File:Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence (1864-1892) by William (1829-18 ) and Daniel Downey (18 -1881.jpg

In 1889, a homosexual male brothel in Cleveland Street, London, was uncovered by police. At the time, sexual acts between men were illegal in Britain and most members of society considered such acts to be a vice. The brothel's clients faced possible prosecution and certain social ostracism if discovered. It was rumoured that one of the brothel's clients was the second-in-line to the throne, Prince Albert Victor of Wales. Officials were involved in a cover-up to keep the prince's name and others out of the scandal.

One of the clients, Lord Arthur Somerset, was an equerry to the Prince of Wales but he, as well as the brothel keeper, Charles Hammond, managed to flee abroad before a prosecution could be brought. The rentboys, who also worked as messenger boys for the Post Office, were given light sentences and none of the clients were prosecuted. After the story appeared in the press, one of the alleged clients, the Earl of Euston, successfully sued for libel and cleared his name. The British press never named Prince Albert Victor, and there is no evidence he ever visited the brothel, but his inclusion in the rumours has coloured biographers' perceptions of him since.

The scandal fueled the attitude that male homosexuality was an aristocratic vice that corrupted lower-class youths. Such perceptions fed the scandal which involved Oscar Wilde in 1895.

Male brothelEdit


In July 1889 Police Constable Luke Hanks was investigating the theft of some cash from the London Central Telegraph Office. During the investigation a fifteen-year old telegraph boy named Charles Thomas Swinscow was discovered to be in possession of 14 shillings, representing several weeks' wages. Suspecting the boy's involvement in the theft, Constable Hanks brought him in for questioning. After some hesitation, Swinscow admitted that he got the money as a rentboy working at a male brothel at 19 Cleveland Street, for a man named Charles Hammond. According to Swinscow, he was introduced to Hammond by a clerk at the General Post Office, eighteen-year old Henry Newlove. In addition, he named two other telegraph boys who worked for Hammond, seventeen-year old George Alma Wright and Charles Ernest Thickbroom. Constable Hanks obtained corroborating statements from Wright and Thickbroom and, armed with these, a confession from Newlove.[1]

Constable Hanks reported the matter to his superiors, and the case was placed in the hands of Chief Inspector Frederick Abberline. Inspector Abberline went to the brothel on 6 July with a warrant to arrest Hammond and Newlove for violation of Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885. The Act made all homosexual acts between men, as well as procurement or attempted procurement of such acts, punishable by up to two years imprisonment with or without hard labour. He found the house locked and Hammond gone, but Abberline was able to apprehend Newlove at his mother's house in Camden Town.[2] Between his statement to Hanks and his arrest, Newlove had gone to Cleveland Street and warned Hammond, giving Hammond time to escape to his brother's house in Gravesend, Kent.[3]

Notable clientsEdit

File:Major Lord Henry Arthur George Somerset (1851-1926), - Vanity fair nov 19 1887.jpg

On the way to the police station Newlove named Lord Arthur Somerset, head of the Prince of Wales's stables, the Earl of Euston and an Army Colonel by the name of Jervois as visitors to Cleveland Street.[4] Although Somerset was interviewed by police, no immediate action was taken against him and the authorities were slow to act on the allegations of Somerset's involvement.[5] A watch was placed on the now empty house and details of the case shuttled between government departments.[6]

On 19 August, a further arrest warrant was issued in the name of George Veck, an acquaintance of Hammond's who pretended to be a clergyman but had actually worked at the Telegraph Office before being sacked for "improper conduct" with the messenger boys.[7] A seventeen-year old youth found in Veck's London lodgings revealed to the police that Veck had gone to Portsmouth and was returning shortly by train. The police met Veck's train and arrested him at Waterloo railway station in London. In his pockets they discovered letters from Algernon Allies. Abberline sent Constable Hanks to interview Allies at his parents' home in Sudbury, Suffolk. Allies admitted to receiving money from Lord Arthur Somerset, having a sexual relationship with him, and working at Cleveland Street for Hammond.[8] On 22 August, police interviewed Somerset for a second time, after which Somerset left for Bad Homburg,[9] where the Prince of Wales was taking his summer holiday.[10]

