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Thursday, April 20, 2006

A Ripping Yarn

The UK expanded her intelligence activity during the Nineteenth Century. While most of the gruntwork now fell within the jurisdiction of the London Metropolitan Police (founded 1829-referred to by Londoners as Metropol, and by us outsiders as Scotland Yard), the most sensitive operations were still handled by the aristocratic clique that surrounded the crown. In this era, the real cloak-and-dagger aspects of intelligence and clandestine operations were truly a “gentleman’s” game, practiced solely by the elite for the purposes of maintaining the elite.An example of this “gentleman’s game” may have possibly been exposed in 1895. In that year, Dr. Benjamin Howard, a member of England’s Royal College of Surgeons, gave an interview to The Chicago Sunday Times-Herald, and spilled the beans on an extremely sensitive domestic operation that occurred seven years earlier.

Queen Victoria was the penultimate ruler from the German house of Hanover. From the Eighteenth Century onward, political forces within England pushed towards a more limited role for the monarchy. Victoria’s ancestors faced ever-dwindling constitutional powers. Although Victoria had some constitutionally approved authority–- e.g., the power of line-item veto, which she actually exercised on occasion--she still had to cooperate with Parliament, which was likewise beholden to popular vote. As the last monarch of the Nineteenth Century, she indeed walked a tightrope trying to appease the House of Commons and public opinion, while at the same time maintaining the privileges of the nobility in the rigid class structure embedded in English tradition. Any hint of impropriety, any hint of scandal, or anything else that might turn popular factions away from the crown could therefore have been disastrous.

Lo and behold, such a disaster occurred in 1888, according to the Times-Herald’s source. Mary Kelly, Dr. Howard claimed, had served as a nursemaid to Prince of Wales Albert “Eddy” Victor’s illegitimate daughter. Prince Eddy, however, wanted the then-pregnant Kelly as a sex toy. Outraged, and mindful of the political climate, she attempted to blackmail him and the royal family into taking care of her and her baby.

Victoria allegedly responded by authorizing a hit on Kelly.

The queen’s inner circle advised her not to carry out the murder brazenly lest she arouse suspicion, potentially more devastating than the illegitimate child/prostitution/blackmail scandal. The point would be, they insisted, to bury her death among many others.

Today, we know the results of this supposed operation as the Jack the Ripper, or Whitechapel Murders. Pretty much everyone knows the story about some unknown madman, who murdered a bunch of prostitutes. But if we give any credence at all to Dr. Howard, then we have an eerie new story of domestic black operations. One might ask if there is anything outside the source that would corroborate the Times-Herald story.

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