Monday, 20 May 2013

Prince Eddy

Eddy was born Prince Albert Victor on 8 January 1864; he was the eldest son of Queen Victoria’s eldest son, the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII); a second boy, George (later King George V) was born on 3 June 1865.  In 1871, a clergyman called Edward Carpenter was approached to tutor the boys, but he turned down the post; the Reverend John Neale Dalton was appointed in his place.  Carpenter and Dalton were close friends – they had been at Cambridge together – and were to remain so for life.  In September 1877, Dalton accompanied the two boys when they were sent to do time on the naval training vessel Britannia on the River Dart in Devon.  In the two years they spent there, George did well, but not Eddy.  In September 1879, they were sent to sea on the Bacchante; again, Dalton went with them.  (In Japan, both boys had dragons tattooed on their forearms.)  Their final voyage brought them back to England in August 1882; Eddy was eighteen years old, George seventeen.
In preparation for the next stage in his grooming as a future monarch, Cambridge University, Eddy was put in the care of a tutor-cum-companion called James Stephen, who was twenty-four.  (Stephen, who would die in an asylum in 1892 at the age of thirty-three, was a cousin of Virginia Woolf’s.)  The two certainly became intimate, at least to the extent that Eddy’s biographer feels he must say: ‘That the relationship between the two young men was ever overtly homosexual is open to question’.  Both John Dalton and James Stephen accompanied Eddy when he went up to Cambridge for eighteen months from October 1883.  While there he mixed in a circle mainly made up of ‘Apostles’.  One of his frequent visitors was A.C. Benson, who became ‘an object of adoration’ to Dalton; another was Lord Ronald Sutherland Gower, almost two decades older than Eddy and a likely model for the character Lord Henry Wotton in Oscar Wilde’s novel The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891); and another friend was Oscar Browning (he and the prince were once locked in his bathroom together as a joke).  In his subsequent military training, poor Eddy showed no greater aptitude for soldiering than he had previously shown for sports at school, for seamanship in the Navy, or for the things of the mind at Cambridge.  In 1886, he lost Dalton to matrimony: he had proposed to the sister of a teenaged male friend only three days after meeting her.  (Their son, himself a lover – but a chaste one – of beautiful young men, was Hugh Dalton, Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Labour of administration of Clement Attlee.)
When the Cleveland Street scandal erupted in the late 1880s, the prosecution was deliberately impeded to prevent charges being brought against Lord Arthur Somerset, who was allowed to flee the country. The fear of the establishment had been that, if Somerset were to be called on to give evidence in open court, compromising information might enter the public domain.  The point was to stifle what were then only rumours, that Prince Eddy had been a visitor to the Cleveland Street brothel.  As it happened, a fortuitous trip to India had long been planned for the prince, and off he went from October 1889 to May 1890.  But the scandal rumbled on with a libel trial and further rumours, plus more explicit allusions in the newspapers across the Atlantic.  In the House of Commons on 28 February 1890, Henry Labouchère – he of the Amendment – accused Lord Salisbury’s government of a cover-up, but his demand for an official enquiry was voted down.  (Lord Arthur Somerset, incidentally, spent the rest of his life with his friend James Neale at Hyeres in the South of France; he died in 1926.)
Queen Victoria promoted her heir’s heir on 24 May 1890: Eddy became Duke of Clarence and Avondale and, as if that were not enough, Earl of Athlone.  In the same year, he formed a close friendship with a twenty-four-year-old doctor, Alfred Fripp, who was John Dalton’s godson.  Meanwhile, the Queen was keeping a weather eye open for a suitable young woman for Eddy to marry.  This would be the next necessary step in his training for kingship.  The appropriate candidate was found and towards the end of 1891, prompted by the Queen and the other members of the royal household, Eddy proposed to Princess May of Teck and was accepted.  However, only a few weeks later fate intervened.  Eddy contracted influenza which gave way to pneumonia, and after a week’s illness, on 14 January 1892, he died at Sandringham.  (Queen Victoria knew that a suitable girl is not to be wasted, and in due course Princess May married Eddy’s younger brother George; she would eventually become the formidable Queen Mary.)  The monument to Eddy in the Albert Memorial Chapel at Windsor was made by Sir Alfred Gilbert, the sculptor of Eros in Piccadilly Circus.

Source: Theo Aronson, Prince Eddy and the Homosexual Underworld (London: John Murray, 1994)

No comments:

Post a Comment