Henry Fauntleroy was born in 1785 and his father was one of the founders of Marsh, Sibbald & Co. Bankers. He joint his fathers firm in 1800, as a clerk, and after seven years he was taken into the partnership. He soon took over day to day management of the bank but the economic conditions in the early 1800s were difficult and the bank became hard pressed. Fauntleroy, who at one stage lived in South Lambeth Road, began forging signatures on securities belonging to his customers, after a while he had to forge documents to cover up his previous forgeries. Fauntleroy used his ill gotten gains to live the high life, becoming notorious in social circles for his grand house, his many mistresses and lavish live style.
In 1824 the Bank of England began investigating after his bank suspended payments. Fauntleroy was arrested on the charge of appropriating trust funds by forging the trustees signatures, and was committed for trial, it being freely rumoured that he had appropriated �250,000. He was tried at the Old Bailey where he admitted his guilt but pleaded that he had used the misappropriated funds to pay his firms debts. He was found guilty and sentenced to be hanged and despite two appeals he was executed on the 30th of November 1824 . His case became notorious and an Italian named Angelini even offered to take Fauntleroy's place on the scaffold! Following his hanging there were unfounded rumours that he had escaped strangulation by inserting a silver tube in his throat, and was living comfortably abroad. Fauntleroy was the last person in England to hang for forgery.
The Complete Newgate Calendar
A Partner in a Leading Banking-House, who forged
Securities of the Value of One Hundred and Seventy
Thousand Pounds, and was executed at Newgate
On 30th of November, 1824
The Upper Condemned Cell at Newgate Prison on the Morning
of the Execution of Henry Fountleroy by W. Thomson.
Fauntleroy is shown by the doorway with the executioner
tying his hands. Another prisoner is having his shackles
removed, while a third sits on the right.
The station in society which was occupied by this unfortunate gentleman, together with the long-established respectability of the banking-house in which he was a most active partner, and the vast extent of the heartless forgeries which he committed, gave to his case an intensity of interest which has rarely been exceeded.
The apprehension of Mr Fauntleroy took place on the 10th of September, 1824, when he was taken into custody on a warrant, issued in consequence of information being lodged, at Marlborough Street police office, that it had been discovered that in the month of September, 1820, stock in the three per cents. to the extent of ten thousand pounds, which stood in the name of himself, J. D. Hulme and John Goodchild, as trustees for Francis William Bellis, had been sold out under a power of attorney, to which the names of Mr Fauntleroy's co-trustees and of one of the subscribing witnesses had been forged.
The name of the firm with which Mr Fauntleroy was connected was Marsh, Stracey, Fauntleroy & Graham, and their banking-house was situated in Berners Street, where they enjoyed no inconsiderable portion of public patronage. The apprehension of Mr Fauntleroy, on one charge, no sooner became generally known, than, on inquiries being made, it was found that he had, under similar circumstances, sold out stock to the enormous amount of one hundred and seventy thousand pounds since the year 1814, the whole of which he had converted to his own use. The most extra-ordinary degree of interest was in consequence exhibited, and the public, apprehensive of the degree of mischief which might be revealed, became so alarmed that a run on the banking-house took place, which was checked by a suspension of payments, and eventually by a commission of bankruptcy.
His trial took place at the Old Bailey on the 30th of October 1824, when he was indicted for forging a power of attorney for the transfer of stock in the three-per-cent. Consols. to the amount of five thousand pounds, with intent to defraud Frances Young. The Attorney-General was employed to conduct the case for the prosecution, and in his opening address to the jury he described the prisoner as the acting partner in the house of Messrs Marsh & Co. Mr Fauntleroy, the father of the prisoner, had become a partner in that firm at the period of its establishment, and had continued so up to the time of his death, which took place in the year 1807. The prisoner was then admitted into the concern, and became a most active member in carrying on its extensive transactions. In the year 1815 Frances Young, of Chichester, a customer of the house, lodged in their hands a power of attorney to receive the dividends on five thousand, four hundred and fifty pounds of stock, invested in her name in the three-per-cent. Consols. The dividends were regularly handed over by the banking- house; but it was found that, soon after the period mentioned, another power of attorney, authorising the prisoner to sell the stock, was presented to the bank, and the sale was effected by him. To this power the prisoner had forged the names of Frances Young and of two witnesses to it. But the most extraordinary part of the case was that among the prisoner's private papers, contained in a tin box, there had been found one in which he acknowledged his guilt, and adduced a reason for his conduct. The Attorney- General then read the paper, which presented the following items: -- De la Place, eleven thousand, one hundred and fifty pounds three-per-cent. Consols.; E. W. Young, five thousand pounds Consols.; General Young, six thousand pounds Consols.; Frances Young, five thousand pounds Consols. ; H. Kelly, six thousand pounds Consols.; Lady Nelson, eleven thousand, nine hundred and ninety-five pounds Consols.; Earl of Ossory, seven thousand pounds four per cents.; W. Bowen, nine thousand, four hundred pounds four per cents. ; -- Parkins, four thousand pounds Consols. Sums were also placed to the names of Mrs Pelham, Lady Aboyne, W. R. and H. Fauntleroy and Elizabeth Fauntleroy; and the learned gentleman observed that all the sums were added together, and the sum total, one hundred and seventy thousand pounds, appeared at the foot of this list in the prisoner's handwriting. The statement was followed by this declaration :
The Attorney-General then called his witnesses, who confirmed in every point his statement of the case.
Then the prisoner, after having completed the reading of a long document in his defence, sat down, and wept with much agitation. Seventeen gentlemen of the highest respectability were then called, and they all attested their opinion of his honour, integrity and goodness of disposition, and that he was a person whom, of all others, they would have supposed incapable of a dishonourable action. During their examination the prisoner buried his face in his handkerchief, apparently anxious to conceal his features from their view.
In summing up, the judge told the jury that, as the evidence did not show the forgery to have been committed within their jurisdiction, they, being a London jury, would have to decide on the count for uttering ; and after twenty minutes' consideration they returned a verdict of guilty of uttering. Sentence of death was then passed.
Every exertion was used by Mr Fauntleroy's counsel -- his case being twice argued before the judges, upon points of law; but both decisions were against him; and on the 30th of November, 1824, his execution took place at Newgate. The number of persons assembled on the fatal day was estimated at nearly one hundred thousand. Every window and roof which could command a view of the dreadful ceremony was occupied, and places from which it was impossible to catch a glimpse of the scaffold were blocked up by those who were prevented by the dense crowd before them from advancing farther.