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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 growinIn 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 doppelgänger 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....

Title : The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife, and the Missing Corpse: An Extraordinary Edwardian Case of Deception and Intrigue
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ISBN : 9781631491238
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 352 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife, and the Missing Corpse: An Extraordinary Edwardian Case of Deception and Intrigue Reviews

  • Jane
    2018-12-30 09:52

    Piu Marie Eatwell has chosen an extraordinary title, and it suits her wonderfully written and researched telling of a true story that unfolded in late Victorian and early Edwardian England wonderfully well.It’s readable, it’s accessible, and its utterly gripping.In 1898 a widow named Anna Maria Druce applied for the exhumation of the grave of her late father-in-law, Thomas Charles Druce. Her claim was that he had faked his death 1864 death, because he had been the eccentric 5th Duke of Portland, who had chosen to live a different life under a different name.Under that name the Duke had worked as a furniture dealer, married, and raised a family. Eventually he decided to end his double life and return to the ducal seat, Welbeck Abbey in Worksop, Nottinghamshire until his death some fifteen years later.The Duke had never married a distant cousin inherited the title and everything that went with it.Anna Maria said that her son was the true heir to the Portland estate.It sounds ludicrous, but the truth can sometimes be stranger than fiction, and there was much that made Anna Maria’s assertion sound entirely plausible.Each man could be described as eccentric. The 5th Duke of Portland was reclusive, he rarely went out in daylight hours, and he had constructed a labyrinth of underground tunnels beneath his estate where he disappeared for extended periods.Witnesses testified that T C Druce looked exactly like the Duke, and that he had never spoken of his early life; it emerged that the tastes and patterns of behaviour of the two men were strikingly similar.Of course, if Anna Maria’s claim was unfounded the executors of the Druce estate had simply to permit the exhumation, to prove that T C Druce had died and that his body was in his tomb to bring all of the legal proceedings and all of the public interest and speculation to an endThey refused, and so a long and complex legal battle that would become a cause célèbre began.Piu Marie Eatwell brings that case to life. She is a wonderful guide to the times and to the places where her story will play out, making it easy to understand how contemporary observers would have viewed the case with reference to newspaper reports, to other cases they would have known, novels they might have read, and the legal framework and the world that they knew. She introduces everyone who had a part to play carefully, with their history, their character, their connection to the case; that made the human drama that played out fascinating, relatable, and so very engaging.You might think that you were reading the finest of Victorian sensation novels; such is the quality of the storytelling, the drama of the plot, and the sheer page-turning quality of the whole thing.The question at the centre of the case – whether T C Druce and the 5th Duke of Portland were two men or one – was beautifully balanced, and as the case twisted and turned, as new claimants and new evidence emerged I could never quite make up my mind. I knew that I could go away and look up the case, and I so wanted to know what would happen, but I resisted because I knew that this was too good a book to spoil.I also knew that the answer to that question would not be the end; because whatever that answer was there would be more questions.The resolution of the case comes before the end of the book, and it as that point the author moves smoothly from dramatic storyteller to interested researcher, offering answers to some of the unanswered questions and suggesting what might be answers to others.That was fascinating, the depth of her interest was evident, and I continued to think of everything I had read long after I put the book down.

