The Fifth Duke of Portland

This is the final bizarre fact found in Lawrence James's Aristocrats (page 297-8). Today it is actually about a Victorian aristocrat. I realized that for a Victorian-themed blog, I probably should have started with entries most relevant, but I couldn't resist the "ferret in the cleavage" story.

This story is about the fifth Duke of Portland. You know it's going to be a good story, because his name was William John Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck.  A triple-barrel surname is always a great indicator of something interesting to come. What's a better indicator is that he and his three brothers were all named William. ANYWAY:

“Whether because of a fixation with privacy or manic shyness, he withdrew from the world into a vast network of tunnels excavated in and around his house . . . The largest was over a mile long, wide enough to allow two carriages to pass and lit by skylights in daytime and gas at night . . . His servants were ordered to treat him as if he were invisible and not look at him as they performed their duties.”

I guess he also stripped his entire giant mansion bare, painted the inside pink, and lived in only 4-5 rooms, which had no furniture, except a toilet in the corner.

I PERHAPS am wrong about this–if anyone can correct me, it would be appreciated–but I believe they talked about him on an episode of QI, where no one but his valet was allowed in his presence, not even the doctor. So whenever he had health problems, the valet would have to take instruction from the doctor through the door and shout back his findings. This could be another aristocrat, but it does kind of reek of Portland.

Not that Wikipedia is an entirely reliable source to reference, but you should check out his page. The stories just get curiouser and curiouser.

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