Was the Duke of Clarence Jack the Ripper?

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Was the Duke of Clarence Jack the Ripper?

The Duke of Clarence, photographed around the time of the Ripper killings

Of all the theories advanced as to the identity of Jack the Ripper, few are as seemingly outlandish as those that put the Ripper's knife in the hands of the second in line to throne: Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and eldest son of the future Edward VII.

The Duke is thought to have been mildly subnormal in terms of intelligence. His tutor at Cambridge, John Dalton termed him "abnormally dormant" and the young prince received extra tuition. Others speculate that he had either a mild deafness - possibly inherited from his mother - or that he was adversely affected by his premature birth, which in the 19th century was still seen as a major handicap.

Despite two courtships and his being betrothed at the time of his death of influenza in 1891, speculations of homosexuality were and continue to be levelled in his direction.

His association with the Ripper case lies primarily with the author Dr. Thomas Stowell, who claimed in 1970 to have discovered evidence in the notes of royal physician William Gull that implicated him. From these notes, Stowell claimed there was proof that the prince had been suspected of involvement by his family and incarcerated after the 'double event' in which Liz Stride and Catherine Eddowes were both killed on the same night. Somehow, he escaped to commit the final murder of Mary Kelly before being finally confined to a private hospital at Sandringham. According to this theory, the prince was driven insane by a syphilitic infection acquired in the West Indies.

Since the extraordinary claims first rebounded around the world in the 1970s, this tenuous tale continues to exert a peculiar hold on the popular imagination and has spawned a further subset of royal conspiracies about the crown's complicity in the Whitechapel crimes, which are too numerous and convoluted to list here.

Speculation aside, contemporary evidence and court records show that the prince was away from London for all the major incidents of the Ripper's reign and that alone should be enough to lay the matter to rest.

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Author: Ian Freud   |  Last updated: 2nd August 2013 | © Weird Island 2010-2020
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