  • Cleo Bannister
    2019-01-08 09:19

    Piu Marie Eatwell has chosen one of the most fantastical of legal trials that spanned the late Victorian to the Edwardian period for another entry into the genre of turning well-researched historical crimes into an accessible book for non-academics.The journey the author takes us through started in 1898 when a widow named Anna Maria Druce applied for the exhumation of the grave of her late father-in-law, Thomas Charles Druce. Mr Druce had been a furniture dealer, owning the Baker Street Bazaar, a forerunner of what we know as a department store, but Anna Maria believed that he had been the alter ego of the eccentric 5th Duke of Portland. Her claims meant that Tomas Druce had faked his death in 1864 and spent the next fifteen living at the ducal seat, Welbeck Abbey in Worksop, Nottinghamshire.This real life drama ended up spanning an entire decade after Anna Maria’s request for the grave in Highgate Cemetery being refused but with the discovery that Thomas Druce had been married before. Both men were eccentrics, Thomas Druce refused to reveal any details about his early life, he had fixed habits and moved his family frequently from property to property whereas the Duke was rarely seen in public, had an aversion to sunlight and spent his time at Welbeck Abbey constructing a series of tunnels and rooms underground. Who can deny that fact is often stranger than fiction?The beauty of this book, and others of its ilk like The Suspicion of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale or The Magnificent Spilsbury and the case of the Brides in the Bath by Jane Robins, is that they give a real feel for the time as well as providing us with well-researched historical evidence. This tale is complex, particularly as it is full of claim, counter-claim, hypothesis and, on the flip-side lies and forgeries, but the chapters are divided up to give background to the next part as well as the new revelations that kept the courts, and the media, busy. A story running for so long had the public eager to find out the latest, especially as the revelations uncovered some behaviour that was definitely against the morals of the time.The story doesn’t end when the mystery is resolved, the police were also kept busy following up some of the claims made including Inspector Dew who became known for his apprehension of Dr Crippen which meant for me, this story had links to other true crimes committed in the same period, presumably so few were the members of the newly formed CID that his career saw a wide variety of criminals. Mentions are also made of the love of Sherlock Holmes but without it feeling like the author was trying to cram every detail into the book.Apart from in the first chapter where the author gives us a potted history of the ownership of Welbeck Abbey, the book couldn’t read less like a history book so well thought out is the structure making it an immensely readable and enjoyable piece of what must have been months of research.I’d like to thank Midas PR or allowing me to read a copy of this book for review purposes, it will now stand next to the rest of my historical crime selection on my bookshelf. The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife and the Missing Corpse was published by Head of Zeus in hardback in September 2014 and the author will be on tour in the UK during the summer of 2015.

  • Vikki Patis
    2018-12-28 07:57

    I was contacted by the lovely John over at The Last Word Review to review this brilliant novel by Piu Marie Eatwell, and I am so pleased he did. I thoroughly enjoyed The Dead Duke, with its fascinating history and wonderfully engrossing story.The extraordinary story of the Druce-Portland affair, one of the most notorious, tangled and bizarre legal cases of the late Victorian and Edwardian eras.In 1897 an elderly widow, Anna Maria Druce, made a strange request of the London Ecclesiastical Court: it was for the exhumation of the grave of her late father-in-law, T.C. Druce.Behind her application lay a sensational claim: that Druce had been none other than the eccentric and massively wealthy 5th Duke of Portland, and that the – now dead – Duke had faked the death of his alter ego. When opened, Anna Maria contended, Druce’s coffin would be found to be empty. And her children, therefore, were heirs to the Portland millions.The legal case that followed would last for ten years. Its eventual outcome revealed a dark underbelly of lies lurking beneath the genteel facade of late Victorian England.This era is one of my favourites, mainly because of the mystery that shrouds it, the secrets that lie behind Victorian manners and society. Murderous governesses, mad wives in attics, wily prostitutes, and, of course, dead dukes. This story revolves around the 5th Duke of Portland, and the insinuation that he was also a Mr T.C. Druce, a businessman mainly living in London. It all starts with one woman, presenting to the court for permission to open Druce’s grave, which would, she insisted, contain no body. And so began one of the longest legal battles in history.Eatwell provides us with an insight into another time and place, meticulously researched and wonderfully written. The Dead Duke is, for all intents and purposes, non-fiction. But it is also a story, beautifully told and woven together by Eatwell’s fabulous prose. I found myself lost between the pages for days, puzzling out the mystery of The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife and The Missing Corpse.About the authorPiu Eatwell was born in India, of mixed Anglo-Indian descent. She studied English at Oxford University, graduating ‘summa cum laude’ with a starred First Class degree. She subsequently worked as a lawyer and television producer for the BBC and other TV companies. She now lives in France and writes full-time on French-themed subjects, as well as true crime. When not delving in history archives or writing about her adopted country, Piu divides her time between London and Paris. She is married with three children.The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife and the Missing Corpse by Piu Marie Eatwell is available on Amazon.https://dracarya.wordpress.com/2015/0...

  • Suzanne
    2019-01-23 11:50

    This sounded like such an interesting book, but I found myself basically trudging through it. And it all felt like a pointless exercise by the end. I did enjoy learning more about late Victorian England, but my main takeaway was that it was another example of how being ultra rich can lead some people to become weird recluses who spend vast quantities of money on the most ridiculous things (like an underground ballroom).

