Saturday, March 5, 2011

March 11, 1881 --- A Sensation in Fashionable Cirlces

After hosting a midnight supper and playing some friendly hands of whist at the Turf Club, Count Miecislas Jaraczewski returns to his flat in Bennett Street, St. James, where he takes a lethal draught of prussic acid.

The Polish Count - of uncertain origin - had nonetheless become fast friends with the Prince of Wales after the two met on the Riviera. Accompanying the Prince to London, Jaraczewski survived for a couple of "Seasons", living on his good looks and charm in the set orbiting Marlborough House. He was a mystery to most: "Probably no foreigner about whose family or antecedents so little was known ever succeeded so quickly in effecting an entrance into the exclusive penitralia of English society."  He gambled often and hard with the men and won a reputation as a good and indefatigable dancer with the ladies.

The World marked his death by observing, "No similar occurrence has created so much sensation in sporting and fashionable circles." Nicknamed "Sherry and Whisky", a feeble English attempt to pronounce his name, the Count is another casualty among those who - with limited means - hoped to maintain their place within the Prince's coterie. Although there were whispers as to the Count's honesty at the tables, it was his debts which apparently forced his hand.

The coroner's office, surely under pressure from certain regal interests, cancelled an inquest and hastily ruled that Jaraczewski died in a fit brought on by a weakened heart. Further inquiry would be unnecessary. The World reported, "[It was] heart disease of so aggravated a form as to create astonishment among his most intimate friends how he lived to the age of 43 considering the hard and exciting life he led, the late hours he kept, and the extraordinary fluctuations his finances underwent through betting and cards."  Lt. Gen. Dighton Probyn, equerry to the Prince of Wales himself, swooped down on Bennett Street "for the purpose of making arrangements for the safe charge of his papers and effects."

The Count would no doubt have been pleased by the turnout for his interment at St. Mary's Catholic cemetery in Kensal Green; the sporting clubs were well represented and the Prince of Wales laid a floral wreath on the coffin.
[The Turf Club, London]

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