The Royal Love Affair That Created a Serial Killer
A story that has been kept uncommon knowledge for more than a century.
Many stories have fascinated me over the years. Stories that are my favourite to share with anyone who will listen. None more so than this royal love affair that ended in murder.
Prince Albert Victor, Eddy for short, was Queen Victoria’s grandson. Eddy was third in line to the throne and a complex boy. At twenty his mother, Princess Alexandra, became concerned about his personal development. His father, who would become King Edward VII, had all but disowned him. Princess Alexandra knew that if the boy was to become the King he was capable of, then he had to live a different life. He needed to experience the realities of the world, without the restrictions placed on him by the court.
Politically, the socialist movement was gaining popularity. Republicans had long been announcing the end of the monarchy. Eddy was the last hope, with his youthful outlook, to calm the people.
Freedom at last
Eddy was an artist, rather than an academic, his mother turned to the world of art to help him. She wanted to find somewhere Eddy could be himself and grow. She enlisted the help of her painter friend, Walter Sickert.
Sickert lived in Cleveland street, a little bohemian village nestled near Tottenham Court Road. He agreed with her plan and Eddy was allowed to spend time there, passing himself off as Albert, Sickert’s younger brother. The young prince would spend many vacations in bliss, pursuing his creative talents. He would leave the court in a coach emblazoned with royal arms and then swap to a plain coach when outside. This was a similar deception used by Edward VIII when he dated Mrs Simpson.
Eddy thrived in this environment. In 1884, Sickert introduced him to a young shopgirl who modelled for him. Her name was Annie Elizabeth Crook. Annie was of Scottish descent and a Catholic. The two quickly fell in love. Annie fell pregnant almost immediately and gave birth the following April. The child was named Alice Margaret.
The affair remained a secret. Annie living in the basement of 6 Cleveland Street, below a local shop. Eddy visiting his family when he could. Lonely, Annie befriended another girl who worked there, Mary Kelly. Sickert offered Kelly the job as nanny to Alice Margaret, and she moved into the basement. When Eddy and Annie were secretly married in a Catholic service, Sickert and Kelly were the only witnesses. When Eddy was away, Sickert would take Annie and the child travelling with him. Kelly on more than one occasion accompanied them.
The love affair was doomed.
When rumours reached Whitehall, there was both disbelief and horror. The Marquess of Salisbury, the current prime minister, received a rather abrupt letter from Queen Victoria. The situation was to be sorted immediately. The Queen, no stranger to a family scandal, wanted the affair stopped.
Salisbury saw the bigger picture of how this scandal could finish the Monarchy. Resulting in a revolution of politics. This would also jeopardise his career and that of all who came after him. He staged a raid on Cleveland Street. Prince Eddy and Annie were torn from the flat and each other. Two separate cabs waited outside. Eddy was returned to court under strict supervision and Annie was taken to Guy’s hospital. Once there Sir William Gull, Queen Victoria’s physician, certified her insane. She died thirty-two years later, clinically insane from the treatment she had suffered. She never left the imprisonment of hospitals and workhouses. Eddy died of influenza in 1892, weeks before his arranged marriage to Princess Mary Adelaide.
The blackmail plot
Kelly managed to escape to the East End, with the child. Sickert would later take Alice to Dieppe, where she spent her childhood in safety. Further rumours suggest that when she came of age, Sickert and Alice had an affair, resulting in her providing Sickert with a son.
Kelly after relinquishing the child fell in with a group of gin-sodden working women. During drinking sessions, she would tell the story of Prince Eddy to her friends. Between them, they devised an ambitious plan to blackmail the government. Salisbury once again faced the task of hiding the truth. Kelly and her accomplices had to be silenced. He approached fellow Freemason, William Gull, for help to deal with these women. To place these women in asylums, like Annie, would raise too many questions. One woman talking about the love of Prince Eddy could be explained, several women saying the same thing would raise suspicions.
Masonry was the power behind the throne and government. If these institutions fell, then so would they. William Gull, as a high ranking Freemason, knew the dangers. They could not let the reins of power go, the secret brotherhood would have to sort the situation out.
The plot to silence them is one of the oldest crime stories known, although, not always connected. The other gin-sodden accomplices were Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman and Elizabeth Stride. Catherine Eddowes was guilty of using Mary Kelly’s name, the night she was picked up for drunk and disorderly.
William Gull had been successful in creating one of the most famous serial killers of all time, whilst keeping the team of perpetrators secret and ensuring no one heard about Prince Eddy and his Catholic wife.