  • Catherine
    2019-01-16 06:59

    The premise of this book was interesting - as were the bizarre events that unfolded. However- the reason I only rated it 2 stars was the writing. This book needed editing significantly. The author included so much irrelevant detail that it became mind-numbing and tedious to read. Every time a new character was brought into the plot there were pages about that character's history that didn't help at all with understanding the main events and in fact made things confusing. Similarly, the author would give every detail of an event that wasn't part of this plot but may have some similarities to illustrate that these things were possible. While I understand the need to set the stage for legal precedence this could have been done in a much more concise way so that it didn't detract from the main events. This would have been an interesting book if about 2/3rds of it were edited out. I probably wouldn't have finished it but for the fact that I was reading it for a book group discussion.

  • Aaron Meier
    2019-01-12 12:13

    I was pretty eager to read this book and the first 1/2 was really interesting. But the second 1/2 was just boring material that felt like filler. To quote Tim Gunn, "it needed an editing eye."

  • Katherine
    2019-01-03 12:02

    Thomas Charles Druce, owner of a London department store and quite affluent dies in December of 1864. He leaves several children, one of whom inherits the Baker Street Bazaar.William John Cavendish-Bentick-Scott, 5th Duke of Portland, reclusive, unmarried with no heirs, dies at his estate, Welbeck Abbey in December 1879.Two very distinct gentlemen, one of whom was contracted to do some work on Welbeck Abbey by the other, but seemingly with no other connections, died 15 years apart in two locations, considerably distant from each other. End of story or so it would seem. Until, in March of 1898 when Anna Maria Druce, the daughter-in-law of T.C. Druce and the widow of his son, Walter Thomas, appears in St Paul's Cathedral. She bears a petition to the church court to allow the exhumation of TC Druce. She claims he did not die in 1864 but rather feigned his death so that he could shed the double life he was leading. That, in actuality, T.C. Druse was the 5th Duke of Portland and that her family is therefore the rightful heirs to the Welbeck Estate and the title, not the distant relative who at present is the 6th Duke of Portland. To say that this claim is a dropped bombshell in society, opens many cans of worms and becomes a cause celebre is all to quite understate the events that unfolded through the next ten years. The cast of characters and their tales are fascinating, the unearthed secrets of the lives led by the people involved in the two families are amazing. The book is divided into nice short chapters, each of which carries one further into the story and leads one to jump right into the next one to see where the threads will lead. Australian bushmen, New Zealand widows, nurses, lawyers, detectives, newspapermen, secretaries --some of whom claim that these two men were one and the same, others who say they were not--keep the reader guessing until almost the moment when the grave is finally open--but even then, the author leaves you hanging a bit longer before the findings are revealed.But, the story does not end there, the author carries the lives of the characters beyond that final legal decision. And the reader is glad to know what happened to them all once the case is closed and the mystery laid to rest. As good as any fictional mystery but all the more enjoyable because it is not fiction.

  • Saturday's Child
    2018-12-28 08:55

    This was an interesting read that I was looking forward to getting my hands on. I'm being picky but there was a mistake on page 88 - Queen Victoria did not die in March of 1901 - it was in fact January 22nd of that year. Having facts correct in non-fiction is important to me when I'm reading it.

  • Sharon Huether
    2019-01-06 10:12

    Did the 5th Duke of Portland fake his death or was he really in that grave? Anna Marie Druce the late Duke's daughter -law wanted to prove that her children should be heirs to the family. She took her claim to the high courts. There was much court wrangling, that it lasted ten years. The grave was the opened. The officials present deemed it was T C Druce in the grave.There were plenty of rumors a illegitimate chidren fathered by T C Druce. He was also very private, having tunnels under his home.The author did extensive research into public records about this family and other of that time. It was such an interesting story, I could hardly wait to see what would happen next. This book was a gift from the author for my honest review.

  • Inge
    2019-01-21 08:14

    I really looked forward to reading this book. Interesting story, Edwardian times. The first inkling that all would not be well was when I read the opening sentence: "It was a dark, windy winter evening a few days before Christmas 1879". You are kidding me, right? But this was no joke. What came after was a never ending morass of who was related to who, no matter how small the role of the person played in this drama was. At thosetimes when there was an actual narrative it was so badly written you almost wished to return to the list of ancestors. Easily one of the worst books I have read this year.

  • Melissa
    2019-01-23 09:06

    So good! This case is crazier than a Dickens or Collins novel.1) Eatwell writes great cliffhangers.2) Regardless of the outcome of the Druce cases and whether the coffin is exhumed and we find out what's inside, the cast of characters (for some of these people should have gone on the stage) is bonkers. Only the Victorians/Edwardians could create so many real-life twists.3) The US edition has an Epilogue - after the book was published in the UK, she got some more information about the Duke!

