Cosmo Duff Gordon
Born 22 July 1862(1862-07-22)
Died 20 April 1931(1931-04-20) (aged 68)
South Kensington, London England
Occupation Fencer, Landowner
Parents Cosmo Lewis Duff Gordon
Anna Maria Antrobus
Signature CosmoDuffGordonSignature.png

Sir Cosmo Edmund Duff Gordon, 5th Baronet DL (22 July 1862 – 20 April 1931), the son of the Hon. Cosmo Lewis Duff Gordon and the former Anna Maria Antrobus, was a prominent Scottish landowner and sportsman. He was particularly noted as a fencer, representing Great Britain at the 1906 Summer Olympics, winning silver in the team épée event. He was also a self-defence enthusiast who trained with champion Swiss wrestler Armand Cherpillod at the Bartitsu Club in London's Soho district.[1] Duff Gordon was the co-founder of the London Fencing League, a member of the Bath Club and the Royal Automobile Club. He was a sheriff and magistrate in his native Kincardineshire, near Aberdeen, where his ancestral country estate Maryculter was located.

Duff Gordon was the fifth baronet of Halkin, his title stemming from a royal licence conferred on his great uncle in 1813 in recognition of his aid to the Crown during the Peninsular War. In 1772 his family had founded the Duff Gordon sherry bodega in Spain, which still produces high-quality fortified wines.


Lady Duff-Gordon

In 1900, Duff Gordon married the famous London fashion designer "Madame Lucile" (née Lucy Christiana Sutherland, then Mrs. James Stuart Wallace). This was slightly risqué, as Lucy, Lady Duff-Gordon was a divorcee and had a sister, Elinor Glyn, noted for writing erotica.

Cosmo Duff Gordon is best known for surviving the sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912, along with his wife and her secretary, Laura Mabel Francatelli.[2] Rumours that the Duff Gordons bribed the crew in their lifeboat not to rescue people in the water threatened their reputations, but the British Board of Trade's Inquiry into the disaster cleared them of any wrongdoing and a letter written by the secretary further clears their name.[3] It is known that lifeboat 1 of the Titanic was barely filled as many onboard still believed it to be "unsinkable" and that First Officer William Murdoch was glad to offer Duff Gordon and his wife a place (simply to fill it) after the couple had asked if they could get on.

In 2012, documents were found in the rooms of the law firm that represented Duff-Gordon, that give separate detailed accounts of the Titanic sinking by Duff-Gordon and his wife.[4] In the papers, written by Sir Cosmo and presented to the lawyers defending his interests, reference is made that the cheque for £5 which Sir Cosmo gave to the crewmembers on the same boat, was because they had lost everything. One crewman had stated that Sir Cosmo offered "a fiver" to each of them, to row away from the other victims.

According to his great nephew, Gordon spent the rest of his life "quite reclusive", and he died 20 April 1931 of natural causes. He is buried at Brookwood Cemetery, near Woking, Surrey.[5]

Cosmo Duff Gordon was portrayed by Martin Jarvis in the 1997 film Titanic. The actor's wife, Rosalind Ayres, played Lady Duff Gordon. In the 2012 ITV mini-series Titanic the couple were portrayed by Simon Paisley Day and Sylvestra Le Touzel.


  • Burke's Peerage
  • Who's Who (UK)
  1. Vaucher, Abel: Cherpillod, Armand, "La vie d'un champion: Cours de culture physique et de jiu-jitsiu", Lausanne, France, éditions "civis", 1933
  2. "Family history doesn't repeat itself". Daily Telegraph City Diary (47,787): p. B8. 23 January 2009. 
  3. Reynolds, Nigel (2 May 2007). "Letter clears 'blackguard of the Titanic'". The Daily Telegraph (London: Telegraph Media Group). Retrieved 5 May 2007. 
  4. Grise, Elizabeth (14 April 2012). "Titanic Survivors Vindicated at Last". The Daily Telegraph. London: Telegraph Media Group. Retrieved 13 April 2012. 
  5. "Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon". Necropolis Notables. The Brookwood Cemetery Society. Retrieved 23 February 2007. 

External linksEdit

Baronetage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Maurice Duff-Gordon
(of Halkin)
Succeeded by
Henry William Duff-Gordon

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