The End of Bastardy
In 1793, during the most radical phase of the French Revolution, the National Convention extended full inheritance rights to extramarital offspring voluntarily recognized by their natural parents. These rights were gradually scaled back during the socially conservative backlash of the Directory, so the Code Civil of 1804 granted natural children only a partial right to inherit. Still, the Code Civil consistently preferred the expression “natural child” to that of “bastard.” More significantly, the French Revolution brought to an end the adjudicatory system of traditional law through which the rights and disabilities of extramarital offspring had been perpetually negotiated and contested over the course of the early modern era.
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