Berkshire Life - - HERITAGE LIFE -

life – not an un­pleas­ant man but not a well-ed­u­cated one ei­ther. And there was a ‘Mr Hyde’ side to the fu­ture monarch.

Royal gos­sip was like cur­rency in the elit­ist of com­pany and Prince Al­bert Vic­tor pro­vided much of it among the es­tab­lish­ment. He ap­peared un­com­mu­nica­tive, al­though at Trin­ity Col­lege he was re­puted to be a fre­quenter of par­ties. Some of these were or­gan­ised by a don called Os­car Brown­ing, who seemed to lean heav­ily in the di­rec­tion of ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity.

That set the gos­sip ma­chines into over­drive.

Al­though he did not smile very much, Prince Al­bert Vic­tor’s so­cial life be­came leg­end and did not abate when he joined the Army as an of­fi­cer in the 10th Hus­sars at Alder­shot. He hated mil­i­tary ex­er­cise but en­joyed a game of polo. He did not much en­joy the of­fi­cers’ mess but was a very dif­fer­ent an­i­mal when it came to go­ing to the the­atre, clubs and par­ties, which had an abun­dance of both young men and young ladies. Ac­cord­ing to the be­hind-the-hand whis­pers, ei­ther would do.

The Cleve­land Street Scan­dal of July 1889 rocked so­ci­ety when po­lice raided a male ho­mo­sex­ual club and dis­cov­ered many well-known es­tab­lish­ment faces there. Prince Al­bert Vic­tor was not among them but it was later said he was a reg­u­lar vis­i­tor. Hate mail be­gan to flow to his par­ents and bat­tle lines were drawn, some say­ing that the prince was a het­ero­sex­ual male while oth­ers pointed the fin­ger and said that he was in­deed a reg­u­lar at ho­mo­sex­ual es­tab­lish­ments and that he was bi­sex­ual. The

Prince Al­bert Vic­tor was never a healthy child. It is believed that he inherited some of his mother’s deaf­ness and that it might have im­paired his com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills. What­ever he did, the prince did not seem to match up to ex­pec­ta­tions. Was he in fact dyslexic and strug­gled with his school work? Did he feel so lack­ing in self-worth that he de­graded him­self in ev­ery pos­si­ble way? Did he fear his al­le­ga­tions were very se­ri­ous be­cause the laws were noth­ing like they are to­day and any hint of ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity was to­tally con­demned.

The bad news grew worse as Lon­don be­came ablaze with the hor­rors of the Jack the Rip­per killings. As po­lice tried to track down the mur­derer, the trail led them to broth­els in the East End where, once again, Prince Al­bert Vic­tor was im­pli­cated and the drift of ru­mours turned into a gale of ac­cu­sa­tion. The gov­ern­ment was in a panic and Queen Vic­to­ria was de­cidely not amused. Fi­nally a young de­tec­tive set­tled the ru­mours when he proved that dur­ing the time of one of the mur­ders the prince was ac­tu­ally in Scot­land and thus in the clear.

The fin­ger of ac­cu­sa­tion now pointed else­where, but ev­i­dence that the prince had been in­fected more than once by sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted dis­eases did noth­ing to en­dear him to the pub­lic. He was sent on royal trips abroad, be­came en­gaged and ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble was done to put him in bet­ter stand­ing. To a de­gree it worked and there was gen­uine mourn­ing when he sud­denly died, aged 28, on 14 Jan­uary 1892, dur­ing a flu pan­demic.

So was Prince Al­bert Vic­tor a vil­lain or was he a vic­tim? One thing is cer­tain – he was born in Wind­sor and he was laid to rest in Wind­sor and thus his story be­gan and ended with Berkshire. forth­com­ing mar­riage or the prospects of one day be­ing king? He had been un­well for a while be­fore he suc­cumbed to the pan­demic flu out­break. Much of the ev­i­dence against Prince Al­bert Vic­tor is based on ru­mour. His vis­its to du­bi­ous clubs and broth­els seem to have been real enough but were they frequent or just an oc­ca­sional slip? When show­girl Ly­dia Miller com­mit­ted sui­cide an in­quest re­vealed that she had had af­fairs with many of so­ci­ety’s men – in­clud­ing the prince. Does that show that he saw no value in pro­pri­ety or was he just a man like many oth­ers?

To those who knew him, the prince al­ways seemed a lit­tle odd, but was he strange enough to butcher pros­ti­tutes in East Lon­don? Was the al­ibi ev­i­dence fab­ri­cated to get him off the hook and avoid a po­ten­tial na­tional upris­ing? We shall prob­a­bly never know the truth...

Victorian black and white en­grav­ing of HRH Duke of Clarence and Avon­dale. Taken from the English Il­lus­trated Mag­a­zine 1892, the year of his death

ABOVE: Por­trait of Prince Al­bert Vic­tor and his brother Prince Ge­orge of Wales

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