[[caption-width-right:350: [- "Le Droit du Seigneur" (Vasily Polenov, 1874) -] ]]

''Droit du seigneur'', literally "the lord's right", also known as ''ius primae noctis'' ("law of the first night") and other names, is an alleged legal right that the lord of medieval estates or fiefdoms has to take the virginity of his serfs' maiden daughters (or at least gets first refusal). It is a popular trope in {{fantasy}} or medieval European settings, especially of the CrapsackWorld flavour. Usually invoked by the FeudalOverlord as one of his many KickTheDog moments. May involve TheDragon.

The historical basis for the "right" is murky, [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Droit_du_seigneur as discussed on the Other Wiki.]] Though historians have found no evidence that this practice was codified in common law, other historians argue that it was practiced informally and extra-legally as early as in the times of the Roman Empire and as lately as the turn of the century (which century is never really specified) in rural areas of Armenia and Uttar Pradesh, a region in India. The last reliable records regarding droit du seigneur are from XIX-century Imperial Russia, where well-documented criminal cases existed that accused various noblemen of practicing this (not trying, but actively practicing for years until someone reported to the authorities). In addition, there is historical basis for the ''seigneur'' having the right to a cash payment when the daughter of one of his unfree tenants was married.

The trope was popularized and treated as a reality in works written during the Enlightenment (notably in Beaumarchais's [[AdaptationDisplacement and Mozart's]] ''Theatre/TheMarriageOfFigaro''), as the droit du seigneur was seen as embodying [[AristocratsAreEvil the abuses of the aristocracy]] and/or [[TheDungAges the supposed barbarism of the Middle Ages]]. To this day there are more examples of backlash against the supposed law than there are chronicled occurrences of it.

Subtrope of IHaveYouNowMyPretty and a way to establish that AristocratsAreEvil. If it's the DungAges, expect the lord to say "BatheHerAndBringHerToMe." The ScarpiaUltimatum is a related concept, done with less legal backing.



[[folder:Comic Books]]
* In the {{Elseworlds}} medieval AU one-shot ''Kal'', LexLuthor (as a local lord) invokes this on - no surprise - Lois Lane. The hero Kal dies avenging her rape and murder (she fought back, BTW). Like almost every usage of this trope that one might see, his underlings warn "That isn't really done anymore" - which he laughs off. Even within the fictional worlds where this holds sway, its a bit confusing, since the ''Kal'' story ends with the very elderly James, son of Oll, telling Kal's story to the young Merlin, which means the underlings were telling Lex this ancient right which was no longer invoked was even more ancient than that. Except for stories where it is a current and common practice, no one ever gives a real idea of just when it was common -- only that it no longer is.
* One of the JerkJock knights in ''ComicBook/{{Garulfo}}'' apparently engaged in this (though all we get to hear before he's interrupted is that he goes in yelling "Prima noctis!" and backhanding a would-be interferer who was probably the husband).
* In the world of ''ComicBook/VForVendetta'', certain offences (like prostitution) are designated a "class-H offence". That means the punishment is entirely at the discretion of the arresting officer. This serves as a KickTheDog for the Fingermen (and by extension, the government they serve) at the start of the story and ensures we don't feel bad when V shows up to kill them as they're about to rape Evey.
-->'''[[DistressedDamsel Evey]]:''' Please, mister, it was my first time. [[PleaseIWillDoAnything I'll do anything you want]]. Please don't kill me.\\
'''[[SecretPolice Fingerman]]''': [[SoftSpokenSadist You've got it wrong, miss]]. You'll do anything we want and ''then'' we'll kill you. That's our prerogative.
%% * [[http://img.gawkerassets.com/img/17zm4vx0m9no8jpg/original.jpg Apparently]] invoked by DoctorDoom at least once.

[[folder: Fan Fiction]]
* In the ''Anime/GirlsUndPanzer'' AU fic [[https://www.fanfiction.net/s/9182801/1/Truth-Uncertainty-and-Tomorrow Truth, Uncertainty and Tomorrow]], it's indicated that Katyusha's father, a [[CriticalResearchFailure Russian]] [[AristocratsAreEvil aristocrat]], uses this right. While he [[EvenEvilHasStandards would not do this to his]] [[ParentalIncest own daughter]], he does take Nonna in as a servant [[DisproportionateRetribution when her father miscounts his taxes]], and [[MoralEventHorizon rapes her for overhearing a private conversation]]. This, of course [[YouFailHistoryForever ignores the fact that]] [[RomanovsAndRevolutions there are no more Russian nobles since 1917]] because [[TheDogBitesBack the people got sick of their shit and had them all shot,]] [[TheRevolutionWillNotBeCivilized down to the last man, woman, and child.]]
* In ''Fanfic/TheLastSpartan'', one of N'thos siblings was sired by a wandering swordsman; who are not allowed to marry but are instead expected to sow their oats far and wide. A rare example of everyone being on-board with the idea; it's a great honour to bear and/or raise a swordsman's child.

