Regency Mystery: The Disappearance of Benjamin Bathhurst

The disappearance of a British Diplomat in Germany during the Napoleonic Wars is perhaps not so mysterious to today’s reader.  But imagine its November 1809, and a young man named Baron de Koch is stopped at the post house for fresh horses in the town of Perleberg, west of Berlin.  He is dressed with the care and elegance of German merchant, in a sable fur great coat, grey trousers, grey frogged short coat, fur cap and a scarf with valuable diamond pin (  He also is carrying pistols on his person and firearms in the carriage. (Gloucestershire Notes and Queries: An Illustrated Quarterly, 1894)

The Baron and his courier sauntered over to the nearby White Swan inn to order an early dinner.  According to reports, the horses were not to be put on until he dined.

He dined but seemed agitated, and had the horse put to at 9 after hours in the inn writing and burning papers.  Stepping round to the heads of horses, he suddenly and quietly disappeared.  No trace of him was found until months later when his pants were found in the woods.

Different theories were circulated…murder, capture and suicide until his disappearance took upon an almost folkloric quality.  Some of this was hastened along by news stories:

(Gloucestershire Notes and Queries: An Illustrated Quarterly, 1894)

Nothing definitive was known for many decades.  Because no sound was heard, his pistols were found, and he disappeared within almost an instant imaginations ran wild.  That Bathurst had greatly irritated Napoleon while serving as a foreign diplomat was cause for strong belief that Napoleon had ordered him murdered.

However, when the evidence began to come to light it suggested a much more mundane ending:

(Gloucestershire Notes and Queries: An Illustrated Quarterly, 1894)

There is no conclusion to the story, only a strong likelihood of Bathurst’s fate.  However his disappearance’s ability to capture the imaginations of a country at war is fascinating.

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