Ballads & broadsides

From the first appearance of the Claimant, Arthur Orton, to his imprisonment in 1874, the British public was captivated by the Tichborne case.
Arthur Orton himself became a celebrity, and was in great demand to make appearances at theatres and meetings, as well as a celebrated guest at shooting parties and other gatherings. Madame Tussaud’s museum created and displayed a wax model of Orton, for which he provided the clothing. The general public was intrigued by this Claimant, who challenged the strict barriers of class by claiming noble birth, but presenting a humble accent and background. Many people saw the trial as challenge to the dominance of the upper classes and enthusiastically supported Orton, and his defence lawyer, Edward Kenealy. Others viewed the trial as a spectacular piece of entertainment, to be discussed, argued and laughed about. The interest in the trial spawned thousands of cheap, popular publications, including hundreds of broadside ballads, satires and cartoons.

The State Library’s collection of Tichborniana includes many examples of these ephemeral publications, most of which were part of the estate of Maurice Kenealy, the son of Orton’s defence lawyer. Also in this collection are caricatures published in popular periodicals, such as Vanity Fair and The Hornet.

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