Charles Dickens: Will Secrets

The wills of famous people continue to fascinate me. Some are as special as the characters they portrayed or created in stories. This week the blog is about Charles Dickens.

Who He Was

I recently read Charles Dickens’ will that was drafted in 1869. I thought it would be fitting for this time of year with Christmas fast approaching. Almost everyone has heard of Charles Dickens or at least his works. He was the author of such classic stories such as David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, and of course A Christmas Carol with that terrible character Ebenezer Scrooge.

Terms of His Will

Here is what people may not know about Charles Dickens. It seems he had a strong opinion on fashion and included it in his will. He stated that no mourners attending his service could be sporting scarves, cloaks, black bows, long hatbands or any other “revolting absurdity”.

The will directed to bury him in an inexpensive, unostentatious and strictly private manner. He wanted no public announcement made of the time or place of his burial. He even had restrictions on the funerl procession. No more than 3 plain mourning coaches were allowed. It also directed his friends not to create a monument, memorial or testimonial about him.

Why the Restrictions?

If you know his background, you may understand why he disliked "uppity” things. He grew up poor. His father was incarcerated in a debtors’ prison. His stories often included social criticism and poor social conditions. However, there may have been another reason he did not want a large ceremony that drew attention.

The Real Reason?

Speculation says that he wanted it low keyed so his girlfriend could attend. His long-term girlfriend, an actress 30 years his junior, could not attend if there was a large ceremony. Why? Because he was still married (but separated).

It is reported that he had a morbid dread of loosening the bond he had with his readers if they were to find out about the affair. Therefore, he instructed a bare bones funeral that started at 7 a.m.

The newspaper reported only 13 people were in the coaches following the hearse. It was such a small affair that the newspaper reported that no one would have been aware that there was a funeral, much less a funeral of one of the most famous men in England at the time.

Request of Others

Don’t think Charles Dickens’ was the only person with crazy things in their will. Star Trek creator Gen Roddenberry requestd to "boldly go where no man has gone before." His request to have his ashes scattered in space was carried out in 1997.


It is your will and you should feel free to have it reflect your wishes. Contact us at the Law Office of Hugh Spires, Jr., PLLC for a free consultation at 210-574-5700 or