speed sea travel, and a storm will slow both land and sea travel. Other perils can occur as well, and are not reflected here.


Some port cities might be reached directly by ship, instead of going partly over land and thus speeding up the process considerably. However that is expensive and thus will be reserved for the diplomatic patch or a considerable surcharge. As an example Amsterdam by ship only will take you 1 ½ days (with further hours for wherever in the Netherlands you want your message delivered).

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Entails, Marriage Settlements, and Dowries

The issues of entails, marriage settlements and dower are closely related to inheritance and marriage and potentially important in the selection of a mate.




The issue of parcener explains why daughters take the precedence of their eldest brothers and also why they inherit equally with each other unlike their brothers.


Under the common law, the right of inheritance of land held by military tenure (where the original holder of the title to the land owed his lord military service) belonged to the eldest son. If the son had died, but left children, then the younger brothers and sisters were skipped, and his eldest surviving son inherited. If he had no children, then the next eldest son inherited and so on.


But if there were no sons at all or if they had died without children, then all the daughters would inherit unentailed land equally. This rule applied in every generation. Daughters were almost always preferred over uncles, but not universally. A peerage and the entailed property almost universally can only go to a direct male (patrilineally) descendant unless the peerage is a barony by writ.


So, say John had three younger brothers Tom, Dick and Harry. If John had died before his parents, all land they held by military tenure in common law would descend to John's eldest son. If he left daughters only, Tom, Dick and Harry still would not inherit. Instead John's three daughters would all inherit equally between them (they were called '''parceners''').


By the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, marriage settlements, trusts and other methods of entailing land circumvented these common law rules (usually to the detriment of the daughters' estates--these entails almost always were designed to send the property intact to the uncles or male cousins instead of being split among the daughters).


Titles, of course, could not be shared, and often were specifically tied to male issue, but this sharing of the elder brother's status is a result of applying the parcener principle to a related situation.




An ''entail'' was a legal device used to prevent a landed property from being broken up, and/or from descending in a female line. This is a logical extension of the prevalent practise of leaving the bulk of one's wealth (particularly real estate) to one's eldest son or "heir".


Entailed property is usually inherited by male primogeniture, in more or less the same way as are most titles of nobility (i.e., by the nearest male-line descendant (son of son etc.) of the original owner of the estate or title, whose ancestry in each generation goes through the most senior line of descendants in existence). Entailment also prevents a father from disinheriting his eldest son. Women generally inherit only if there are no male-line heirs left, and if there is more than one sister, then they are all equal co-heiresses, rather than only the eldest inheriting.


Motivation for Entailing Property


In order to understand entails, the first thing to consider is the importance that ownership of land had. Ownership of land wasn't just an ornament to the family (in the way that a collection of paintings or a library might be considered an ornament). Land was what made a family part of the aristocracy or gentry. Ownership of land produced an income that was steady, predictable, and recurring. That income was what freed the family from the necessity to earn their living by daily effort. It freed them to secure and enjoy an education, to -- as they chose -- dabble in the arts and sciences, become involved in politics, or lead a life of idleness and refinement. This gave ownership of land a cachet that went beyond ownership of cash or movable goods. A landed estate was The Patrimony -- it conferred status in society, not just on one person for one generation, but on the family so long as it lasted.


This fact wasn't lost on members of the gentry and aristocracy. Nor were they blind to two real dangers that threaten a landed estate: dissipation by sale, if the head of the family at any point in time (a wastrel, say, or a foolish speculator) were to sell his land to raise funds, and then fritter away the sales proceeds; and subdivision (if an estate were divided equally between all sons or children over several generations, then a single Patrimony, sufficient to make its holder a gentleman and member of the gentry, becomes a multitude of smaller patrimonies that, individually, don't qualify his descendents for the same social status).


The result is that the whole family sinks into obscurity, which was held to be a bad thing. The answer to this problem is primogeniture among male heirs, which keeps The Patrimony itself intact and under the control of the head of the family in each generation -- though at the cost of unfairness to other surviving children of the family head.


Legal Notes on Entailment


It should be mentioned that entails had to be periodically renewed, and could be "broken" with the consent of a heir who has come of age.


If a man were to leave only daughters on his death, and there were no further patrilineal heirs lurking in the wings behind him, then technically, the estate would be broken up and shared equally by his daughters. However, in such a case, the man would generally recognize that he would most likely not have sons and could then petition the courts to have the entail broken in favor of one of his daughters, which would keep the estate from being subdivided, even though it would pass out of his family's patrimony when she married.


Marriage Settlements


A 'marriage settlement' is a legal document that usually ensures that some or all of the dowry (property that the wife brings to the marriage) ultimately belongs to her, and will revert to her or her children (though she does not necessarily have personal control over it during her marriage) upon the death of her husband. It may include details of the widow's bed and any jointure she would be entitled to receive. A jointure is an annuity, an annual income, separate from the Widow's Bed, to be paid to the widow following her husband's death. The settlement can also specify a guaranteed minimum that the children of the marriage would inherit.


Essentially, a marriage settlement is an overall premarital agreement, largely but not necessarily exclusively financial, negotiated between the bride's family and the bridegroom or his family, and can be highly complicated, depending on the circumstances of the families involved.


Remember, marriage was largely, if not solely, a financial arrangement.




At common law, the right of dower guaranteed the wife 1/3 of her deceased husband's estate. A claim for dower was made when a husband died intestate, or sometimes as a form of contest against what a widow viewed as unfair terms of her deceased husband's written Will.


Widow's Bed


This should not be confused with the right of dower, as it was a separate provision of a marriage settlement, usually at least equal to the dowry of the bride. Traditionally this referred to an actual bed and all of its fittings and mourning linens. It later expanded to ensure provision for a widow's bed and board, following the death of her husband. If no specific sum was stipulated in the marriage settlement, then the dower would ensure that the widow was provided for, assuming that her husband was not himself destitute.


The benefit of stipulating a Widow's Bed in the terms of the marriage settlement was clear, when the couple was young, as it was often a far greater sum that 1/3 of the bridegroom's current net worth. It was, of course, hoped that the husband would, by the time of his death, be worth rather more, and that her actual inheritance would therefore meet or exceed the value of the Widow's Bed.




A dowry or 'marriage portion' was settled upon a woman by her own family upon her marriage. However, once given, the bride lost all control over it, as she and all that she owned were now the property of her husband (whether it be money (usually), land, jewels, or other items of value). An estate or land was often part of the dowry of a bride from a wealthy family, which was then stipulated as part of her Widow's Bed. This was a means of keeping assets within the family, even when one had daughters.


However, under certain circumstances, it was expected that the bridegroom or his family would return the dowry, such as if both husband and wife died, and there were no children from their union. It was also expected that the dowry would help to support the bride, should she become a widow. Failure of the bride's family to pay the agreed-upon dowry could result in the marriage being called off.

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