Albert Edward Prince of Wales
Those who allege that Albert Edward, Bertie, the Prince of Wales was a Ripper suspect, appear to be confusing him with his son Albert Victor, who was a Ripper suspect. Author John Wilding in his book Jack The Ripper Revealed, claims that the Prince was involved, by getting Mary Kelly pregnant. It was also rumoured that the Prince had a flat above a butchers shop in Watling Street, which was claimed to be a venue for wild orgies involving prostitutes. It is probably from these rumours that the Mary Kelly pregnancy story arises.
Bertie was the eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, he was born on 9 November 1841 and it was said had a strict and unhappy childhood. He tried, but would always fall below the high standards of perfection expected from him by his mother. In a typical letter to him she wrote,
'None of you could ever be proud enough of being the child of such a father who has not his equal in this world, so great, so good, so faultless, I delight in the fact that I possess such a perfect husband'. While at university, news of a dalliance Bertie was conducting with a young actress, Nellie Clifton, reached the palace, it caused his father Prince Albert great consternation and he wrote to his son
'You have caused me the greatest pain I have yet felt in this life, you must not, you dare not be lost'.
His father travelled, despite bad weather, to see his son and castigate him. During the trip Albert became feverish after contracting typhoid fever, and died on 4th December 1861.
Eleven years later, Bertie himself would also contract typhoid, the disease almost claiming his life, he was nursed back to health by Sir William Gull, and upon his recovery a national day of thanksgiving was declared.
The Queen always held Bertie to blame for her beloved husbands death, and once said of him, 'I shall never look at him without a shudder', and for the duration of his life he struggled with the burden of knowing that she blamed him. Her refusal to allow him any role in state affairs would leave him with too much energy and free time on his hands, she also considered him frivolous, incompetent, indiscreet and feared him competing with her for the affection of her subjects. A popular joke from this period perhaps best summed up the situation. Why is the Queen like the weather? because she reigns (rains) and reigns and reigns and never gives the poor son (sun) a chance.
On 10 March 1863 he married Princes Alexandra, daughter of Christian IX of Denmark, and they had five children. Queen Victoria, still in mourning 15 months after the death of her husband, attended the wedding dressed entirely in black, complete with a widows cap. Throughout the service she burst into tears whenever she glanced at the spot where her husbands coffin had previously lain. After the wedding she wrote, 'What a dismal affair it was'.
Edward treated his marriage with indifference, and he continued to lead a scandalous playboy lifestyle, full of mistresses and parties. His lists of conquests seemed endless, actress Lilly Langtry was replaced by the socialite Daisy Brooke, who in turn was replaced by the actress Sarah Bernhardt, followed by society matron Alice Keppel.
A court appearance in a notorious divorce case brought him bad press, and his lifestyle made him unpopular with the public. During a tour of Cork in 1885 the crowd hissed, booed and threw onions at him. On the death of Queen Victoria he was crowned King, and reigned from 1901 until his death from pneumonia on 6 May 1910. He was succeeded by his only son George V. He had the distinction of being heir apparent to the throne longer than anyone in English history and his reign is often seen as the beginning of the monarchy's modern incarnation. As king, his main interests lay in foreign affairs and military matters, fluent in French and German, he became the first British monarch to visit Russia. An active freemason throughout his life, he was installed as Grand Master in 1874 and regularly appeared in public as such, both at home and abroad.
Apart from womanising and the love of food, the Prince had another passion in life, he loved fires and fire fighting, and never missed attending a big London fire. The head of the London fire brigade was under strict orders to notify the Prince immediately should any significant fires break out. He volunteered his services in assisting the London fire service and would enthusiastically 'muck in' and socialise with the other firemen. His generosity amongst his colleagues, particularly with his cigars, afforded him great respect, and he would work unnoticed and unrecognised by the public.