“Yes. My great-grandfather, eldest son of the Duke of Bilgewater, fled to this country about the end of the last century, to breathe the pure air of freedom; married here, and died, leaving a son, his own father dying about the same time. The second son of the late duke seized the titles and estates — the infant real duke was ignored. I am the lineal descendant of that infant — I am the rightful Duke of Bridgewater; and here am I, forlorn, torn from my high estate, hunted of men, despised by the cold world, ragged, worn, heart-broken, and degraded to the companionship of felons on a raft!” Mark Twain


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The disappearing duke : the improbable tale of an eccentric English family  Tom Freeman-Keel and Andrew Crofts  New York : Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2003  Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. viii, 311 p. ; 24 cm. Includes index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

One of these fellows was about seventy or upwards, and had a bald head and very gray whiskers. He had an old battered-up slouch hat on, and a greasy blue woollen shirt, and ragged old blue jeans britches stuffed into his boot-tops, and home-knit galluses — no, he only had one. He had an old long-tailed blue jeans coat with slick brass buttons flung over his arm, and both of them had big, fat, ratty-looking carpet-bags. The other fellow was about thirty, and dressed about as ornery. After breakfast we all laid off and talked, and the first thing that come out was that these chaps didn't know one another.

One of these fellows was about seventy or upwards, and had a bald head and very gray whiskers. He had an old battered-up slouch hat on, and a greasy blue woollen shirt, and ragged old blue jeans britches stuffed into his boot-tops, and home-knit galluses — no, he only had one. He had an old long-tailed blue jeans coat with slick brass buttons flung over his arm, and both of them had big, fat, ratty-looking carpet-bags. The other fellow was about thirty, and dressed about as ornery. After breakfast we all laid off and talked, and the first thing that come out was that these chaps didn’t know one another.

Shortly after the fourth Duke of Portland died in 1854, the fifth duke began construction of a fantastic underground palace beneath the family’s estate. Was it a physical representation of a secret underground life he was living as a London businessman with two families? In this work of historical detection, the authors reconstruct a century of controversy surrounding the Cavendish-Benticks, culminating in one of the most bizarre and publicized cases the British courts have ever seen.

A man steeped in layers of deliberately manufactured mystery, the fifth Duke of Portland — unmarried and childless — started life as Lord John Bentick, became the Marquess of Tichfield upon the suspicious death of his elder brother, and passed on his title to a cousin when he perished in 1879. But some claimed that he had forged a second identity as Thomas Druce, owner of the Baker Street Bazaar and subject of countless rumors about his secretive lifestyle throughout British high society.

Druce allegedly died in 1864, but his burial produced suspicion when it was claimed his coffin was filled with lead rather than a corpse. When Druce’s daughter-in-law surmised that he might have survived for 15 more years, she set out to shake the foundations of British society by proving that her son, Sidney 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 threatened to topple. The Disappearing Duke is a most extraordinary and improbable tale that will delight history buffs, mystery lovers, Anglophiles, and anyone who delights in the absurd. An index with sources is included.

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Comments Off on “Yes. My great-grandfather, eldest son of the Duke of Bilgewater, fled to this country about the end of the last century, to breathe the pure air of freedom; married here, and died, leaving a son, his own father dying about the same time. The second son of the late duke seized the titles and estates — the infant real duke was ignored. I am the lineal descendant of that infant — I am the rightful Duke of Bridgewater; and here am I, forlorn, torn from my high estate, hunted of men, despised by the cold world, ragged, worn, heart-broken, and degraded to the companionship of felons on a raft!” Mark Twain

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