[[folder: Film ]]
* In ''Film/{{Braveheart}}'', Edward "Longshanks" grants ''ius prima noctis'' to English lords, granting them the sexual right to take any Scottish girl for himself on her wedding night. He figures with this in place, some of his lords will both be more eager to rule in Scotland, and more thoroughly keep the Scots under their thumb. His explicit reasoning, though, was to "breed [the barbarism] out of" the Scots. We witness this happen at one wedding, where Morrison's wife is carried off by Lord Bottoms to be raped. When Morrison comes across Bottoms during William Wallace's attack on the English garrison, Morrison makes his grievance with him felt in no uncertain terms:
-->'''Lord Bottoms:''' I never did her any harm. It was my right!
-->'''Morrison:''' Your ''right''? Well, I am here to claim the right of a husband!
-->[''Morrison kills Lord Bottoms'']
* The plot of the Charlton Heston film ''Film/TheWarLord'', where the knight protagonist falls in love with a peasant woman and uses ''droit de seigneur'' to claim her on her wedding night. It was based on the Leslie Stevens play ''The Lovers''.
* The title character of ''Caligula'' exercises his ''droit du seigneur'' by raping both Proculus and his new wife, widely considered his most sickening act of the movie.
* The Gothic horror film ''And Now The Screaming Starts'' has a family of British nobles suffering from a curse brought about as punishment for an ancestor's presumptuous invocation of ''prima noctis''.
* {{Downplayed|Trope}} in ''Film/RobinHoodMenInTights'', in which King Richard exercises his right to kiss Maid Marian at her wedding.
--->'''Rabbi Tuckerman:''' It's good to the the king.
* Mentioned jokingly by the Prince Of Wales at Percy and Margeurite's wedding in Film/TheScarletPimpernel1982.

