Aristocratic Peccadillos In Cleveland Street

Posted: September 19, 2009 in Cleveland Street Scandal
A London correspondent writes: – "The terrible scandal in aristocratic circles which has been talked of with bated breath in the West-end for the past couple of months has this week been revived in a more pointed fashion, and there is a possibility that the whole will be revealed in the course of a trial at the Central Criminal Court either this month or next. Certain persons are now awaiting trial, under a committal from Marlborourgh-street Police Court, for participation in the crimes charged; and it is reported that since they have been in prison they have made statements incriminating men of high distinction, whose names are being bandied to and fro at the clubs. The latter are not now in England, and it is only right to state that in the preliminary and necessarily semi-private proceedings at the police court they were not named. But a circumstance has occurred within the last three days which has caused the previous rumours once more to be emphasised, and no one can now say where the proceedings will stop.
The Star states: – We hear on good authority that two men of social standing have been arrested by Inspector Abberline in connection with the scandal in the West End. They have not been brought before the magistrate yet, but as Inspector Abberline was in the magistrate’s private room on Tuesday, and several of the witnesses in the case were seen about the precincts of the Court, it is suggested that the case may have been heard in private.
The society scandal is now so widely talked about (says a correspondent) that the desperate efforts which have been made to hush it up can hardly succeed. It may seem incredible, but is nevertheless true, that some of the unhappy accomplices of the titled personages who are alleged to have been the principal offenders are at this moment undergoing imprisonment, their cases having been tried and disposed of with the most scrupulous secrecy. The magistrate before whom they were examined is said to have sat at an early hour in the morning, long before the usual time for commencing the business of his court, the evidence was given with such precautions against influential names oozing out that documents were produced, sworn to, and handed to the magistrate without anybody ascertaining what they were, or by whom they were written, and conviction and sentence followed. But for the action of a prominent public official, who insisted that justice should take its course, the matter would probably never have come before the courts at all, but now that it is in a sense public property it cannot be allowed to rest without some explanation as to why active steps were not taken to arrest the chief offenders until after they fled from the country. It is stated on good authority that two persons of social standing are now in custody, and if that be the case, it is hardly possible to prevent disclosures which will fill the public mind with horror.
Mr. Labouchere writes as follows in Truth: – The law must be equally administered – if not in Ireland, at least in England. A short time ago several of the telegraph boys in the neighbourhood of Cavendish-square were found to be spending more money than they earned. Inquiry was made by the postal authorities, and it was discovered that they were supplied with money by a band of gentlemen who met at a house in Cavendish-street. The facts are in the hands of the Home Office and of Scotland Yard; but as some of the greatest hereditary names of the country are mixed up in the scandal every effort is being made to secure the immunity of the criminals. Indeed, I am creditably informed that the Home Office is throwing obstacles in the way of prompt action on the part of Scotland Yard, and trying to get the persons concerned out of the country before warrants are issued. The fall of Louis Phillipe was to a great extent due to the Duc de Praslin having murdered his governess; but the Duc’s crime compares favourably with that of these titled miscreants. It will be really too monstrous if crimes which, when committed by poor, ignorant men, lead to sentences of penal servitude, were to be done with impunity by those whom the Tory Government delights to honour. The names of the telegraph boys are known. The name of the person who let the house in Cavendish-street is known, and the names of those who frequented it are known. I warn Mr. Marchant that if he does not take action in this matter there will be a heavy reckoning when Parliament meets. I have no sorts of sympathy with vigilance associations and other such private censors of morals; but betweent their prying action and the Home Office impeding the police and warning high-born criminals to get out of the jurisdiction of the British Courts in order to save them from prosecution, there is a wide difference.
The notices in the Gazette and elsewhere of the names of the noblemen and gentlemen connected with the indescribable Cleveland-street scandal, practically public property, show that some high personages are seriously involved. One got out of the country in time to avoid the warrant which (rather late in the day) were issued for his and others’ arrest. The brother officers in the "Blues" of one who is implicated telegraphed when they heard the shocking story offering to stand by their comrade if he would but assure them of his innocence. They received no reply, and since then the man’s retirement from the army has been notified, and his name withdrawn from the list of the Prince of Wales’ equerries. The police, it seems, at first suspected the house in Cleveland-street of being a gambling "hell," and placed a detective opposite to identify and, when possible, photograph all the habitues. The discoveries which resulted led to a carefully-planned raid, the instructions of the Home Secretary being to arrest all concerned. This was done. but on examining the parties trapped the Police Inspector (well nigh paralysed with horror) recognised to his dismay a "personage." It is not suggested (save by malevolent nobodies) that the latter visited the house for an improper purpose. His leader was, however, undoubtedly an habitue; and the idea is that, half suspecting espionage, he took his charge with him as a safeguard. And a safeguard, of course, the personage proved, for the whole affair had to be hushed up. The keeper of the house and his assistant, however, arrested and charged before the magistrate, with closed doors. At the Central Criminal Court three weeks later the pair were brought up after hours, and, pleading guilty, sentenced to comparatively brief terms of penal servitude. The whole business scarcely occupied five minutes, and passed unnoticed save by the North London Press and one or two other Radical papers. Fortunately, or unfortunately, a scandal of such magnitude cannot be altogether burked, and though the gentlemen (!) concerned escape imprisonment, they are terribly punished. The culprits made for Peru, where they will have to lie perdu for a long time to come. The "personage’s" parent, on being made acquainted with the story, is said to have broken down completely. These facts, which have been in my possession some time now, reached me through parties concerned in getting up the case, and are reliable.
A future duke, a duke’s son, a peer of the realm, a great Hebrew financier, and many "honourables,"  a parson, and several officers are implicated. The solicitor to the Treasury is burning to prosecute; but Ministers will not allow him. In ordinary cases, he works out his own plans without consulting Ministers; but in this case it was necessary for him to seek the co-operation of his chief, because the whole fabric of the prosecution depended upon obtaining the extradition of an individual who is known to be at Boulogne, and who was to be used as Queen’s evidence. The most miserable incident of this most miserable history is that it seems likely to cause the death from heartbreak, of one of the noblest women in England – the mother of one among the runaways. Endowed with every gift of nature, birth, and fortune, her fate is the most tragic of our time – even that of the Empress Eugenie not expected. This is the second of her sons who has fallen from an exalted position from the same cause. Her daughter has made a marriage she hates, and she herself has seen herself supplanted almost in her own castle by a pretty actress – if actress the lady can be called." – Argus Correspondent.
Sources: Taranaki Herald, Volume XXXIX, Issue 8667, 2 January 1890, Page 3
             Evening Post, Volume XXXIX, Issue 9, 11 January 1890, Page 1

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