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Royal scandals: the stories they couldn't prove

Wednesday 15 May 1996 23:02 BST

Was the Duke of Windsor responsible for framing an innocent man?

In 1943, the body of Harry Oakes, a multi-millionaire MP, was found in Nassau, in the Bahamas, covered in feathers, with his genitals burnt and four triangular holes in his left temple. The Duke of Windsor, Governor of the Bahamas at the time, behaved suspiciously: first, he tried to prevent the murder being reported; then he called in the Miami police, rather than Scotland Yard, and told them he suspected Alfred de Marigny, Oakes's son-in-law, whom he hated. De Marigny was accused of the murder and arrested. James Leasor, author of Who Killed Sir Harry Oakes? (1983), argued that American gangsters were threatening Windsor and killed Oakes because he was trying to prevent them introducing drugs and casinos to the Bahamas. In 1994, Snoo Wilson's play HRH suggested that the killer was the Duke's business adviser, Sir Harold Christie, but that the Duke dared not allow him to be tried because financial deals in which he had been involved would be revealed. The suggestion was that the Duke was involved in illegal wartime currency deals organised by Christie and by a Nazi sympathiser, Axel Wenner-Gren.

Did Prince Eddy frequent a homosexual brothel?

In July 1889, police in London discovered that a house in Cleveland Street, north of Oxford Street, was being used as a homosexual brothel. In November, a small radical paper, the North London Press, named prominent visitors to the brothel. One regular, it alleged, had been the Earl of Euston. Another had been Lord Arthur Somerset, son of the Duke of Beaufort, officer in the Royal Horse Guards, equerry to the Prince of Wales. The Earl sued successfully, but Somerset, despite there being a warrant for his arrest, was allowed to remain free. The brothel owner, a man called Hammond, left the country. There was talk of a cover-up and it has since been shown that Lord Salisbury, the Prime Minister, ordered the search for Hammond to be abandoned.

Rumours grew that Prince Albert Victor, otherwise known as Prince Eddy, the 25-year-old son of the Prince of Wales, was a visitor to Cleveland Street. The New York Times denounced the depravity of "this long-necked, narrow-headed young dullard". Theo Aronson's Prince Eddy and the Homosexual Underworld, published in 1994, devoted many pages to establishing the Prince's connection with the Cleveland Street brothel and speculations as to what elements of his emotional make-up might have led him there, though his attendance has never been proved.

Were Queen Victoria and her manservant lovers?

Speculation as to the nature of the relationship between Queen Victoria and her servant John Brown began in their own lifetime, with anonymous pamphleteers claiming that they had married in secret. The rumours resurfaced periodically throughout this century, and are to be revived in a book by genealogist Dr Micheil MacDonald. The BBC is working on a film chronicling the alleged affair, based on the personal records of Brown's brother Archie, but historians believe that the film's producers have misinterpreted stylised terms of endearment of the era. Moreover, a recent book by Richard Hough and Richard Cohen, Victoria and Albert, argued that the conjecture originated in obscene Parisian jokes and propaganda.

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