Gripping 'Titanic' letter resurfaces for auction
Published 08/10/2010 | 05:00
SHE heard a terrible rumbling noise, then cries for help as her rowboat pulled away from the sinking ocean liner 'Titanic' that dreadful night in 1912.
Now, Laura Francatelli's account of the disaster, in the form of a signed affidavit that was given to a British board of inquiry, is to be auctioned.
It is a gripping account of how she and her two prominent employers -- Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon and his socialite wife, Lady Lucy Duff-Gordon -- managed to survive, fleeing in a rowboat with a capacity for 40 people even though they only had 12 people on board.
"You see a lot of documents that talk briefly about the incident, but this affidavit goes into strong details. It talks about Lady Duff being sick the whole time, about the lifeboat bobbing up and down, about the screams," said Andrew Aldridge, an auctioneer at Henry Aldridge & Son, which plans to sell the affidavit and other 'Titanic' memorabilia on October 16.
He said the letter will likely fetch between €11,500 and €17,000 because of the notoriety of the couple.
"They were two of the most controversial survivors," he said. "Sir Cosmo gave the lifeboat crewmen £5 each, a tremendous amount of money at the time, and it was misconstrued he was paying blood money."
But Mr Aldridge said it is also possible that Sir Cosmo made the payments simply to express his gratitude.
He said it is not surprising that Francatelli's account is sympathetic to her employers. In her written statement, Ms Francatelli, Lady Duff's personal secretary, described a scene of utter terror as they tried to get as far as possible from the Titanic.
"We kept on rowing and stopping and rowing again," she wrote. "We were a long way off when we saw the Titanic plunge down. There was an awful rumbling when she went. Then came the screams and cries."
Ms Francatelli was 31 when the Titanic sank on April 14, 1912. Her signed account was given as evidence to the first official British board of inquiry into the disaster. She died in 1967 and the affidavit has been in private collections since.