On this day, January 24, 1965, my 15th cousin once removed, Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill passed away. As an eight year old girl, his passing had little impact on my life…then. I wasn’t even aware that he was my cousin, that he had passed away, or of the impact his life had on the people of the world. I especially had no knowledge that as his cousin, I might have been in line for part of his estate, but I was in line for part of it, nevertheless.
Of course, in the end, that portion of his estate went to England. From what I am able to gather, Winston Churchill expressed a desire to divide his estate among all of his living relatives…all of them, and believe me, there were a lot of them. The catch was that all of them had to be found or the money went to the state. With family members all over the world, that was a very tall order, and one that would prove fruitless…or at least too big for the task to be completed.
They found our family and the rest of my dad’s side of the family, but somewhere along the way, the search for Winston Churchill’s many family members dwindled to a dead end, and the portion of the estate that was to go to us, was lost to us forever. It’s strange that even then, I knew nothing of the man, the money, or the world-wide search that had taken place. Many have said that perhaps they didn’t search as hard as they should have, and others have said that the search was handled be a disinterested agency. Whatever the case may be, the search failed to find everyone it needed to locate, and that was the end of the story.
I seriously doubt if the money, no matter how substantial, carried a huge impact of the wealth of England or the English Crown. I don’t know how much would have gone to each of the many relatives who were living at that time. It may have been such an insignificant amount that it would have gone almost unnoticed…or maybe it would have been enough change the life of every one of them forever. We will never know, because we don’t know the amount, for sure, or how many would have benefitted from it.
In later years, after I learned of the strangeness of Winston Spencer Churchill’s will, and of his relationship to me, and my part in his will, I wondered why he would have written such a will. He must have known how hard it would be to carry out his last request. He must have assumed that the share each person would receive would be small, at best. So, why would he write such a will? I’m sure he had his reasons, and I am just as sure that we will never know them, but I have never stopped wondering. I’m sure people would think that I wonder about it, because I’m sorry I didn’t get a share of the money, but in reality, it is my opinion that money is a tool to get the things you need, and to bless those around you. All too often, when handed a large amount of money with no understanding that happiness does not come as a side effect of having it, money ends up ruining the life of the person who received it. So does that mean that I’m against wealth…certainly not. I just think that money has a place, and it makes a great tool, but a terrible master.
I have great respect for Winston Spencer Churchill. His abilities, especially in winning wars are well known. I don’t believe he was crazy when he wrote out his will either, but was maybe a man who felt that he could do some measure of good for those who were his family, and by requiring that all be found, he eliminated the ability to leave his inheritance to a chosen few…just in case they were tempted not to look further.