Monday, March 18, 2013

Land Donation To British Emigrants In Sweden

More Information From Military Migration and State Formation By Mary Elizabeth Ailes

Just as a reminder, Dr. Ailes is my professor for 17th Century Europe. She wrote a fantastic book that I highly recommend no matter what area of interest you hold. There is some information on housing (included here in this fantastic blog), social history, and military history. However, there is no military stratagem history, just so that you are aware.

The most interesting point in this book to me was that British men, usually Scotsmen, joined the Swedish military, they were able to gain land, and many times titles. Most men that joined were second, third, etc. and illegitimate sons of nobles. If the men were legitimate and could prove their linage  then they were usually, but not always, ennobled by the Swedish government. Another perk for fighting for Sweden was land gifts.

“The decisions regarding who received land donations were strictly controlled by the Swedish government in order to allow the rulers to maximize their resources and prevent undesirable interlopers from gaining possession of crown resources. There were, however, times when the crown set aside the regulations governing the dispersal of donations to meet the financial demands of the military…. Because the Swedish crown at times had no other means of compensating military officers and war financiers, nonnobles received land donations and thus came to possess the same rights over the land as the nobility. As a noble landowner, the holder of a donation was free from taxation… this gave them the same privileges as the native Swedish nobility.”[1]

Dr. Ailes gives some great examples within her book on this. These lands could be handed down from father to son. In some cases (as previously mentioned here 17th Century Bridal Land Part 2) wives kept the property. And, as many had multiple marriages, multiple children inherited.

“The crown’s willingness to allow three generations of foreign officers who had not been ennobled to hold land donations is remarkable.”[2]

Of course, other ways of attaining land was by personal acquisition. Men not only purchased property, they also traded what they had purchased, or what they had been gifted. This was a very common occurrence for the British officers in Sweden. And, as time immemorial, estates had been accumulated by slight of hand, honest or dishonest.

“Within the British community, another means for officers to obtain larger tracts of land was to lend money to fellow officers and receive property as security on the loan.”[3]

“Although they had not been naturalized as Swedish noblemen, as landholders in Sweden they were given the same rights as native-born, noble landholders and in return were expected to fulfill the same obligations as other members of the Swedish nobility.”[4]

Unfortunately, after a few generations, the great Swedish society was not as great. There was no money in the government, and no lands to grant. So, many of the descendants of the British immigrants had their land grants revoked. There were, of course, exceptions.

[1] Mary Ailes. Military Migration and State Formation.  (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2002.), 83.
[2] Ibid, 84.
[3] Ibid, 89.
[4] Ibid, 102.

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