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Droit de seigneur

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The right of the first night --also known as jus primae noctis (law of the first night), and droit du seigneur (the lord's right) -- was a plot device in the movie Braveheart by Mel Gibson.

In the 16th century Boece[?] refers to the decree of the Scottish king Evenus III that "the lord of the ground sal have the maidinhead of all virginis dwelling on the same." Legend has it that Saint Margaret procured the replacement of jus primae noctis with a bridal tax[?]. Scholars however have noted that King Evenus III was a non-existent character, and that Boece included a lot of other material in his account that was clearly mythical.

Boece is not alone in his recount of the law: Voltaire refers to it in 1762, and it is used in Beaumarchais' The Marriage of Figaro.

Examinations of records by historians however have found no evidence of its existence. In some feudal systems the culagium was imposed by the local lord: a requirement that a peasant get permission to marry from his lord, which often involved a fee. Ecclesiastical authorities in some regions also demanded a fee before a new husband was allowed to consummate his marriage with his wife. The right of the first night, however, is unlikely to have existed.



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