Editor’s Column: The Possibilities Lost To a Dead Gay Prince

Not entirely unlike the relentless British tabloid assaults on Prince Harry and Meghan, Britain’s Duke and Duchess of Sussex, in the present day, the slander campaign against a future king of England upon his untimely death in 1891 has been unrelenting even until now. Prince Eddy’s questionable death at age 28 had potentially far greater consequences for the unfolding of events in the subsequent century. He was gay.

Had not this heir to the British throne died unexpectedly at age 28 in 1891, could his succession to the throne as the King of England in 1911, instead of his brutish younger brother, have prevented, or at least mitigated, the impact of World War I and the horrible succession of events that followed over the next two decades?

What if that heir’s untimely demise had to do with the fact that he was well known in elite British circles, and well rumored in the general public, to be gay? Could a significant amount of the carnage of the 20th century have been mitigated because, by virtue of being gay, his sensibilities, totally unlike those of his thoroughly male chauvinist younger brother who’d become the war-complicit King George V, were acutely averse to the unfolding of this unbelievable butchery?

Such questions have never been publicly entertained in the century following the Great War, despite their incredible importance given that there were 40 million casualties among the most educated and well-heeled populations in the world in that unspeakably horrible conflict, carried out on the watch of three heads of state, of Germany, Russia and England, who were cousins that had casually socialized at the same event just a few years before.

Prince Eddy, fully named Albert Victor Christian Edward Windsor, was born the eldest grandson of Queen Victoria, on January 8, 1864. Growing up as a future king to become the dashing young Prince Eddy, he was enormously popular in Britain in the latter part of the 19th century, eclipsing that of his gruff, conspicuously hedonistic and rotund father who, after the death of Queen Victoria, became King Edward VII in 1901 until his death in 1911. Eddy’s popularity, together with his gentle, charming personality, sowed considerable jealousy and enmity in the royal household.

Eddy suddenly became seriously ill and died after only a few days in January 1891 in the midst of an influenza outbreak and less than two years after he was caught up in a homosexual brothel scandal. Many have suspected foul play, that Eddy had been done in by the “Crown,” shorthand for that pervasive royal influence in British life which has been accused of covert operations to maintain its legitimacy over the years, possibly accountable for no less than for the premature death of Princess Diana in 1998 and the ongoing cascading slanders in this present day in the British tabloid press against Prince Harry and his wife Meghan.

Once Eddy was gone, a remarkable succession of lies and rumors took over the official memory of his life, outrageous claims including the assertion that he harbored a hidden life as Jack the Ripper, or that he was mentally deficient.

The rumor that was true, however, exposed his involvement with the infamous Cleveland Street male brothel scandal that rocked London in the summer of 1889. Active at the brothel was a network of telegraph delivery persons.

One book about Eddy and all this by Theo Aronson, “Prince Eddy and the Homosxual Underworld” (Borough, England, Lume Books, 1994), details everything about the incident, and another by Andrew Cook, “Prince Eddy, the King Britain Never Had” (Smoud, England, The History Press, 2008), provides lots of documentation of Eddy’s gracious personality and brief public career that resulted in the massive effort to taint and discredit his role.

The Cleveland Street scandal happened around the same time as the infamous trial of Oscar Wilde (1895), and March 1892 death of Walt Whitman, whose works inspired the upcoming generation of homosexuality-affirming pioneers like Edward Carpenter (who wrote in 1894 “Love’s Coming of Age”), John Addington Symonds and a growing number of “Uranian” poets.

(To be continued)