Biography of English Impostor Arthur Orton Part 2

About the English imposter Arthur Orton, biography and history of the famous conman.


ARTHUR ORTON (1834-1898), English impostor

Tichborne, part of a distinguished English family, was born in his mother's native France. He enjoyed a typical French boyhood until his father removed him from under his mother's smothering influence and sent him to Stonyhurst school in England. After a stint in the army (he purchased a commission), Roger, then 24, decided to leave the country for a variety of reasons; one of them was to forget a complicated love affair with a young cousin. He landed in Valparaiso in 1853, later set out across the Andes, and eventually made his way to Rio de Janeiro in 1854. From there he decided to travel to Mexico by way of the West Indies. On Apr. 20 he took passage aboard the Bella bound for Kingston, Jamaica. The ship never arrived. One of its overturned lifeboats was found floating amid wreckage more than 400 mi. off the coast of Brazil.

Roger was presumed lost, and his younger brother eventually became heir to the family fortune. However, Roger's strong-willed mother refused to believe that Roger was dead. Nine years after the ship went down, she advertised for news of him in The Times. Undaunted by receiving no replies, she advertised again two years later in an Australian newspaper. This advertisement contained considerable information about Roger and the circumstances surrounding his death.

At the time, Orton was in the process of declaring bankruptcy through a Wagga Wagga solicitor named William Gibbes. During one meeting with Gibbes, Orton let "slip" that he owned some property in England and vaguely mentioned an inheritance, all the while fingering a pipe carved with the initials R.C.T. Gibbes, who had seen Lady Tichborne's advertisement, was hooked. He confronted Orton (who was still using the name Castro), and Orton "admitted" that he was Roger Tichborne. Gibbes immediately wrote to Lady Tichborne and had Orton do the same. Arthur's letter should immediately have cast grave doubt upon his claim. After beginning with "My Dear Mother," Arthur went on to say that he was enclosing a photograph so that she "may see how greatly I have emprove." In closing he wrote, "Hoping my dear Mama to see alive once more. But I am afraid not has I can not get surfience Money to come home with." Incredibly, Lady Tichborne believed the communication to be from her literate son and sent money for the trip.

Soon afterward Orton, along with his wife and child, left for England by way of Sydney. There he looked up two former servants of the Tichborne household, who both accepted Orton as Tichborne. Orton hired one of them, a West Indian named Bogle, as his valet. Orton lost no time adopting the style and character of a Tichborne--by spending money lavishly. Before leaving Sydney, he bought the Metropolitan Hotel for Pounds 10,000 by writing a check and signing Tichborne's name.

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