The years after the First World War saw the then Prime Minister David Lloyd George splitting from the main body of his Liberal Party and setting up a coalition with the Conservatives.
He decided to pay for his new coalition party by raising money from the sale of political honours, establishing a brokerage system for titles.
At the centre of the system was Maundy Gregory, a curious and shadowy figure.
Gregory set up shop in opulent offices in Whitehall and went about his task with gusto, selling honours on a vast and unprecedented scale.
Apart from his brazen honours brokerage, Maundy Gregory is thought by some to have been on the fringes of the security services, to have been behind the leaking of the Zinoviev letter in 1924 which helped bring down Ramsay Macdonald's government, and to have been implicated in the murders of two people, before being jailed and later spirited out of the country to obscurity.
He is also, bizarrely, thought to have been Dashiell Hammett's inspiration for the character of Gutman, the Fat Man, in The Maltese Falcon.