Synopses & Reviews
At the close of the Victorian era, as now, privacy was power. The extraordinarily wealthy 5th Duke of Portland had a mania for it, hiding in his horsedrawn carriage and creating tunnels between buildings to avoid being seen. So when, in 1897, an elderly widow asked the court to exhume the grave of her late father-in-law, T. C. Druce, under the suspicion that he'd led a double life as the 5th Duke, no one could dismiss her claim. The eccentric duke, Anna Maria was sure, had faked his death as Druce, and, therefore, her son should inherit the Portland millions. A lurid, decade-long case was born. Uncovering new archival treasures and offering a "lively account of . . . the lies, deceit, and hypocrisy of Victorian society" (), Piu Marie Eatwell evokes an era in transition, when the rise of sensationalist media blurred every fact into fiction, and when family secrets and fluid identities pushed class anxieties to new heights.
This accessible narrative for general readers charts the evidence,court records, and even exhumed graves in the Druce-Portland case of the Edwardian era in Britain. The case involves merchant T. C. Druse,elderly widow Anna Maria Druce, and the 5th Duke of Portland, who lived in underground tunnels below his estate. The study explores howthe case was handled in the sensationalist media of the time as it the case raised class issues and the media divulged family secretsagainst the wishes of the elite. B&w historical photos and illustrations are included.Annotation ©2016 Ringgold, Inc., Portland, OR (protoview.com)
One of the most notorious and bizarre mysteries of the Edwardian age, for readers who loved .
In 1898, an elderly widow, Anna Maria Druce, came to the British court with an astonishing request. She stood among the overflowing pews of St. Pauls Cathedral claiming that the merchant T. C. Druce, her late father-in-law, had in truth been a secret identity for none other than the deceased and enormously wealthy 5th Duke of Portland. Maintaining her composure amid growing agitation from the clutch of lawyers, journalists, and curious onlookers crowded into the church, Mrs. Druce claimed that Druce had been the duke's alter ego and that the duke had, in 1864, faked the death of his middle-class doppelganger when he grew tired of the ruse. Mrs. Druce wanted the tomb unlocked and her father-in-law's coffin exhumed, adamant that it would lie empty, proving the falsehood and leaving her son to inherit the vast Portland estate. From that fateful afternoon, the lurid details of the Druce-Portland case spilled forth, seizing the attention of the British public for over a decade.
As the Victoria era gave way to the Edwardian, the rise of sensationalist media blurred every fact into fiction, and family secrets and fluid identities pushed class anxieties to new heights. The 5th Duke of Portland had long been the victim of suspicion and scandalous rumors; an odd man with a fervent penchant for privacy, he lived his days in precisely coordinated isolation in the dilapidated Welbeck Abbey estate. He constructed elaborate underground passageways from one end of his home to the other and communicated with his household staff through letters. T.C. Druce was a similarly mysterious figure and had always remained startlingly evasive about his origins; on his arrival in London he claimed to have "sprung from the clouds."
Drawing from revelations hidden within the Druce family tomb in the chilly confines of Highgate Cemetery, Piu Marie Eatwell recounts one of the most drawn-out sagas of the era in penetrating, gripping detail. From each thwarted investigation and wicked attempt to conceal evidence to the parade of peculiar figures announcing themselves as the rightful heir, Eatwell paints a portentous portrait of England at the dawn of the Edwardian age.
Few tales be they by Charles Dickens or Wilkie Collins, The Importance of Being Earnest or The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde could surpass the bizarre and deliciously dark twists and turns of the Druce-Portland affair. A mesmerizing tour through the tangled hierarchies of Edwardian England, The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife, and the Missing Corpse illuminates the lies, deceit, and hypocrisy practiced by "genteel" society at the time and their inevitably sordid consequences.
About the Author
Piu Marie Eatwell is an Oxford University graduate and has produced and researched historical documentaries for the BBC. She divides her time between Paris and London with her husband and three children.