  • Clorie
    2019-01-14 09:15

    My book club gave this a 1.4. Our lowest rating ever since we've been rating books. I gave it 2 because she put in a lot of work and gave me new vocabulary words. If it wasn't filled with extras we didn't need to tell the point I would have liked it better.

  • Lourine H
    2019-01-09 07:52

    I chose this for book club & had to profusely apologize to the group. I actually never finished it. NOT the story I was expecting. Too bogged down with so many details & people's histories. And the writing style was VERY dry.

  • Ladiibbug
    2019-01-07 10:05

    Non-FictionThis non-fiction title caught my attention instantly the first time I saw it. I knew I had to read it! The words from the title "Extraordinary, Deception and Intrigue" perfectly describe this true life Edwardian Era case, set in London. I enjoyed the book very much.A woman comes forward, stating that the 5th Duke of Portland (deceased and enormously wealthy) was also her late father-in-law, T.C. Druce. The extremely shy and seldom seen 5th Duke's eccentric behavior played into the scenario presented by the widow, who claimed the 5th Duke was using a secret identity while alive, posing as T.C. Druce.There is quite a lot of fascinating discussion of the not-infrequent use of secret identities in this era, or a man of wealth's having two separate families, usually unknown to each other. (view spoiler)[Charles Dickens was one person named, along with several others. (hide spoiler)]The book is packed with quotes, book references, etc. that I was literally taking notes as I read:* "All the world's a stage ...", Wm. Shakespeare's famous quote from As You Like It - added to TBR.* The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins - added to TBR.* "Eccentric men have peculiar habits; they do not seem to move in the same sphere with other mortals, but are actuated by different influences from those which affect the bulk of mankind." - George Frederick Graham quote, English Synonymes Classified and Explained: With Practical Exercises, Designed for Schools and Private Tuition (1857) - adding to my Favorite Quotes* Lady Audley's Secret Mary Elizabeth Braddon (1862) - added to TBR* William Palmer, aka the "Rugeley Poisoner" a doctor who poisoned a number of victims in the 1840's and 1850's for their insurance policies and to feed his gambling habit. (page 14) - Look for a book on him (I'm a big fan of death by poison fiction or non-fiction.)

  • Lory Hess
    2019-01-03 12:07

    See my full review at The Emerald City Book Review. The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife, and the Missing Corpse doesn't quite reach the summit of great nonfiction, but it's still an absorbing story with a factually respectable basis. In 1897, a woman surfaced with the wild claim that her father-in-law, a London merchant, was actually the fifth Duke of Portland, an ultra-rich, ultra-eccentric aristocrat who was leading a double life. This meant that her son was the the heir of the childless duke...and so a frenzied legal battle commenced, to be played out over decades on a very public stage. Corruption, madness, fortune-hunting, identify theft: it's all here, in a plot worthy of a Wilkie Collins novel.In fact, all the ingredients for a fantastic stranger-than-fiction narrative are present, but I was left just slightly unsatisfied. The large cast of characters (identified and listed as such in the front matter) is hard to keep track of, as many don't have enough personality to be memorable. The device of announcing some startling turn of events but then abandoning it for another narrative thread was also confusing, and some obvious questions were not addressed for too long -- where was the evidence of the movements of the duke and his supposed alter ego, for example? I was also a bit skeptical of the scenes that go into certain characters' inner thoughts and experiences without apparent basis in diary or letters, though these are unobtrusive and plausible enough.Still, I don't want to dissuade you from meeting the Dead Duke and his manifold associates. You'll be immersed in a colorful, and dramatic slice of Victorian and Edwardian life, and learn about an example of media frenzy that rivals any to be found in our own times. (Whole companies were created for the purpose of floating shares to speculate on the outcome of the case, and fortunes made and lost in the process.) You'll be grateful for the author's scrupulous research that turned up important elements overlooked for many years, putting together a puzzle left unsolved by history. And you'll be tantalized by the still-unknown motive that sparked the whole spectacle. As it delves into the mysteries of the human mind and heart, The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife, and the Missing Corpse gives a fascinating window into an era that in many ways is not so far from our own.

