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Prince Albert Victor : The King Who Never Was

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  • Prince Albert Victor : The King Who Never Was

    The King Who Never Was:
    Andrew Cook takes a look at the Duke of Clarence, grandson of Queen Victoria, who is most often remembered
    as a wastrel who died young, and is sometimes mentioned as a suspect for Jack the Ripper murders; he uncovers
    fresh evidence that he was a well-loved figure who could have made a fine king.
    ************************************************** *********************
    ONE NEEDS TO GO BACK TO the Middle Ages, to Richard III and John, to find a significant royal figure whose
    reputation has been so besmirched by historians as Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale (1864
    -92). Eddy, as he was known throughout his life, was the eldest son of Edward VII and second in line to the
    throne for the twenty-eight brief years of his life.
    It has often been suggested that Eddy was a disappointment to Queen Victoria. In reality, however, he was her
    favourite grandson and the warmth between them is evident from personal correspondence. To the public at
    large, Eddy was as popular and charismatic a figure in his own lifetime as Princess Diana a century later. As
    in her case, his sudden and unexpected death in 1892 resulted in what The Times described as 'manifestations
    of grief' rarely witnessed in Britain. Yet, a hundred years later it was rumoured that he (again like Diana)
    had been murdered to prevent him tainting the reputation of the monarchy. Had he lived, he would no doubt
    have been crowned Edward VIII in 1911, and he would have ushered in a profoundly different style of monarchy
    from that of his younger brother, who as George V did succeed to the throne on the death of their father
    Edward VII in May 1910. The two princes were exceedingly close and were virtually inseparable during their
    childhood, being tutored by Reverend John Dalton, who also remained responsible for their education as naval
    cadets. George was to remain in the Navy while Eddy later joined the 10th Hussars. Army records indicate that
    he became a competent and respected officer who took well to army life and discipline. Despite later claims
    that Eddy was lacking in academic ability, there was, in reality, little difference between the two boys'
    Eddy's life was virtually ignored by historians until the 1970s, when myths began to accumulate and his
    character somehow grew horns and a tail. As a result, he is primarily thought of today as a suspect in the
    Jack the Ripper murders of 1888 and for his alleged involvement in the Cleveland Street homosexual brothel
    scandal of 1889. Like those medieval monarchs whose dire reputations have very much been determined in the
    contemporary mind by William Shakespeare, Eddy's has certainly been shaped by popular films such as Murder by
    Decree (1976),Jack the Ripper (1988) and From Hell (2001).
    The rumours of Eddy's involvement in the Ripper episode can be traced back just four decades. It is now
    acknowledged by most serious researchers of the Ripper killings that the creator of the Eddy Ripper myth was
    eighty-five-year-old Dr Thomas Stowell, whose article 'Jack the Ripper--A Solution?' appeared in the
    Criminologist in November 1970. His article painted a picture of a crazed syphilitic murderer roaming the
    East End, vainly pursued by his doctor. The killer, referred to throughout the article as 'S', was apparently
    a patient of the Royal Physician Sir William Withey Gull, who was convinced that S was the Ripper and strove
    to have him certified insane. The article also provided a potted biography of S, which quite clearly pointed
    the finger at Prince Eddy. Not surprisingly, the wider media seized on the story, which was soon reported
    throughout the world as effectively naming Eddy as the murderer. Stowell, stunned by the degree of attention
    the article received, wrote to The Times in panic, lamely denying that S was Eddy. But Stowell died on
    November 8th just after the story broke and before he could be subjected to further scrutiny, and his son
    tried to defuse the furore by destroying his papers. Although the article contained numerous factual errors
    and recycled several established Ripper tales, the fuse had already been lit. Numerous others would follow in
    Stowell's footsteps, each embellishing and refining the story.
    A little-known French biography Edouard VII by Philippe Jullian was published in 1962 and may seem to
    challenge Stowell's role as the originator of the Eddy-ripper myth. According to Jullian:

    On one occasion the police
    discovered the Duke in a maison de
    recontre ... the rumour soon gained
    ground that he was Jack the Ripper.
    Here was a text that pre-dated Stowell by eight years and seemed to be based upon some earlier source that
    Eddy was indeed the subject of contemporary Ripper rumour. However, the writer Colin Wilson claims that in
    August 1960 he had lunched with Stowell, who propounded his Eddy theory in some detail. Wilson, who was at
    the time writing Encyclopaedia of Murder (1961), was not wholly taken with the theory, but that same evening
    he related the story that Stowell had told him to the biographer and politician Sir Harold Nicolson. The
    Jullian book contains no index or source notes, but its acknowledgements page contains the following

