(FIRST- I must say I am uncertain whether this belongs in the History, Genealogy, or Law category, for reasons you will see in the post,)
Hi, I'm an amateur historian and a pretty hardcore genealogist. For both personal familial reasons and a general fascination with the history, I have come up with a question that has really stumped my research. The question of illegitimate children of noble women in the old commonwealth legal system. In particular, the children of unmarried noblewomen in cases of rape.
Now, through my research of the old legal system and what sites about the szlachta class report: Membership in a noble clan, coat of arms, and the noble class as a whole is normally exclusively inherited from a noble father within legitimate marriage. I'm sure most of you are familiar with this. Historically, in practice, many noble fathers who had illegitimate(or natural) children outside of marriage gave their children their surnames and hid their spurious origins enough that it was often forgotten and the children were assumed to be noble. Legally, however, this was considered to be fraudulent and was often taken to court to be proven false and the noble status stripped from the accused (although this was, obviously, very difficult to prove.). This much is clear about a noble father.
Now, in cases of illegitimate children by single mothers who did not acknowledge a father for whatever reason, these children were often given up as orphans without attachment to surname- However I have seen many instances where it appears the norm throughout Poland, like in many other European countries, the legal principle was that the child inherited the mother's surname and was considered a member of her family.
This is the norm and appears to follow the old Roman/Latin Law principles, like in many other Roman Catholic countries (as opposed to the Germanic 'Common Law' where an illegitimate child is considered to be a child of the parish or village where it was born), where a fatherless child(in particular in legal cases of rape, even without stigma to the mother or child) is a full member of the mother's family, under her father's household, and often can inherit in her place among her brothers, and would take after her social class as well. If she was a slave, the child was a slave. If she was a peasant or burgher, she was a peasant or burgher. If she was a patrician, the child, although spurious, was a member of her patrician gens.
Now, we know historically that the illegitimate child of a polish woman, if acknowledged, would usually be baptized with her surname and raised in her father's household. Reason holds that this would also apply to membership of a noble gens, the Herb going along with the surname. Indeed, it appears to follow Roman law in all other aspects. However I would still somewhat expect this not to be the case in situations of a "seduced" noblewoman, the blame being laid upon her.... yet not in cases of rape. Reason dictates that if they follow roman law, and have actual records of children inheriting mother's surnames, that the status of a raped noblewoman's child would almost certainly inherit her status... Yet I have not seen any record of this either way. I have not seen any historical record of law or practice confirming or denying my theory.If anyone has seen any record of law or practice of what was inherited by the child of a noblewoman, whether naturally illegitimate, or the product of rape- in particular when the child was baptized and legally given her surname, please, share with me in researching this, and solving this interesting and difficult question! Proof or Disproof!
, or point me to somewhere with sources. Unfortunately, my father never taught me Polish, and he has forgotten the language entirely, so I would really appreciate any help.
Thank you all very much for your time!