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) was a prominent Scottish landowner and sportsman, best known for the controversy over his conduct at the time of the sinking of the RMS Titanic.

The son of the Hon. Cosmo Lewis Duff Gordon and the former Anna Maria Antrobus, Cosmo 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.

As a sportsman, Duff Gordon 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 is best known, however, for the circumstances under which he survived the sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912, along with his wife and her secretary, Laura Mabel Francatelli.[2] The three of them were among only 12 people in Lifeboat #1, whose capacity was 40. Criticism after the disaster suggested that he had boarded the emergency boat in violation of the "women and children first" policy, that the boat had failed to return to rescue those struggling in the water, and that his offer of five pounds to each of the lifeboat's crew might be viewed as a bribe to keep their distance from those still in the water. The Duff Gordons at the time (and his wife's secretary in a letter written at the time and rediscovered in 2007[3]) stated that there had been no women or children waiting to board in the immediate vicinity of the launching of their boat, and there is confirmation from other witnesses that First Officer William Murdoch was apparently glad to offer Duff Gordon and his wife and her secretary a place in the boat (simply to fill it) after they had asked if they could get on (there were, of course, many passengers trying and failing to obtain places on lifeboats elsewhere on the vessel). Duff Gordon denied that his offer of money to the lifeboat's crew represented a bribe, and the British Board of Trade's inquiry into the disaster accepted his denial on this point. The inquiry nonetheless concluded that, if the emergency boat had rowed towards the people who were in the water, instead of staying away, it might very well have been able to rescue some of them.[4]

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.


  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 (May 2, 2007). "Letter clears 'blackguard of the Titanic'". (London: Telegraph Media Group). Retrieved May 5, 2007. 
  4. British Wreck Commissioner's Enquiry: Report. "Account of the Saving and Rescue of those who Survived: Conduct of Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon and Mr Ismay". Accessed on 8/23/12 at:
  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

Ad blocker interference detected!

Wikia is a free-to-use site that makes money from advertising. We have a modified experience for viewers using ad blockers

Wikia is not accessible if you’ve made further modifications. Remove the custom ad blocker rule(s) and the page will load as expected.