NEW light has been shed on why a millionaire playboy may have turned down a place on a Titanic lifeboat.

Ben Guggenheim famously told other passengers on board the fated vessel: ‘We’ve dressed in our best and we’ll go down like gentlemen’.

He stoically sat sipping brandy with his personal secretary, Victor Giglio, as the ship sank.

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His immortal words were recorded in the 1997 Titanic film and in the recent Julian Fellowes adaptation.

But a new photograph just discovered in the archives of Ampleforth College, in North Yorkshire, has revealed that Victor Giglio was mixed race and would probably have been denied a place on board the lifeboat. It is believed that the industrialist chose to turn down his place on the first class lifeboat as he would not leave his valet behind.

The 23-year-old valet was part of Guggenheim’s entourage, which included the industrialist’s mistress, French singer Madame Leotine Aubart and his chauffeur.

Mr Giglio travelled in first class with his employer.

When the two men realised their pending fate, Mr Guggenheim told a survivor: “No woman should be left aboard this ship because Ben Guggenheim was a coward”.

The two are said to have returned to their cabins and changed into evening wear, then sat down on deckchairs, sipping brandy and smoking cigars.

Victor Giglio was a pupil at Ampleforth College in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

A photograph of him at the school taken in 1901, aged 12, was discovered by archivist and librarian at the Roman Catholic school, Father Anselm Cramer.

He discovered the lost images in the school’s file after the Maritime Museum, in Liverpool, appealed for information about the valet to mark the 100th anniversary of the ship’s sinking.

Mr Giglio was born in Liverpool to an Italian father and Egyptian mother.

The archivist also found tributes to their former pupil.

One was from Ampleforth headteacher Father Edmund Matthews, and read: “Those who knew Giglio at school will not require any assurance that he met death bravely and even willingly, rather than, perhaps, take the place of someone else in the lifeboats.”

Liam Kelly, research officer for the Abbot’s office at Ampleforth, said yesterday: “Since its foundation, Ampleforth College has strived to instil students with a deep sense of the importance of the Benedictine and Christian ideals of service and love of neighbour, ideals expressed above all in how people conduct themselves.