Wills Act 1837

In chapter 33 of Jane Eyre, Jane is conversing with St. John about the troubling information he has acquired regarding an unknown orphan who has come into a large inheritance due to the orphan’s uncle passing away. It is revealed this orphan is none other than Jane herself, leaving her in a state of disbelief and shock after learning her financial citation has been completely flipped. Author Charlotte Brontë may have utilized the contemporary information at the time as the United Kingdom Parliament had recently passed the Wills Act 1837 prior to Brontë finishing the novel. The act states “A general devise of the real estate of the testator… shall be construed to include any real estate, or any real estate to which such description shall extend (as the case may be), which he may have power to appoint in any manner he may think proper, and shall operate as an execution of such power, unless a contrary intention shall appear by the will” (Parliament of the U.K.). The act provided all adults living in the U.K. the power of complete ownership over their wills and attempted to clear up any problems that had risen due to the death of a loved one. Due to the act, Jane’s uncle would have had an easier time designating exactly who his estate would be given to, specifically in terms of providing the estate to Jane and not her cousins who due to the common law at the time before the act may have been able to claim ownership to the estate. The existence of this act completely alters the trajectory of the plot and may have severely influenced Jane’s relationship with her family members. 


Melville, Henry. “House of Lords: Her Majesty Opening the Session of Parliament.” The Victorian Commons. https://victoriancommons.wordpress.com/. Accessed 21 June 2022.


United Kingdom Parliament. Wills Act 1837. 3rd July, 1837. https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1837/26/pdfs/ukpga_18370026_en.pdf. Accessed 21 June 2022

Associated Place(s)

Event date:

The start of the month Jul 1837

Parent Chronology: