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Jure uxoris is a Latin term that means "by right of (his) wife". It is most commonly used to refer to a title of nobility held by a man because his wife holds it suo jure ("in her own right"). Similarly, the husband of an heiress could become the legal possessor of her lands jure uxoris, "by right of [his] wife", as in England until the Married Women's Property Act 1882 married women were legally incapable of owning real estate. Jure uxoris monarchs are not to be confused with kings consort, who were merely consorts of their wives, not co-rulers.
During the feudal era, the husband's control over his wife's real property, including titles, was substantial. At the point of marriage the husband gained the right to possess his wife's land during the marriage, including any acquired after the marriage. Whilst he did not gain the formal legal title to the lands, he was able to spend the rents and profits of the land and sell his right, even if the wife protested.
Jure uxoris was standard in the Middle Ages even for queens regnant. In the Kingdom of Jerusalem, Fulk, King of Jerusalem, Guy of Lusignan, Conrad of Montferrat, Henry II, Count of Champagne and Amalric II of Jerusalem all received their titles as a result of marriage.
Sigismund of Luxembourg married Queen Mary of Hungary and obtained the crown through her, retaining it after her death. After the death of Sigismund, Albert II of Austria inherited the throne of Hungary by marrying the king's daughter Elizabeth of Luxembourg.
The king thus ascended could remain king even after the death or divorce of the wife. When Marie I of Boulogne and Matthew of Boulogne were divorced in 1170, Marie ceased to be countess, while Matthew I continued to reign until 1173. In some cases, the kingdom could even pass to the husband's heirs, even when they were not issue of the wife in question (cf. Jogaila, who became king by marrying Jadwiga).
Some kings jure uxoris from the medieval era include:
- Rudolph of France, whose wife Emma was daughter of King Robert I of France
- Philip I of Navarre, who was married to Joan I of Navarre
- Frederick, who was named King of Jerusalem by virtue of his marriage to Isabella II of Jerusalem.
- Louis I of Naples, whose wife was Joanna I of Naples
- Philip III of Navarre, who was married to Joan II of Navarre
- John I of Castile, who claim being King of Portugal by virtue of his marriage to Beatrice of Portugal
By the time of the Renaissance, attitudes had changed in some countries; a woman sometimes remained monarch with only part of her power transferred to her husband. This was usually the case when multiple kingdoms were consolidated, such as when Isabella and Ferdinand and William and Mary shared crowns. The precedent of jure uxoris complicated the lives of Henry VIII's daughters, both of who inherited the throne in their own right. The marriage of Mary I to King Philip was commonly seen as an attempt to bring England under the influence of Catholic Spain, with the Act for the Marriage of Queen Mary to Philip of Spain being designed specifically to prevent Phillip from seizing power jure uxoris. This strategy in the end ensured Elizabeth I's ascension; she, in turn resolved concerns over jure uxoris by never marrying.
Partial transference of power
In Great Britain, husbands acted on their wives' behalfs in the House of Lords, from which women were once barred. These offices were exercised jure uxoris.
When Lady Priscilla Bertie inherited the title Baroness Willougby de Eresby in 1780, she also held the position of Lord Great Chamberlain. However, her husband Sir Peter Gwydyr acted on her behalf in that office instead.
Conditions of jure uxoris
In Portugal, a male consort could not become a king jure uxoris until the queen regnant had a child and royal heir. Although Queen Maria II married her second husband in 1836, Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha did not become King Ferdinand II until 1837, when their first child was born. Queen Maria's first husband, Auguste of Beauharnais, never became monarch, because he died before he could father an heir.
- Black, HC (1968), Law Dictionary (4th ed.), citing Blackstone, Commentaries 3, p. 210.
- Emanuel, Steven L. (2004). Property. New York: Aspen Publishers, inc. p. 121.