[[folder: Literature ]]
* In ''Literature/ASongOfIceAndFire'', while banned by one of the previous monarchs, some lords still practice it.
** Roose Bolton acknowledges that he raped a maid who had married without letting him, as her liege lord, invoke his right of "first night." In an attempt to to present his fellow Northern Lords as NotSoDifferent from him, Bolton claims that Umber lords (staunch allies of the "good guys") also practice it. Something of a [[LaserGuidedKarma karmic]] example, although an innocent was slain in the process: This particular sexual crime bore a fruit named [[AxCrazy Ramsay Snow]], who murdered Roose's rightful son and heir (and, by the limited accounts we receive, the only decent human being in the entire House), and saddled Roose with a psychotic and dangerously reckless illegitimate heir.
** The late Mad King Aerys lusted after Joanna Lannister, wife of his Hand Tywin Lannister. He joked that it was a shame that the practice had been outlawed, antagonizing Tywin. Although he is not known to have raped Joanna, Barristan Selmy does confirm that he took liberties in the bedding ritual, apparently going further than the accepted disrobing of the bride.
** Robert Baratheon did a somewhat ''comedic'' twist on this at his brother Stannis's wedding. Stannis was well known in the Seven Kingdoms for finding sex repulsive, while Robert was a boisterous, whore-loving drunk. However, instead of taking Stannis's new wife Selyse to bed, he seduced Delena, one of Selyse's cousins, and had sex with her in Stannis's wedding bed before the wedding was even over. That union ultimately produced Edric Storm, who played a significant role in Stannis's efforts to retake the Iron Throne for House Baratheon.
** King Joffrey Baratheon threatens to do this to Sansa Stark on her wedding night in [[KickTheDog yet another petty torment he inflicts on her]], though his uncle Tyrion's threat to geld him if he lays a hand on her appears to frighten him off.
** An InUniverse example of DeliberateValuesDissonance occurs with the maester [[LiteraryAgentHypothesis writing/narrating]] ''The Princess and the Queen'' (which takes place not long after that law's abolition) snarking at the irrationally-jealous smallfolk who frequently failed to recognize the "great honor" of letting the local noblemen get their wives and daughters with child. The practice was more acceptable to the smallfolk of the Crownlands under the direct rule of the Targaryen monarchs and even more in the isles of Blackwater Bay, due to the presence of Houses Targaryen and Velaryon.
* A rare modern example occurs in ''Literature/NineteenEightyFour'', in which one element of The Party's propaganda is the claim that before Ingsoc there had existed a law "by which every capitalist had the right to sleep with any woman working in one of his factories".
* ''Literature/{{Discworld}}'':
** Played for laughs in the novel ''Discworld/WyrdSisters''. Duke Felmet would like to exercise his Droit du Seigneur, but nobody cares to explain him what it ''is''. As a result, he imagines it to be some kind of large hairy dog. It is also a plot point that the previous king, King Verence I (murdered by Felmet) was very fond of practicing it (apparently without complaints), and that while he was out, the Queen took up with the court jester- [[HeroicBastard the product of this match]] is crowned as Verence II and turns out to be a good ruler.
** It is mentioned by Nanny Ogg in ''Discworld/{{Maskerade}}''. During her youth, she worked as a maid in Lancre Castle. Very briefly, because the King tried to grab her while she was holding a large ham. The encounter "ended her life below stairs, and [[GroinAttack put a significant crimp]] in the king's activities above them."
* The famous Italian novel, ''The Betrothed'', starts when the priest refuses to let Renzo and Lucia marry because the local nobleman, Don Rodrigo, has his eye on her.
* Mentioned in ''TheToughGuideToFantasyland'' as one of the things that bad Aristocratic Feudalists like to get up to when oppressing the peasantry.
* This comes up in Creator/JohnRingo's ''Literature/PaladinOfShadows'' series. The main character is reluctant to follow through with a tradition that requires the Kildar to deflower a newly married Keldaran woman, with the reasoning that you don't have sex with the brides of men who have guns at your back, but is eventually convinced to accept it by the village elders. A few books later, he figures out the real reason for it and refuses to do it again.
* Mentioned in Creator/{{Voltaire}}'s ''Philosophical Dictionary'' [[BasedOnAGreatBigLie and attributed as a common practice]] of Medieval nobility.
* Played straight in ''AConnecticutYankeeInKingArthursCourt''. Arthur, while hearing cases, condemns a peasant girl for marrying without giving her lord his customary rights--even though the girl's lord is a bishop. As Arthur [[ValuesDissonance reasonably notes]], it might be a sin for the bishop to sleep with a girl, but that's a matter between the bishop and the Pope (and God); it doesn't change the fact that under ''British'' law, the bishop was entitled to the girl's virginity if he wanted it.
* In an interesting twist, there is no mention of the farmer-priests in ''Literature/FrostflowerAndThorn'', who are the equivalent of feudal lords and priests rolled into one, having this kind of right. ([[spoiler:Though as Frostflower discovered, they can be very coercive if they see someone they'd like to screw.]]) However, the warriors of this world--[[WorldOfActionGirls who are all female]]--have "warrior's privilege" in the form of sexual access to other women's husbands.

[[folder: Live Action TV ]]
* In the ''Series/{{Merlin}}'' episode "Queen Of Hearts", Prince Arthur and Guinevere (the maid of Arthur's stepsister Morgana) tried to keep their romance secret as Uther would not allow such a match to happen. However, he caught them kissing at a secret picnic, but at first assumed Arthur was simply having his way with a serving maid (which he alludes to having done himself), though he still says it can't go on.
* In the US ''[[TheOffice Office]]'' episode "Ben Franklin," Michael decides to put "prima nocta" into effect, having watched ''Film/BraveHeart''. Jim has to explain to him what that means.

