Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale (1864-1892).


Andrew Collins

Recently surfaced letters written by Prince Albert Victor, the Duke of Clarence and Avondale (1864-1892), reveal that Queen Victoria's grandson contracted gonorrhea, almost certainly after sleeping with prostitutes. Although if news of this story had surfaced in the news media during Victorian times it would have caused a public scandal, and even threatened the stability of the British monarchy, it is no big deal in today's terms. More significant, however, is that the contents of these extraordinary letters addressed to a surgeon treating the Prince at the time lend weight to a theory that the Prince's nefarious activities might have led to the murder of five prostitutes on the streets of East London during the summer and autumn of 1888. These murders were, of course, attributed to one Jack the Ripper, whose identity remains a mystery to this day.

Even though the Prince was in Scotland at the time of two of the murders, as early as 1970 crime writer Thomas Stowell (1885-1970) wrote an article arguing that a British prince that fitted the description of Prince Albert Victor turned to murder after contracting syphilis, which he caught whilst having sex with a prostitute.(1)

Jack the Ripper in popular myth.

At the time Stowell's claims were dismissed as ludicrous for, as one critic put it, there was absolutely no evidence the Prince suffered from syphilis. Now we know it was not syphilis he suffered from but gonorrhea, another sexually transmitted disease. Even though Prince Eddy, as he was affectionately known, might not have been the actual perpetrator of the murders, the cover up over his illness provides a strong motive for the murders. That motive would have been revenge against the prostitutes responsible for causing this embarrasing problem.


Raphael Roche

The most tantalising fact about these new letters is that they are addressed to what appears to be the person supplying the Prince with medicine to ease the discomfort of the gonorrhea. He is a "surgeon" named only as "Roche," although most likely he is Raphael Roche (1847-1945), a Jewish homeopath, physician and author of the book The Science of Medicine (1932). He is known to have treated a number of well-known figures of the day including the Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw.

Raphael Roche (1847-1945)

Roche certainly knew the royal family. Indeed, he was so close to them that he was at Balmoral in Scotland on 3rd October 1888, when he accompanied a violinist in front of the Queen and various other members of the royal family, including Prince Albert Victor, something reported at the time in the Daily News.


Links to Ripper Suspects

There is nothing directly linking Raphael Roche with the Ripper murders. Yet circumstantial evidence does connect him with proposed suspects of the murders. They include the Queen's physician Sir William Gull (1816-1890). In the Gloucester Citizen of 31 December 1888, just one month or so after the final Ripper murder, Roche is cited as treating an Hon. Baronet in Gloucester, whilst Gull who, seemingly, was also treating the gentleman, was "somewhat indisposed." This implies the two men knew each other, especially as they both must have come down from London to attend their patient. Various disparate pieces of evidence link Gull with the murders, including the suggestion that he might have helped deal with the problems caused by the Prince's indiscressions on behalf of the Queen.(2)

Raphael Roche would also have known the painter Walter Sickert (1860-1942), another often cited suspect in the murders, since both were acquaintances of George Bernard Shaw. Certainly, bith men were connected with the London theatre scene, Roche as a musician and Sickert as an actor. Roche himself inherited his musicianship from his grandfather, the Bohemian composer, (Isaac) Ignaz Moscheles.

Claims that Prince Albert Victor fathered a child with a young woman named Annie Crook who worked at a tobacconist in Cleveland Street, London, might also have more relevance in the light of the new letters surfacing into the public domain. It had been claimed that this tobacconist was a front for a brothel that the Prince is rumoured to have frequented before it was closed down following a public scandal in 1889. This, of course, was the year after the Ripper murders. Journalist Stephen Knight in the book Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution, published in 1976, claimed that Walter Sickert's alleged son, Joseph Gorman, aka. Joseph Sickert, had told him that the Ripper's final victim, an Irish girl named Mary Jane Kelly, cared for the child after Annie Crook was incarcerated. She became Jack the Ripper's firth and final victim. However, this story is unlikely to be accurate, particularly as Gorman retracted his testimony following the success of Knight's book.

Despite the stories and counter stories surrounding Prince Albert Victor's possible connection to the Ripper murders, knowledge that he definitely had gonorrhea, most likely contracted from a prostitute, shows that his links to the Cleveland Street scandal of 1889 are probably real. Yet exactly what relationship he might have had with prostitutes in London's East End is another matter altogether. That remains a mystery.

As earlier indicated, there is no suggestion that Raphael Roche was connected directly to the Ripper murders. However, to find that he moved in circles associated with key figures connected with the case, including Sir William Gull, Walter Sickert and the Prince himself, is tantalisingly intriguing none-the-less. What we can say is that he was privy to closely guarded information concerning the Prince's health and indiscressions, which would have been known to just a very select group indeed. Very clearly this was highly dangerous information that, it seems possible, might well have led to the deaths of five Whitechapel prostitutes.


A Personal Note

On a personal note, I have always felt intuitively that Prince Albert Victor, the Duke of Clarence and Avondale, was connected in some way with the murders. This was despite so many claims by crime writers to have identified the real Jack the Ripper. What's more, EVERY psychic I know who has ever had something to say about the topic has felt strongly their was a royal connection. No one has felt that Jack the Ripper was a crazed nobody committing the murders out of some kind of perverse pleasure.

Now those intuitions are beginning to make sense.

Last year as part of the Origins of Civilization event in London I took a party of delegates around the East End, and, among other things, pointed out sites connected with the Ripper murders. We left flowers and conducted a meditation for the souls of the victims at the site of the final murder, that of an Irish prostitute named Mary Kelly. Now, I understand, something similar will take place every year to remember the victims of this terrible episode in London's history. This is important as the memories of those who suffered a terrible fate at the hand's of this monstrous mass murderer are never foregotten.



1. Stowell, T. E. A. "Jack the Ripper – A Solution?". The Criminologist vol.5 (November 1970), pp.40–51.

2. Knight, Stephen. Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution. London: Harrap, 1976.