    In England it is to Sir Harold
    Nicolson, for allowing me to delve
    into his works and for telling me a
    number of hitherto unpublished
    anecdotes, that I am most indebted.So the trail finally returned to Stowell. From so little substance so
    much has subsequently been made.
    In 1889 a scandal blew up around the exposure of a male brothel at 19 Cleveland Street in London's Fitzrovia.
    Despite largely retrospective assertions that Eddy was among those who had frequented it, there is no
    tangible evidence that he ever did so, nor indeed that he was either homosexual or bisexual. Eddy's
    association resulted from a fraudulent attempt by one Arthur Newton, the solicitor of Lord Arthur Somerset,
    an equerry to the Prince of Wales, to prevent his client being prosecuted for his own involvement. Newton's
    tactic was to suggest that Somerset threaten to implicate Eddy if he himself was arrested and brought to
    trial. This worked a treat and Somerset was allowed to creep away and spend the rest of his life in self-
    imposed exile on the Cote d'Azur. Newton later tried perverting the course of justice once too often and was
    eventually struck-off by the Law Society in 1913. Some twentieth-century writers have further attempted to
    link Eddy's name with that of Somerset by drawing attention to the presence of an Arthur Somerset at a party
    held in Luton Hoo in November 1891 to mark Eddy's engagement to Princess May of Teck (who was later to marry
    Eddy's brother George and become Queen Mary). However, my new research has established that this guest was
    the Hon Arthur Somerset, not the disgraced Lord Arthur Somerset, his second cousin.
    The eccentric theories concerning the Prince reached their nadir in 1991 when Melvyn Fairclough published The
    Ripper and the Royals. Reproducing extracts from a diary allegedly written by Inspector Frederick Abberline
    of Scotland Yard, the chief investigator of the Ripper murders, Fairclough not only tied Eddy into the Ripper
    murders, but implicated a host of others--including Lord Randolph Churchill. New Scotland Yard have
    subsequently expressed the view that the Abberline Diary is a forgery. On each occasion a Ripper murder took
    place, Eddy was in fact not only out of London but was attending functions in front of a large number of
    One fanciful theory advanced about Eddy's sudden death in the early weeks of 1892 is that it had been murder
    rather than influenza, and Fairclough took this to its illogical conclusion, relating that Eddy had not died
    at all but had been kept a prisoner at Glamis Castle in Scotland to prevent him from coming to the throne.
    (He apparently died, still a prisoner, in 1933.) Fairclough even published a supposed photograph of Eddy,
    aged forty-six, 'eighteen years after his official death'. In order to subject this claim to scientific
    analysis, this photograph and one of Eddy taken in 1890, has been presented to Ken Linge BA, MSc, FBIPP, one
    of the Britain's leading experts on facial mapping and a veteran Old Bailey forensic witness. The results of
    computer analysis using morphological, anthropometric and biometric techniques found numerous and significant
    differences between the two photographs, leading Linge to conclude that they were, without doubt, of two
    entirely different people.
    Far from being a liability to the royal family and the nation he was born to rule, Eddy was, in reality a
    figure of unfulfilled potential who could have made a significant difference to the lives of his subjects. My
    research has uncovered a wealth of correspondence from, to and about him, which throws new light on his
    personal and public life. Instead of the dullard portrayed by some late twentieth-century writers, these
    papers reveal him to be an educated, articulate and able man with independent political and social opinions.
    He was the first senior member of the royal family to attend university (and the last until Prince Charles
    went up to the same college, Trinity College, Cambridge in 1967). In 1886, a year after leaving Trinity, his
    correspondence with former college friend Harry Wilson of Malvern Link, Worcestershire, indicates that he was
    very much in support of prime minister Gladstone's efforts to introduce Home Rule for Ireland. Replying to
    Wilson, who had written expressing his own sympathy for the measure, Eddy replied that his views, 'certainly
    do you credit as they are only too true'. Shortly after the publication of Gladstone's Home Rule Bill in
    1886, Eddy accompanied his father, the Prince of Wales, to a private dinner with Gladstone at Downing Street.
    There was apparently little meeting of minds between the two older men--and Gladstone's opinion of the Prince
    of Wales' 'total want of political judgement, either inherited or acquired' was well known. The heir to the
    throne's view that Gladstone's objectives amounted to 'Irish bull' were equally uncomplimentary.
    Yet, from correspondence exchanged between Eddy and Gladstone at the time of Eddy's twenty-first birthday the
    previous year, it is clear that Gladstone had a much more positive view of the young prince than he had of
    his father. Eddy had probably picked up more Liberal views at university than he generally absorbed at home.
    As an active member of the university's Pitt Club, he had rubbed shoulders with a number of members who were
    in the thick of the debates that were taking place at the height of the Home Rule controversy. One
    contemporary was Austen Chamberlain, whose father Joseph helped engineer Gladstone's defeat on the Home Rule
    Bill by joining over ninety other Liberals in the Conservative Lobby, thus ensuring its rejection.
    It is also clear from press reports in Ireland that, unlike the rest of the royal family, Eddy was much more
    warmly received by the majority of the Catholic population; this was especially evident when he had occasion
    to visit Ireland with his parents in 1887. Whereas the Prince of Wales received an exceptionally critical
    response, papers like the Dublin Weekly News saw the twenty-three-year-old Eddy as a dashing figure who was,
    'not at all bad looking' and would set female 'hearts a-flutter'.
    Despite Eddy's liberal views on Ireland, it would seem that Salisbury's Conservative government, which came
    to office following Gladstone's election defeat in 1886, were intent on taking advantage of his high personal
    standing in Ireland. Documents in the archives of Lord Salisbury reveal that Lord Wolsey, the Commander-in-
    Chief in Dublin, had proposed Eddy for the post of Viceroy of Ireland. On January 8th, 1892, Knollys, the
    Prince of Wales Private Secretary wrote to Salisbury's Private Secretary;
    Many thanks for your letter on the
    subject of the Duke of Clarence being
    appointed Viceroy of Ireland. I have
    shown it to the Prince of Wales, and
    he would very much like to see Lord
    Salisbury'. HRH will be in London
    from Monday afternoon and should
    Lord Salisbury be coming to London
    on the latter day the Prince would be
    very glad to have a few minutes
    conversation with him at
    Marlborough House or Arlington
    Street (whichever would suit Lord
    Salisbury the best) at 3.30.
    Salisbury was apparently unable to come to London and it was instead agreed that the Prince of Wales would
    visit Salisbury at his home, Hatfield House in Hertfordshire. However, shortly afterwards, Prince Eddy
    contracted flu, and on January 10th, Knollys wrote a second letter:

    Will you inform Lord and Lady
    Salisbury that owing to the Duke of
    Clarence's illness he would be unable
    to go to Hatfield--you will see a
    statement. Will you at the same time
    tell Lord Salisbury that for the above
    reason he fears he shall not be able to
    keep his appointment with him on
    Tuesday.That meeting was never rearranged, as Eddy suddenly died on January 14th, 1892, of influenza and
    double pneumonia. Everyone seems to have assumed that he would fight off the illness just as his father and
    brother had beaten typhoid. The widespread public outpouring of grief was as much to do with the suddenness
    of his death as to the loss of a figure who was seen as a symbol of hope for the future.
    Eighteen months after Eddy's death Princess May married his brother Prince George instead. In 1901 Queen
    Victoria died and the Prince of Wales became Edward VII. He was succeeded in 1910 by George who would reign
    for twenty-five years, creating the Windsor dynasty we have today. Prince Eddy had made almost no mark on
    history when he died, and so he was easily forgotten. But what if he had lived? How different might a reign
    of King Edward have been?
    George was a shy king, cold to his wife, cruel to his children, uncertain in the early years of his reign.
    Yet his brother, although no brighter, seems to have been a warm-hearted man, someone with a common touch
    whose public appearances appear to demonstrate an easy going, relaxed performer who might have set the
    monarchy on a very different path.
    The first problem of George V's reign was the constitutional crisis of 1910-11 that was sparked off by the
    refusal of the House of Lords to pass Lloyd George's budget. The Liberal government's response, to introduce
    a Parliament Act curtailing the Lords' power could only succeed if the King gave an undertaking to create
    over 200 new Liberal peers to outvote the Conservative majority in the upper House. George was extremely
    reluctant to make such a commitment. His secretary, Sir Arthur Bigge advised him to hold firm to his refusal,
    even if it meant the resignation of the prime minister and his government. In contrast, his late father's
    secretary, Lord Knollys, believed it would fatally compromise the monarchy not to consent, as he believed the
    King might incur the charge of attempting to come to the aid of the unelected Chamber in its conflict with
    the directly elected Commons. After much pressure from Knollys and much soul-searching on George's part, the
    new king reluctantly agreed to make the pledge. It is likely that Eddy, as king, would have given no such
    encouragement to the Lords, and would have agreed to back the will of the Commons from the outset, thus
    avoiding the further protraction of the constitutional crisis
    This was not the last time George sought to undermine the policy of his elected government. When, a year
    later, the Home Rule issue was back on the agenda, Conservative and Unionist opponents looked again to the
    King in the hope that he would take direct or indirect action to frustrate the will of the House of Commons.
    Indeed, in May 1912 Conservative leader Andrew Bonar Law approached George privately and suggested that the
    royal veto, unused for two hundred years, might be unearthed as a means of stopping the Bill. A few months
    later he went further by suggesting that George would be within his rights to oust Prime Minister Asquith.
    Far from dismissing such an outlandish proposal, George actually raised the prospect with Asquith, who told
    him in no uncertain terms that the constitution did not permit the king to act in such a way. George,
    however, persisted in looking for ways of frustrating the government. Arguably this encouraged those like Sir
    Edward Carson who openly advocated defying the law and setting up an illegal Protestant breakaway provisional
    government in Ulster in case the Home Rule Bill was passed. In such an event the British Army would no doubt
    have been ordered to act against a rebellion. In September 1913 George sought to deter Asquith from
    considering such action:

