Dr John Willis

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Dr John Willis

Born at Dunston 28 September 1751, second son of Dr Francis Willis. Apparently studied medicine at Oxford and obtained an M.D. from Edinburgh in 1778. Matriculated at Brasenose 11 May 1769, aged 17; B.A. 1772. Listed at Grantham in the medical directories of 1779 and 1783.

Assisted his father in the treatment of the King during his initial madness in the 1780s, and continued to do so after his father's death. Was rewarded with a pension of £650 for life.

3 May 1789: Dr. John, his eldest son, is extremely handsome, and inherits in a milder degree, all the qualities of his father; but, living more in the general world, and having his fame and fortune still to settle, he has not yet acquired the same courage, nor is he, by nature, quite so sanguine in his opinions. The manners of both are extremely pleasing, and they both proceed completely their own way, not merely unacquainted with court etiquette, but wholly, and most artlessly, unambitious to form any such acquaintance. Diary and Letters of Madame D'Arblay, Vol III

In a few weeks will be Published, by Subscription, A Full-length PORTRAIT of DOCTOR WILLIS, Of GREATFORD, near Stamford, FROM A PAINTING BY R. EVANS, ESQ. To be engraved by Mr. W. Say, Engraver to his Royal highness the Duke of Gloucester. Proofs...£2 2s. | Prints...£1 1s. Size of the plate, Twenty Three Inches by Seventeen Stamford Mercury, Friday 03 January 1834 (Picture right)

On Friday the 19th, Dr. Willis, of Greatford, paid a visit to the village of Dunston, near this city, his native place; and very kindly deposited in the hands of the Rev. John Prescott the sum of 20l to be distributed amonst the poor of the parish. Stamford Mercury, 26 August 1831

LINCOLN RACES 1825 Dr. JOHN WILLIS, Sir Wm. A. Ingilby, Bart. M.P., Stewards. Stamford Mercury, 29 October 1824

Dr Willis died on 2 October 1835 at Longhills, his cousin's house just outside Branston:

Oct 2nd 1835. At the house of his relative, Rev Peregrine Curtois vicar of Branstone near Lincoln, in his 84th year John Willis MD of Greatford Co. Lincoln and last surviving son of the celebrated Dr Willis whose virtue and skill he inherited.

A more detailed account of his last hours was published in 1848, in response to a deathbed confession that he had been murdered.

He bequeathed his establishments at Greatford and Shillingthorpe to his nephew, the second Dr. Francis Willis, and a fortune to his cousin:

He has left property to the amount of about 300,000l. By his will, the estates and establishments at Greatford and Shillingthorpe are bequeathed to his nephew, Dr. Francis Willis; the sum of 20,000l. to each of his nieces, sisters of the Rev. P. Curtois; 10,000l. to Mr. Bowman, who for more than 50 years was the chief assistant in his estabishment; and the Rev. P. Curtois, Rector of Branston, is the residuary legatee, and will, it is said, in that character, acquire 100,000l. Dr Willis was never married. Annual biography and obituary: 1836, London, 1836

Peregrine Curtois was an executor of the will, and apparently decided to interpret it to his own best advantage. Dr Willis had kept his notes from his attendance on the King and had them bound, and as the will bequeathed to Dr Francis Willis ‘all and every the books about his house in Tenterden Street’ the question arose as to whether this was simply ‘printed books as were sold in booksellers’ shops’ or whether the bound notes fell into this category as well. The decision of the Rolls Court was that they did, and they passed to Dr Willis rather than the Rev Curtois.

He was apparently fond of taking the waters at Buxton:

...the Members of the Queen's Council, who all arrived a little before noon at the Queen's lodge; as did likewise Dr. John Willis from Buxton, where the Messenger found him. York Herald, Saturday 23 November 1811