The wills of Princess Diana, Winston Churchill, and Charles Dickens are accessible to the public on a new government website.
Painting of Charles Dickens. Image via Wikimeda Commons.
Death brings out the voyeur in us all. The public has an obsession with famous last words and famous last meals. Death, for whatever reason, seems to excuse the kind of nosiness that would be intolerable when directed at the living. This is why it made big headlines when the British government released a digital archive of 41 million wills, which date as far back as 1858, this past week. The database of wills is now available to the public—at least those who don’t mind paying a fee of £10. The wills of famous Brits like Princess Diana, Charles Dickens, Winston Churchill, and Alan Turing are all fair game for anyone who wants a look. According to The Independent, Dickens demanded in his last will that there be no monuments put up in his likeness. “I rest my claims to the remembrance of my country upon my published works,” he wrote.