Last Tuesday was International Women’s Day. It was a day to celebrate the achievements of women around the world and a day to reflect on the inequalities still to be re-dressed.
Studying ancient Wills provides an insight into how far back in time these inequalities existed, and shows the progress made, if any, to improve the balance between the sexes.
An early example records a farmer leaving the sum of £100 to his wife, but the Willwriter commented that this might be too much considering the possibility his widow might re-marry. The farmer doubled the gift to £200 saying ‘that him as gets her will deserve it!’
In a similar vain, in another Will a husband left his estate to his wife with the comment ‘trusting, yea, I may say, as I think, assuring myself that she will marry no man, for fear to meet with so evil a husband as I have been to her’.
In his Will, a Glasgow doctor left his entire estate to his sisters, and ‘To my wife, as recompense for deserting me and leaving me in peace, I expect my sister Elizabeth to make her a gift of one shilling, to buy her a pocket handkerchief to weep after my decease’.
In a Will dated 1461, Richard Berne left his furniture and his best cart with five horses complete with harnesses to his wife, and 6/8d to the church to build a new tower.
The Will is a great opportunity to have the last word!
Just for balance, I found a Will dated 1400 belonging to Lady Alice Wyndsore in which she leaves ‘all my other manors and possessions which my husband John Wyndsore, or others, have by his consent, usurped, the which I desire my heirs and executors to recover and see them parted between my daughters, for that I say, on the pain of my soul, he hath no right there nor never had’.
There’s nothing new in the world. Happy International Women’s Day!
To see how Hay Tarn can help with your Will visit: www.haytarnwills.co.uk