Monday, 13 February 2012

The Cleveland Street Scandal

The Cleveland Street scandal occurred in 1889, when a homosexual male brothel in Cleveland Street, London, was uncovered by police. At the time, sexual acts between men were illegal in Britain, and the brothel's clients faced possible prosecution and certain social ostracism if discovered. It was rumoured that one of the brothel's clients was Prince Albert Victor, who was the son of the Prince of Wales and second-in-line to the British throne. Officials were involved in a cover up to keep the prince's name and others' out of the scandal.
HRH Prince Albert Victor
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 rent boys, who also worked as messenger boys for the Post Office, were given light sentences and none of the clients were prosecuted. After the Earl of Euston was named in the press as a client, he successfully sued for libel. 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.
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 the Marquess of Queensberry accused Oscar Wilde of being an active homosexual. Wilde sued Queensberry for libel but his case collapsed. He was arrested, found guilty of indecency, and condemned to two years' hard labour as the result of his affair with Lord Alfred Douglas.


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