The End of the First World War, 1919

I’ve got this rather interesting little thing – an Oxford Probate Registry document for a Mrs Elizabeth Robinson who died on 25th March 1919 without leaving a will. I find it fascinating for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, she lived in Buckingham, which is where my family lived until a few years ago, and where I went to school. She lived at 20 Church Street, to be precise, and that house is there still.

But the second point is something that dates this to a very specific time – wartime conditions attached to the probate document. Her estate was duly passed to her husband, Charles Robinson, but with a little note inside stating that:

“This grant is made on the condition that no portion of the assets shall be distributed or paid during the War to any beneficiary or creditor who is a German, Austro-Hungarian, Turkish or Bulgarian subject, wherever resident, or to anyone on his behalf, or to or on behalf of any person resident in Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey or Bulgaria, of whatever nationality, without the express sanction of the Crown, acting through the Treasury; and if any distribution or payment is made contrary to this condition the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration will be forthwith revoked.

Upon an application to the Solicitor to the Treasury there will be no difficulty in proper cases in obtaining the sanction of the Treasury to the payment of a moderate sum out of assets to beneficiaries or creditors who are German, Austro-Hungarian, Turkish or Bulgarian subjects resident in this country at the commencement of the War and during the War.”

I thought it was a bit odd to include these conditions of wartime in 1919, but, then again, the Treaty of Versailles was only signed on 28th June 1919. At this point hostilities between Germany and the Allied Powers were finally formally ended (only to begin again, in a different way, in reaction to such a draconian settlement).

A quirk of dates is that this document is dated 2nd July 1919, after the Treaty was signed, and so maybe it was one of the last to contain these conditions of war?

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