On 11 September, Newlove and Veck were committed for trial. Their defence was handled by Somerset's solicitor, Arthur Newton, with Willie Mathews appearing for Newlove, and Charles Gill for Veck. Somerset paid the legal fees.[11] By this time, Somerset had moved onto Hanover, to inspect some horses for the Prince of Wales, and the press was referring to "noble lords" implicated in the trial.[12] Newlove and Veck pleaded guilty to indecency on 18 September and the judge, Sir Thomas Chambers, a former Liberal Member of Parliament who had a reputation for leniency, sentenced them to four and nine months' hard labour respectively.[13] The boys were also given sentences which were considered at the time to be very lenient.[14] Hammond escaped to France, but the French authorities expelled him after pressure from the British. Hammond moved onto Belgium and Somerset, through Newton, paid for Hammond to emigrate to the United States.[15] On the advice of the Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury, no extradition proceedings were attempted, and the case against Hammond was quietly dropped.[16]

Somerset returned to Britain in late September to attend horse sales at Newmarket but suddenly left for Dieppe on 26 September probably after being told by Newton that he was in danger of arrest.[17] He returned again on 30 September. A few days later his grandmother died and he attended her funeral.[18] The Hon. Hamilton Cuffe, Assistant Treasury Solicitor, and James Monro, Commissioner of Police, pressed for action to be taken against Somerset, but the Lord Chancellor, Lord Halsbury, blocked any prosecution.[19] Rumours of Somerset's involvement were circulating and on 19 October Somerset fled back to France. Lord Salisbury was later accused of warning Somerset through Sir Dighton Probyn, who had met Lord Salisbury the evening before, that a warrant for his arrest was imminent.[20] This was denied by Lord Salisbury,[21] and the Attorney General, Sir Richard Webster.[22] The Prince of Wales wrote to Lord Salisbury expressing satisfaction that Somerset had been allowed to leave the country and asked that if Somerset should "ever dare to show his face in England again" he would remain unmolested by the authorities,[23] but Lord Salisbury was also being pressured by the police to prosecute Somerset. On 12 November a warrant for Somerset's arrest was finally issued.[24] By this time Somerset was already safe on the Continent and the warrant caught little public attention.[25] After an unsuccessful search for employment in Turkey and Austria-Hungary, Somerset lived the rest of his life in self-imposed and comfortable exile in the south of France.[26]

Public revelationsEdit


Because the press barely covered the story, the affair would have faded quickly from public memory if not for journalist Ernest Parke. The editor of the obscure radical weekly The North London Press, Parke got wind of the affair when one of his reporters brought him the story of Newlove's conviction. Parke began to question why the rentboys had been given such light sentences relative to their offence (the usual penalty for "gross indecency" was two years) and how Hammond had been able to evade arrest. His curiosity aroused, Parke found out that the boys had named prominent aristocrats and consequently ran a story on 28 September hinting at their involvement but without naming specific names.[27] It was only on 16 November that he ran a follow-up story specifically naming the Earl of Euston in "an indescribably loathsome scandal in Cleveland Street".[28] He further alleged that Euston may have gone to Peru and that he had been allowed to escape to cover up the involvement of a more highly placed person.[29] Some believed that this person was Prince Albert Victor, the son of the Prince of Wales.[30]

The Earl of Euston was in fact still in England and immediately filed a case against Parke for libel. At the trial Euston admitted that when walking along Piccadilly he had been given a card by a tout, which read "Poses plastiques. C. Hammond, 19 Cleveland Street". Believing Poses plastiques to mean a display a female nudes, Euston testified, he went along to the house, paying a sovereign to get in. On entry, Euston said he was appalled to discover the "improper" nature of the place and immediately left. The defense witnesses contradicted each other, and could not describe Euston accurately.[31] The final defence witness, John Saul, admitted to earning his living by leading an "immoral life" and "practising criminality".[32] The defence did not call either Newlove or Veck as witnesses, and could not produce any evidence that Euston had left the country. On 16 January 1890 the jury found Parke guilty and the judge sentenced him to twelve months in prison.[33] H. Montgomery Hyde, an eminent historian of homosexuality, later wrote that there was little doubt that Euston was telling the truth and only visited Cleveland Street once because he was misled by the card.[34]

The judge, Mr. Justice Hawkins, had a distinguished career, as did the other lawyers employed in the case. The prosecuting counsels, Charles Russell and Willie Mathews, went on to become Lord Chief Justice and Director of Public Prosecutions, respectively. The defence counsel, Frank Lockwood, later became Solicitor-General, and he was assisted by H. H. Asquith, who became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom twenty years later.[35]

