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The will of James Cook


“In the Name of God Amen, I James Cook, Commander of his Majesty’s Sloop the Resolution, being of sound and disposing mind, memory and understanding (praise be to God) do make and publish this my last Will and Testament in the manner following (that is to say) -

First, my Will is that all my just debts and Funeral Expences be fully paid and satisfied, and after payment thereof I do hereby give and bequeath to my dear Father Mr James Cook of Redcar in the County of York, for and during his natural Life, one Annuity or clear yearly Sum of Ten Pounds ten Shillings, to be paid and payable to him by my Executrix and Trustees hereinafter named, half yearly in even and equal portions at Michaelmas and Ladyday, the first payment to begin and be made on such of those Feasts which shall first and next happen after my death. And I do charge and make chargeable the whole of my Real and Personal Estate with the payment thereof accordingly.

Also, I give to my dear and loving Elizabeth Cook all my Leasehold Messuages, Tenements and Premises with the Appurtenances wherein I now dwell, situate and being in Mile End Old Town in the County of Middlesex for the term of her natural Life, and after her decease I give the same to all my Children which are borne in my lifetime or in due time after my death, in equal shares and proportions.

Also, I give to each of my Sisters Christiana Cocker and Margaret Fleck, the Sum or Legacy of ten Pounds.

And I give to my good friends Thomas Dyall of Mile End Old Town aforesaid, Gentleman, and Richard Wise of Rumford in the County of Essex, Gentleman, ten Pounds a piece as a mark of the great Regard I have for them.

And as to all the Rest, Residue and Remainder of my real and personal Estates of what nature and kind soever the same shall happen to be at the time of my decease, I give, devise and bequeath one third part thereof unto my said Wife Elizabeth Cook for her own proper use and benefit for ever. And I give, devise and bequeath the remaining two third parts thereof unto my said Wife and unto the said Thomas Dyall and Richard Wise, to hold to them and the survivors and survivor of them his, her or their Executors, Administrators or Assigns, in Trust nevertheless for the use and benefit of all and every my Child and Children, whether born in my Life time or in due time after my decease, in equal shares and proportions, and my Will is that their portion and portions shall be placed out at Interest upon Government or such other Securities as my said Trustees or the survivors or survivor of them shall think fit until such time and times as the same shall become payable as hereinafter is mentioned, that is to say my Will is and I do direct that the portion and portions of such of them as shall be a Son or Sons shall be paid to him or them at his or their age or ages of twenty one years, and of such of them as shall be a Daughter or Daughters upon her or their attaining the age of twenty one years or upon the day or days of her or their marriage or marriages which shall first happen, provided nevertheless such marriage be had with the Consent of my said Wife and not otherwise provided.

Also, I do hereby give full power and authority unto my said Trustees and the survivors or survivor of them, his, her or their Executors and Administrators to apply such part of the portion or portions of my said Children till the same shall become payable in placing him, her or them out Apprentice or Apprentices or otherwise in their Advancement in the World as they in their discretion shall think fit and in the mean time I order and direct that the Interest, Dividends and Produce of their said portions be paid and applied in and towards their maintenance and Education respectively, and my Will is and I do hereby declare that if any or either of my said Children shall happen to die before his, her or their portion or portions shall become payable then the portion or portions of him, her or them so dying, or so much thereof as shall remain unapplied for the purpose aforesaid, shall go to the survivor and survivors of them and shall be paid and payable to him, her or them in such and the same manner as his, her and their original portion or portions is and are made payable as aforesaid.

Also, my Will is that my said Trustees shall not be answerable or accountable for any Loss that may happen in placing out my said Estates as aforesaid or otherwise howsoever, unless such Loss shall be occasioned by or through their wilful default or Neglect, and that they shall not be answerable the one for the other of them, but each of them for his, her and their own act and deed only.

And I do also direct that they shall be indemnified of, from and against all Costs and Damages which they shall sustain by reason or on account of the Trust hereby reposed in them.

And I do hereby nominate, constitute and appoint my said Wife and the said Thomas Dyall and Richard Wise joint Executrix and Executors of this my Will, and Trustees on behalf of my said Children, and hereby revoking all former Wills I declare this to be my last Will and Testament. In Witness whereof I have to this my last Will and Testament consisting of two Sheets of Paper set my hand to the first Sheet, and my hand and seal to the last Sheet thereof, this fourteenth day of June in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy six Jams. Cook

Signed, sealed, published and declared by the said Testator as and for his last Will and Testament consisting of two Sheets of Paper in the presence of us who at his request and in his presence and in the presence of each other have subscribed our names as Witnesses to the due Execution thereof - Alen Bassett, Clements Inn
Nath. Austen,  Joseph Neeld  Clks to Mr Bassett.

This Will was proved at London the twenty fourth day of January in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty before the Worshipfull Andrew Coltee Ducarel, Doctor of Laws, Surrogate of the Right Worshipful Peter Calvert, Doctor of Laws, Master Keeper or Commissary of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury lawfully constituted by the Oaths of Elizabeth Cook Widow, the Relict of the deceased and Thomas Dyall, two of the Executors named in the said Will to whom Administration of all and singular the Goods, Chattels and Credits of the said deceased was granted having been first sworn duly to administer, power reserved of making the like Grant to Richard Wise the other Executor named in the said Will when he shall apply for the same.


(Transcribed from the copy at the Family Records Centre, London. Microfilm Reference Prob. 11 / 1060.)

Cliff Thornton



  1. Preparing his Will was one of the last acts that Cook undertook before leaving on his third voyage. His will is dated 14 June 1776, the day before the Resolution left the Thames, although he joined it at the Nore on Monday 24 June.
  2. The bequest to his father, James Cook of Redcar, was never paid as his father died in March 1779, 10 months before news of Captain Cook’s death reached London.
  3. Cook left a small bequest to his two surviving sisters Margaret and Christiana. Whilst there is an extensive and well-documented family tree descended from Margaret Fleck, the whereabouts and descendants of Christiana Cocker remain a mystery [see Cook’s Log, page 10, vol. 26, no. 1 (2003)].
  4. For many years little was known about Mrs Cook’s joint executors - Thomas Dyall and Richard Wise. However, Derek Morris’s research into Mile End Old Town has identified them and put them into perspective [see Cook’s Log, page 13, vol. 28, no. 2 (2005)].
  5. Cook’s will was proved on 24 January 1780, a fortnight after news of the Captain’s death had arrived in London [see Cook’s Log, page 43, vol. 28, no. 1 (2005)].

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 29, volume 28, number 3 (2005).

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