The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

Sir Roger Tichborne

Sir Roger Tichborne

A carte-de-visite portrait of Sir Roger Tichborne (1829-1854), reproduced from an earlier photograph. Sir Roger, heir to the Tichborne baronetcy, disappeared at sea in 1854 and was declared dead the following year.

When his father died in 1862, the title and property passed to Roger's younger brother, Sir Alfred Tichborne. Alfred died in 1866 and his only son, Henry, inherited title and property when he was born a few months later. However, another claimant to the title had already emerged. A man claiming to be Sir Roger Tichborne 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.

The trial lasted 102 days, galvanizing the British press and holding the public enthralled. 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.’

Photographed by the London Stereoscopic and Photographic Company.


Code: 123940
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© Paul Frecker 2019