  • Kathleen
    2019-01-12 04:03

    WELL THIS IS BONKERS.I mean. Look at that title. That title promises bonkers nonsense going on, right? THE BOOK LIVES UP TO IT. There is so much weirdness occurring in this book, and the most bonkers thing of all of it is that it all really happened. And that there is still unexplained weirdness.Okay. So. This book is about a court case in the last years of the nineteenth century that argued that the 5th Duke of Portland, he of the massive underground complex at his country home and the severe reclusiveness bordering on total isolation, was also, in his secret life, a shopkeeper named TC Druce, and that he had apparently faked his death in 1864 to go back to being the Duke of Portland. Yeah. This court case dragged on for nearly a decade, with descendants of Druce popping out of the woodwork every couple of years to claim that they were owed the dukedom of Portland. There was the original claimant, Anna Maria Druce in her son Sidney's name, then a couple of guys from Australia, then a couple more guys who popped up between the two who ended up doing something completely different. Druce had some unexplainable things in his life, such as where he came from and why he completely dropped his first family in favor of his second, and so did the Duke of Portland (almost everything in his life, being honest). And all of this weirdness was dredged up during and after the trial. Just. So much weirdness.The book is written in a very accessible, chatty style, which for me bordered on too chatty at times, but it's certainly not that stuffy academic style that blocks people out, and it does really bring home just how deeply weird every single fact of this case is. And it is so. Weird. Recommended because holy crap, guys. Everything about this is bonkers and must be read.One caveat: there is a bit toward the end of the book where the reader is suddenly confronted with a picture of a rotting corpse in a coffin. There's no warning and it's a pretty grody picture. Please be aware of this and ben careful as you draw nearer to the end.

  • Patricia
    2018-12-23 11:01

    This is a rip roaring tale of a long-running legal case in late Victorian England. It has fraud, eccentricities, double lives, large sums of money and abject poverty. It should have been really good.There are many characters involved but the telling of this messy story is over complicated by multiple diversions and a sensationalist style that crosses over into speculative fiction. The writer goes in for teasers at the end of chapters that always promise more than they deliver. Dickens, Oscar Wilde, Rosetti, they are all there and not part of the story but dragged in to bulk out the pages (perhaps), to provide other examples of eccentricities and double lives (certainly)and (maybe) to give a late C19th flavour. I started out loving it but Ms Eatwell's diversionary tricks and chapters which left you hanging tired me and much as I wanted to find out what happened I was glad to escape from it by the end. I did finish it but by the end I just didn't care.

  • Marie
    2019-01-13 06:53

    Read for book club and cheating right now since we're not supposed to leave reviews until after book club but I just want to put review behind me, get ready for book club, and laugh over food and liquor. Not a fan of non-fiction, especially set over 100 years ago, but I gave it the old college try. The writing seemed a bit haphazard and it sometimes went on a tangent that I really didn't care about. I would've liked it a lot better with a co-author and the story being written as fiction-based-on-true-facts. Then all the present day information written by Piu Marie regarding the actual facts and events would've been fascinating. As is, it could've been edited down. A lot. Sadly, the title is the most intriguing thing about the book.

  • Emlikescake
    2019-01-15 11:53

    I love, Ioved the first 3/4, but the final few chapters didn't really do it for me. I appreciate that they tied the story into a neat bow, but at the same time it's tough to be ripped from the past into the present(ish). Even so, this book is intriguing and quite a wonderful read about Victorian sensibilities, mystery and class divide.

  • Cybercrone
    2019-01-05 04:05

    Very bizarre story, strange individuals and corrupt legal machinations.The author has done a very thorough job of researching the story and its actors. Every time you get to a point and say "Well that's that then. It's over.", along comes another surprising revelation and away you go again.Can drag a bit in places if you're not a real fan of legal manoeverings.

  • Joann
    2019-01-18 07:00

    There is a great story buried somewhere in this book. Unfortunately it is way to much effort to dig through and find it. I found it poorly written. No index and the "footnotes were not helpful. Too bad. Wanted to like it.

  • Drucilla
    2019-01-08 12:13

    The amount of research Eatwell has done here is impressive and even though the case has a lot of twists and turns, she manages to present it in a clear and concise way. This is a really interesting legal case and if you like narrative nonfiction, you'll like this.

  • Janet
    2019-01-18 07:20

    I heartily recommend this book. The lies, secrecy, sensationalism, and tabloid frenzy of a mystery in the late 1800's makes for some great reading. Piu Eatwell researched this mystery and laid it out for the reader, leading you with twists and turns along the way. A fun read!

  • Megan
    2019-01-04 06:04

    For nonfiction, this book was quite entertaining. I found the writing clear and concise. The story was related in a narrative fashion. The content appeared quite well-researched. Definitely worth reading! 4 stars

  • Heidi
    2019-01-14 05:19

    A very interesting case.

