9th Duke of Manchester

William Angus Drogo Montagu, 9th Duke of Manchester (1877-1947), was a Liberal peer, soldier and one of his generation’s most notorious bankrupts. Styled Lord Kimboltonfrom 1877 to 1890, he first enters the Henry Poole & Co ledger books as Viscount Mandeville; a title he held until 1892 when he inherited the Dukedom aged fifteen. Educated at Eton and Trinity College Cambridge, the 9th Duke took the Liberal Whip in the House of Lords and eventually became Deputy Chief Whip. Prime Minister Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman appointed the duke Captain of the Yeoman of the Guard (1905-1907) and he was also Captain of the Lancashire Fusiliers.

The Duke’s financial embarrassments were inherited from his spendthrift ancestors the 7th and 8th Dukes. The 7th Duke and his Duchess Louise (named the double duchess because she subsequently married the love of her life the Duke of Devonshire) were in the Prince of Wales’s Marlborough House set and decimated the family fortune hosting house parties for the future King Edward VII at the Manchester’s country seat Kimbolton Castle. Though the 8th Duke married Cuban-American heiress Consuelo, she did not bring the expected dowry and fell foul of the Prince of Wales having briefly served as his mistress.

On his accession aged fifteen, the 9th Duke allegedly went down on his knees to the Prince of Wales to beg forgiveness for his mother the Dowager Duchess Consuelo and regain royal favour. However, he was as liberal with his capital as his forbears. The Duke married American heiress Helen Zimmerman of Cincinnati whose father bought them Kylemore Castle in Co Galway as a wedding present but their ruinous entertaining cost the couple dear. The 9th Duke regally entertained house parties such as a famous weekend at Kylemore when the Duke and Duchess of Connaught and their entourage bagged over a thousand pheasants on a shoot in 1903.

In 1908 the 9th Duke was forced to sell-off his lands in Ireland. Kylemore Castle was mortgaged during World War I to pay off debts and sold in the 1920s. He was named in the Peerage and MP Ledger as a bankrupt in 1915: an announcement echoed and recorded by Poole’s clerks in the ledgers underlining a debt of over £400. A further family seat Tandragee Castle’s contents were auctioned off in 1926. Kimbolton Castle and its contents including masterpieces by Holbein, Titian, Rubens, Van Dyke and Reynolds were preserved but the Duke spent the remainder of his life abroad evading creditors, seeking out wealthy consorts and attempting to extract money from rich acquaintances.

The Duke wrote My Candid Recollections in 1932 to raise funds and on one of his many trips to America met and married Kathleen Dawes in 1937 having divorced his first duchess in 1931. It was in America that the 9th Duke bought the Hamilton v Drogo case to court in order to establish a trust to benefit his heirs and protect the inheritance of Kimbolton Castle and its contents from his creditors. In 1946 he moved his family – including the future 10th Duke – to Kenya’s Happy Valley where he farmed a 10,000-acre estate and was criticized for deserting post-war austerity Britain.

The 9th Duke died in Seaford, Sussex, in 1947 aged 69. His son spent the rest of his life in Kenya; selling Kimbolton and its contents in the 1950s and dying in 1977 having been forced to sell the rest of the family’s English and Irish estates.

(c) James Sherwood

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