Tichborne House, Hampshire
Roger Charles Tichborne was born in 1829 in Paris into an important and devout Catholic family whose ancestors had been ennobled by King James I. When the 8th Baronet Henry Joseph Tichborne died in 1845, leaving only daughters, the title passed to the next brother Edward.
Roger was raised in France with his mother, until the age of 16 and was fluent in French. Then in 1849 his father sent the young man to Stonyhurst College in England and later that year joined the 6th Dragoon Guards in Dublin. He spoke English well but with a marked French accent and was teased for being skinny and deeply Catholic.
Next year he left for South America. From Valparaiso he crossed the Andes and arrived in Rio de Janeiro in 1854. In 1853 Edward died and the title and the family estate passed to Roger's father. In April 1854, on Roger's way back home, his ship was lost at sea with all hands, and he was soon pronounced dead. Roger's father died in 1862 and the title and property passed to Roger's younger brother, Sir Alfred. Alfred died in 1866 and his baby son, Henry, inherited the family privileges.
Arthur Orton, 1872
On learning the news of her eldest son's shipping tragedy, Sir Roger's grief stricken mother refused to admit that he was dead. She sent inquiries all over the world, and in November 1865, she received a letter from a Sydney lawyer who claimed that a man supposedly fitting the description of her son was living as a butcher in the rural town of Wagga Wagga.
The supposed Sir Roger was actually Thomas Castro or Arthur Orton, a man who did not speak a word of French. In fact Weird History blog said he was Arthur “Bullocky” Orton was more than just a slaughter man; he was a sometime bushranger and horse thief. And he was grossly overweight, 21 stone, compared to the 10 stone Sir Roger.
However Lady Tichborne was desperate enough to accept him as her son and sent him money to come to her. Orton was encouraged to travel to Britain by an old friend of Roger's father, a man who accompanied him on his trip home. He arrived in London on Christmas Day 1866 and visited the family estates. There he met the Tichborne family solicitors who became his supporters. Then in January he travelled to the Paris hotel where Lady Tichborne was living, the dowager recognised him instantly as her son and gave him a hefty annual allowance.
After Lady Tichborne's acceptance, other family members and colleagues of Sir Roger accepted him as well. But some family members were horrified by this badly spoken, obese, outback Australian butcher. When Lady Tichborne died in March 1868, Orton lost his most prominent supporter and the family couldn’t wait to sue the man.
Tichborne House in Hampshire was the family seat that was the centre of this very long civil court case. Orton had to sell The Tichborne Bonds, to pay the legal costs entailed in claiming his inheritance from the family.
The Tichborne Trial, 1871
The trial to establish his inheritance began in May 1871 and lasted 102 days. Dozens and dozens of people vouched for Orton‘s identity as Roger, except for Orton's own brother. There is one other consideration that I have never heard analysed before. Orton was a practicing Protestant, and theowinthrop fully believes that this was the key to the massive upsurge of popular support. Anti-Catholicism was still the biggest bigotry alive in Britain back then. Knowing that Orton was a good Protestant, being "cheated" out of his rights, led many other Protestants to support him to the point of idiocy
Eventually the evidence of the Tichborne family eventually convinced the jury. Orton was arrested, charged with perjury and his criminal trial began in 1873. Orton was convicted on two counts of perjury in Feb 1874, and was sentenced to 14 years' hard labour. The legal costs amounted to a truly staggering £200,000 at the time.
Many people who had supported the claimant's efforts refused to believe the truth and claimed he was unjustly persecuted. Still, Orton served ten years in prison and was released in 1884, and by then the newspapers had long moved on to other, more juicy gossip. He died in poverty in April 1898 and was buried with the name Sir Roger Charles Doughty Tichborne on his coffin.
Arthur Orton’s carte-de-visite with its photograph is in the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra.