5. Was Jack the Ripper A Royal?
Albert Victor Christian Edward, or “Eddy,” as he was called by his family, was Queen Victoria’s grandson and an enigmatic figure in many respects. Today, he has a reputation of being intellectually challenged and politically inept, though some historians declare otherwise. More damaging was his alleged involvement in a homosexual brothel. Eddy’s controversial lifestyle left him open to scandalous charges, and one of these points to him as the infamous serial killer Jack the Ripper.
Beginning in the 1960s, the theory gained traction through a series of books and documentaries. It was alleged that the murders of five women in London’s Whitechapel district from 1888–91 were committed because they knew Prince Eddy had secretly married Annie Elizabeth Crook, a Catholic commoner working as a shop assistant. Eddy, it was suggested, had witnessed the evisceration of game while hunting, giving him the necessary knowledge to mutilate his victims. Eddy’s murderous rampage may have been brought on by advanced syphilis, which was slowly eating away his brain. However, records show that Eddy wasn’t even in London at each of the murder dates.
The prince’s ironclad alibis have led some to propose that, instead of being Eddy himself, the Ripper was someone close to the royal family. A man named Joseph Sickert, who claimed to be the son of famous painter Walter Sickert, repeated a story told to him by his father. Walter was allegedly privy to a conspiracy involving the royals, even Queen Victoria herself. Walter revealed that he was the one who introduced Eddy to Annie Crook. In time, Annie was pregnant with a daughter, Alice.
Discovering the scandalous situation, the queen called on the Prime Minister Lord Salisbury to do something about it, and Salisbury in turn delegated the task of cover-up to the royal doctor, Sir William Gull. Gull kidnapped Annie, confined her in one of his hospitals, and tried to erase her memory, eventually driving her insane. But Alice’s nanny, Mary Kelly, managed to spirit the child away from Gull’s clutches. Kelly divulged the secret to her fellow prostitutes, Polly Nichols, Elizabeth Stride, and Annie Chapman, who then began blackmailing the government.
Gull hired a coachman, John Netley, to silence the women. (The fifth victim, Catherine Eddowes, who often went by the name Mary Kelly, was a case of mistaken identity.) Some theorists propose that Walter Sickert himself was Jack the Ripper, and the creepy paintings that he later produced were the victims in their death poses. Another painting, Jack the Ripper’s Bedroom, is a picture of Sickert’s own rooms at East End. Sickert said that the previous occupant had been suspected by the landlady of being the killer.
Though intriguing, the theory fails for lack of concrete evidence and over-reliance on mere rumor and secondhand statements. But conspiracy theorists believe that is just what you would expect—the Salisbury government had expunged all the records.