‘This is the long and short of it’: The Wills of Shakespeare, Austin and Handel

Published: 10/01/2014

The probate records of playwright William Shakespeare, author Jane Austin and composer George Frederic Handel amongst many more have gone online this week. So with our continual need for insights into the life of the so called rich and famous what did these celebrity of yesteryear leave behind in their Will?

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

Believe it or not the author of what is arguably the greatest ever love story left his own wife his ‘second best bed’. His two daughters however received £150 which in today’s money would be about £380,000.

Jane Austin (1775 – 1817)

The Pride and Prejudice author left the majority of her £800 estate (£576,000 today) to her sister Cassandra who was bequeathed £700 (£504,000) while her brother, Henry, and the family nurse, Madame Bigoen, each received £50 (£3,600).

George Frederic Handel (1685 – 1759)

Handel’s Will was a tad on the narcissistic side. He left £600 (approx. £90,000 nowadays) to build a monument of himself in Westminster Abbey!

Sir Francis Bacon (1561 – 1626)

Unlike Handel Sir Francis Bacon was much more of a philanthropist when it came to his bequests. The philosopher, scientist and author left much of his estate to his staff including his servant Robert Halpeny who received the equivalent of £800,000 and fellow worker Stephen Paise was bequeathed what would be £700,000 today as well as a bed!

Sir Francis Drake (1540 –1596)

The Elizabethan Vice Admiral, who was second-in-command of the English fleet against the Spanish Armada, was as equally generous as his fellow Sir when he left the ‘poore people’ of Plymouth £40, a figure which would add up to £150,000 in today’s money.

A Will is the only way to ensure your loved ones receive what you want them to. Without a Will, a person dies intestate and therefore their estate is distributed under the Rules of Intestacy. In all of the above examples, had a Will not been made, at least one intended beneficiary would not have received an inheritance.

Click here for more information about making a Will or for our unique take on the Rules of Intestacy.

Content correct at time of publication

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