The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife, and the Missing Corpse
Piu Marie Eatwell, author
A non fiction historical thriller examining a sensational Edwardian trial when the 5th Duke of Portland, a notorious eccentric who died in the 1870s, was alleged to have led a double life as a Baker Street businessman.
Eatwell (They Eat Horses, Don’t They?) offers a meticulous examination of a late Victorian/early Edwardian cause célèbre involving the fifth Duke of Portland, a well-to-do London merchant, and a case of disputed identity. Straightlaced Victorians reveled in the salacious details of this court case, which began when Anna Maria Druce alleged that the deceased duke had led a double life as businessman T.C. Druce, also deceased; she petitioned the court for an exhumation of Druce, convinced that her son was the duke’s legitimate heir. Ten years passed before the case ended in January 1908, ultimately involving 12 judges, 14 hearings, and numerous investigators and witnesses. Eatwell follows the case from beginning to end, providing background on judges, lawyers, evidence (some fraudulent, some circumstantial and problematic), and unreliable witnesses; details the duke and Druce’s similarities (appearance, mannerisms, diet, infirmities, habits); and covers the provocative madness of the trial. The rigorous research is the book’s strength. Eatwell often digresses to insert background, enriching the narrative with juicy details from the time period, or to note other sensational cases (both George Eliot and Charles Dickens were involved in double lives, for instance), positing that the period’s restrictive social mores often forced people into scandalous situations. (BookLife)