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THE GREAT DRUCE MYSTERY.

« THE SUPPOSED HEIR IN SYDNEY.

EXTRAORDINARY ALLEGATIONS.

ALLEGED BOGUS BURIAL 35

YEARS AGO.

Dintisi: the last three or four months we have published statements from London with regard to what is known as the "gic.it Druce mystery." The moat extraordinary allegations have been made by Mrs Anna Maria Druce, Mho applied on March 9th last for permission to have the Druce family vault in Highgate Cemetery, London, opi;ne(l for the purpose of ascertaining whether there was any indication to show that at any time there had been a body in the colliu which was inscribed as containing the remains of Thomas Charles Dntce.

The situation has been summed up in a nutshell as follows : —

On December 28th, ISG4, Thomas Charles Drnce (the petitioner's father-in-law), who kept an upholsterer's shop in Baker street, died (though no doctor signed a certificate), and was Inuied next day in Highgate Cemetery. On December fith, 1879, William John Oavpiidish-Scott-Beiitinuk, fifth Duke of Portland, died, and was bmied in Kensal Circen Cemetery.

On June 10th, ]SO2, Robert Harmcr, Doctor of Medicine, died at Alton Lodge, Richmond.

It is claimed by Mrs Druce that these three people were one and the same person. If the colfin in the vault at Highgate lie found (as Mrs Druce says) to contain no skeleton, it will prove that her father-in-law, the upholsterer, was not. buried in ISO+.

The case is rendered all the more interesting from the fact that the person who it is alleged is the real Duke of Portland is a resident of Sydney, and has been so for the last two or three years. Mr Sydney George Druce, who it is claimed is the real duke, is a young man who is not yet 25 years of age, and is unmarried. He has been engaged in various occupations during the time he has been residing in Sydney, and he is now domiciled in one of the city boarding-houses. The conduct of ihe whole case is in the hands of Mrs Druce, the mother of Sydney George, and, as vas stated in our cable news the other day, she is sending money nut to Sydney to enable him to go to England and support the claim to the dukedom.

Mrs Druce has told an extraordinary story, the accuracy of which she vouches for, but which can only be satisfactorily proved by a rude invasion of the silence of the tomb. As a rule, such an invasion is only allowed by the authorities after the most serious consideration. An a matter of fact, a faculty was granted early in March last by the Consistory Court to Mrs Druce, authorising tho opening of the vault, but the order has been appealed against by the solicitors for the surviving executor of Thomas Charles Druce. The case hae been taken by successive stages to the various authorities, and quite recently the judge of the Probate Court confirmed the order which had beeti previously made in favor of Mrs Druce, and it was then believed that the matter would not be opposed further. Mrs Druce's story is that Thomas Charles Druce was proprietor of the Baker street Bazaar, and a resident of Hendon. His coffin was interred in 1864 on a certificate of death, which described him as 70 and as having died of abscesses, gangrene, and exhaustion, but which was not signed by a medical man. His death was notified to the burial registry by his eldest son, Herbert Druce, who Raid he was present at the death. It is between Herbert and George that the coining contest will be, as to which of the two is the dead man's heir-at-law. George's mother alleges that Herbert, though the son of Thomas Charles and Annie May, was born before they were married. Mrs Druce further stated that she was informed that Thomas Charles, on tho day on which he was supposed to have died, was at his house at Hendon in his usual health, and that about the same time a servant in his employment was instructed to remove the lead from the roof and take it into the house. With this lead she supposed her father-in-law's coffin had been weighted, and she further affirmed that when the vault was opeued for the burial of his wife in 1893, it was found that the son's coffin, placed there in 1880, had dropped a distance equal to the space that would bo occupied by the lower coffin, and that, in consequence, just before the burial of Mrs Annie Druce, the coffins already in the grave were hermetically closed down by a stono slab. Mrs Druce believed that Thomas Charles did not die until 1883, but continued his existeuce as a Dr Harmer, a lunatic patient in Dr Forbes Winslow's asylum, and she said that she had seen him at Maidenhead with an attendant named New from this asylum so late as 1874.

