A New Zealand author claims in a new book that her grandmother was former British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli's love child, whose existence was hidden to prevent a scandal in Victorian high society.
Writer Catherine Styles says a note attached to Disraeli's will supports her contention that the two-time Conservative prime minister, a favourite of Queen Victoria, fathered an illegitimate child in London in 1866, when he was 61.
Styles, 76, says in her book Disraeli's Daughter that the baby was her grandmother Catherine Donovan, who eventually settled in New Zealand.
The claim is supported by Disraeli's biographer, US historian Stanley Weintraub, who wrote a foreword to the book which cites evidence of the statesman's dalliances.
He said a note attached to Disraeli's will raised concerns that an unnamed "infant beneficiary" was not being provided for, even though the politician had no children with his wife.
"Benjamin Disraeli... was probably neither the first nor the last British prime minister to have concealed the existence of children born out of wedlock," he writes.
Styles said her family had long believed they were descended from Disraeli, who first became prime minister in 1868 then again from 1874-1880.
She said Catherine Donovan had received an allowance from a mystery benefactor, believed to be Disraeli.
A photograph of her grandmother, which bears a striking resemblance to a portrait of the young Disraeli, which still hangs at his country home in England, supported the belief, she added.
"I have avoided writing this book for 20 years; my family's code of silence restrained me," she wrote in her book.
"I find no reason to maintain that silence any longer."