    Will it be wise, will it be fair to the
    Sovereign as head of the
    Army, to subject the
    discipline, and
    indeed the
    loyalty of his
    troops to such
    a strain?
    Again, given Eddy's views on Home Rule, it is unlikely that those diehard elements opposing the Bill would
    have gained any succour or encouragement to further delay or resist the will of Parliament. As a former
    Viceroy of Ireland he would also have had the connections and ability to act as a positive mediator in the
    run up to the Bill becoming law. Indeed, the history of twentieth-century Ireland could well have been
    different had Eddy lived to be king.
    Another instance of how Eddy might well have acted differently arose in 1917 when his former sweetheart Alix
    of Hesse, now Empress of Russia, and her husband Tsar Nicholas II sought asylum for themselves and their
    children in Britain following the February Revolution of that year. George refused the family, fearing their
    presence in England might jeopardize his own throne and sought to distance himself from the decision by later
    implying that the blame for the asylum refusal lay with his prime minister Lloyd George. Unable to find a
    refuge outside Russia, the imperial family eventually found themselves captives of the Bolsheviks and were
    executed at Ekaterinberg in July 1918.
    After the war George V was reluctantly coerced by his advisers into more 'meeting the people' opportunities,
    which he apparently loathed, and eventually into making his landmark Christmas radio broadcast. Eddy would
    have needed no such prompting. Recently discovered records of his public appearances show him to have been a
    confident speaker. On one occasion, his prepared speech, which had been carefully written down on several
    sheets of paper, was mislaid. Eddy, without any fuss or panic proceeded to make the entire speech off the
    cuff without anyone suspecting that he was having to improvise from memory.
    His empathy for his people would have come somewhat earlier than George's and would have been from the heart.
    It would no doubt have given us a very different royal family not only in terms of style but in substance
    too. Compassionate, charismatic and able, with a uniquely progressive vision for Britain, Eddy as king might
    have created a very different monarchy. The House of Windsor as it exists today is very much George V's
    creation. Perhaps that is the real reason why the memory of Eddy, the king we never had, has been allowed to
    be so thoroughly besmirched.
    John Dalton, The Criuse of Her Majesty's Ship "Bacchante" 1879-1882 (London 1882); J.D. Rees, HRH The Duke of
    Clarence and Avondale in Southern India (London 1891); Andrew Roberts, Salisbury: Victorian Titan (London
    1999); Donald Rumbelow, The Complete Jack the Ripper (London 1992);James E. Vincent His Royal Highness the
    Duke of Clarence and Avondale: A Memoir (London 1893).
    William D. Rubinstein, 'The Hunt for Jack the Ripper' (May 2000); Elisabeth Darby & Nicola Smith, 'In
    Mourning for Prince Albert' (Oct 1983); Lynne Vallone, 'Victoria' (June 2002); Richard Mullen, 'The Last
    Marriage of a Prince of Wales, 1863' (June 1981); Francis Watson, 'The Death of George V' (Dec 1986). See
    Andrew Cook's Prince Eddy will be published in February 2006 by Tempus (20 [pounds sterling]). His television
    programme on 'King Eddy' is due to be transmitted by Channel 4 early in November.
    Source Citation
    Cook, Andrew. "The king who never was: Andrew Cook takes a look at the Duke of Clarence, grandson of Queen
    Victoria, who is most often remembered as a wastrel who died young, and is sometimes mentioned as a suspect
    for Jack the Ripper murders; he uncovers fresh evidence that he was a well-loved figure who could have made a
    fine king." History Today 55.11 (2005): 40+. Search Journals and Magazines. Web. 9 Feb. 2011.
    Last edited by Howard Brown; February 9, 2011, 08:46 PM.
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  • #2
    Bump up with typo removed.
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    • #3
      Hi Howard,