While Parke's conviction cleared Euston, another trial began on 16 December 1889 when Newlove's and Somerset's solicitor, Arthur Newton, was charged with obstruction of justice. It was alleged that he warned and assisted Hammond in fleeing the country to prevent Hammond from testifying against his clients, as well as conspiring to remove other witnesses by offering the boys passage and money to go abroad. Newton was defended by Charles Russell, who had prosecuted Ernest Parke, and the prosecutor was Sir Richard Webster, the Attorney General. Newton pleaded guilty to one of the six charges against him, claiming that he had assisted Hammond to flee merely to protect his clients, who were not at that time charged with any offence or under arrest, from potential blackmail. The Attorney General accepted Newton's pleas and did not present any evidence on the other five charges.[36] On 20 May the judge, Mr. Justice Cave, sentenced Newton to six weeks in prison,[37] which was widely considered by members of the legal profession to be harsh. A petition signed by 250 London law firms was sent to the Home Secretary, Henry Matthews, protesting at Newton's treatment.[38]

File:Henry Labouchère.jpg

During Newton's trial, a motion was brought forth in Parliament to further investigate Parke's allegations of a cover-up. Henry Labouchère, a Member of Parliament of the Radical wing of the Liberal Party and an ardent homophobe, watched the trials with interest. Having campaigned successfully for adding the "gross indecency" amendment (Labouchere Amendment) to the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885, he was convinced that the conspiracy to cover-up the scandal went further up the government than assumed. Labouchère made his suspicions known in Parliament on 28 February 1890. He denied that "a gentleman of very high position"—presumably Prince Albert Victor—was in any way involved with the scandal, but accused the government of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice by allowing Somerset and Hammond to escape, hampering the investigation, delaying the trials and failing to prosecute the case with vigour. Labouchère's accusations were rebutted by the Attorney General, Sir Richard Webster, who was also the prosecutor in the Newton case. Charles Russell, who had prosecuted Parke and was defending Newton and sat on the Liberal benches with Labouchère, refused to be drawn into the debate. Despite a considerable and often passionate debate over seven hours, in which Labouchère was expelled from Parliament after saying "I do not believe Lord Salisbury" and refusing to withdraw his remark, the motion was defeated by a wide margin, 206–66.[39]


Public interest in the scandal eventually faded. Nevertheless, newspaper coverage reinforced negative attitudes about male homosexuality as an aristocratic vice, presenting the telegraph boys as corrupted and exploited by members of the upper class. This attitude reached its climax a few years later when Oscar Wilde was tried for gross indecency as the result of his affair with Lord Alfred Douglas.

Oscar Wilde alluded to the scandal in The Picture of Dorian Gray, first published in 1890.[40] Reviews were hostile; in a clear reference to the Cleveland Street scandal, one reviewer called the novel suitable for "none but outlawed noblemen and perverted telegraph boys".[41][42][43] Wilde's 1891 revision of the novel omitted certain key passages, which were considered too homoerotic.[43][44] In 1895, Wilde unsuccessfully sued Lord Alfred's father, the Marquess of Queensberry, for libel. Sir Edward Carson, Lord Queensberry's counsel, used quotes from the novel against Wilde and questioned him about his associations with young working men.[45] After the failure of his suit, Wilde was charged with gross indecency. He was prosecuted by Charles Gill, who had defended Veck in the Cleveland Street case,[46] found guilty and subsequently sentenced to two years hard labour.

Prince Albert Victor died in 1892, but society gossip about his sex life continued. Sixty years after the scandal the official biographer of King George V, Harold Nicolson, was told by Rayner Goddard, Baron Goddard, who was a twelve-year old schoolboy at the time of the scandal, that Prince Albert Victor "had been involved in a male brothel scene, and that a solicitor had to commit perjury to clear him. The solicitor was struck off the rolls for his offence, but was thereafter reinstated."[47] Arthur Newton was struck off for 12 months for professional misconduct in 1910 after falsifying letters from another of his clients—the notorious murderer Harvey Crippen.[48] In 1913, he was struck off indefinitely and sentenced to three years imprisonment for obtaining money by false pretences.[49] Newton may also have invented and spread the rumours about Prince Albert Victor in an attempt to protect his clients from prosecution by forcing a cover-up.[50] State papers on the case in the Public Records Office, released to the public in the 1970s, provide no information on the prince's involvement other than Newton's threat to implicate him.[51] Hamilton Cuffe wrote to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Augustus Stephenson, "I am told that Newton has boasted that if we go on a very distinguished person will be involved (PAV). I don't mean to say that I for one instant credit it—but in such circumstances as this one never knows what may be said, be concocted or be true."[52] Surviving private letters from Somerset to his friend Lord Esher, confirm that Somerset knew of the rumours but did not know if they were true. He writes, "I can quite understand the Prince of Wales being much annoyed at his son's name being coupled with the thing ... we were both accused of going to this place but not together ... I wonder if it is really a fact or only an invention."[53] In his correspondence, Sir Dighton Probyn refers to "cruel and unjust rumours with regard to PAV" and "false reports dragging PAV's name into the sad story".[54] When Prince Albert Victor's name appeared in the American press, the New York Herald published an anonymous letter, almost certainly written by Charles Hall, saying "there is not, and never was, the slightest excuse for mentioning the name of Prince Albert Victor."[55] Biographers who believe the rumours suppose that Prince Albert Victor was bisexual,[56] but this is strongly contested by others who refer to him as "ardently heterosexual" and his involvement in the rumours as "somewhat unfair".[57]

