Wednesday, June 30, 2021

The Way to Go

 A Thirteenth Century Farmer Makes His Will

“At that time wills had to be written in Latin, and Reginald Labbe (d. 1293) could neither write nor read, much less speak the Latin tongue. So to the parish clerk he betook himself.

The Clerk: How much money have you to leave?

LABBE: Not one penny. I have a cow and a calf, two sheep, three lambs, as many hens, a bushel and half of wheat, a seam and a half of fodder, a seam of barley, another of mixed grain, and one halfpenny-worth of salt. Besides these, I own, in clothes, a tabard, a tunic, and a hood; my household goods are a rug, a bolster, two sheets, a brass dish, and a trivet.

The Clerk: You’re well off. How do you wish to leave these things? And pray remember that, as you have no money, some of them must be sold to defray expenses.

LABBE: What do you reckon they’re worth?

The Clerk: Thirty-three shillings and eightpence all told.

LABBE: And what will the expenses come to?

The Clerk: A penny to dig your grave and two-pence to toll the bell. Then there will be eightpence to prove this will, and six shillings for bread-and-cheese for your mourners. And, say, another crown for fees of other sorts.

LABBE: Those figures are beyond me. But when all is paid, I should like to make these bequests. A sheep to the church in Newton, and another to the altar-and-fabric fund at Oakwood. To my wife, Ida, or rather, to Ida my widow, one-half of my cow, and to Thomas Fitz-Norreys a quarter of my calf.

The Clerk: Is that all?

Reginald LABBE: I can’t think of anything more.

The Clerk: That will be sixpence for the making of the will, and three-pence more for the writing of it out.

Reginald: I can’t pay you now, but I will when I’m dead. The sheep are worth tenpence apiece-take one for your trouble.

The Clerk: That will do very well.

The Clerk then wrote it all down, and Reginald Labbe went home with peace in his mind, and a Latin will in his pocket.”


Eleanor Farjeon’s “The New Book of Days”

No comments:

Post a Comment