Guardianship of Orphans in the Customary Law of Medieval English Boroughs
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Guardianship of Orphans in the Customary Law of Medieval English Boroughs
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Marina Vinokurova 
Affiliation: State Academic University for Humanities. Institute of World History RAS
Address: Russian Federation, Moscow
The article is devoted to a little-known problem of guardianship of minor persons (orphans) in the medieval English boroughs’ customary law. The phenomenon of borough (small settlement of both urban and manorial nature) and its social specificity is briefly characterized in the article. The problem of orphans’ age is researched. It’s revealed that according to customary law children under age of 7 were not considered to be capable (disability of infancy). Persons from 7 to 12 (in some boroughs – 14) years old were considered to be partly capable and even could make bargains under the guardian’s control. Persons from 12 (in some boroughs – 14) up to 21 (women – up to 16) years old couldn’t marry and devise (bequeath) without their guardians’ permission. Main kinds of guardianship are described: testamentary guardianship, tutela legitima, dative guardianship. A number of special cases, illustrating specificity of each kind (including guardianship of unsound persons) are given. Incapacity of unsound persons to social activity is defined as mental disability. Some unsolved problems of medieval guardianship are put forward (balance of guardians’ incomes and expenditures; usufruct of guardianship; difference and common features of guardianship in customary and common law of England, trust custody, etc.). Legal aspects of guardianship are connected with a number of customs, regulating transfer of land in medieval borough. The article is based on a great number of customs, published in the vast collection of customary law’s texts and named Borough Customs, which have been made in the very beginning of the XX century by a well-known learner of Professor F. W. Maitland Mary Bateson. Borough Customs haven’t been yet thoroughly researched by both native and foreign scholars.
custom, customary law, medieval England, boroughs, testamentary guardianship, tutela legitima, dative guardianship, usufruct of guardianship
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