Continuing her story, Mrs Druce says ;— " The marriage which took place on October 30, 1851, at New Windsor, Berkshire, between my Into husband's father and mother, and in which their names are recorded as Thomas Charles Druce and Aunie May, spinster, was in reality between the Marquis of Tichfield, afterwards the fifth Dnke of Portland, and the illegitimate daughter, of the fifth Earl of Berkeley, These two had lived together for many years, and the circumstance which led to their intimacy and the subsequent double life of my husband's father are of a most remarkable character, and also serve to throw a very strong light upon what have always been regarded as ohe extraordinary eccentricities of the fifth Dnke. The latter and his brother, Lord George Bentinck, were both in love with the same woman, but while the youngor's suit received the approbation of their father, the latter not only discouraged the desire of his eldest son, but treated him with insult. On September 21, 1848, Lord George was found dead near Wclbeck Abbey ; it was stated from a spasm in the heart. From that time my husband's father suffered the keenest remorse and the most abject fear. Nearly always in a state of terror, he took various courses for his protection, and, adopting the name of Thomas Charles Druce, transferred to himself as Druce immense property from himself as Duke of Portland. But, realising the risk of exposure to which he was subjecting himself by his double existence, he determined to end his life as Druco, and for that purpose caused a coffin to be buried with his supposed remains. Even after this, however, the fifth Duke's fears were not quieted, and at last he determined to assume madness. Taking the name of Harmer, and conducting himself in the most extravagant manner, he caused him- ; self to be placed under the care of Dr Forbes Winslow, and succeeded in convincing that gentleman of his imulness, but after about a year of incarceration he wan then permitted to leave. As to why mv father and mother did not marry for so long, it is impossible to say accurately, but probably the desire to conceal the facts surrounding the lady's birth had n great deal to do with it, the circumstances in her case being also of an extraordinary character."

Sidney George Drnce, therefore, is, Mrs Druce states, the real heir to the dukedom, and she declares that he bears an extraordinary likeness to several members of the Bcntinck family, and that her youngest daughter suffers in a lesser degree from the s.ime skin discas-e that all'cutcd the fifth Duke.

For 10 yeaiß Mrs Druce has been possessed with the conviction that a large sum of money — which she has estimated at between £200,000 and £300,000 per annum — has been diverted from herself and her son by ■what she calls the bot;us burial of her father-in-law.

Mrs Druce spoke in triumphant tones with regard to the last decision in her favor. She said :— " This is tho first decisive battle in my bewildering array of skirmishing. I have had a tremendous amount of opposition to contend against, and so far I have succeeded. For live years I have labored incessantly to get' evidence in support of my claim. I should not like to say how much money 1 have spent, and I am prepared to pxy twice — ten times— as much to carry on my case to a successful issue." Mrs Druce further stated that she hoped the vault in Highgate Cemetery would be opened in a few days. Then, of course, would follow further law proceedings. "By Christmas, however," she continued, " my son will be Duke of Portland, and after nearly six years of never-ceasing work I shall be able to have a long holiday."

Mrs Druce has decided to raise money in the form of bonds, and the DrucePortland bonds, to the amount of a quarter of a million, are about to be issued. The threat made by counsel to withdraw from the case if this course was taken was ridiculed by Mrs Druce. With the money provided by friends and that raised by bonds, -Mrs Druce declares slic will be in a position lii brief eminent leader.-;.

It U understuod tliat there arc members of Mn> Druce's brancli of tho family in Molbounie and in Tasmania. It is also believed that there are members of the family in West Australia.

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/PBH18981014.2.33

Bibliographic details

Poverty Bay Herald, Poverty Bay Herald, Volume XXV, Issue 8341, 14 October 1898

Word Count
1,563

THE GREAT DRUCE MYSTERY. Poverty Bay Herald, Volume XXV, Issue 8341, 14 October 1898

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