Dr. Edward Kenealy and the Tichborne Case

Dr. Edward Kenealy was a Victorian lawyer and writer. At best his association with Magna Carta could be described as tenuous, however, he serves as yet another example of the manner in which people have connected themselves with the Magna Carta tradition.

The Tichbourne Case

The Tichbourne case was a cause celebre that captivated the Victorian public between the 1860s and 1870s. It concerned the claims of an individual who’s been referred to as Thomas Castro or as Arthur Orton. The case centred around the missing heir to the Tichbourne Baronetcy. The baronetcy was left vacant when the heir, Roger Tichbourne, was presumed to have died in a shipwreck in 1854. His mother clung to the belief that Roger had survived and had got to Australia safely. In her attempt to find Roger she regularly advertised rewards in local newspapers in  exchange for any information in connection with Roger. In 1866, a butcher from Wagga Wagga called Thomas Castro came forward claiming to be Roger Tichbourne. Despite the fact that Thomas’s manners and bearings were somewhat unrefined, a long way from the expectations of a member of the British aristocracy, his claim gathered popular support and he travelled to England. Lady Tichbourne accepted Thomas as her son immediately whilst other members of the Tichbourne family were sceptical and sought to expose him as an imposter. The case went to trial and Edward Kenealy was the barrister who defended the claimant. The trail itself was notable for the fact that during Kenealy’s defence he conducted many lengthy speeches. Many of these speeches were conducted with violent partisanship and often made groundless accusations against witnesses and various Roman Catholic institutions, treated the bench with contempt, and protracted the case into the longest trial at nisi prius on record. Given this it was somewhat unsurprising that Kenealy lost the case. His actions during the case were serious enough in nature to result in Keneraly being disbarred by Gray’s Inn on 17th August 1874.

Kenealy was intent on publicizing both his grievances and that of his client. He chose to do this by establishing the Magna Charta Association. He used this as a platform to tour the country and talk about the Tichbourne case. Over this period he gathered plenty of support and became almost a celebrity figure. During this period the citizens of the borough of Stoke repeatedly invited him to represent them in the House of Commons as their local MP.  Eventually, on 16th February 1875 Kenealy became the MP for Stoke after winning the election with a huge majority.

The Magna Charta Association became a leading popular radical organization demanding triennial parliaments, votes for women, the abolition of income tax, and duties on tea, coffee, and sugar. Kenealy’s political career however was not a huge success and he subsequently lost his seat in the next election. After this he more or less vanished from the public eye.

 

 

 

 

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