I had another blog topic in mind for today, but I came home (from a fabulous San Francisco Opera “Opera in the Park” concert) to an interesting question from Anne K on the Fraser Correspondence page about David and Simon. I had fun posting a long answer, and then I realized I wasn’t sure how many people would see Anne’s question and my answer, because I wasn’t sure how many people check out the comments on the Fraser Correspondence page. So I thought I would turn both into this week’s blog. Which ties in nicely with this week’s Fraser Correspondence letter, Charles’s reply to David’s recent letter about the difficult family dinner he attended and the pressure his father is putting on him to marry and produce an heir.

Anne said, “egarding David and Simon (two of my favorite characters), I ma surprised that Simon is accepted into David’s family’s home. It would seem to me that David’s father would eventually wage war against Simon as a way to get David to “take his responsibilities as a future earl seriously”. Maybe he (David’s father) is a more complicated and interesting person…

For David, really, his concern should be lessened, if he would appoint Belle’s son as his heir. Besides, wouldn’t that be the way the lineage would work, if David outlived his father and died himself childless? Alternatively, he could adopt a some foundling and name him/her as the heir/heiress. If he really needed some good publicity about it, the mother could claim him as a father — in her dying breath. Simon does know an actress or two. Too much a Winter’s Tale?”

Her questions rather a number of interesting issues relating both the British inheritance laws and the dynamics of the Mallinson/Carfax family. Here’s my reply to Anne with a few edits and embellishments:

I’m glad you like Simon and David. I’m very fond of them both and enjoy writing them and exploring the dynamics of their relationship. David’s father, Lord Carfax, is an interesting character. He features prominently in The Mask of Night. He actually started out much more as a stereotype of a bluff English gentleman and got much more interesting and complex in subsequent drafts (I changed a reference to Carfax in the new edition of Beneath a Silent Moon to fit with his evolving character). Carfax was Charles’s spymaster, and I think in many ways Charles is the son he’d have liked to have, or at least that’s what David thinks (though Charles and Carfax clash frequently too).

Simon and David officially are friends who share rooms, as many single young men did. David’s family go along with that story and therefore sometimes include Simon at family events. I think Lord and Lady Carfax are wise enough to know that pushing this point would push David away. And they hope this is a phase that David will grow out of. But I think you’re right, as time goes by, Carfax is likely to try to drive a wedge between David and Simon. I actually have some thoughts for how this will play out in subsequent books, which will have repercussions on Charles and Mélanie.

Because the Carfax title and estates go through the male line (as most British peerages do), Isobel’s son wouldn’t be the heir after David. Since David is the only son, the next in line would be his father’s younger brother, if he had one. As Carfax doesn’t have younger brothers, the title would then go to the descendants of Carfax’s father’s younger brother. So a second cousin of David’s. David could adopt an heir for his personal possessions but not for the title and the entailed property. Even if he claimed a foundling as an illegitimate son that wouldn’t help, as illegitimate children couldn’t inherit titles or entailed property. The Carfax title and estates are in a sense a trust that David holds to pass onto the next generation. Part of his duty, as he sees it, is to raise up and groom an heir to pass them along to. And of course, the current Carfax would like the title and estates to go to his direct descendants (actually Isobel is probably Carfax’s favorite child, but the Carfax title isn’t one of the rare ones that can pass through the female line).

So the conflict David faces between his love for Simon and what he sees as his duty as the future Lord Carfax is a complex one. As is the conflict between his liberal principles (something he and Charles share) and his deeply ingrained sense of what it means to be a future earl.

Any thoughts on where you think the tensions in the Mallinson/Carfax family are headed? Historical writers, do you enjoy dealing with inheritance issues and how they influence your characters? Any favorite books in which the intricacies of inheritance and entails drive the story?