See alsoEdit

Notes and sourcesEdit

  1. Aronson, pp.8–10 and Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp.20–23
  2. Aronson, pp.11, 16–17 and Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp.23–24
  3. Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, p.23
  4. Aronson, p.11 and Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, p.25
  5. Aronson, p.135
  6. Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp.26–33
  7. Aronson, pp.11, 133 and Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, p.25
  8. Aronson, pp.134–135 and Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp.34–35
  9. Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, p.35
  10. Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, p.38
  11. Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp.35, 45, 47
  12. Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp.42, 46
  13. Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp.47–53
  14. Aronson, p.137
  15. Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp.74–77
  16. Aronson, p.136 and Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp.27, 34
  17. Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, p.61
  18. Aronson, p.140 and Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp.80–81
  19. Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp.82–86
  20. Aronson, p.142
  21. Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, p.93
  22. Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, p.94
  23. Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, p.97
  24. Aronson, p.144 and Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp.98–99
  25. Aronson, p.150
  26. Aronson, p.175
  27. Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp.106–107
  28. North London Press, 16 November 1889, quoted in Hyde, The Other Love, p.125
  29. Hyde, The Other Love, p.125 and Aronson, p.150
  30. Hyde, The Other Love, p.123
  31. Aronson, pp.151–159 and The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp.113–116, 139–143
  32. Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp.146–147
  33. Aronson, pp.151–159 and Hyde, The Other Love, p.125–127
  34. Hyde, The Other Love, p.127
  35. Aronson, p.153 and Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, p.135
  36. Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp.162–207
  37. Aronson, p.173
  38. Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp.208–212
  39. Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, pp.215–231
  40. In chapter 12 of the original 1890 version, one of the characters, Basil Hallward, refers to "Sir Henry Ashton, who had to leave England, with a tarnished name".
  41. "Reviews and Magazines". Scots Observer 5 July 1890, p.181
  42. Bristow, Joseph (2006). "Introduction" In: Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. Oxford World's Classic, Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-280729-8. p.xxi
  43. 43.0 43.1 Ackroyd, Peter (1985) "Appendix 2: Introduction to the First Penguin Classics Edition" In: Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. Penguin Classics, Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-14-043784-3. pp.224–225
  44. Mighall, Robert (2000). "Introduction" In: Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. Penguin Classics, Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-14-043784-3. p.xvi
  45. Kaplan, Morris B. (2004). "Literature in the Dock: The Trials of Oscar Wilde". Journal of Law and Society 31: (No. 1) 113–130
  46. Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, p.45
  47. Lees-Milne, p.231
  48. Cook, pp.284–285
  49. Cook, pp.285–286 and Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, p.253
  50. Prince Eddy: The King We Never Had. Channel 4. Accessed 28 March 2008.
  51. Cook, pp.172–173
  52. Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, p.55
  53. Lord Arthur Somerset to Reginald Brett, 2nd Viscount Esher, 10 December 1889, quoted in Cook, p.197
  54. Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, p.127
  55. Hyde, The Cleveland Street Scandal, p.129
  56. Aronson, pp.116–120, 170, 217
  57. Bradford, p.10


Further readingEdit

  • Simpson, Colin; Chester, Lewis and Leitch, David (1976). The Cleveland Street Affair. Boston: Little, Brown.

External linksEdit

de:Charles Hammond

Ad blocker interference detected!

Wikia is a free-to-use site that makes money from advertising. We have a modified experience for viewers using ad blockers

Wikia is not accessible if you’ve made further modifications. Remove the custom ad blocker rule(s) and the page will load as expected.