In the City of London this protection remained until abolished in 1726.
If the husband left no will, however, the Statute of Distributions in 1670 confirmed that a third of the property should go to the widow and the remainder to the children, but if there were no children she would receive a half and the other half would go to his next of kin.
It is, however, unwise to generalise too much and many wills show a division of land between all the sons and sometimes amongst the daughters as well.
When Joseph Gregory of Bendish, yeoman, sold a group of lands in St Pauls Walden to Gyles Thornton Heysham, of Stagenhow, for £317 10s 0d in 1735, his wife Elizabeth did not join in the deed of sale.
This included three cottages in Brad Street, Baldock, and eleven acres of land in Willian and Clothall.
The payment of the more flexible jointure, when secured by a settlement, in due course came to replace the woman's right to their thirds.
A settlement could be sued for like any other debt (and a widow who was executrix would make sure that she claimed it), whereas the thirds were only allocated after the debts had been paid.Until the end of the 19th century brides from all spectrums of the propertied classes were expected to bring a dowry of some land or at least a sum of cash to their marriage.The idea survived into the mid-20th century in the form of trousseaus and bottom drawers.It is no wonder that parents in quite ordinary families, if they lived long enough, attempted to safeguard their daughters' property rights and futures by written bonds or settlements, something which many widows also did prior to a second marriage.It is a mistake, therefore, to think that before the 1882 Act the position of all married women was entirely circumscribed and that all were completely dependent on the goodwill of their husbands.In ordinary families, this cash sum, called a "portion", would be added to the portion that the man himself brought and with which the couple set up home.The arrangement would be made by a properly drawn up, signed and witnessed, bond or deed.From at least the 12th century the common law of England had sought to protect the widow.By common law a third of a man's estate had to pass at his death to his widow for her lifetime or until she married again.Slightly more elaborate arrangements were made when John Goodwyn of Baldock, yeoman, married Anne Godfrey of Willian, yeoman, in 1695.Edward Godfrey paid his future son-in-law the sum of £400 as his daughter's jointure, but the settlement also set out the property that John's father and mother held and which would pass on their deaths to John and his wife for their and their children's benefit.