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The Will of William Byrd, modern English version

July 28, 2012
William Byrd (1540-1623)

THE WILL OF WILLIAM BYRD

In the name of the most glorious and undivided trinity, Father Son Holy Ghost, three distinct persons and one eternal God, amen.  I William Byrd of Stondon Place in the parish of Stondon in the county of Essex, gentleman, do now in the 80th year of my age but through the goodness of God being of good health and perfect memory, make and ordain this for my last will and testament.  First, I give and bequeath my soul to God Almighty, my creator and redeemer and preserver, humbly craving his grace and mercy for the forgiveness of all my sins and offences, past, present and to come.  And yet I may live and die a true and perfect member of his holy Catholic Church without which I believe there is no salvation for me, my body to be honestly buried in that parish and place where it shall please God to take me out of this life, which I humbly desire, if so it shall please God, may be in the parish of Stondon where my dwelling is.  And then to be buried near to the place where my wife lies buried, or else where as God and the time shall permit and suffer.  And where I have been long desirous to settle my poor estate in the farm of Stondon Place according to an award lately made between Catherine Byrd my daughter in law and me by a very good friend to us both, which award we both give our christian promises to perform, but having been letted and hindered therein by the undutiful obstinacy of one who I am unwilling to name, I do now ordain and dispose of the same as follows. First, the whole farm to remain to myself and my assignees during my life and after my decease I give the same to my daughter in law Mrs Catherine Byrd for her life, upon the conditions following, viz: to pay twenty eight pounds fifteen shillings and four pence yearly to Mr Anthony Lutor or his assignees for the fee farm rent and to pay to Mrs Dawtrey of Dedinghurst 15 shillings yearly for the quitrent of the freehold.  Also to pay to my son Thomas Byrd twenty pounds yearly during his life, and to my daughter Rachel ten pounds a year during her life. And the same payments to begin at the next usual feasts of payment after the day of my death.   And after the decease of my said daughter in law Mrs Catherine Byrd and of the aforesaid lives, I give and bequeath the whole farm of Stondon Place to Thomas Byrd my grandchild, son of Christopher Byrd my eldest son by the said Catherine, and to his heirs born in wedlock.  And if there are no heirs of the said Thomas Byrd, son of the said Christopher, I give the same farm of Stondon Place to Thomas Byrd my son to his heirs born in wedlock.  I give the Inheritance of the said farm to the four sons of my daughter Mary Hawksworth, wife of Henry Hawksworth, gentleman, as they are in age and seniority viz:  first to William Hawksworth and his heirs born in wedlock and if there are no such heirs to Henry Hawksworth his second brother his heirs born in wedlock and if there are no heirs to George Hawksworth and his heirs born in wedlock and if there are no heirs to John Hawksworth, the fourth son of the said Mary Hawksworth, my daughter, and to his heirs born in wedlock.  And if there are no heirs of the four sons of Mary Hawksworth my daughter her husband, to William Hooke son of Rachel Hooke, my daughter and to his heirs born in wedlock to William Hooke son of Rachel Hooke my daughter and to his heirs born in wedlock, and if there are no heirs, to the right heirs of me the said William Byrd forever, it I give and bequeath to my daughter in law Mrs Catherine Byrd and her son Thomas Byrd all my goods, moveables and immoveables, at Stondon Place and also all the woods and timber trees where so ever they are growing in and upon the said farm. Upon this condition only to see me honestly buried and my debts truly discharged to which end and purpose I do make and ordain Catherine Byrd my said daughter in law and Thomas Byrd, her son, whole executors of this my last will and testament.  It I give and bequeath unto my son Thomas Byrd all my goods in my lodging in the Earl of Worcester’s house in the Strand, and where I purchased a perpetual annuity or rent charge of 20 shillings (?) a year from Sir Francis Fortescue, Knight, unto 200 shillings (?) be paid in which annuity I have given to Elizabeth Burdet, my eldest daughter for her life. I do now declare how it shall be disposed of after my said daughter’s decease. First if my said son Thomas Byrd concur with this my last will and testament and except of his annuity according to the same, then I give the one half of the annuity being ten pounds a year or one hundred pound if it be paid in, to the said Thomas Byrd, his heirs executors and assignees, and the other half of the annuity I give and bequeath to Michael Walton with marriage of his wife Catherine Hooke, my grandchild for her marriage portion always provided, yet if my son Thomas Byrd to seek by law or other ways to disturb or trouble my executors and not agree to the same, then I do hereby declare that my will and intention is that the said Thomas Byrd my son shall have no part of the said annuity, but I do hereby give the part of the annuity that I had given to my son Thomas Byrd to Thomas Byrd, my grandchild, to him and his heirs forever.  And having now by the leave of God finished this my last will according to the true meaning of the said award and our christian promises, I do now by this my last will and testament utterly revoke and annul all former grants, writings and wills as far as in me lies whatsoever is contrary to this my last will and testament. In witness whereof I the said William Byrd have set my hand and seal the fifteenth day of November in the year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord James, by the grace of God King of England, France and Ireland, the twentieth and of Scotland the fifty sixth, defender of the faith. re 1622:

By me William Byrd

Sealed and delivered in the presence of Henry Hawksworth.

References

Modern English version by Tony Trelease, July 2012.

The original is quoted in:

Fellowes, Edmund H., William Byrd A Short Account of his Life and Work, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1923, Appendix B, pp. 119-123.  Copied from a photograph of the original will in Somerset House.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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