Inheritance: The Lost History of Mary Davies

Pages: 304
Subject: History, Biography
Imprint: Oneworld

Inheritance: The Lost History of Mary Davies

A Story of Property, Marriage and Madness

Leo Hollis

The tragic story of madness, forced marriages and how the super-rich came to own London
9781786079954 (6 May 2021)
RRP £20.00 / US$27.95

The Book

‘Hollis expertly weaves together the human tragedy and high politics behind the explosion of one of the world's greatest cities.' Dan Snow

In June 1701, a young widow, Mary Davies wakes up in a hotel room in Paris and finds a man in her bed. Within hours they are married. Yet three weeks later,  Mary fled to London and swore that she had never agreed to the wedding. So begins one of the most intriguing stories of madness, tragic passions and the curse of inheritance.

Inheritance charts the forgotten life of Mary Davies, born in London during the Great Plague of 1665, and the land that she inherited as a baby. This estate would determine the course of her tragic life. Hollis restores this history of child brides, mad heiresses, religious controversy and shady dealing. The drama culminated in a court case that determined not just the state of Mary's legacy, but the future of London itself.  Today, Mary's inheritance is some of the most valuable real estate in the world.

Additional Information

Subject History, Biography
Pages 304
Imprint Oneworld


About the Author

Leo Hollis is the author of two acclaimed history books: The Phoenix: The Men Who Made Modern London, and Stones of London, and the international bestseller, Cities are Good for You. He has written for the New Statesman, Guardian, Financial Times. He lives in London.


‘Wonderful… Leo Hollis knows the expanding city like the back of his hand, and brings a forensic eye and a deep empathy to the mystery at the heart of Mary Davies's tragic life… Inheritance is a consistently enthralling read.'

- Helen Castor, author of Joan of Arc

‘A fascinating insight into a tragic backwater of London's history, yet from which one of its most magnificent estates emerged…'

- Simon Jenkins, author of A Short History of London

‘Leo Hollis has written a thorough and readable account of the Mary Davies saga, at times almost as a thriller, set in the glamour of Restoration London. We dodge from the plague and the Glorious Revolution into matrimonial rights, lunacy acts and 99-year leases. The life of this otherwise inconsequential woman is meticulously recorded, and all for the incubus of an inheritance which she barely seemed to comprehend.'

- Oldie

‘Hollis expertly weaves together the human tragedy and high politics behind the explosion of one of the world's greatest cities. His scholarship and storytelling make the seventeenth century seem so familiar.'

- Dan Snow, Death or Victory: The Battle for Quebec and the Birth of Empire

‘Leo Hollis combines meticulous research with his trademark style once again in this perceptive and humane book on one of modern London's most significant origin stories.'

- Lucy Inglis, author of Georgian London: Into the Streets

'Identifying an authentic seventeenth-century mystery, Leo Hollis uses the form of the classic detective story to deliver a fast-moving and forensic account of the birth and development of the London property market. Here is a valuable addition to the literature of the city in another period of cancerous growth.'

- Iain Sinclair, author of The Last London