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Medieval Historical Backgrounds
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The Inspiration for Timothy Longworth's crime in The Rules of Seduction
In The Rules of Seduction, Timothy Longworth finds himself one word away from the gallows and only the silence of the book's hero spares his life. Timothy's crime was inspired by an actual event that occurred a little over a year prior to the time when the novel is set.
The culprit was Henry Faluntleroy. His father had been a founder of Marsh, Sibbald & Co., Bankers in London. Henry joined the firm and became a partner in 1807. At some point he began forging the signatures of his customers in order to sell their securities. He also had to forge other documents to both pursue and cover his crimes.
In 1824 it all caught up with him and he was arrested. It has been estimated that by then he had stolen between 170,000 and 250,000 pounds, an enormous amount in those days. A run on his bank ensued and it soon declared bankruptcy.
At his trial he admitted his guilt but claimed he had done it to keep his bank from failing during the financially chaotic times. It is generally agreed that he really converted all the money to his own use. He lived in high style and reportedly had a weakness for expensive women. His lifestyle and financial occupation permitted him to rub shoulders with the aristocracy, and a number of them testified on his behalf as character witnesses. However, others were among his victims.
The general sentiment was that his connections would keep him from the gallows. They didn't. He was hanged after two failed appeals, on November 30, 1824. His case had become a major "media event" and his execution drew a huge crowd. Estimates of number that watched are as high as 100,000. Windows and rooftops with good views were packed.
Interesting enough, a woman was among his earliest victims and the Newgate Calendar makes it clear that she, not a trustee, controlled her funds. Her name was Frances Young. She gave the bank a power of attorney to receive the dividends on just over five thousand pounds that were invested in her name in the three-per-cent Consols. The investigation revealed that soon after she placed the business with Fauntleroy, another power of attorney (a forged one) with her name and that of two witnesses was used to authorize Fauntleroy to sell the stock. He took the five thousand, but continued paying her the dividends.
Like my fictional Timothy Longworth, Fauntleroy had to keep stealing to cover the dividends of the people he had already victimized. It just got bigger and bigger. Since his earliest crime can be dated to 1814, the wonder is that it took at least ten years for someone to figure it out. Those investments in the Consols just sat there for years in most cases, it seems, and it was not even common to move their management from one bank to another. Trustees for another Francis, this time a young man named Francis William Bellis, were the ones to finally lodge information against Fauntleroy and bring down his house of cards.
Some sources say that Fauntleroy was the last person to be executed for forgery in England. This is not accurate. For one thing, he was not convicted of the forgery because it had occurred outside the jury's jurisdiction. He was convicted of the crime of utterance, which is related to forgery but not exactly identical to it. Second, in 1828 two other men were executed for forgery so 1824 was not the last date for it.
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