Top Ten Insane People: A “Colder” countdown: #5: William Cavendish
Yeah! It’s your daily helping of making you feel better about your own peculiarities. You collect toenail clippings from “Survivor” contestants? No problem… you’re still less insane than these people. Insanity is the theme because Colder, my creator-owned series in tandem with the roguish / talented Juan Ferreyra, will be released on November 7th from the fine people at Dark Horse Comics.
And Colder is both about insanity, and also a bit insane.
So… yes. I’ve been thinking about insanity. Because of that, I’m running a countdown of my current top ten favorite insane people. This list focuses on the “wacky eccentric” type of crazy, rather than the much less amusing Ed Gein / Hitler / subhuman folks. I started with Pythagoras and am moving down to NUMBER ONE. Who will number one be? Oh, the suspense! The drama! Can you guess? (hint: it’s Declan… the main character from Colder, because this is my blog)
And now let’s speak of Mr. Cavendish, shall we? Let us discuss insanity.
William was not… shall we say… a go-getter. He entered the army in 1818 and did receive several promotions, but as he was a member of the ruling class that’s meaningless, as the ruling classes received quick promotions unless they were actively killing their own troops or dead, in which case the promotions slowed a bit, but not by much. William “distinguished” himself as suffering from lethargy due to his “delicate health.” To give you an idea of what it meant to be royalty in those days, William served as Captain in the Royal West India Rangers from 1824-1834. Sounds pretty damn cool, ehh, wot? That’ll get the ladies’ drawers in a twist. That’s a HE-MAN position. Just let that roll off your tongue: Captain the the Royal West Indian Rangers! What’s your role, then? Rattlesnake stomper? Crocodile-wrestler? Ninja-stabber? Well, no, none of that. The Royal West Indian Rangers were disbanded in 1819, which, you might note, is five years before Willie became captain. That’s right, he was captain of nothing. That’s royalty for you.
On March 27, 1854, William succeeded his father as the 5th Duke of Portland, and it was then that his growing eccentricity really got a hold on his throat. William was a recluse, and he was damned good at it.
Having moved into Welbeck Abbey, he stripped all but 5 rooms of their furnishings, even tapestries and paintings, and stored them elsewhere. The stripped rooms were all painted pink. There was nothing in them but the bare parquetry floors. Oh, and commodes in the corner, because, you know, just in case. So… yes, in the grandness of Welbeck Abbey, William lived in only five rooms. This lasted for quite some years, until the entire mansion was in a state of disrepair, and then William began to use his vast wealth to restore the buildings, and to add to them. He built, and built, and built, employing thousands of workmen. Vaults were constructed,and workshops, a hospital, a library, an observatory, courts, studies and so on. There was a vast ballroom for the entertainment of guests… a ballroom large enough that thousands upon thousands could fit into the room at the same time. Hah! Who’s a hermit NOW?!
Well… still William. Because he never invited any guests to Welbeck Abbey. Never. Not one. And workmen were expressly forbidden to acknowledge the Duke in any manner whatsoever. It’s reported that one workman saluted him, and was dismissed on the spot.
Willie ventured outside mostly be night, preceded by a servant who carried a lantern and walked a full 40 yards ahead. When he ventured out in the day, the Duke wore two overcoats, huge hats and collars, and carried a huge umbrella he could hide behind if forced to address anyone. If William had to go into London for business he would have himself sealed in a carriage which was then horse-driven to the train, where his carriage was then loaded onto the train and sped away into London, where he could have another set of horses attached and be on his merry merry lonely way.
Only his valet was allowed to see him, and only in his private quarters. All notes and instructions to workmen and staff were passed through a double set of message boxes. His food (half a roast chicken for lunch, the other half for supper) was delivered to his room via a miniature railway.
And there were extensive, beautifully constructed tunnels. MILES of tunnels. William could descend into these tunnels via trap doors in his room, meaning that nobody could be sure when he was moving about. He had a 240,000 square foot riding school, lit by 40,000 gas jets, supported by fifty massive pillars. No one ever rode there.
God… I feel lonely just writing about this man. He did carry out a fair amount of correspondence, at least. Never with ladies, though. I wonder how many twitter followers he would have in today’s world. It’s much easier to be a physical recluse these days, when you can still have 10,000 Facebook friends and scream “Noob!” when you’re snipering somebody in Medal of Honor. You know… social contact.