Fame does not always bring fortune, records show

Wed May 23, 2012 9:25am EDT
 
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By Li-mei Hoang

LONDON (Reuters) - Welsh poet Dylan Thomas left a pittance when he died, Winston Churchill bequeathed a small fortune to his wife Clementine and "The Tale of Peter Rabbit" author Beatrix Potter gave almost all her land to the nation.

Britain's wartime prime minister left nearly 4.8 million pounds ($7.5 million) in today's money to his beloved "Cat", while the dipsomaniacal Dylan had just 2,300 pounds to leave the long-suffering Caitlin when he died in New York, according to data compiled by family history website Ancestry.co.uk.

The records are just a few snippets from the online release of six million probate records from 1942 to 1966, which form part of the England and Wales National Probate Calendar 1858-1966.

"These new records give fascinating insight into the final estates of some of Britain's most recognizable faces and reveal that money and fame did not always go hand in hand," said Miriam Silverman, International Content Director at Ancestry.co.uk.

"They also provide a rich source of information for anybody interested in uncovering the finer details of their ancestor's finances and exactly what, if anything, they decided to leave and to whom," she added in a statement.

"Lady of the Lamp" Florence Nightingale, famed for her mission to nurse British soldiers wounded in the Crimean war, left a fortune worth more than 3 million pounds in today's money to her family, the records show.

T.S. Eliot, winner of the Nobel Prize, poet and playwright died of emphysema in 1965 with a personal estate totaling about 1.6 million pounds in today's money.

"Alice in Wonderland" author Lewis Carroll left 440,000 pounds in today's money to his brother Wilfred when he died in 1898. Other famous people who died without much to their names include "1984" and "Animal Farm" author George Orwell, who is listed as only having just under 280,000 pounds in today's money when he died in 1950.

(Editing by Paul Casciato)

 
A statue of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill is seen in front of the Houses of Parliament in morning mist at Parliament Square in central London December 23, 2007. REUTERS/Toby Melville