(1310-10-24) A Legal Matter
Summary: Perhaps fortuitously, just before the rest of the country intends to embark on a pilgrimage to the royal capital of Elua for the Longest Night festivities, Matthieu Rocaille finally receives an answer from the Duc de Siovale's brilliant Master of Laws, Raphael Depardieu, regarding his dispossessed great-aunt's claims to a very important Siovalese holding.
RL Date: 24/10/2018
Related: This log.

October 24, 1310 - Rocaille Townhouse

To Lord Matthieu Rocaille, Héritier de Duché Souverain de Siovale:

My Lord,

It behooves me to preface my findings with my continuous well-wishes for your recovery and that it is my honor and privilege to be of service to you once more, no matter how indirectly. As you are most probably aware, subterfuge has become a necessary way of life in the higher offices of His Grace's ducal council, given the aggressive expansion of Her Grace's own personal network of agents. I believe that one such individual has already been sent to Marsilikos to make inquiries about your health and mental fitness to rule, but I am certain, somehow, that you already know this and precisely who.

It has been a month since I received your inquiries through your esteemed father about the legal foundations in which House Toluard rests its case with respect to the invalidation of the late Duc Enguerrand's warrant to leave Bordeaux under the care of your great-aunt, the Lady Oriane Somerville de Toluard. From the details that you have managed to send to me, and without interviewing my lady, I have concluded and with no surprise that the issue is a complex one, but I can already anticipate that House Toluard's arguments will center upon the process in which the decree was made, as the duc's wishes were carefully documented and his own brother's ouster from his place in Bordeaux rather public, and exercised while he was still living. The most effective way to countermand it, then, is to argue that Duc Enguerrand's official decree was not official at all, and predicated upon several personal difficulties between him and Lord Jean-Hilaire rather than a genuine interest in his removal, and further evidenced by the haste in which the decree was made that the process was not adhered to fully.

As you know, especially considering your position, the sovereign and provincial ducs of any province enjoy an extensive arsenal of powers that they could exercise regardless of whether their ducal councils agree. Most issues fall within these powers, but more often than not, ducs and duchesses are obliged to seek their council's approval as most of the duchy’s day-to-day governance rests upon the abilities of its members, and to disregard their recommendations and positions would be to undermine their legitimacy and thus, their effectiveness in whatever assistance they may provide in ruling the duchy. This is how ducal laws are ratified. I anticipate, though they may surprise me yet, that House Toluard's arguments will heavily focus on the intentions that drove the decree, whether the decree was properly sealed and witnessed and whether the Toluard Ducal Council gave its approval, which I believe it did not at the time the warrant was issued. In short, my lord, I believe House Toluard's arguments will center around the idea that the decree was intended as law and therefore ought to be ratified properly in order to be official. And as you know, ducal laws are routinely overruled and changed, especially when a new duc takes his seat. It is therefore my opinion that to take the fight to them in this specific battlefield will render the cause lost.

My recommendation is to turn to a different battlefield entirely.

What both sides involved in the matter can agree upon is that in life, Duc Enguerrand intended, and later executed those intentions within the powers and privileges of his title, to strip his brother of his rights to govern and possess the Comte de Bordeaux, and awarded it to Lady Oriane. These facts are beyond contestation. It is also beyond contestation that the late duc in no time during his life promised to restore his brother to the seat after it had been taken from him and documented no such promises. The fact that he intended for it to stay with the former comtesse is apparent, strengthened further by the openness of their affair and the favor he demonstrated towards her throughout his life. House Toluard is not arguing otherwise because they understand the futility of it and so turned their focus upon the procedure that brought it to life, instead.

I therefore propose, though my lady's counselors may advise another course, to turn to a different body of law. There are strong arguments to be made that he intended for the decree not to be one that touches upon affairs of ducal governance, but one of a more personal nature to which he expected adherence beyond his life. It is easy to look at Bordeaux and rightly conclude that it is one of the most important holdings in Siovale, and thus should require some official oversight regarding its fate, but in the end, it is the Toluard family's seat and therefore also the personal property of its patriarch to have, hold, or bequeath to whom he pleases, and our own laws with respect to estates and inheritance always, without fail, turn upon the documented wishes of the deceased unless superseded by a higher authority for whatever reason (and since the decree came from a duc in this case, if declared valid, the Crown will have to make the decision, as I suspect House Rocaille will recuse itself from deciding on the matter given its formal political alliance with House Toluard and will be unable to escape the glaring conflict of interest). So long as the late duc's wishes were signed, sealed and witnessed in accordance with how wills and testaments are made official and binding, Lady Oriane need not concern herself with whether the decree was properly ratified by the Council before his untimely demise. She only needs to convince the Crown that he intended for it to be an award and inheritance and not an issue of governance.

If the decree is declared valid by the Crown, it would be a victory, for certain, but not a complete one, as the Crown will then have to decide whether to let it stand or overrule it to give the new duc de Toluard some legitimacy in his new position. Given the instability in Siovale during House Perigeux’s reign a little under a century ago, I suspect that the Royal House of Courcel will be particularly sensitive to the issue. These are, however, matters of politics beyond my expertise, and I trust that you and Lady Oriane are infinitely more astute in such things than I.

I hope that my views on the matter have rendered the assistance you require and should you need my aid once more, please do not hesitate to ask. Until then, I remain

Your most humble servant,
Raphael Depardieu
Master of Laws, House Rocaille

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