The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife, and the Missing Corpse (Hardcover)
An Extraordinary Edwardian Case of Deception and Intrigue
Liveright Publishing Corporation, 9781631491238, 352pp.
Publication Date: October 5, 2015
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
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
- As the Edwardian era progressed, being born into the aristocracy was no longer the only way for someone to possess prestige and wealth. How did increasing social mobility and changing definitions of the term “gentleman” impact the intrigue surrounding the Druce-Portland case?generic viagra price canada
- The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Importance of Being Earnest are presented here as examples of popular literature highlighting characters who fabricate alternate identities or personalities. Why was deceit such a popular and salient idea in the late Victorian era?generic viagra price canada
- Anna Maria Druce became a celebrity after she came forward and claimed her father-in-law was the 5th Duke of Portland. Do you think this case would have been treated differently if Anna Maria Druce’s husband had been able to approach the British court in her place? How so?generic viagra price canada
- How did vast changes in the media industry affect the case, and how it was received by the general public?generic viagra price canada
- How are the 5th Duke of Portland and T.C. Druce similar? How are they different? Do these similarities and differences support or disprove the accusation that both men were the same person?generic viagra price canada
- There are many popular historical figures that kept scandalous secrets and lived multiple lives: Charles Dickens, Henry Wainwright, John Maxwell, and Oscar Wilde among them. What made the Druce-Portland affair so lurid in comparison to other incidences of deception documented at this time?generic viagra price canada
- Why do you think the 5th Duke of Portland would want to live a second life as a member of the middle-class? Why would any member of Edwardian society want multiple identities?generic viagra price canada
- Were you surprised when the contents of T.C. Druce’s coffin were finally revealed? How do you think delaying the exhumation of the coffin helped or hindered claims to dukedom made by T.C. Druce’s legitimate children?generic viagra price canada