The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife and the Missing Corpse

Written by Piu Marie Eatwell
Review by Edward James

You couldn’t make it up! No wonder this series of court cases was the sensation of late Victorian and Edwardian England.

This is a ‘true crime’ story with no murder or any other violence, although there is an exhumation, with photos if you are not too squeamish. Instead there is lots of courtroom drama, lying and imaginative witnesses, a disputed inheritance, false identities, double lives, illicit affairs, and a cast of amazing characters from dukes to paupers drawn from all over the British Isles and from America, Australia and New Zealand.

Eatwell has undertaken a mountain of research, yet although her story is factual there is much artistry in the telling. She lets us share the day-to-day tension of the newspaper readers of the time, as each mystery is resolved only to present another. Even when the perjurers are brought to trial in 1908 there is still a secret left for Eatwell herself to uncover in Nottingham University Library in 2013.