What is Legitimacy?

12 Dec

Bastards, Blood relations, Half-Brothers, Step-brothers, In-Laws. We have lots of terms in the English language for various levels of legitimate relations with people. Yet I wonder how many of those terms are really useful anymore?

I’m working with a professor talking about divorce law, which as you can imagine, goes into great detail on such issues. However, my initial thought was… I get this from a legal perspective, but how much does such relations actually impact our lives?

I guess it depends how close you are to the people in question. I used to joke that I started off as an only child and ended up the middle of ten. How does that work? My parents only had me, then divorced. Then my mom remarried and I gained three stepbrothers and a stepsister. My dad remarried and had a half-brother and a half-sister. Then my mom died, my stepdad remarried, and I gained three half-stepbrothers.

Stop me if you’re getting confused–I sure was! Then my stepsister married my half-stepbrother, which sounds icky, except there’s no blood relation and their parents only married after they were 20. But that pales in comparison to the fact that my aunt is also my second cousin (my parents met at their wedding). 🙂

To add to confusion, there is also relations of mine who are not married to their partner, so they’re my… what? Not-stepbrother-in-law?! Rebecca’s boyfriend? I guess if I know them well, I just call him Steve, but the further away I am from that person, the more I have to define them in these obsolete terms.

The real point of “legitimate, step, in-law, whatever” is a legal definition. How close is the person to inheriting the wealth of another person? Back in medieval times, you might get Don John the Bastard, but as much as that term has a negative context, by calling them a bastard actually meant you legitimized them. This is my son! They get a portion of my wealth! However, that took something away from the regular kids, so they’ve always been demonized… unless they weren’t.

Take the Tudors–they were descended from the bastard child of the wife of Henry V. No one claimed they weren’t really royalty… well, maybe during Henry VII’s reign, but that’s why it was important for him to marry one of the more direct bloodlines so that his kids were legitimate… and why Henry VIII was so crazy about marrying all those women, because memories of the War of the Roses was VERY clear in the survivors, and he wanted to avoid wars of succession. It didn’t… quite work, but he did prevent more than just a couple coups… oh, and the Spanish Armada. 🙂

But before I go down that road, what do you think? Is legitimacy useful outside the legal world? Do you consider someone a “brother from another mother?” Let me know in the comments below!

2 Responses to “What is Legitimacy?”

  1. Amorina Rose December 12, 2020 at 9:14 pm #

    A very interesting post. I wouldn’t care if anything I would welcome a larger family no matter what they came as.

  2. Veena Hegde Bhat December 13, 2020 at 6:49 am #

    In India we have very low divorce rate. Strong family values. So such kind of situation are less. I am of opinion that a child should have both mother and father while growing up .

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