A groat was an English silver coin with a value of four pence. It’s important to know this to understand the black humour expressed by Sir Solomon Swale, 1st baronet, owner of Swale Hall in Swaledale, when he wrote his long, idiosyncratic will in July 1675, four years before he died. Among a rambling list of sometimes curious bequests, he wrote:
I gave my second sonne Robert Swale good education in England and beyond the seas where he took the degree of doctor of physic… but by reason of his disobedience to me I have therefore often sayd I would not give him a groat more, and therefore I give him but three pence.
Robert’s response at the reading of the will is not known but he might have allowed himself a wry smile. He was probably already aware that his father’s legacy of debts far outweighed his assets, and therefore all of his otherwise generous and wide-ranging bequests were pure fantasy and utterly worthless.
This is part of a story that will appear in a book in production called Swale of Swale Hall. A general introduction and part synopsis of the book can be seen on a web page associated with this blog, here: https://willswales1.wordpress.com/swale-of-swale-hall/