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It was intended to ensure her livelihood in widowhood, and it was to be kept separate and in the wife's possession.Dower is the gift given by the groom to the bride, customarily on the morning after the wedding, though all dowerings from the man to his fiancée, either during the betrothal period, or wedding, or afterwards, even as late as in the testamentary dowering, are understood as dowers if specifically intended for the maintenance of the widow.This was simpler than the previous procedure, which had required a fine to be levied in the Court of Common Pleas, a fictitious proceeding, by which she and her husband formally remitted their right to the property to the purchaser.

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However, in the early modern period, it was common for a wife to bar her right to dower in advance under a marriage settlement, under which she agreed to take instead a jointure, that is a particular interest in her husband's property, either a particular share, or a life interest in a particular part of the land, or an annuity.

This was often part of an arrangement by which she gave up her property to her husband in exchange for her jointure, which would accordingly be greater than a third.

Strictly dower was only available from land that her husband owned, but a life tenant under a settlement was often given power to appoint a jointure for his wife.

The wife would retain her right to dower (if not barred by a settlement) even if her husband sold the property; however this right could also be barred by a fictitious court proceeding known as levying a fine.

Roman dos, Byzantine proíx, French dot, Dutch bruidsschat, German Mitgift).