Henry Fauntleroy, Disgraced Banker Hanged, 1824, Greetings Card,
125 x 125 mm, contained in cellophane wrapper with fitted envelope.
Fauntleroy became a partner in the banking house of Marsh, Sibbald & Co. of Berners Street on the death of his father in 1807, he having been original partner. The young Fauntleroy having joined the bank at fifteen was seen in his early days to be extremely bright and efficient.
However, when he was arrested on 11th September 1824 a rather different story came to light. Three days later the bank announced its foreclosure, with a suspension of payments “ due to the extraordinary behaviour of one of our partners Mr. Fauntleroy”. For ten years he had been forging signatures and selling off the stock of anything up to £46,000 at a time, whilst at the same time continuing to pay out dividends.
The press had a field day with the story, competing to produce more and more lurid accounts of his debauched life with tales of his appropriation of £250,000 from trust funds to set up mistresses in town and country and also evidence of him gambling away the bank’s assets at the races.
His aura was not improved when the central case for the prosecution focused on the alleged forging of his sister-in-law’s signature. He had also kept a book listing all the fraudulent deals.
His defence that he was only trying to protect the bank during a difficult period rang rather hollow and combined with accounts of ill treatment of his wife, he was found guilty and sentenced to death. Many of his friends tried to come to his defence and even the governor of Newgate attempted to intervene on his behalf.
Over 100,000 people attended his hanging and these coins were engraved to be sold at the event. A number still exist and were clearly very popular at the time. “The Robber of Widows and Orphans” was the constant refrain as well as popular sentiment against bankers.
Such was the novelty of an establishment figure being hanged in this way that rumours circulated that he had evaded death by having a silver tube inserted into his throat and that after the hanging he had been cut down and fled abroad. Seemingly the public found it difficult to believe that a banker could not escape justice.