Oh hello there!
Welcome to my latest look at the life of King Edward VII on behalf of that most warming and sustaining of liqueurs, The King’s Ginger. Now is an especially good time to year to talk about its gingery delights, mainly because it’s winter and, after my last post about how winter hasn’t been so cold this year, it’s started to cool down. Right on cue! We’re not at risk of snow yet, so it’s nothing compared to many, but it’s still a little chillier out.
This time, it’s a more dark tale that I have for you. I’m going to talk a little about… dun dun duuuuuuuh! Jack the Ripper. *dramatic scream*
Cue the gothic opening theme music!
Now, there can’t be many people who don’t know the story of Jack the Ripper. My aim here isn’t to relay it in all its literal gory detail, but I will cover it in brief. I also tried to do a mini tour of the east London sites of each atrocity, but most of them no longer exist or have been changed into modern atrocities that don’t photograph well. Here goes anyway! Those of a nervous disposition, navigate away now!
The first murder attributed to the shadowy Jack took place on 31st August 1888. PC John Neil discovered the body of prostitute Mary Ann Nichols at 3.40am that day, lying in Buck’s Row, Whitechapel (now called Durwent Street). Polly, as she was known, left a pub on Brick Lane (now an Indian Restaurant) at around 11pm the previous evening, got turned away from her lodgings as she had apparently drunk away her boarding fee, and went off again into the night claiming she’d make all her doss money back, exclaiming, ‘see what a jolly bonnet I have!’ She was found to have been disembowelled and had had her throat cut so deeply her head was nearly severed.
The second murder was eight days later, on the 8th September 1888. Annie Chapman was found in the garden of 29 Hanbury Street, E1, another building that is no longer there, but at least the street is!
Annie was only a casual prostitute, she also made crocheted antimacassars (which is a word and indeed a thing that I love!) and sold flowers. She too had had her throat cut and had disembowelled, something that was now becoming the killer’s signature. This time it was even more horrific… her intestines drawn out and arranged over her and organs missing.
Tensions in the East End rose sharply after the second death. A nearby discarded leather apron which turned out to belong to a Jewish tradesman neighbour stirred up no small amount of anti-semitism, too.
(The building where Annie was found is now a big space containing things such as vintage markets! Appropriate!)
Only three weeks later, on September 30th, 1888, Elizabeth Stride was found in Dutfield Yard Berners Street (neither exist any more). Long Liz, as she was known, was not a prostitute, but a seamstress and cleaner. She was well-dressed and pretty respectable, seen with a couple of differently described men on the night before her murder. When found at 1am the following morning, she had a cut to the throat, still bleeding, with no more injuries, leading police to suspect the killer had been disturbed and fled the scene…
The result of this third murder was that police gave the East End’s prostitutes immunity from arrest if the confined their soliciting to the island around St Botolphs, a local church. Soon to be known, of course, as Prostitute’s Island!
The fact that the killer was disturbed and perhaps felt unsatisfied with his macabre work, led to another body being discovered the very same night – September 30th 1888 at 1.45am. Catherine Eddowes had been arrested earlier the same night for drunk and disorderly behaviour, and released at around 1am, bidding the Bishopsgate police officer, ‘Goodnight, old cock!’. She didn’t make it far.
All the killer’s signatures were present this time, with additional cuts to the face and nose. I’ll spare you further details in this instance! A blood-stained apron was found a few streets away, which the police suspected had been used by the killer to clean his murder weapon. This contemporary map shows the murder and the apron location (A), which actually fell into a different police jurisdiction (the City of London police on the left and the Metropolitan Police on the right).
Lastly, Mary Kelly fell victim to the killer on the 9th November 1888.
The Ten Bells pub in Spitalfields, miraculously still there and still under the same name, is where Mary Kelly spent her last evening. The house in which she met her demise, sadly, looks like this:
She was 25, younger than all the others. Hers was a particularly terrifying, gruesome death because it took place in her own home at 4am. She was even heard to scream ‘Murder!’, and was ignored. The death was the most gruesome of all, she was barely recognisable and parts of her were completely missing. I suggest if you would like to know more that you look it up yourself, the crime-scene photo is available online!
After Mary Kelly’s death, the killings stopped forever. There were a few other, later killings that bore some, but not all, of the hallmarks, so the ‘Canonical Five’ as the above are known, are the only ‘true’ Ripper killings.
