Royal of the day: Prince Eddy

NYREE MCFARLANE
Last updated 05:00 01/04/2014
eddy

THE KING THAT NEVER WAS: Eddy a year before his death (left) and with his prospective bride - who later married his brother - Princess Mary Of Teck (right).

eddy
HIS TRUE LOVE? Princess Helene - who Eddy was willing to abdicate for before her father ended their relationship over religion.

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He was Queen Victoria's grandson, heir to the throne and the current Queen's Great Uncle. Did his early death save Britain from a terror or would Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale have been a fine monarch? 

So little is known for sure about the royal, known as Prince Eddy, because the royal family destroyed his personal papers after his death, but rumours swirl around his legacy - the most scandalous (and probably least likely to be true) is that Prince Eddy was in fact the notorious serial killer Jack The Ripper. There's even a Johnny Depp film about it (well, sort of). 

Born two months premature in 1864, Eddy is now widely considered to have been a slow student when young, with his tutor John Neale Dalton calling him an "abnormally dormant" student. That said, he connected with people very well and it's suggested he had quite progressive political ideas. Trade unionist member Henry Broadhurst is quoted as saying that Eddy had a "total absence of affectation or haughtiness" and Eddy's recently recovered letters prove he had very anti-his-establishment views when it came to Irish Home Rule. 

Eddy's father - Edward VII's - known affairs with women were tolerated by the public, but when Eddy's name was involved in a scandal surrounding a brothel made up of male prostitutes in 1889 it was quite another matter - homosexuality was illegal at the time.

Some say Eddy's name was brought up in the case by a lawyer just to take the heat off his other high profile clients who were named as visitors of the Cleveland Street brothel, but either way the possible scandal was enough to make Eddy's father intervene in the investigation and basically halt the Scotland Yard's efforts full stop. 

In the same year as the brothel scandal, Eddy was slated to wed his cousin Princess Alix of Hesse (but she wasn't keen and ended up marrying Eddy's cousin - keep it in the family - Tsar Nicholas II of Russia). Then, a year later, he fell in love with the French royal Princess Helene of Orleans - Queen Victoria was opposed to the idea of her grandson's lady love at first because Helene was Roman Catholic.

But, as a sign of their love, Albert offered to renounce his succession rights to marry her and she offered to convert, leading the then Queen to go out on a limb support the marriage. Unfortunately, her father refused and their affair ended, with Eddy then writing to Helene: "It almost breaks my heart to think that our lives must be spent apart." 

Just a year later Eddy fell in love again, or maybe he was pressured into moving on, and he was engaged to be married to his cousin Princess Mary of Teck. Their wedding date was set for February 1892.

Tragically, Eddy became the era's most high profile victim of the influenza epidemic and died at only 28 and just a month before his wedding after contracting the flu and then pneumonia, his brother then took his crown and his wife: George moved up in succession and became King George V in 1910 and later married his dead brother's former fiancée Princess Mary.

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Whatever is said about Eddy - that he was a serial killer, or that he was slow or that he had a penchant for male prostitutes - his casual and relaxed public persona obviously struck a chord with the British people who truly mourned his death - shops put up their shutters and the people collectively wept. 

Whether he would have been a great king that would have lead to a more progressive monarchy or a terrible one will never be known, but one thing is for sure - the man became a myth demonised by conspiracy theories. 

- Stuff

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