“Sellis’ torso was propped against the back of his bed, his head practically detached from his body. His sheets and nightshirt were bloodied. Precisely as you saw earlier, except he appeared to you standing upright while the footmen found the poor man on his bed. The guard sergeant immediately noticed that an open, bloodied razorblade was lying on the ground, not far from Sellis’ hand dangling at the side of the bed.
“In the late morning, judiciary representatives arrived at the palace and began their investigation. They examined Sellis’ corpse and his room, which had remained just as it was. They interrogated the servants, questioned Neale himself as well as
the physician, Sir Halford. They even subjected the Duke of Cumberland to a brief interrogation.
“The sergeant, called upon to conduct the preliminary investigation of the deceased’s room, insisted that Sellis’ body was still warm. Sir Halford declared on oath that the wounds he had examined on the Duke’s body were severe and had to have been inflicted by a particularly violent and even vicious assailant. “Sellis’ suicide is surely proof of his guilt!” the physician added, though no one asked his opinion.
“It was not until late in the afternoon that the interrogations ended. Contrary to custom, the jury did not retreat to a nearby room to deliberate. There was no discussion to be had at all: unanimously, the jurors concluded that Sellis had killed himself. The judge, therefore, returned a verdict suicide.
“The judicial system did not search for answers as to why Sellis cut his throat, nor for who had savagely attacked the Duke and why. Silence fell on the entire affair, at least officially speaking. It was unofficially, however, that rumours, suspicions, and allegations multiplied. Molten lava began to rise, and two years later, the volcano would explode.
“The whole of England sought to decipher the mystery. Why would Sellis kill himself? As to the idea that he had made an attempt on the Duke’s life, there was resounding proof: the lantern and his slippers left in the bathroom, the open door leading to the ceremonial apartments from where he could get back into his room, the sound of footsteps heard by the housemaid in those rooms heading towards the Duke’s bedchamber. Not having succeeded, he returned to his room, and believing he was about to be arrested, ended his life the moment the footmen knocked on his door. But why would he want to kill the Duke?
“No one believed this version of events, the story of a violent and criminally insane Sardinian. There was even outrage that the Duke’s supporters wanted to taint the memory of a dead man! So, what reason did he have? Those less indulgent had three explanations: Cumberland had become Sellis’ wife’s lover, and Sellis had caught them together… Cumberland was the lover of Sellis’ daughter, who fell pregnant with his child and killed herself… Or, the Duke and Sellis himself were lovers, and having incurred the jealousy of the Duke’s page, Neale, Sellis had been chased from his bed where he then sought revenge.
“The Independent Whig magazine, which had already provoked the explosion, called it into question again with an article concluding that, “We do not know who the murder is. All we said, and we insist, is that Sellis was not, and could not have been his own murderer.” But if Sellis didn’t kill himself, then who did? Well, the Duke, quite simply, and then faked the attack on himself.
“There was no shortage of evidence to support these suspicions: Sellis was small and frail, the Duke colossal, endowed with exceptional strength. How could a struggle between the two leave the Duke on the losing side? Furthermore, his allegedly grave wounds were, according to some witnesses, utterly superficial, and the months-long convalescence period he spent at his brother’s home served only as a way for him to disappear long enough for the rumours to abate. Lastly, and above all, several of the footmen and guards that entered the valet’s room affirmed that the razor said to have been used in his suicide was found discarded on the floor, on the other side of the room, making suicide impossible. They also stressed that Sellis’ head was nearly detached from his torso, which implied extraordinary force was used, rendering him incapable of “suicide”.
“The public took pleasure in piecing together the crime… The Duke had decided for one reason or another to silence Sellis forever. That evening, after returning home from his debauchery, he conspicuously locked himself in his bedchamber, left it through the back door, crept over to the servant’s room, found him asleep, picked his head up by his hair and thoroughly slit his throat. He then inflicted a few minor wounds with the same razor before throwing it in a corner. Then, he retraced his way back to his bedchamber, knocked over furniture, overturned chairs, and broken trinkets. He covered his sabre with his own blood and threw it on the floor, and then called out to Neale for help. For the English, there was no doubt of this.
And Victor Barns concluded, “The Court did it’s best to extinguish the story. It was of no use. The Duke became even more loathed than he already was, to the point of being openly heckled when he appeared in the street or at the Opera. Hatred towards him reached a point that for a long while he didn’t dare show himself in public.”