3 December 1970
by Tom Cullen
"Editor's note: European correspondent Tome Cullen is author of "When London Walked in Terror", a book length study of Jack the Ripper.)
Was Queen Victoria in reality Jack the Ripper?
The question makes as much sense as the recent suggestion that Queen Victoria's grandson Edward (sic), Duke of Clarence, was the Ripper who carved up five prostitutes in the autumn of 1888.
The killings took place in the Whitechapel slums of London and were particularly grisly. All of the victims were apparently seized from behind and had their throats cut. Four of the five women were mutilated.
The murderer was never found.
To link the Duke of Clarence, brother of George V and heir to the throne of England, with the Whitechapel killer seems to me to be utterly preposterous.
The man behind the Duke of Clarence theory was a brain surgeon, Dr. Thomas E. Stowell. In a recent srticle published in the Criminologist before his recent death, Dr. Stowell hints that Jack the Ripper had royal blood.
The story put forward contends:
That Prince Eddy, as he was popularly known, contracted syphilis as a young man, and the disease affected his brain and that on numerous occasions he managed to shake off Sir William Gull, the royal physician appointed as his watchdog, and prowl the streets of Whitechapel.
That he was a keen sportsman with skill in dissecting deer. (This would explain the Ripper's expertise in carving up prostitutes.)
The the Whitechapel murders ceased because Prince Eddy was confined to a mental home.
That the police, as soon as they learned of the royal birth of the killer, concealed his identity and destroyed incriminating evidence.
After two years of research into the Jack the Ripper crimes, I decided that the Duke of Clarence theory was too far-fetched even to merit mention in the book I wrote on the subject.
In the 80 odd years that have elapsed since the Whitechapel murders, Jack the Ripper has been "identified" countless times, as an unfrocked priest, a sadistic policeman and an escaped gorilla, to name a few of the theoretical killers.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes stories, was not alone in believing the killer to be "Jill the Ripper," a woman, or a man disguised as a woman.
The Duke of Clarence has been singled out for notoriety because the British love to project all sorts of fantasies onto members of the royalty who are known to be soft in the head.
That Prince Eddy, who was sometimes called "Collars and Cuffs", was not quite bright is beyond doubt. The prince was barely 16 when his tutor, the Reverend Dalton, reported to the royal parents on Eddy's "weakness of brain, his feebleness and lack of power to grasp almost anything put before him."
Despite the fact that he could barely read, the prince was sent to Cambridge University, where he was given the honorary degree of Doctor of Law.
As for the "case" that the Duke of Clarence and Jack the Ripper were the same person, there is no evidence of syphilis affecting Eddy's already dim wits. Nor would it be an easy matter to persuade British police to conceal the identity of a murderer, no matter how highly born.
Far from being confined to a mental home after the Ripper murders in 1888, Prince Eddy continued to lead an active life. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel in his father's regiment, the 10th Hussars, and was engaged to Princess May of Teck in December 1891. A month later, he died at Sandringham of influenza that had turned into pneumonia.
My research into the identity of Jack the Ripper led me to conclude that the Ripper was a barrister named Montague John Druitt, who came from a well known Dorset family.
Druitt committed suicide by drowning himself in the Thames late in November (sic) 1888. No murders of the Ripper type occurred after that date and the police, after the suicide had been discovered, called off the search for the Ripper. From my own inquiries, I have no doubt that Druitt's own family suspected him of being the Whitechapel murderer.