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to think this has got more to do with favouritism than male primogeniture?

9 replies

wineisfine · 23/05/2011 14:07

In the startling position of feeling a bit sorry for my MIL today!

MIL has a younger brother, Steven. She always got on best with their father (now deceased), he with GMIL. Steven fell out with GFIL over not wanting to go to Sandhurst. At around the same time, MIL got pregnant with DH - very young and out of wedlock - and GMIL didn't really speak to her for 25 years!

Just after he left uni he had a bad drugs experience (LSD I think), and was unable to work for almost a decade due to flashbacks and general trauma. GMIL doesn't know it was LSD and thinks he was in a car accident MIL and GFIL kept it from her. Steven lived with the GPILs during this period. Eventually trained as a horticulturalist and is doing fine now though still a bit odd.

The GPILs family has a very old and venerable history - not talking landed gentry (not for the last few generations anyway), but an unbroken line of distinguished army officers going way way back. Following GFIL's death, GMIL (she married-in to the family), is now the custodian of all this military history and other assorted antiques, silver, fur coats etc etc. She has loads of fascinating stories.

Steven has been with his longterm partner for 20+ years, they have not had children (and won't, both nearing their 60s now). GMIL is fond of DH though didn't have much to do with him until he was a teenager. GFIL used to take DH on long country walks and orienteering and so on, probably hoping the army gene had just skipped a generation. So he and DH were much closer than GMIL and DH.

DH and I have two sons. They have the family name (as DH has his mother's maiden surname), and are the only descendants of that particular branch of the family. At a family event over the weekend, MIL said she'd caught MIL throwing away GFIL's army uniforms and some clothes from the 1900s. I work in a museum and said oh my goodness, what a tragedy, would GMIL like me to come and help her go through what's left?

GMIL said she'd already given 'boxes' of stuff - medals, paintings, uniforms, nothing that would be valuable to anyone - to charity shops in her local area "because there's nobody to leave it to now Steven won't be having children". All objections met with "well it should be up to Steven".

At the DCs christenings she gave them family silver (child-sized cutlery, beautiful, one inscribed with GFIL's name), saying "of course these should really go to Steven".

And she's told Steven that she's leaving everything (house, money, anything that's left after these charity shop trips), to him as he's the 'heir' - he thinks this is completely fine and has told MIL (and GMIL), that he doesn't intend to rewrite his current will which leaves all of HIS stuff to his partner.

GMIL says this is because of male primogeniture and completely the right thing to do as DH doesn't really 'count' as a male descendant of GFIL as he was born out of wedlock - now, I've watched Downton Abbey as much as the next person but really?!

And okay fine, if there was huge estate then presumably it would be handed on to DH after Steven passes away. But there isn't and nobody has any intention of doing male primogeniture anyway!

It all sounds to me like GMIL is letting MIL know that she's still in the doghouse. MIL is distraught as lots of the precious memories of her DF are tied up in objects/photos/etc. Feel sorry for my poor DCs who are reminded at every turn that any family stuff passed on during GMIL's lifetime should really be going to great-uncle Steven, too.

I don't know any other 'old' people (my own GPs all died before I was born sadly), but surely this is totally bonkers?

OP posts:

mrsbunnthebaker · 23/05/2011 14:08

gave up after the first 50th abbreviations, sorry


WhoAteMySnickers · 23/05/2011 14:10



aldiwhore · 23/05/2011 14:11

Its totally bonkers. Really unfair on your MIL and DH. BUT sometimes you just have to accept that's the way it is, or be prepared for a massive fight and genarational fall out.

Could MIL not 'save' some things for your DH? Is 'Steven' the type to negotiate with regarding keepsakes and memories?


lisianthus · 23/05/2011 14:11

Sounds that way to me. Your poor MIL- and your poor children, who are going to be cut off from a lot of what sounds like a very rich and interesting family history. Any chance of rescuing (i.e. buying) some of these things back from the charity shops?


soggybottomflancase · 23/05/2011 14:15

I think that you need to speak with Steven, it seems that what he says goes and no matter how dh is regarded by gmil, dh still has a right to know his family history. Also I'd get down to all the charity shops and get the good stuff back


wineisfine · 23/05/2011 14:21

Oh dear, it is far too initial-heavy isn't it. Soz! I am rubbish at making sense when DS2 is around Smile

MIL rang round a lot of the charity shops but it sounds like the stuff they felt wouldn't sell got 'disposed of' Sad - GMIL is a bit funny about people 'pawing through her things' but it's got to be worth a go.

Steven is a bit of a knobber but we'll have to say something I think. He is 100% behind getting rid of all the stuff - he may well have really suffered from his dad's disappointment that he didn't follow the family tradition. But it would be such a shame if it (or the stories which go with it all), was lost.

I thought DH would be beside himself at being told he didn't count as a grandson because his parents weren't married but he doesn't seem too bothered. MIL is very, very bothered though Sad

OP posts:

LRDTheFeministDragon · 23/05/2011 14:27

I think she's a sexist old bat.

But, given you probably won't get far with that line of thought, can you explain to her that it would mean a great deal to your husband and son to know more about their family history? And it seems a shame that it's going to charity shops when your family would, by the sound, appreciate it.

Anyway, what does 'Steven' think? Can he not tell his mum he doesn't feel his toes have been trodden on if she passes stuff on to the children in the maternal line (if that is what he feels)?


LRDTheFeministDragon · 23/05/2011 14:29

Oops, sorry, cross-posted.

Given you obviously are fascinated by this family history, it seems a real shame she and you can't talk more about it and come to an agreement - does she realize you're genuinely interested in the history?


izzywhizzyletsgetbusy · 23/05/2011 14:46

I think you're on the right track - can either yourself or your MIL appeal to the old bat's pride in 'doing the right thing' by suggesting that perhaps some of the family history should be preserved for posterity in a museum such as the one you work for thus allowing you to root through the cast-offs first before they're redirected?

Perhaps loads of flattery with copious mentions of bravery in battle, military traditions and honours, Sandhurst, Imperial War Museum, the V&A (for the furs), and an offer to record and transcribe her memories for publication might be the way forward?

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