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Droit du seigneur, literally "the lord's right", also known as ius primae noctis ("law of the first night") and other names, is an alleged legal right that the lord of medieval estates or fiefdoms has to take the virginity of his serfs' maiden daughters. Though there is no historical basis for it, it is a popular trope in Fantasy or medieval European settings, especially of the Crapsack World flavour. Usually invoked by the Feudal Overlord as one of his many Kick the Dog moments. May involve The Dragon.

Subtrope of I Have You Now, My Pretty and a way to establish that Aristocrats Are Evil.

Since there is no historical basis, No Real Life Examples, Please.

Examples of Droit Du Seigneur include:


Film

  • In Braveheart, Evil Overlord Edward "Longshanks" grants ius prima noctis to English lords, granting them the sexual right to take any Scottish girl for himself on her wedding night. He figures with this in place, some of his lords will both be more eager to rule in Scotland, and more thoroughly keep the Scots under their thumb. We witness this happen at one wedding, where Morrison's wife is carried off by Lord Bottoms to be raped. When Morrison comes across Bottoms during William Wallace's attack on the English garrison, Morrison makes his grievance with him felt in no uncertain terms:

 Lord Bottoms: I never did her any harm. It was my right!

Morrison: Your right? Well, I am here to claim the right of a husband!

[Morrison kills Lord Bottoms]

  • Pretty much the entire plot of the Charlton Heston film The Warlord, where the knight protagonist falls in love with a peasant woman and uses droit de seigneur to claim her on her wedding night. It was based on the Leslie Stevens play The Lovers.
  • The title character of Caligula exercises his droit du seigneur by raping both Proculus and his new wife, widely considered his most sickening act of the movie.
  • The Gothic horror film And Now The Screaming Starts has a family of British nobles suffering from a curse brought about as punishment for an ancestor's presumptuous invocation of prima noctis.

Live Action TV

  • In the Merlin episode "Queen Of Hearts", Prince Arthur and Guinevere (the maid of Arthur's stepsister Morgana) tried to keep their romance secret as Uther would not allow such a match to happen. However, he caught them on a secret picnic, but at first assumed that Arthur was just exercising his droit du seigneur.

Literature

  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, some lords still practice it. Roose Bolton acknowledges that he raped a maid who had married without letting him, as her liege lord, invoke his right of "first night." The product of this union was Ramsay Snow. Also, in an attempt to to present his fellow Northern Lords as Not So Different from him, Bolton claims that Umber lords also practice it.
  • A rare modern example occurs in Nineteen Eighty-Four, in which "the law by which every capitalist had the right to sleep with any woman working in one of his factories" is an element of the Party's propaganda. Whether it's true or not is up to interpretation.
  • Played for laughs in the Discworld novel Wyrd Sisters. Duke Felmet would like to exercise his Droit du Seigneur, but nobody cares to explain him what this thing is about. As a result, he imagines it to be some kind of large hairy dog.
  • The famous Italian novel, The Betrothed, starts when the priest refuses to let Renzo and Lucia marry because the local nobleman, Don Rodrigo, has his eye on her.
  • Mentioned in The Tough Guide to Fantasyland as one of the things that bad Aristocratic Feudalists like to get up to when oppressing the peasantry.
  • This comes up in John Ringo's Paladin of Shadows series. Main character Mike is reluctant (you don't have sex with the brides of men who have guns at your back), but is eventually convinced to accept it by the village elders. A few books later, he figures out the real reason for it and refuses to do it again.

Mythology

  • Older Than Dirt: Is one of the things Gilgamesh is guilty of before he befriends Enkidu.
  • Droit du seigneur is brought up in The Wooing of Emer when Bricriu of the Venomous Tongue declares that Conchobar doesn't have the right to sleep with Emer before Cu Chulainn (the guy who killed hundreds of men for the privilege of marrying her) so much as he has a legal obligation to. Being rightfully scared shitless of what Cu Chulainn would do to him if he did, but also reluctant to lose his authority if he didn't, Conchobar gets around it by "sleeping with" Emer in only the most literal sense.

Opera

  • This is one of the major plot points in The Marriage of Figaro, with Count Almaviva wanting to seduce Susanna and threatening to reinstate this feudal custom.

Western Animation

  • The Family Guy episode "Brothers & Sisters," has an English "local nobleman" attempting to invoke his right of "prima noctus" on Lois' sister after she agrees to a date with Mayor West.


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