The 5th Duke of Portland was a weird bloke. He hated being seen and lived a more or less invisible life, either at his London residence or at Welbeck Abbey, near Worksop. His hobby seemed to be to build a vast network of underground rooms and passages beneath the Abbey. He kept himself to himself and didn't seem to like women.
Thomas Charles Druce had no birth or baptismal certificate. Following a brief spell living in Bury St Edmunds as a 'linen draper' he disappeared for a while and then reappeared as a department store owner. He had three illegitimate children, then he married their mother and had another three legitimate children before he died in 1864.
In 1898 the widow of his eldest legitimate son claimed that Druce was actually the alter ego of the 4th Duke, that the burial was a sham, that the grave was empty, and that therefore her son was the rightful heir of the Portland Estate. She applied to have the grave opened to see if there was indeed a body in it. But the Duke, and Druce's eldest (illegitimate) son who had inherited his father's money (but could not inherit any title) blocked the move.
The court case dragged on for years.
This superbly written book takes us through the dimensions of this mystery. Eatwell delves into and dissects the claims, counter-claims, perjuries and hidden truths. Some aspects are really spooky and she brings the tension out. She answers questions: why did Druce not marry his wife until after the first three children were born. Some questions she cannot answer: what did Druce do when he disappeared, why is their no record of his birth, who was he? But the excitement continues to the end.
A brilliant, weird, true life page-turner. October 2015; 300 pages
- I live in Bedford, England. Having retired from teaching; I am now a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Threshold Concepts in the context of A-level Physics. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57