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The Maid Servant by William A. Breakspeare, 1881

My Nana passed away earlier this month and it is a heavy burden for my mother to bear. I had promised her in the months prior to my Nana’s demise, when the time came, I would be Mother’s Handmaiden. What I mean is, I will support her and assist with estate clearing matters. No small feat! You see, my mother is one of seven children and the only girl. Due to family politics, my mother was left in charge of executing the Trust, clearing out the Estate, and selling all the properties.

My sweet mother is allowing me to administer to her in my “gentle militant” way of clearing out the house. . . . Well, actually she said “Since you’re so bossy . . .” My job, at this point, is to keep her on track and makes sure she meets the one year deadline. I force her to put items in one of four piles. I allow for stories that organically come out from discovering cherish memories. I keep chatty visitors to a limit and use others to deflect conversation, so she can go back to working through her childhood home.

It is rough going. She is saving string. STRING! I caution her, everything she is saving in the estate for the moment, will be need to revisited. She acknowledges this and I don’t push her further. She is still grieving and everyone grieves differently. Besides, it is tough to make decisions when one’s brain is foggy with grief. My mother desperately wants to be thorough with the house to honor my Nana. They are not decisions I can make. If it were me I might sell or give away more pieces, but it is not my jurisdiction. I’m just the Handmaiden.

I am proud to say we have gone through all the drawers and closets in the three bedrooms, both bathrooms, and three linen closets in one week. The first bedroom took 10 hours to complete. 10 HOURS people! We have given 11 bags to the charity, just as much to sell at a later date and a boat load of stuff we are keeping. . .  momentarily . . . I hope. We still have the dining room, living room and, Lord help us, the kitchen and Billiard’s Room to sort through. Then we will move on to furniture and big ticket items, and last the garage and car port. . .  oy vey!

Of course in the process of clearing out the estate, we have made wonderful discoveries. A picture of my great-grandmother! My Nana’s wedding dress from the 1920s! Money, naturally–which goes back into the estate. Some hideous linen and décor from the 1970s. *gag* Seriously! My grandfather’s guns. Newspaper clippings from the 1950s to present. Many items from my Tio/Uncle who died in Vietnam; his uniform, his suitcases, a trunk full of letters . . . these are understandably hard on my mother. My poor, poor mother. I hurt for her, but we solider on.

Depending on one’s class and gender, it was entirely different for the Victorians. Any child born with a modicum of aristocracy would be familiar with the snare of Entail. Entail is a way to keep all the real estate and titles in the family by way of the eldest son. Through rules of primogeniture, entail could only pass to and through a male heir. So in the case of families who only have daughters, another male heir was sought out. If the father did not have any brothers who had sons, it would work its way back up the family tree to find a line male to male. This means if one of the three daughters had a son, it could not pass on down to him. Furthermore, primogeniture is distinguished by legitimate heirs, meaning the parents had to be married for nine months prior to the birth of the son; no bastard children. Picky, picky! What’s worse, if no living male descendent is found the title and the real estate “die” with the last title holder. All females of the line could be displaced and without a living, as a result. So sons and sons of sons were imperative for the aristocracy to hold their position in society.

With Entail there was never any need to clear out an Estate, it would just be inherited for the next generation and so on and so forth. However, if one was without a tile or not Gentry, it is possible to be kicked out of the house. It was more along the lines of “as long as someone is willing to pay the rent,” the poorer people could live in the cottage.


Real Estate was synonymous with wealth. The more land one had, the richer the person was, because the maintenance was incredible and space was a premium. Entail forced heirs to keep the land in tack. They were not allowed to segment it and sell it to pay off their debts. However, they could buy and acquire more land . . .