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|'A languishing branch of the old tree of feudalism': The death, resurrection and final burial of the droit d'aubaine in France
|Rapport M (2000) 'A languishing branch of the old tree of feudalism': The death, resurrection and final burial of the droit d'aubaine in France. French History, 14 (1), pp. 13-40. https://doi.org/10.1093/fh/14.1.13
|First paragraph: The truth is, I know of no country in which strangers are worse treated, with regard to their essential concerns. If a foreigner dies in France, the king seizes all his effects, even though his heir should be upon the spot and this tyranny is called the droit d'aubaine, founded at first upon the supposition, that all the estate of foreigners residing in France was acquired in that kingdom, and that, therefore, it would be unjust to convey it to another country. If an English protestant goes to France for the benefit of his health, attended by his wife or his son, or both, and dies with effects in the house to the amount of a thousand guineas, the king seizes the whole, the family is left destitute, and the body of the deceased is denied Christian burial. So fumed Tobias Smollett shortly after his arrival in France in July 1763, his anger undoubtedly fuelled by the Seven Years War which had just ended. The droit d'aubaine was a rule by which the king inherited the property owned by foreigners in France, when they died without any French heirs. The state's claim to such legacies naturally gave rise to some interesting commentary in eighteenth-century France Jurists, Philosophes and politicians sought to explain, justify or condemn it The critique of the droit d'aubaine provided such observers with the opportunity to express their ideas on 'feudalism', on commerce, diplomacy, citizenship and civil rights. This article, therefore, will discuss the intellectual and political response to the droit in the later eighteenth century and early nineteenth century, exploring the reasons for its demise, its restoration and its final abolition in 1819.
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