The Noble Houses marriage and inheritance
From Breaking Worlds
Relationships and marriage
The nobility use marriage as a tool to make alliances and ensure the continuation of their bloodlines. As such it is always between two people and is expected to be strictly exclusive. Extra-marital affairs will bring a family into disgrace, and may in exceptional cases be grounds for the rescindment of a title.
Only children born within wedlock are considered legitimate and able to inherit. Traditionally the fay touch was believed to be the inherited mark of nobility (and it was likewise believed that any fay commoners must have unrecognised noble blood). However, exhaustive scholarship by Reformist-minded academics has shown that this is fallacious.
Matches are made very carefully, and in some families the decision is made not by the principals but by their relatives. The ideal choice is the heir of another family, but non-inheriting children of titled nobles are also very good marriage material, and matches with suitably distinguished foreigners (particularly Listenese nobles, and sometimes Rathanna druíd or Parmenian patricians) do occur. No law prevents a noble from taking a commoner as a spouse but such a morganatic marriage is considered disgraceful - no matter how rich and useful they might be.
Unmarried nobles do sometimes have more ‘unofficial’ relationships. Most within the nobility turn a blind eye to these liaisons, although some families strongly discourage them: if a young person gets the idea that they can go around having affairs and falling in love, the logic goes, they might carry on even after they get married…
Arginet uses absolute primogeniture to decide inheritance. When the holder of a noble title dies, it is considered to pass immediately to the heir - normally this is their eldest legitimate child, or if they are dead to their eldest child, or if the eldest died without issue to the next oldest surviving child of the title-holder (and so on). Posthumous children can legally inherit as though they were alive at the point of their parent’s death.
If two heirs to noble estates marry, their firstborn child by default inherits all the titles they hold. It is however possible for younger children to be granted lesser titles; different families and traditions within the nobility have different opinions of the practice, with some believing that it minimises conflict while others see it as spreading power too thinly. As with other forms of inheritance the titles are passed down on the point of the incumbent’s death.
Children who do not inherit are technically commoners, but in practice they enjoy the influence and comforts of noble life. They also serve a number of useful purposes for their titled relatives: they may be married into other families, serve as trusted retainers, help manage the estates, or go into distinguished careers in the priesthood or even the Royal Armies.
A noble with no legitimate children is socially expected to designate an heir within their own family, most often a niece or nephew. At the very minimum a written will is required to ensure this, and quite often the new heir will be formally adopted as a child of their benefactor. This is the usual practice where no children are expected, including most same-sex marriages.
If a noble dies with no heirs at all, their estate reverts to the Crown (and can be granted to someone else). The loss of wealth and status this entails for the household means that they will invariably try to prevent it happening.
Since the Breaking
The appearance of revenants has proven to be an enormous headache for the nobility because of the implications they present for the system of inheritance. A handful of cases have already occurred where a former noble has risen from the grave and demanded their title back, or where a dead heir has returned to life with the expectation of inheriting (to the dismay of their younger siblings).
So far no definite resolution has been reached, but as more ancestors start walking the earth, the issue can only get more pressing. A number of families have sought to pressure the Royal Council to make a ruling one way or the other.