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The Scrivener: How To Be Somebody

The Prince of Waldeck-Pyrmont, the Duke of Ratibor, Prince of Hohenlobe-Waldenbürg-Schillingsfürst, Dona Marie Elsie Octavia Guery, wife of the ruler of Araucania…

Oh what a cast of characters did Brian Barratt discover while browsing through the venerable Times newspaper’s obituaries list for 1893!

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Ploughing through The Times, 1785–1985, I found that in 1918 an ancestor of a distant cousin was tried for the attempted murder of his wife, and acquitted. Now, having browsed through the Obituaries list for 1893, I feel compelled to share with you some of the names of the dear departed, and their achievements.


The Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, elder brother of the Prince Consort. The English branch of the family later changed its surname to Windsor.

The Prince of Waldeck-Pyrmont, and Prince Alexander of Battenberg, ex-ruler of Bulgaria. He was appointed ruler of Bulgaria in 1879. Russia forced him to abdicate in 1886. Things haven’t been the same since. The Battenbergs later became the Mountbattens.

The Duke of Ratibor, Prince of Hohenlobe-Waldenbürg-Schillingsfürst. You can just see the grand ostrich feathers, medals, sashes and scrambled egg, can’t you? By the way, he was German.

Dona Marie Elsie Octavia Guery, wife of the ruler of Araucania. Where? In 1569, Alfonso de Ercilla y Zuñiga published La Araucana, about the Spanish conquest of Chile. Does that help?
Prince Brigis Kudr, eldest son of the late King of Oude. His dad probably lived in Lucknow, the capital of the kingdom of Oude (Oudha) until the Indian Mutiny in 1857.

King Crow, a native Monarch of West Africa. He has the vaguest description in the list of hundreds but I’m sure he was a jolly nice chap.

Rev. John Hughes, D.D., well-known leader of the Welsh Calvinistic Methodists. Now there’s fate for you, isn’t it boyo?
The Rev. F.T. Hodgson, D.D., LL.D., “The Fighting Parson” of the Confederates, and afterwards Vice-Chancellor of the University of the South. White-skinned students only, one assumes.

Dr Johann Zwerger, Prince Bishop of Seckau, in Styria. It’s very important, being the Prince Bishop of a province of Germany.

The Right Rev. Walter Chambers, D.D., late Bishop of Labuan and Sarawak and the Straits Settlements. Wow! He had a pretty big diocese in Malaysia.

M. Jovan Boshkovics, a distinguished Servian savant and Minister of Education and Public Worship. They don’t have a Minister of Public Worship in Serbia now, but things are going that way in the USA.

Two gentlemen had genealogical reasons to be included. They are Mr Terence O'Brien, who claimed to be a lineally descended from one of the Irish Kings, and Mr Richard Charles Brown, J.P., an alleged lineal descendant from Malcolm, King of Scotland.

Elder Evans, the head of the Shaker community in America. Their full name was The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Coming. They trembled in anticipation, alleluia!
Margaret Lane Fox, the American spiritualist. As young girls, she and her sister were fraudulent mediums whose trickery helped to give rise to the Spiritualist movement.

Mr Alexander Stewart, the tiger-slayer. No doubt elephant-slayers and lion-slayers also got a mention in the good old days.

Mr Percy Everitt, inventor of the "penny-in-the-slot" machines. Yes folks, in 1882 this English gentleman patented a machine which gave you something when you put a coin in the slot. The patron saint of ATM’s, maybe.

Mr T.R.H. Fisken, inventor of the steam plough. His notable innovation doesn’t seem to have lasted very long, but it must have looked absolutely magnificent, eh?

M. Daniel Colladon, inventor of the use of compressed air for the transmission of force. Methinks we might need to investigate that claim a little further.

Sir James Anderson, the expert on submarine telegraphy. At least he didn’t show off with his mobile phone.

Mr Chang, the Chinese giant. The poor chap probably spent most of his life in side-shows, being ogled at.

Mr John Addington Symonds. The respectable newspaper does not add any description. Mr Symonds was a literary giant but also very fond of young men in a way Victorians disapproved of. His wife was a lesbian. How confusing.

Twenty-five centenarians are listed, too, the oldest being Frau Barbara von Schiesl, of Esseg in Hungary, aged 116.


Think not of these fine people as lost, dear reader. They have but gone before. And now you know how you can get into the obituary pages of The Times.

© Copyright 2006 Brian Barratt


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