CURTESY (OF. curteisie, eortoisie, Fr. cour toisie, courtesy, from OF. curtcis, cortois, Fr. courtois, courteous, from ML. oaths, court, from Lat. cons. cohors, place inclosed : connected with Gk. 46p7oc, chortos, garden, 01r. wart, sedge, Goth. yards, leel. yarpr, house, OHG. wart, circle, Ger. Gartcn, AS. ycard, Engl. yard). In law, the life interest which the surviving husband has in the real or heritable estate of the wife. It is remarkable that, both in England and Scotland, this customary right should be regarded as a national peculiarity—that in England it should be called the eurtesv of England, and in Scotland the curtesy of Scotland—whereas it is well known to he peculiar to neither of them. Traces of it are to he found in a constitution of the Emperor Constantine (code 6. 60, 1) ; and there can he no doubt that it had found a place, with all the peculiarities which now belong to it, in the coutume of Normandy, whence there is every reason to think that it was transferred to England ( Barnage, vol. ii., p. 60; Stephen's Commentary, vol. i., p. 264: Fraser's Domestic Relations, vol. p. 635). The four circumstances which are requi site to make a tenancy by curtesy in England are lawful marriage, actual seizin of the wife, birth of living issue, and the wife's death. It is not necessary, however, that the child survive; it is enough that it was once in existence, al though it may have died immediately after its birth. Not only must the estate of the wife be
one of inheritance, i.e. a fee simple or a fee tail, in order that the husband shall be entitled to curtesy therein, but the child born must have been one capable of inheriting the estate in ques tion. Thus if the estate were entailed on male issue, and a daughter were born. the husband's inchoate estate of curtesy would not become vested, or 'initiate,' as the phrase was. Accord ingly it is said that curtesy is due to the sur viving husband rather as the father of an heir than as the widower of an heiress. As soon as the estate becomes vested in the husband by the birth of appropriate issue, he may alienate his lift interest in it, subject of course to the wife's rights therein during her life. If she die first the estate. notwithstanding the conveyance, is defeated. Originally curtesy attached, as dower still does in the United states, to all estates of inheritance of which the wife was seized at any time during the marriage. But it is now limited, both in this country and in England, to such lands as she is seized of at her death: and she may, by alienating the land during her lifetime or by last will and testament, defeat her hus band's claims as tenant by the curtesy. See Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of Eng lund; Pollock and .Maitland, History of English Law (Boston, 1899).