7 Essential Words of Fall
1784, alleged medieval custom whereby the feudal lord had the right to have sex with the bride of his vassal on their wedding night before she went to her husband, from French, literally "the lord's right." There is little evidence that it actually existed; it seems to have been invented in imagination 16c. or 17c. The Latin form was jus primae noctis, "law of the first night." For French droit, see right (adj.2).
(French: "right of the lord"), a feudal right said to have existed in medieval Europe giving the lord to whom it belonged the right to sleep the first night with the bride of any one of his vassals. The custom is paralleled in various primitive societies, but the evidence of its existence in Europe is all indirect, involving records of redemption dues paid by the vassal to avoid enforcement of some lordly rights. Many intellectual investigations have been devoted to the problem. A considerable number of feudal rights were related to the vassal's marriage, particularly the lord's right to select a bride for his vassal, but these were almost invariably redeemed by a money payment, or "avail"; and it seems likely that the droit du seigneur amounted, in effect, only to another tax of this sort.