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"I don’t change the facts to enhance the drama. I think of it the other way round, the drama has got to fit the facts,
and it’s your job as a writer to find the shape in real life."
Hilary Mantel


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Final Bequests

 
It has been a long break between posts, due primarily to the move and settling into the new house, as well as recent travels and planning future travels.
 
In the course of creating a novel about real people, I've relied on numerous documents written by various people...a few extant letters, receipts, whatever else I can find.
 
None is as poignant as a last will and testament. Whenever I'm deciphering the curly handwriting in which final bequests were recorded, and translating the legalese, I can't help thinking about the circumstances in which the document was written. The duchess wrote hers during her widowhood, as an elderly woman. In it she refers to "my late most beloved husband."
 

  
 
The duke's will was drawn up only a few weeks after his marriage, and days before he headed off to war. He left his possessions and estate to his "dearly beloved wife Diana" as can be seen below.
  
 
In her case, the will provides details of her jewels, cherished paintings, collections of china and other valuables, and family mementoes, as well as her monetary fortune. In his case, he refers to his sources of income and his "mansion house" in Berkshire.
 
Whenever I read their lists of bequests, it occurs to me that they had no idea when or where or how their lives would end.
 
But I do....