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17th century will shows that family meltdowns during Christmas is not a new thing

Posted December 22, 2017

Christmas would not be Christmas is your family didn‘t have a good old meltdown. Everyone is stressed – some packages from the internet store are late, your mom is tired of cooking all the time and granddad is complaining about everything he sees. However, this is not new – the University of York has just share a will of a wealthy lady from 17th century.

Christmas gifts are supposed to bring joy and happiness to all families. However, they often bring bouts and anger. Image credit: Miia Ranta via Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 2.0)

In December 1639, so just before Christmas, Margaret Wincupp felt like she is about to die. Naturally, she decided to write a will, feeling that she is not going to stay for much longer. However, instead of leaving this world with a smile on her face and sharing her belongings with her relatives somewhat equally she decided to openly declare her favourites. Having in mind that she didn’t die for a number of months after, we can imagine that this made for quite an awkward family Christmas experience.

Wincupp chose her grandchildren John Hayes and Katherine and Jane Ranson as her obvious favourites and left them £10 each. Meanwhile for her granddaughters Abigaill Bethiak and Sarah Wincupp she left only twenty shillings each and ordered to use this money to buy rings that would remind girls of their grandmother. Then she left her well-worn clothes to another women. However, the most unfortunate must have been another granddaughter Mary Hayes, who got pretty much less than nothing.

Mary Hayes actually got fifty shillings, which is not too bad. However, she did not get the cash. Instead, she was ordered to collect the money Wincupp has borrowed to Hayes’ mother. Historians have little doubt that this was impossible and the request was purely made for mocking reasons. Wincupp lived till august next year, which makes us believe the Christmas was pretty stormy in 1639, if the will was made public to the entire family. Wincupp’s will was found in the 17th-century register of Archbishop Williams. While this will certainly reflects Wincupp’s personality as somewhat spicy, it is not entirely unique in its unequal treatment. Many will of the period were filled with unusual bequests and conditions.

While this centuries-old story is not going to teach us anything, maybe we will think more positively about our Christmas bouts. It is your family and you have to learn to deal with it in this ever so stressful holiday environment.


Source: University of York

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