Men, money, duelling and murder: welcome to the infamous Derby race of 1844 and the gambling mania that gripped early 19th century Britain.
This is a tale of money, gambling and sporting obsession; of rogues and rascals, outrageous criminality, aristocratic complacency, and a gripping investigation to expose the most audacious sporting plot of the age. In the early 1840s, Britain was the gambling capital of Europe and the Epsom Derby was attracting countless spectators and many millions of pounds in wagers. It was a time of frenzied speculation, high stakes and low morals.
But as the unprincipled Regency era gave way to the high-mindedness of the Victorian period, reformers decided it was time to challenge the murky world of illegal gambling and in 1844, launched the far-reaching Parliamentary Enquiry. When the Derby of the same year ended in chaos, with the two favourite horses doped, the Turf’s most dedicated follower and greatest tyrant Lord George Bentinck, took it upon himself to uncover the truth of what happened that day, which led to one of the most sensational court cases of the 19th century. A compelling detective story peopled with low-life aristocrats and high-minded reformers, GENTLEMEN AND BLACKGUARDS paints a rich picture of early Victorian society, bringing to light an overlooked turning point in British history.