The Disappearing Duke: The Improbable Tale of an English Familyby Tom Freeman-Keel, Andrew Crofts
Shortly after the fourth duke of Portland died in 1854, his son and heir, William John Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck, began construction of a fantastic underground palace beneath the family's estate of Welbeck Abbey. The subterranean chambers were designed by the finest architects and engineers then working in the burgeoning Victorian Empire, featuring a vast ballroom… See more details below
Shortly after the fourth duke of Portland died in 1854, his son and heir, William John Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck, began construction of a fantastic underground palace beneath the family's estate of Welbeck Abbey. The subterranean chambers were designed by the finest architects and engineers then working in the burgeoning Victorian Empire, featuring a vast ballroom which would be the largest unsupported structure ever built, and passages stretching out to the farthest corners of the estate allowing the duke to travel up and out to the world undetected. But the caverns that lay beneath the surface of Welbeck Abbey were neither as dark nor as twisted as the secrets that lay behind the Cavendish-Bentinck name. In this extraordinary work of historical detection, the authors reconstruct a century of controversy surrounding a British family of unmatched wealth and influence, culminating in one of the most bizarre and contentious cases the British courts have ever seen. At stake were the stability of the empire's social order and the secrecy its privileged classes enjoyed. In unprecedented fashion, the British papers exposed the private lives of the ruling class to feed the curiosity of the masses. The press would never be the same and one man would be accorded the title of the disappearing duke.
Steeped in layers of deliberately manufactured mystery, the fifth duke of Portland -- unmarried and childless -- became the marquess of Titchfield upon the violent death of his elder brother. In addition to suspicions of fratricide, some observers of the family, and reporters, claimed that during the duke's frequent absences from Welbeck Abbey he had forged a second identity as Thomas Druce, who owned London's Baker Street Bazaar and was the subject of countless rumors throughout high society about his secretive lifestyle. Druce allegedly died in 1864, but his burial was called a fake by skeptics who claimed that the coffin was filled with lead rather than his corpse. When Druce's daughter-in-law reasoned that he might have survived for fifteen more years in his role as the duke, she set out to prove that her son, Sydney Druce, was the rightful heir to the dukedom. In a legal battle straight out of Alice in Wonderland -- with accusations of madness, perjury, and even grave robbing -- the previously unassailable aristocratic establishment, built upon centuries of tradition, threatened to topple at the drop of a gavel.
- Basic Books
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.25(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.25(d)
- Age Range:
- 18 Years
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