Archiver > QUEBEC-RESEARCH > 2003-03 > 1048067859

From: Suzanne B Sommerville <>
Subject: Re: [Q-R] Douaire vs. Dowery
Date: Wed, 19 Mar 2003 04:57:39 -0500

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Subject: [Q-R] Douaire vs. Dowery

Good morning all,
In one of the documents for sale on eBay, the wife is asking for her right
douaire. I understand this to be what she would be entitled to should her
husband die first. So far so good.

But I have also seen "douaire" as a synonym for "dowery". Now I thought the

latter was what the woman brought to the marriage, i.e., livestock, real
estate, cash, etc.

As I understand it right now, the douaire may or may not include the

Or am I just confusing myself with semantics?

Mary or Marie or Malia :-)


What is the date of the document? Under the terms of the Custom of Paris,
the _husband_ determined the amount of the "douaire"; he gave it, or said
it would be available should he die, not the bride's parents. The
"douaire" is the portion of the common estate guaranteed to a _widow_, her
"dower" rights, or one half. She also had the right to remain on
community real property and enjoy the fruits of the common property. The
other half went to the children, if any, when they came of age, and was
protected for them until that time by "tutors" or guardians.

A contract might also stipulate a "préciput", usually one half of the
"douaire" granted by the _husband_ in the marriage contract and agreed to
by the wife. If he became a widower, he also qualified for the préciput,
being allowed to take it before any other division of the estate, along
with any of his personal possessions.

A "dot" was a gift given by the parents of the bride.

As for > what the woman brought to the marriage<, these were her "propres"
and remained hers regardless. Parents could even reclaim them in the event
there were no children when their daughter died. I have read a contract in
which the parents acknowledged having received same after the death of
their daughter without any children born to the marriage. Any inherited
real property (real estate) from her family also remained with a daughter
and could be passed on to children or could be returned to the wife's

The Custom of Paris was concerned, first, with the children of a marriage,
and then with the widow, seeing to it that they would inherit and be
provided for.

Although property in a marriage was held in common, the law distinguished
"les biens PROPRES," personal and family property;
"les biens ACQUETS," real property acquired or received _prior_ to
marriage; and
"les biens immeubles," real estate given by an ascendant (parents,
grandparents) even after marriage.

Common property thus consisted of:
"les biens meubles," furniture, clothing, tools;
"les fruits générés par les biens propres," for example, interest or
profit earned on common property; and
"les immeubles," real estate acquired _after_ marriage or by donation
(except from an ascendant), called CONQUETS.

It's far more complicated than this, and has other variations, but it is
definitely not the same as a system in which a woman herself (and all her
goods) is likened to property to be thereafter owned by the husband. A
husband under the Custom of Paris did have the right to dispose of common
property without the consent of the wife, though.

And I'm still learning about some of the other provisions; for example, if
a widow remarried she could lose some or all of her rights to use the
common property inherited from her previous husband, depending on whether
there were any surviving children born to that earlier marriage. I've just
been looking at a petition by the brother of a deceased husband in which he
protests that the widow of his brother has remarried, no children of the
former marriage survive, and the former widow now has children of her own
from the new marriage, who, with her new husband, are living in a portion
of the property inherited from the previous husband. He is asking for them
to pay rent. I don't know yet whether he received it!
Suzanne Boivin Sommerville
Michigan, USA

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