[[folder: Mythology and Tales ]]
* Even the ''[[DeadUnicornTrope criticism]]'' of this practice is OlderThanDirt: it's one of the things [[Literature/EpicOfGilgamesh Gilgamesh]] is guilty of before he befriends Enkidu.
* ''Droit du seigneur'' is brought up in ''[[CelticMythology The Wooing of Emer]]'' when Bricriu of the Venomous Tongue declares that Conchobar doesn't have the ''right'' to sleep with Emer before Cu Chulainn (the guy who killed ''hundreds'' of men for the privilege of marrying her) so much as he has a ''legal obligation'' to. Being rightfully scared shitless of what Cu Chulainn would do to him if he did, but also reluctant to lose his authority if he didn't, Conchobar gets around it by "sleeping with" Emer in only the most literal sense.
* It is said of Axumite[[note]]Read: ancient/medieval Ethiopian[[/note]] general/official Abraham the Split-Faced, Governor of Yemen,[[note]]Historically notable for building a big cathedral in his capital San`a', which for complicated reasons eventually led to an assault on Mecca in the year of the birth of TheProphetMuhammad[[/note]] that his [[TheMagnificent appellation]] derived from a time when he was engaged in a [[KlingonPromotion fight with a man who wanted his job]]. After Abraham received a chop to the center of his face, his servant jumped in and killed his challenger. In gratitude, the guv said the servant could have anything he wanted; the servant asked for the right to sleep with every bride on her wedding night, which Abraham [[HonorBeforeReason disliked but felt honor-bound to allow]]. So the servant went on sleeping with newlywed women for a while until an aggrieved groom killed him. When the case went before him, Abraham ''apologized'' and let the man go free.

[[folder: Opera ]]
* This is one of the major plot points in ''Theatre/TheMarriageOfFigaro'', with Count Almaviva wanting to seduce Susanna and threatening to reinstate this feudal custom.

[[folder: Tabletop Games ]]
* In ''WarhammerFantasy'', the ''ius primae noctis'' is in effect in some Bretonnian duchies, although it is considered a rather dated practice even there, with few lords choosing to exercise it even if it were still law in their demesne. It's rather touchingly subverted, however, in the case of Lord Laurent of the Duchy of Artois, who requires any newlyweds in his dutchy to ''both'' spend their wedding night in his bedchamber. Lord Laurent sleeps outside the door to ensure they aren't disturbed, much to his subjects' surprise.
** Likely (ab)used by one of the Elector Counts of the Empire: a line in the fluff mentions that on the Count's defeat by a Champion of Chaos, all the womenfolk burst into cheers. [[GoodFeelsGood Feeling strangely pleased]], the Champion left the town unscathed.
* In the ''TabletopGame/{{Ravenloft}}'' campaign, this law is in effect in Falkovnia. Its Darklord, the tyrannical Vlad Drakov is [[PoliticallyIncorrectVillain a known misogynist]], and [[EvenEvilHasStandards is considered to be scum even by other Darklords]] for this and ''many'' other reasons.

[[folder: Video Games]]
* In the ''Franchise/DragonAge'' series, it's mentioned that this practice is popular in Orlais amongst the Nobles and Chevaliers. Liselle, an Orlesian merchant encountered in Denerim, explains that the reason she came to Ferelden was to flee retribution after her brother knocked out a Chevalier who attempted to invoke this. It's implied that it is far less common in Ferelden as, for the most part, the nobility tends to hold themselves to the same laws and standards as the ones they impose on the common folk ("The nobles are not so high, and the commoners are not so low"). It's a sign of how monstrous Bann Vaughan of ''VideoGame/DragonAgeOrigins'' is that he's the only noble shown to routinely practice this.
** The City Elf Origin shows Vaughan at his utter worst, disrupting a wedding at the Denerim Alienage to make off with the bride (if you're playing a female City Elf, the bride is ''you'') and several of her bridesmaids, who he and his cronies want to have their way with. The result is a RoaringRampageOfRescue and [[RoaringRampageOfRevenge Revenge]] (the latter part more pronounced if you're playing a female City Elf) that more often than not ends with Vaughan and his cronies seven different kinds of dead.

[[folder: WebOriginal]]
* Debunked on www.straightdope.com, citing the dubiousness of historical accounts, the absence of proof, and the grim but all-too-plausible argument that no medieval upper-class thug with a sword would ''need'' such a legal entitlement to get away with raping peasant women.
* ''Website/{{Cracked}}'' says that this custom was "always practiced by the other lord down the street"; usually as an excuse to go kill them and take all their stuff by painting them as a monster. [[WrittenByTheWinners Since the winners write the history books]]...

[[folder: Webcomics]]
* Mocked in ''Webcomic/HarkAVagrant'', in which the nobleman's friend [[SuspiciouslySpecificDenial assures the reader]] that this phenomenon is "100% expected and real".

[[folder: Western Animation ]]
* The ''WesternAnimation/FamilyGuy'' episode "Brothers & Sisters," has an English "local nobleman" attempting to invoke his right of "prima noctus" on Lois' sister after she agrees to a date with Mayor West.

%% No real life examples on rape tropes. Seriously.