Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence
Prince Albert Victor Christian Edward, Duke of Clarence and Avondale, KP (January 8, 1864 – January 14, 1892) was a member of the British Royal Family, as the eldest son of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) and Alexandra of Denmark. At the time of his birth, he was second in the line of succession to the throne after his father. However, he predeceased him, and the crown eventually passed to his younger brother, Prince George (King George V), the grandfather of the current British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II.
The Prince's life has been subject to speculation and conspiracy theories over many aspects of his life. His intellect, sexuality and sanity have all been the subject of various alternative theories.
Prince Albert Victor was born on January 8, 1864 at Frogmore House, Windsor, Berkshire. His father was Prince Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, the eldest son of the reigning British monarch, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. His mother was The Princess of Wales, (née Princess Alexandra of Denmark). Following the Queen's request, he was named Albert, but was known informally as Eddy. As a grandchild of the monarch in the male line, he was styled His Royal Highness Prince Albert Victor of Wales from birth.
The Prince was baptised in the private chapel of Buckingham Palace on 10 March 1864 by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Charles Thomas Longley. His godparents were: Queen Victoria, Leopold I of Belgium, Christian IX of Denmark, the Duchess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, the Crown Princess of Prussia, Prince Alfred, the Elector of Hesse and the Dowager Duchess of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg.
The Prince's brother, Prince George of Wales (later King George V) was born on June 3, 1865. Given the close age of the two royal brothers, they were both educated together. The Queen appointed John Neale Dalton as their tutor. Given the importance of his expected future role, the Prince was given a strict programme of study, although he never excelled intellectually.
Later the royal brothers served as Naval cadets on HMS Bacchante, accompanied by Dalton. They toured the British Empire, visiting the colonies in Australia and the Far East, and also acquiring tattoos in Japan. When they returned to the UK, the brothers were parted and Albert Victor attended Trinity College, Cambridge. However, the Prince showed little interest in the intellectual atmosphere, although he did become involved in the undergraduate life. Leaving in 1885 he was sent to join the Army, in the Tenth Hussars Cavalry Regiment.
The official biography of Queen Mary by James Pope-Hennessy euphemistically stated that the Prince's private life was "dissipated", and he was intellectually slow. However, at least one historian (Andrew Cook) has attempted to rehabilitate his reputation, arguing that the Prince's lack of academic progress was partly due his tyrannical tutor, Dalton; that the Prince had liberal opinions, particularly on Irish Home Rule; that he was a warm and charming man; and that his reputation has been diminished by official circles eager to improve the image of his brother, Prince George, later King George V.
Prospective royal brides
Three women were lined up as possible brides for the Prince. The first, in 1889, was Princess Alix of Hesse (future Empress Alexandra Feodorovna of Russia and later follower of the teachings of Grigori Rasputin), who did not return his affection.
The second, in 1890, was Princess Hélène of Orléans, whom he also loved, but the engagement had to be cancelled when Hélène (a daughter of Philippe, Comte de Paris and great-granddaughter of the last King of the French) declined to give up her Roman Catholic faith.
In 1890, Prince Albert Victor was created Duke of Clarence and Avondale and Earl of Athlone. He was now styled His Royal Highness The Duke of Clarence. In 1887, he was created a Knight of the Order of St. Patrick
The Duke of Clarence was engaged to his second cousin once removed, Princess Victoria Mary of Teck (known as Princess May) in 1890. Princess May was the eldest daughter of Princess Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck, a granddaughter of King George III, and her husband Prince Francis, Duke of Teck.
Before the marriage could take place the Duke died of pneumonia at Sandringham House in Norfolk. His death left Prince George in the direct line of succession, and he eventually succeeded the throne as King George V in 1910. Prince George later married Princess May himself, and she became Queen Mary on George's accession.
Cleveland Street Scandal
In July 1889, the Metropolitan Police uncovered a male brothel in London's Cleveland Street. The resulting Cleveland Street Scandal implicated high ranking figures in British society including Lord Arthur Somerset and the Earl of Euston. Rumors swept upper class London of the Prince's involvement, and official papers on the case released by the Public Record Office in 1975 make coded reference to this.
It has been suggested that Lord Arthur Somerset’s solicitor Arthur Newton spread the rumors in order to take the heat off his client, and this therefore invalidates their truth. However, surviving private letters from Somerset to his friend Lord Esher, which were published in the 1990s, confirm the Prince's involvement beyond reasonable doubt. In them, Somerset states that it was he who originally told royal courtiers as "I thought they ought to know", but denies personal responsibility for the Prince's involvement, arguing that it had no more to do with him "than the fact that we (Prince Eddy and I) must perform bodily functions which we cannot do for each other." (Aronson, Prince Eddy.)
