The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

Dowager Lady Tichborne

Dowager Lady Tichborne

A carte-de-visite portrait of the Dowager Lady Tichborne (1809-1868), mother of Sir Roger Tichborne. Her recognition of the imposter Arthur Orton led to trial lasting 102 days, a cause célèbre which galvanized the British press and held the public enthralled.

A man claiming to be Sir Roger Tichborne, who had been lost at sea in 1854, had arrived in England from Australia, where he claimed he had been working as a butcher in Wagga Wagga under the name of Tom Castro. He was, in fact, one Arthur Orton, and bore little resemblance to the real Sir Roger, nor did he speak a word of French, the mother tongue of the real baron. Neither of these facts stopped Sir Roger’s mother from immediately recognizing Orton as her long-lost child, so desperate was she find her son again, nor from giving the impostor an allowance of £1000 a year. The other members of the family were not so easily convinced, and in 1871 a trial ensued. In spite of 100 supporters who vouched for his claims, Orton’s case eventually collapsed at the end of a twenty-two day cross-examination. He was immediately tried for perjury, of which he was found guilty in 1874, and sentenced to 14 years of hard labour, of which he served ten. Released in 1884, he died in poverty in 1898, spending the last years of his life alternating between confessions and claims of innocence. The public, however, had already forgotten him, and he aroused little interest. His coffin bears the name ‘Sir Roger Charles Doughty Tichborne.’

Lady Tichborne was born Harriette Felicite Seymour, the daughter of Henry Seymour of Knoyle; she married Sir James Frances Tichborne, later Doughty-Tichborne, 10th Bart. of Tichborne, on 1 August 1827. Lady Tichborne died on 12 March 1868, aged 59.

Photographed by the London Stereoscopic and Photographic Company.


Code: 123945
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© Paul Frecker 2019