Suo Jure. Wait. What?

What does this mean?

in his/her own right  —used especially following the title of a noblewoman to specify that she holds the title independently of her husband

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

I love the idea of women having some kind of opportunity to be themselves in a world so defined by patriarchy.

So, when I started toying with the idea of a protagonist who is a Countess and not a widow, I immediately began to research how this could be possible in an era such as the Regency.

Apparently, it was completely possible. Some women received the designation for life only. Which meant the title was for the duration of the Lady’s life and her children would not inherit said title or lands. A well-known peeress in her own right was Her Grace Lady Henrietta Godolphin Duchess of Marlborough, whom inherited her father’s title as a Duchess of the realm.

Once I realized that being a peeress in her own right wasn’t quite so outlandish, distinct yes, but not out of the realm of possibility, the character for my first novel would not let me go.

My protagonist is a Countess in her own right. And, interestingly enough, when I was plagued by doubt while writing her, I was also in the midst of marathon watching one of my all-time favourite shows, Downton Abbey and it was as if the universe had a special message for me.

If you know the show, you know the show! In a short scene near the end of the third season, Robert (Earl of Grantham) describes the family structure of his cousin and her husband, Shrimpy. Apparently, his grandmother was a Countess in her own right. He actually used those words! Well, then I knew I was absolutely on to something.

So, Lady Charlotte Elizabeth Ashbury, Countess of Bentwick in her own right took flight. And, does she ever soar.

How do you feel about a Lady in the Regency era having a title of her own, even if for life only?

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