A plethora of Barons
Friday 29 June 2018
I can assure you that none of my ancestors were von Schlesinger or zu Schlesinger! However, a bit of research showed that the Germans were much less hung up than Anglo-Saxons in ensuring that all legitimate issue shared in the inherited title and indeed often all the estate.
Inheritance Practices in Early Modern Germany by Judith J. Hurwich in The Journal of Interdisciplinary History Vol. 23, No. 4 (Spring, 1993), pp. 699-718, notes: “German nobles were conspicuous among Western landed elites in their reluctance to adopt primogeniture.” She goes on to say, “[b]y the high Middle Ages, increasing emphasis was placed on descent in the male line; women were forced to renounce their claims to the landed inheritance and accept dowries at the time of marriage in their place. Nevertheless, the belief that all members of the sibling group should be equal persisted in the case of men.” The ideal was “equality among brothers”.
Wikipedia states: "Generally, all legitimate males of a German baronial family inherit the title Freiherr or Baron from birth, as all legitimate daughters inherit the title of Freiin or Baroness. As a result, German barons have been more numerous than those of such countries where primogeniture with respect to title inheritance prevails (or prevailed) as France and the United Kingdom.”
Thus George may well have been wicked, but his claim to the German title was seemingly completely legitimate. ■