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Vol 24 No 2 Feb/March 2019

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John Marsden's Will

ISBN13: 9781852851583
ISBN: 1852851589
Published: September 1998
Publisher: Hambledon Continuum
Format: Hardback
Price: Out of print

This volume examines the legal case concerning John Marsden, a mentally retarded Lancashire gentleman, looked after by his aunt. A servant, George Wright, became the aunt's lover and steward of Marsden's estate, continuing in office even after the aunt's death.;When the unmarried Marsden finally died, his will effectively left Hornby Castle to the steward. The will was then contested by the heir at law, Admiral Sandford Tatham, basing his claim on the incapacity of his cousin to understand and therefore endorse a complex will.;Because John Marsden's mental state was at the heart of the case, depositions were taken by sides from all who had known him. This evidence allow us not only to follow the case but also to see the personalities and emotions of the men and women involved.;In particular, it enables us to see Marsden himself in remarkable detail, from his fruitless attempts to learn his tables to his death from a stroke while in an earth-closet. It is particularly rare for a handicapped person's life in any period before the 20th century to be traceable in this way.;Tatham faced the problem that English courts were loath to overturn a will, as wills were seen as fundamental to the holding of property. The admiral suffered numerous set-backs in his attempt to oust Wright, as the action was fought out in a variety of courts - followed by appeals, delay, manoeuvre and intrigue. The prolonged struggle and its final outcome was followed by an enthralled public throughout the country.