Cosmo Duff Gordon Biography

Athlete (1862–1931)
Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon was one of the few male first-class passengers to survive the Titanic disaster of 1912. His curious rescue came under harsh ridicule.


Cosmo Duff Gordon came from an aristocratic Scottish family and was one of the few male first-class passengers to survive the Titanic. Once Duff Gordon returned to England, he became the subject of ridicule. The press called his lifeboat the "money boat" after he noted that he paid crew members for their lost possessions, an action later viewed as a bribe to not return for other passengers.

Marriage to Lucy Gordon

Titanic survivor, businessman. Born on July 22, 1862. From an aristocratic family, Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon was one of the few male first-class passengers to survive the Titanic disaster of 1912. In his youth, he was known for his singing and athletic abilities.

In the 1890s, Duff Gordon met fashion designer Lucy Wallace. At first, their relationship was professional as Duff Gordon became an investor in her company, Maison Lucile. The two later fell in love and married in 1900.

It was business that led Sir Cosmo and Lady Lucy Duff Gordon to book passage on the Titanic in 1912. Much had been written about the vessel, the latest addition to the White Star Line, and how it was supposed to the largest and most luxurious passenger ship at the time. On April 10, 1912, the Duff Gordons boarded the ship in Cherbourg, France. The couple was traveling under the name “Mr. & Mrs. Morgan” for some unknown reason.

Titanic Disaster

On the night of April 14, 1912, around 11:40 p.m., the mighty vessel struck an iceberg. Lady Duff Gordon heard the collision and people outside of her cabin running about. She went to her husband who eventually agreed to go investigate. He ran into John Jacob Astor and the two decided to return to their wives to tell them to get dressed and come up to the deck.

Punctured in places by the ice, the Titanic was damaged and began to fill with water. Soon after Captain Edward J. Smith ordered the lifeboats readied and prepared to evacuate the ship, starting with women and children first. But neither the ship nor the crew were prepared for such an emergency. There were not enough room in the lifeboats for everyone and some of the boats were put into the water when they were not even half full.

Lifeboat Controversy

The Duff Gordons made their way onto Lifeboat 1, which held only 12 passengers when it lowered into the water. The craft had been built to hold 40 people. In later inquiries, this fact came under a lot of scrutiny as did Duff Gordon. He made one impulsive move while on the lifeboat that would haunt him the rest of his life. After comment by a crew member said that they had lost everything when the ship went down, Duff Gordon promised the seven crew members on the boat five pounds each to cover the cost of their lost possessions. This action was later viewed as a bribe to encourage the crew not to return to pick up more survivors.

On the morning of April 15, the passengers of Lifeboat 1 were taken aboard the Carpathia, a ship that answered Titanic’s distress call. The vessel made it to New York City several days later.


Not long after the disaster, the Duff Gordons were back in England. They became the subject of much ridicule in the press, with their lifeboat being called the “money boat” because the perceived bribe by Cosmo. The reports indicated that the money was offered to the crew to prevent them from returning to the wreckage site.

In May, both Cosmo and Lucy Duff Gordon were called to testify at a British inquiry into the sinking of the Titanic. While Cosmo found to be innocent of any wrongdoing, he continued to suffer in the court of public opinion. The whole incident cast a dark shadow over the rest of his life, which he spent largely in seclusion at Maryculter, his family estate in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

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