Answers to Correspondents; a Duke's Double Life?

Article excerpt

QUESTION Has the vault in Highgate cemetery ever been opened to see if the coffin contained the remains of Charles Druce? Or was it filled with lead?

IN THE latter part of the 19th century, the 'Druce Affair' provided British society with enough gossip for a decade.

A widow, Anna Maria Druce, of Baker Street, London, claimed the late 5th Duke of Portland, William John Cavendish Bentinck Scott, was none other than her husband Thomas Charles Druce, owner of a shop called Baker Street Bazaar.

The 5th Duke of Portland was an odd character who built a vast complex of subterranean rooms under his estate at Wellbeck Abbey.

There were 15 miles of tunnels linking the buried rooms, one of which was said to be the largest ballroom in the country. From time to time, the Duke would travel to London in utmost secrecy.

He would leave Wellbeck by an underground tunnel in a black hearse-like carriage. The carriage was loaded on to a railway truck at Worksop station and he would arrive in secret at his residence in Cavendish Square.

Anna Druce claimed the Duke lived a double life as her husband, but grew tired of the subterfuge and, while in London in 1864, faked the death of his alter ego Druce, and had his coffin filled with lead and buried in Highgate cemetery so that he could return to his aristocratic life.

When the Duke died in 1879, Anna Druce laid claim to the title and lands of the Portland family for her son. The case between her supporters and the 6th Duke went on for years.

According to Margaret Nicholas's book The World's Greatest Cranks And Crackpots, the grave of the alleged Thomas Charles Druce was opened in 1907.

He was found to be 'aged and bearded' and perfectly at peace.

Derek Sayers, Dunstable, Beds.

QUESTION Were the designs of Charles Rennie Mackintosh inspired by the occult?

THIS theory was put forward last year in a paper to the Mackintosh Society by artist and designer Dai Vaughan.

He claimed Mackintosh's designs were inspired by the esoteric beliefs of his wife, Margaret Macdonald, the influence of the Belgian mystical writer Maurice Maeterlinck, and Max Muller, a spiritualist who lectured in Glasgow.

Symbols included the Scarab, the Egyptian sign of regeneration (as in Mackintosh's work The Wassail); the Tree of Life, the Egyptian symbol of life; the rose, symbol of nature to the mystical Rosicrucian society; and the eye connected to Horus, the Egyptian god of the sky.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh is also known to have studied the book Architecture: Mysticism And Myth by W. …