Why ‘Jack The Ripper’? The name came from a letter sent to Scotland Yard on 27th September 1888. It reads:
I keep on hearing the police have caught me but they wont fix me just yet. I have laughed when they look so clever and talk about being on the right track. That joke about Leather Apron gave me real fits. I am down on whores and I shant quit ripping them till I do get buckled. Grand work the last job was. I gave the lady no time to squeal. How can they catch me now. I love my work and want to start again. You will soon hear of me with my funny little games. I saved some of the proper red stuff in a ginger beer bottle over the last job to write with but it went thick like glue and I cant use it. Red ink is fit enough I hope ha. ha. The next job I do I shall clip the ladys ears off and send to the police officers just for jolly wouldn’t you. Keep this letter back till I do a bit more work, then give it out straight. My knife’s so nice and sharp I want to get to work right away if I get a chance. Good Luck. Yours truly
Jack the Ripper
Dont mind me giving the trade name
PS Wasnt good enough to post this before I got all the red ink off my hands curse it No luck yet. They say I’m a doctor now. ha ha
You can read this letter and the few other possibly authentic, non-hoax letters on Wikipedia
; but it was from these that the name caught on.
We still do not know who Jack the Ripper was, why he did it and why he stopped so suddenly. The casefiles closed in 1891 with the police none the wiser. Of course, there are hundreds and hundreds of theories but there’s one in particular that’s of interest here. One of the suspects was King Edward VII’s, then still Prince Wales, very own son, Prince Albert Victor, the Duke of Clarence.
Known as Eddy to his chums, Prince Albert Victor was, totally unlike his father, something of a ladies man and party animal, participant in many a hushed-up scandal, oh no. From the Jack the Ripper casebook:
By most reports, Eddy was a “slow” child and grew up to be a rather dull adult.”Even his nearest and dearest, who were naturally bent on making the best of poor Prince Eddy, could not bring themselves to use more positive terms. Prince Eddy was certainly dear and good, kind and considerate. He was also backward and utterly listless. He was self-indulgent and not punctual. He had been given no proper education, and as a result he was interested in nothing. He was as heedless and as aimless as a gleaming gold-fish in a crystal bowl.” (James Pope-Hennessy, Queen Mary. Quoted in Rumbelow, p. 194.)
He was sadly afflicted with all sorts of problems, from mild special needs (apparently) and deafness and a long neck that endowed him with the nickname ‘collar and cuffs’, due to the extra length of his starched collars. Poor Eddy. He passed away young in the influenza epidemic of 1891-2 and thus never succeeded Bertie to the throne. During his lifetime there were lots of rumours about his mental faculties, health and lifestyle but, it was not until many decades after his death that the one about him being Jack the Ripper surfaced.
Dr. Thomas Stowell is the man who, in 1970, published an article in The Criminologist called “A Solution” with a killer referred to as ‘S’, very easily identified. It was, in fact, full of very thinly veiled accusations of Prince Eddy as the the Ripper. It unsurprisingly caused a sensation!
The story goes that Prince Eddy was suffering from syphilis, which he caught in the West Indies and which caused him to go mad and commit the murders. Sir William Gull, star of excellent graphic novel From Hell, terrible Johnny Depp movie of the same name and the Prince’s physician at the time, apparently informed Bertie and Alexandra that their son was dying of syphilis in the late 1880s. He was alleged to have committed the first two of the Canonical Five without any reprimand, and it was only after the double murders on night of the 30th September that he was stopped. He was then, allegedly, bundled off to a private mental institution, from which he periodically escaped to kill and disembowel ladies of dubious repute (well, once more – the Kelly murder). The killing stopped because he was put away for good, subsequently dying in 1892 (in this theory of syphilis,not flu).
The reasons this theory cannot be proven are, luckily for the legacy of our Bertie, many. Firstly, Stowell died soon after, and his family burned his original papers, unread. Convenient. Secondly, Eddy died two year after Gull kicked it in 1890, so the latter could not have written about the former’s death, from an STD or otherwise. Thirdly, court records show Eddy was not in London for any of the murders at all… which does sound a little ‘convenient’ as well… just kidding.
Lots more dubious ‘evidence’ and crackpot theories surrounding Eddy can be found on the Jack the Ripper Casebook
site, although the more I read, the less I believed and, I think it’s fair to say, no one seriously considers the Prince as a suspect. I’m also sure if he had really had syphilis, a daily nip of KGL would have sorted him right out… sadly we wil never know as it was not invented until a decade after his death. But all in all, a fun little link between true crime, my new home of the East End and everyone’s favourite Royal (and Royal libation), King Edward VII.
So that’s my King’s Ginger
story for today, here’s some atmospheric photos taken in a dark, street in Spitalfields. It’s barely changed since those sinister murders took place in autumn 1888, except that the yellow lighting would have been a pale greenish-white in the gaslamp days of Victorian London. But, you can’t have everything!
Outfit details – Skirt: vintage possibly 1980s
Fakelite Dagger Brooch: Beyond Retro (did you notice how appropriate it is?)
Until next time… stay safe everyone!