  • Sue
    2019-01-23 11:59

    So many names dropped here, on every page.The little piece about Bess Hardwick, that "she believed a prediction that she could not die as long as she was building" was more well-known about Sarah Winchester (of Winchester House in San Jose, CA). I couldn't find anything except her embroidery with the Queen of Scots so I don't think that was accurate.

  • Angela Buckley
    2019-01-04 10:10

    The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife and the Missing Corpse is an intriguing mystery: could successful Victorian furniture dealer, Thomas Charles Druce, have been the 5th Duke of Portland? This fascinating book sets out to uncover Druce’s true identity and the veracity of his death, which is called into question by his daughter-in-law, Anna Maria Druce, in 1898. The outcome of the ensuing investigation could change her family’s life forever.Powerfully portrayed through different locations, the story opens as we travel back in time with the 6th Duke of Portland, as he takes his family seat at Welbeck Abbey, in Nottinghamshire. The scene is set for a dramatic enactment, which keeps the reader gripped from the very beginning to the final revelations of the truth. Based on meticulous research, the book is beautifully written and is an evocative reconstruction of a fascinating series of events, reminiscent of a Wilkie Collins novel. Piu Marie Eatwell recounts the complex family histories and court cases with such a deft touch that the narrative is easy to follow and a real joy to read. The plot twists and turns with deeply buried secrets, hidden crimes, eccentric behaviour and astonishing revelations. The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife and the Missing Corpse is a story of identity, duplicity and class differences, all explored within the context of Victorian life.Piu Marie Eatwell is a consummate storyteller and I thoroughly enjoyed her excellent book - I couldn’t put it down! I would highly recommend it to all lovers of history, intrigue and a good historical mystery.

  • Helen
    2019-01-16 10:56

    This is a fascinating re-telling of the Druce-Portland affair in Edwardian London. Was the extremely wealthy 5th Duke of Portland really living a double (or triple) life as a middle class merchant? Did he have two secret wives and father eleven (or more) children? An elderly widow appears at a British court in 1898 requesting that her father-in-law's coffin be exhumed to show that it is filled with lead. Her purpose is to enable her son to receive his rightful inheritance. Two photographs showed an uncanny resemblance between the two men. Both were eccentric, had skin conditions, refused to eat red meat, and possessed many wigs. The duke lived almost entirely in isolation either at his huge Welbeck Abbey estate or at his London residence (Harcourt House). He initiated the building of many underground tunnels and trapdoors which enabled him to leave unseen. He only communicated with servants by letterboxes placed outside his rooms. No-one knew if he was home or not. There are more twists and turns in this story than in a work of fiction! There is mystery, madness, deceit, famous detectives, genteel ladies, and intrigue. The author has done an incredible amount of research to be able to produce such a detailed version of this gripping story. There are many photographs and drawings in the book to refer to as well. Highly recommend this book for anyone who is interested in the late Victorian/early Edwardian time period and likes to learn the details behind a story.

  • Barbara Copperthwaite
    2019-01-23 06:20

    Bizarre is indeed a wonderful word to describe this tangled case. If it were a novel, people would say the storyline was too ridiculous; but of course truth so often is stranger than fiction. This is what makes history so absorbing - and why I can't get enough of it.Lie upon lie is revealed in this thoroughly-researched and colourfully told tale of real Victorian legal wrangling. Nothing is as it seems, everyone has a reason to be dishonest, and it's incredibly hard to guess what is coming next.Not only does the plot keep throwing twists and turns at you, the contemporary descriptions of some of the characters involved make them vividly come to life. One man was, apparently “not so much dry as desiccated” - wonderful!At times the story is a little confusing, purely because of the volume of people involved – and the lack of truth on anyone’s part. But I found myself desperate to read on until the end, and discover just what on earth the real truth was about the dead duke, his secret wife, and the missing corpse. If you are a lover of real life mysteries such as The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, by Kate Summerscale, then you are sure to enjoy this.

  • Bekka
    2019-01-16 05:05

    Thanks to Edelweiss and Liveright for early access to this title.What a completely fascinating book! The writing style is good - for most of the book it reads like a novel. But any novel with this plot would be dismissed as "too unrealistic!" The twists and turns of this strange story are beyond prediction, and very interesting. Very much in the style of Black Diamonds: The Rise and Fall of an English Dynasty, its a compelling look at both the people and mores of the Victorian era. If you enjoy true historical crime / mystery stories, you'll love this book. A Must Read!