Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Tichborne Claimant was the 19th century case of Arthur Orton (1834-1898), an impostor who claimed to be missing heir Sir Roger Tichborne (1829-1854).
Sir Roger Tichborne was born January 5 1829 in Paris as an eldest son of baronet and an heir to a Roman Catholic Hampshire family of Tichborne. King James I of England had made his ancestor Sir John Tichborne, sheriff of Southampton, a baronet in 1621. His father was James Francis Doughty-Tichborne and his mother a French-born lady Henriette Felicite.
Due to his mother, who did not appreciate England very much, Sir Roger spoke dominantly French. In fact, he lived with her mother in France till the age of 16. James Tichborne had to claim that the boy was going to a funeral in England so that his mother would let him leave. 1849 he went to Stonyhurst College and later joined the 6th Dragoon Guards in Dublin in 1849. Apparently his French accent caused ridicule and he sold his commission in 1852. Next year he left for South America. From Valparaiso he traveled over the Andes and arrived in Rio de Janeiro in 1854. In April, in his way back home, his ship was lost with all hands in the sea. He was pronounced dead the next year. The title and the estates passed to his younger brother Sir Alfred Joseph Doughty-Tichborne (who died 1866).
However, his mother refused to admit that her only son was dead. She sent inquiries all over the world. In November 1865 she received a letter from Sydney lawyer who claimed that a man that supposedly fitted the description of his son was living as a butcher in Wagga Wagga, Australia.
The supposed Sir Roger was actually Arthur Orton who at the time used the name Tom Castro. Aside from some facial resemblance to Tichbornes, he did not fit the description at all. Instead of sharp features and black hair he had round features and light-brown hair. He was also fat and did not speak a word of French. His first letter referred to facts Lady Tichborne did not recognize. However, Lady Tichborne was desperate enough to accept him as her son and sent him money to come to her.
Orton was reluctant to go at first, presumably because he feared exposure, but his associates - one of which was an old friend of Sir Roger's father - made him change his mind. Sir Roger's former black servant Ben Bogle accompanied him to his trip to Britain. He arrived in London in the Christmas Day 1866 and visited Tichborne estates. There he met Tichborne family solicitor Edward Hopkins and Francis J. Baigent who became his supporters. When in January he traveled to Paris hotel where Lady Tichborne was living, the desperate Lady "recognized" him instantly as her son. She even handed him Sir Roger's letters from South America. The fact that Orton did not understand a word of French did bother her, but she gave him an allowance of £1,000 a year. Orton researched Sir Roger's life to enforce his imposture.
After Lady Tichborne's acceptance, various other acquaintances of Sir Roger accepted him as well. They included other officers of the 6th Dragoons, several county families and Hampshire villagers. He hired a group of manservants who had served in 6th Dragoons.
Members of the Tichborne family were not so gullible and promptly declared him an impostor. Their investigators found out that this Tom Castro was a butcher's son from Wapping and had jumped a ship in Valparaiso. He had taken the name Castro from a friendly family in Chile. Orton had even inquired about his family members in Wapping when he had come back from Australia. They also found many other discrepancies when Orton tried to fit his own South American experiences to those of Sir Roger.
When Lady Tichborne died, Orton lost his most prominent supporter. Orton would have probably stopped the charade if not for the fact that he owed a significant amount of money to his creditors. He sold "Tichborne Bonds" to pay the legal costs when he tried to claim his inheritance from the Tichborne family. The heir of the time, Sir Henry Alfred Joseph Doughty-Tichborne, was only two years old.
The trial began in the Court of Common Pleas on May 11 1871, and lasted 102 days. Orton weathered the attacks against the discrepancies in his story and his outright ignorance of many key facts Sir Roger would have known. Over 100 people vouched for his identity as Sir Roger - except Orton's brother who claimed otherwise. Eventually Sir John Coleridge revealed the whole case in a cross-examination that lasted 22 days and the evidence of the Tichborne family eventually convinced the jury. March 5 1872 Orton's solicitor Ballantine gave up. The case was closed and Orton lost his upper-class supporters.
Orton was promptly arrested and charged with perjury. His criminal trial began in 1873 and lasted 188 days. The jury was eventually convinced - based on, for example, testimony of Orton's former girlfriend - that this claimant was false. Orton was convicted of perjury on two counts on February 28 1874 and received fourteen years of hard labour. The legal costs amounted to £200,000 (at least ten million pounds sterling or twenty million US dollars in early 21st century money).
Many people who had supported his efforts refused to believe the truth and claimed he was unjustly persecuted. Rumors included conspiracy theories about Jesuits. When Parliament refused to take the Tichborne case to a Royal Commission in April 1875, his supporters started a small-scale riot in London.
Orton served ten years in prison and was released 1884. By that time the public had forgotten him. He alternately confessed and claimed he was innocent but aroused little interest. He died in poverty in April 2 1898. His coffin still carries the name Sir Roger Charles Doughty Tichborne.
The 1998 movie The Tichborne Claimant is loosely based on these events.
- BBC report of an exhibition of historic documents relating to on the Tichborne case, 12 August, 2004
- [http://alanbyrnes.idx.com.au When Orton was in Australia he used the name Thomas Castro and married a girl named Mary Ann Bryant. This page is dedicated to Mrs. Thomas Castro.
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details