Most Unusual Wills of Famous Historical Figures

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Most Wills are created to ensure our finances are managed well after our death. However, some have used them as an opportunity to send messages, make political points, and even create a few laughs. Here’s list of a few of the most unusual Wills of all time.

William Shakespeare: Died in 1616

The last request of William Shakespeare was that his wife receive his “second best bed”. In and of itself, this seems like a rather odd request, however, during that time period good beds were hard to come by, so this would have been thought to have been a rather kind gesture on his part. It should be noted that the request was not actually included in the body of Shakespeare’s will but attached to the bottom of it as if it were an afterthought.

Charles Dickens: Died in 1870

Charles Dickens seems to have had a rather stringent dress code for those who chose to attend his funeral. He wished that mourners not wear cloaks, scarf, long hatbands, black bow, or any other such “revolting absurdity.” He also requested to have a private burial and that the time and place not be revealed to the public. In addition to that, he requested for a simple and inexpensive funeral with three plain mourning coaches only. However, his wishes were ignored by all and his funeral made a national event including a large funeral cortege.

Benjamin Franklin: Died in 1790

Ben Franklin had a unique last wish indeed. His last wish was that his daughter “not engage in the luxurious futile and useless leisure of wearing jewels.” This was to stop her from using the diamonds from the frame of King Louis XVI’s portrait which he had left to her. Well played Dad, well played.

Harry Houdini: Died in 1926

Harry Houdini, it seems, was as colorful a character in death as he was in life. After becoming frustrated trying to communicate with his deceased mother for years through seances, he finally decided that the whole thing was nothing but a hoax. To prove this, he requested his wife to hold an annual séance so that he would be able to reveal himself to her. He was never seen by his wife after his death.

Napoleon Bonaparte: Died in 1821

Napoleon’s last wish could very well have been what provided incredible insight into his deteriorating physical condition. He had asked that his head be shaved and his hair then be divided up amongst his closest friends. Later, it was found out after some analysis that his hair contained copious amounts of arsenic. There was speculation that his room’s walls contained arsenic as well and that is what had contributed to his demise.

Do you know of any famous people who have left extraordinary requests or statements in their Wills? Maybe you have had a friend or family member whose Will was rather entertaining. We’d love to hear about them in the comments below. Feel free to share your stories!


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