      Thanks for that bump up, it brought to mind the connection of author Harold Nicholson to the Eddy as Ripper story, which Andrew Cook, like other authors dates to 1960. However that may not be correct as I did a little research into this a little while ago and made the following note.(Please keep in mind that Nicholson's book King George V was published in 1952)

      In his book “Prince Eddy and the Homosexual Underworld” author Theo Aronson says:
      “That there had been a conspiracy instigated at the highest levels, there can be very little doubt. Sixty years later, when the writer and politician Harold Nicolson was working on his official life of Prince Eddy’s brother, King George V, he was told by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Goddard, that Prince Eddy ‘had been involved in a male brothel scene, and that a solicitor had to commit perjury to clear him’. And while researching in the Royal Archives, Nicolson made a note in his private diary to the effect that there seems to have been a skilful cover up of the scandal ‘to save the name of the Royal Family”

      Aronson acknowledges that the information from Lord Goddard is taken from “Harold Nicolson a Biography Volume 2” by James Lees-Milne. [Page 231]; and that Nicolson making a note in his private diary is taken from “Hugh Dalton” by Ben Pimlott.

      A source note in Pimlott’s “Hugh Dalton” appears to suggest that there are private unpublished diaries of Harold Nicolson at Balliol College, Oxford, and reference is also made to a particular date – 16th. February 1949 and this is the time when Nicolson was researching and writing his biography of King George V.

      Harold Nicolson’s diaries have been published in three volumes edited by his son Nigel and I have been unable to find an exact reference in these, therefore presume that whatever Harold Nicolson knew must be in his private diaries at Balliol.



      • #4
        Are there any newspaper reports covering PAVs visit to the United States around 1880?


        • #5
          I'm on it Stanley D.

          Nothing to report from GenBank
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          • #6
            Thanks How. The Wik article (if you can believe) on George V says that he and PAV visited Norfolk, Virginia in the 1879-1882 period. Check for murdered prostitutes. (joke)

            The article on John Dalton says that Eddy's mocking shipboard nickname was "Herring". I wonder what that was about.


            • #7
              PAV : Dull....

              New York Times
              January 30, 1885

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              • #8
                PAV may have been dull...but I is a dope.
                I somehow clicked on just one state which limited the amount of possible articles.
                I fixed it and I'll be back.
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                • #9
                  On the other hand, PAV's brother was all for shits and giggles...

                  New Orleans Times Picayune
                  November 16,1882
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                  • #10
                    They're gettin' closer to the mainland...

                    San Francisco Bulletin
                    April 6, 1880
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                    • #11
                      Yes, the Dalton piece says that George was known a "Sprat".


                      • #12
                        In Ja-maker

                        Cleveland Plain Dealer
                        April 8,1880
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                        • #13
                          That's the right boat now on to Norfolk, VA!


                          • #14
                            The dudes get tattooed

                            New York Herald
                            January 18,1880
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                            • #15

                              I'll have to give 'er a go luck in the sources I checked for Norfolk,Va.
                              Sorry buddy.
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