What is also clear is that there was a coverup at the highest levels. The official biographer of King George V, Harold Nicolson, was told by the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, Rayner Goddard, Baron Goddard, that, with regard to the Prince's involvement in the case, "a solicitor had to commit perjury to clear him". (Lees Milne, Harold Nicolson.)
Illegitimate birth claim, scandal
Possibly to avoid the gossip which swept upper class London society in the wake of the Cleveland Street, the Prince was sent to British Raj India in 1889. Here he met a married woman, Margery Haddon, the daughter of a civil servant. The following year Haddon gave birth to a son, Clarence Guy Gordon Haddon. After the Prince's death Haddon came to England and claimed the Prince was the father of this son.
Her claims were reported to the royal family and prompted a secret inquiry by the head of the police Special Branch. Papers in the National Archives show that courtiers were unsure whether her claim was true or not, and considered making a payment. What is certain is that letters from the Prince to Haddon were obtained by the Prince's solicitors, and Haddon was sent back to India in 1915 (it was never known if there was any money involved in her departure from Britain and subsequent silence thereafter), where she lived the rest of her life in obscurity.
However, in the 1920s, the son, Clarence, came to England to repeat the story, and publish a book My Uncle George V. A trip to the United States was paid for him out of police funds but he returned to England to pursue his claims.
In 1934 he was bound over for three years at a hearing at the Old Bailey, on the condition that he made no claim that he was the Prince's son. He breached the conditions and was jailed for a year. Dismissed as a crank, he died a broken man.
Even if Haddon’s claim had been proved, as with other royal illegitimacies, it would have made no difference to the royal line of succession.
Jack the Ripper rumours
In the 1960s and 1970s rumours first circulated in books that the Duke of Clarence may have committed, or have been responsible for, the Jack the Ripper murders in 1888. Though repeated frequently, historians have dismissed the claims using indisputable proof of the Prince's whereabouts.
For example on September 30, 1888, date of the murders of Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes, the Prince was at Balmoral, the royal retreat in Scotland, in the presence of Queen Victoria, other family members, visiting German royalty and large numbers of staff. He was also seen there by newspaper reporters. According to the Court Circular that publishes all royal engagements and whereabouts, he could not have been near to any of the murders.
Though the allegation occasionally still surfaces on websites it is universally dismissed by academics and researchers as a classic urban myth.
Prince Albert Victor died of pneumonia as a complication of influenza on January 14, 1892. However many rumours and conspiracy theories suggest alternatives. One theory believes that he actually died of syphilis. Another claims that he died of a morphine overdose, deliberately administered to him. Yet another claims that he survived until the 1920s in an asylum on the Isle of Wight and that his death was faked to remove him from the line of succession. There is no particular evidence to support any of these contentions.
The Prince's mother, Queen Alexandra, never fully recovered from her son's death and kept the room in which he died as a shrine. The Prince is buried in St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle. His tomb, by Alfred Gilbert, is one of the most magnificent examples of Art Nouveau sculpture in Britain. A recumbent effigy of the Prince in hussar uniform lies on the tomb chest. Kneeling over him is an angel, holding a heavenly crown. The tomb is surrounded by an elaborated railing, with figures of saints.
The Duke of Clarence in fiction
Through his connection to the above mentioned theories the Duke of Clarence has occasionally been portrayed in fiction. His appearances in film include:
- David Wickes' Jack the Ripper, first released on October 21, 1988. The actor portraying him was Marc Culwick.
- Janet Meyers' The Ripper, first released on December 6, 1997. The actor portraying him was Samuel West. Coincidentally, West played Prince Albert Victor as a child in the TV miniseries, Edward the King.
- The Hughes Brothers' From Hell, first released on September 8, 2001. The actor portraying him was Mark Dexter.
The Duke of Clarence is also the basis of a pair of alternate history novels that imagine a world where Prince Eddy survives and reigns as King Victor I.
- Dickinson, Peter. King and Joker, London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1976 and Skeleton-in-Waiting, New York : Pantheon Books, 1989.
- Aronson, Theo. Prince Eddy and the Homosexual Underworld. London : J. Murray, c1994.
- Hyde, H. Montgomery. The Cleveland Street Scandal. London : W. H. Allen, 1976.
- Knight, Stephen. Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution. New York : McKay, 1976.
- Lees-Milne, James. The Enigmatic Edwardian: The Life of Reginald, 2nd Viscount Esher. London : Sidgwick & Jackson, 1986.
- Lees-Milne, James. Harold Nicolson (two vol.), Chatto & Windus 1980-81.
- Sams, Ed. Victoria's Dark Secrets. Ben Lomond, CA : Yellow Tulip, ?
- Simpson, Colin, Lewis Chester and David Leitch. The Cleveland Street Affair. Boston : Little, Brown, c1976.
- Cook, Andrew. Prince Eddy: The King Britain Never Had, Tempus Publishing Ltd, 2006. ISBN 0752434101. Also a one-hour TV program on Channel 4 (UK), 21 November 2005.
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