What were the effective powers of such house laws? The answeris not quite clear. It was generally accepted that princelyfamiliesenjoyed autonomy in their private affairs, and could arrange them astheywished, without prejudice to binding Imperial laws and customs, or totherights of others. But how much did equality clauses violateexisting customsand the rights of others? Pütter (1796, 514) cites theremarkable opinion of the law faculty of Helmstädt, that the houselaw of Anhalt-Dessau (1637) against unequal marriages wasunenforceable, because men were equal to each other by nature, thenatural liberty to marry could not be restricted, the princely rankbeing an element of public law could not be modified by privatecontracts, and that imperial confirmation did not make the house lawenforceable because it always contained an implicit reservation savingthe rights of others (). Moser (1775, 2:162-63) follows similararguments. Havingconcludedto the existence of a custom to the effect that marriages between theupperand lower nobility are not mismarriages, he derives the followingimplication. House laws that were formulated before the emergence of that customremainvalid, but now that such a custom exists, a clause making suchmarriages mismarriages would be invalid, as it would violate existinglaw andtherights of third parties (namely, the lower nobility which enjoys arightto marry the upper nobility). Another argument limiting the powerof such clauses is that only the original recipient of the fief orpossessorof the estate could place restrictions on its inheritability(Häberlin1793). Most jurists, however, recognized that the autonomy ofprincelyfamilies was wide-ranging, as it was grounded in their territorialsovereignty. It was also held by some that the approval of emperor was not requiredin principlefor such laws to be valid. On the other hand, without imperialapproval the changes of enforcing such laws through the Imperial courtswere diminished.


Satisfied customers are saying