The Cleveland Street Scandal. December 2011.

Dear Rowley,

Well darling, it’s confirmed that Russell Square will be the ‘Media Hub’ for the Olympic Games next year. What can it mean? So far all that’s transpired is that the traffic in Bloomsbury Square has quadrupled now they are testing the VIP lanes for Lord Coe etcetera to get to and from the sand pit, paddling pool and so forth. I believe they’ve also reserved a carriage on every tube train for Olympians not dissimilar to Tokyo’s women only carriages to make sure the geishas don’t get their bottoms pinched. I’d have thought the world would be a cheerier place if there was a little more goosing rather than less.

I swear Rowley, you need to be Zola Budd to get across the road to Bloomsbury Towers without been flattened like a Looney Tune cartoon. As my lovely Gail in Capri would say, ‘I wouldn’t mind but I only wanted some f****** chipolatas’. Unless Jim can fix it for me to have an access all areas pass to the Argentine swimming team locker rooms I couldn’t be less interested. Mind you, I am rather a fan of that British boy who can do things on a Pommel Horse that would have your eye out if you stood too close.

A curious case of lewd Christmas decorations popped-up in Bloomsbury on the facade of the old Royal Mail sorting office recently. Someone has spelt out ‘You Me Bum Bum Train’ in red lightbulbs. What it means I have no idea but it always puts a smile on my chops to pass it of an evening. Perhaps it is a pop-up nightclub. I’ve been to more than a few Vivienne Westwood parties at the disused depot that would make the Fall of Rome look wholesome by comparison.

So what’s new on the Rialto? I’ve spent the best part of the day scribbling five brief lives about illustrious customers of Henry Poole & Co for a new column on their website profiling eminent ladies and gentlemen discovered by my research in the house ledgers. What I adore about such a project is how the research pushes me into history I would not ordinarily  explore. Poole’s can take me to a cavalry charge at the Battle of Waterloo, the court of Catherine the Great of Russia or the lonely hunting lodge at Mayerling where Crown Prince Rudolph and his mistress Maria Vetsera killed themselves in a suicide pact. Savile Row is truly magical in the manner it connects the men and women who made world history over the past 250-years.

Today’s research took me back to the Cleveland Street male brothel scandal of 1888: one of my favourite addresses in late Victorian London. This is a pet subject of mine because it involves Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale the heir presumptive to the throne and grandson of Queen Victoria. Prince Eddy is one of Savile Row’s great leading men who died too soon to fulfil his promise. He was sloe-eyed, undeniably handsome and had the faintest whiff of decadence about him. He also looked simply darling in the uniform of the 10th Hussars and his untimely exit in 1892 made him the Row’s answer to Rudolph Valentino.

The Prince’s alleged involvement in the Cleveland Street scandal – whereby he is alleged to have visited the eponymous Fitzrovia brothel manned by teenage post office boys led by the aptly named Henry Newlove – was never proved but the cover-up of the case was authorised by powers as high as the Prince’s father King Edward VII (when Prince of Wales) and Prime Minister Lord Salisbury. Prince Eddy is not recorded in the Henry Poole & Co ledgers but Lord Arthur Somerset is. Lord Arthur was the man who allegedly sacrificed his reputation to save Prince Eddy’s.

Lord Arthur was an archetypal soldier, sportsman and Extra Equerry to the Prince of Wales for whom he ran the Royal Stud at Sandringham. When the Prince of Wales was told that ‘Podge’ Somerset had been positively identified as a visitor to the house of fame at No 19 Clifford Street he flatly refused to believe it and said he could be no less surprised if the Archbishop of Canterbury stood accused. A warrant for Lord Arthur’s arrest was issued but he was tipped off and allowed to flee the country. Somerset remained tight-lipped and lived in a villa in the South of France with a male companion for the last thirty years of his life.

The case is terribly interesting and has been extensively researched by Theo Aronson in his 1994 book Prince Eddy and the Homosexual Underworld. Poor Prince Eddy died in 1892 leaving his prospective bride and his throne to younger brother King George V. I had the fortune to see Prince Eddy’s photograph album in the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle this year and the Verger of St George’s allowed me a private view of Prince Eddy’s magnificent black and white marble Art Nouveau mausoleum in the Albert Chapel. Could be a book in the style of British heirs and heirs presumptive kicking off with King George IV.

Anyway darling, I’m having a night in after the excesses of the Christmas party season. All play and no work makes Jack a broke boy. Until next time…