Editor’s Column: Prince Eddy, Part 3: The ‘King Britain Never Had’

(Part 3)

“Eddy was as popular and charismatic a figure in his own time as Princess Diana a century later. As in her case, his sudden death in 1892 resulted in public demonstrations of grief on a scale rarely seen at the time, and it was even rumored (as in the case of Diana) that he was murdered to save him besmirching the monarchy.” As could become the case of Prince Harry today.

This explosive statement in the cover blurb of Andrew Cook’s 2002 work, “Prince Eddy, The King Britain Never Had” (The History Press) needs to be supplemented by two facts not included in his comprehensive work: 1. Eddy, in line to become king as Alfred Victor, was gay in a manner relatively open to a small circle, definitely not publicly, in the context of the surging late 19th century social upheavals. And 2 had he ascended to the throne instead of his “conservative and stodgy” younger brother George V, the developments of the succeeding century could have been very different indeed, including a real potential for avoidance of the Great War and the unspeakable horrors that emerged from it.

These two added elements are critical and essential, even at this late stage, for not only grasping the true magnitude of Eddy’s untimely demise (he was allegedly the victim of a flu epidemic), and for how it impacted the whole world, including the 25 million lives lost in the Great War (World War I) and the estimated 70 million lives lost in its World War II delayed extension. The period between the wars was called “the long weekend.”

But as Andrew Cook writes in his book’s preface, “One needs to go back to the Middle Ages, to Richard III and John, to find a significant royal figure whose reputation has been so besmirched by the retrospective historical record as Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale.”

“Eddy, as he was known throughout his life,” Cook added, “was the eldest son of Edward VII and heir presumptive to the throne for the 28 brief years of his life.” Cook’s book was the basis for a more recent film documentary produced by Britain’s Channel 4.

Still, Cook’s book treats the rumors of Eddy’s homosexuality as one of the many character assassinations of Eddy, which in this case, it was not, but instead a valuable insight into his soul.

The late 19th century was marked by such things as the popular appeal of the effete Oscar Wilde as a public speaker and playwright. The popularity of his presence and his views is a signal of the mood of the times. While his arrest, trial and conviction on the basis of his relationship with his Bosey was the stuff for real scandal in that period, it was not at all due to a vast public revulsion, but instead a titillating curiosity. Needless to say, it was met with great horror in official circles.

That sensational scandal came only a couple years after Eddy was up to his knees with his own, one which was barely kept out of the British press but was reverberating overseas. That was the biggest eye opener of 1889, the Cleveland Street gay brothel scandal which brought down a few select members of the royal entourage and regarding which Eddy was deeply involved, as well.

By then in his mid 20s, Eddy still had the closest friend of Edward Carpenter, who became a true gay rights pioneer, as his personal tutor. He was part of a wider current known as the “aesthetics” movement, of men and women who elevated the love of beauty over competition between nations or economic objectives, and grew as a reaction to, while in tandem with, the latter. The “aesthetics” movement that subsumed not only art but music and philosophy, was peaking in 1914 at the outset of World War I and was brutally crushed by it. It survived that war by morphing in the 1920s into what became known as a more muscular Art Deco movement, a sustained push to better integrate art and industry.

Still, all of this was in sharp contrast to the harsh values of the older ways,

(To be continued. All rights reserved.)