Thursday, March 27, 2014

Tischeborn claimant

Sir Roger Doughty Tischborne Baronet or Butcher?
by Carlo Pellegrini (Ape) published in Vanity Fair June 6, 1871

Old families living in old houses are loaded with closets, many filled with skeletons.  The Tischborne's are no exception.

The Tichbornes were devout Catholics, which until the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 meant that they could neither stand for Parliament nor become officers in the armed forces. Like other Catholic families therefore, the Tichbornes lived the lives of wealthy country gentlemen, hunting, shooting and amassing land and wealth.

Catholic gentry were far and few between in the early 1800's so Sir. James Tischborne went to France for a bride, marrying a high strung, high maintenance illegitimate member of the French royal family, who loathed England, country life and her husband, although she bore him seven sons.

Roger, heir and the first born, had a birth defect, which after repeated treatment failures by British doctors, his mother sought treatment for him in France. Roger lived in France with his mother's family for 10 years, returning to England, aged 16, for schooling and a stint in the army.  While on army leave Roger fell in love, with his first cousin.

The families were aghast, forbade the marriage, but told the young lovers they were sending Roger away, and if after 3 years they were still in love the families would then consent to their betrothal.  Roger took off for South America in 1854, his intended married another quickly thereafter.

From South America Roger set sail for the West Indies where he was lost at sea, but his mother never lost hope, running advertisements for years seeking information about her son. In 1866 she received the letter she always knew she'd receive.  A man in Australia claimed he was Roger, told the story of the missing years, and said he and his family were "coming home".

Since titles had passed to Roger's brother upon the death of their father, the new boy had to prove to the court that he was Roger Tischborne.  This led to the longest court case in British history up to that time.  Mother believed him instantly to be her lost son; overlooking that he knew no French and had no defect.  On the other side of the ledger were the family that stood to lose everything.  The case, a cause celebre, dragged on as witnesses were called in Australia and South America.  The new Roger was found guilty of perjury. A second criminal trial found him guilty of fraud and perjury and sentenced him to 14 years hard labor. 

Upon his death in 1898, 5000 people attended the cemetery to pay their respects. With the family's permission  the fake Roger Tischeborne's  coffin bears a plate which reads "Sir Roger Charles Doughty Tischborne" 

There will always be an England


1 comment:

Kathy said...

This would make a great movie plot.