Little Bits of History

February 28

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 28, 2017

1874: The Claimant is guilty of perjury. Roger Tichborne was heir apparent in his aristocratic family. He was supposed to have been killed in a shipwreck in 1854 but his mother remained hopeful he had managed to survive. Rumors stated he had made it to Australia and she advertised there in hopes of finding her son. A claimant came forward in 1866. Thomas Castro had been working as a butcher in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales. His manners and bearing belied his claim to being a future Baronet but he gained enough support to finance a trip to England. Lady Tichborne immediately accepted him as her long, lost son while the rest of the family worked to expose the interloper as a fraud. During pre-trial questioning, it was posited the Claimant was really Arthur Orton, son of a butcher from Wapping in London.

Roger was the first son of the 10th baronet. His parents did not get along and Roger and his mother lived in Paris while the father and younger son lived in England. Roger was brought back to England to complete his education. After school, Roger accepted a commission with the 6th Dragoon Guards. Seeking adventure, he eventually left on a private tour of South America. He went missing while sailing to Jamaica and was presumed dead by everyone but his mother. A claimant was found in Australia, moved to Sidney and eventually made his way to England, eating everything in his path. His weight was up to 210 in Sidney and up to 250 when he reached England. Lady Tichborne was in Paris, and so the claimant made his way there.

The Claimant was supported not only by his mother, but others in the communities where he had lived prior to his disappearance. However, he neither spoke nor understood French, his first language as a child, nor did he speak with any accent. Lady Tichborne died in 1868 and with it went his strongest support, both emotional and financial. A 1871 civil case was heard and the Claimant was found to have committed perjury and was sent to Newgate prison. There, the Claimant used the popular press to increase his chance at acquittal. A new trial was held. It began on April 21, 1873 and ended on this day. It took 188 court days, one of lengthiest in British history.

Throughout the court case, he was consistently referred to as the Claimant and no name was used. Edward Kenealy took his case and was hostile in his treatment of witnesses and the bench. The laws of the time denied the Claimant to testify on his own behalf. Despite the long trial, the jury took only 30 minutes to deliver a verdict and guilty of perjury. The jury also condemned Kenealy for his behavior for which he would later be disbarred. The Claimant served ten years, lost 148 pounds while in prison, and years later confessed to being Arthur Orton which he almost immediately recanted. He died in poverty and anonymity.

The man who lost himself still walks in history, with no other name than that which the common voice of his day accorded him: the Claimant. – Douglas Woodruff

Bee to the blossom, moth to the flame; Each to his passion; what’s in a name? – Helen Hunt Jackson

Never throughout history has a man who lived a life of ease left a name worth remembering. – Theodore Roosevelt

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. – William Shakespeare

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