TRC: Royal acts: deeds of human nature? – Prince Albert Victor

01/03/2012 at 1:41 pm (Great Britain, History, Royalty) (, , , , , , , )

His father was a lady-killer. And so was he, some say. The difference is that when people say it about the Prince of Wales who became King Edward VII they mean it in a romantic sense. When they apply the term to his son, Prince Albert Victor Christian Edward, Duke of Clarence, Eddy to his family, they mean it literally. We know for certain why the King was considered a lady-killer. Lillie Langtry and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall’s, great grandmother, Alice Keppel, were only two of many, many women to experience “little deaths” by his doing.

And isn’t it exceedingly odd: the great, great grandson and great granddaughter of a Prince of Wales and his mistress……..?

But we don’t really know whether or not Prince Albert Victor (PAV) was a lady-killer, of any sort. Was he involved with the Jack the Ripper murders, as some claim? Some descriptions by eye-witnesses of the killer seem to fit PAV. But Court documents show that he was elsewhere, Sandringham, for example, at the time of some of the murders.

And how was he in the realm of romance? It’s said that when his fellow army officers tried to make him a “man of the world,” he resisted their efforts. (TRC assumes they were offering moral support rather than their personal services.) But he proposed to his first cousin, Princess Alix of Hesse, in 1889 when she was seventeen and he was twenty-five. She refused. She had already fallen in love with the heir to the Russian throne, the future Tsar Nicholas II, the year before. Last time we mentioned the tragic ending of that marriage. Did her refusal of him drive him into a Cleveland Street homosexual brothel in July of that year? Yet another unsubstantiated claim about him, but it was a huge issue at the time. In letters to his aunt Victoria, Empress of Germany, Queen Victoria said he led a “dissipated life.” Some believe this referred to homosexuality.

In any event, the scandal hung like suffocating smog over the Court. Though the young, male prostitutes themselves never named PAV as a client, they said that his father’s Extra Equerry, Lord Arthur Somerset, was. He fled the country. PAV’s father, then Prince of Wales, managed to ensure that none of the clients, actual or suspected, was prosecuted. But PAV was dispatched on a seven month tour of India. Exile by any other name or for any duration is still exile, TRC says.    Some years after his death, a lady of the Raj he’d met in India, Mrs Margery Haddon, returned to the UK and claimed that PAV was her son’s, Clarence, father. Yet again, unproven. The reason why in 1887 Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales ordered him, as a soldier, to Malta also provides a hint of his emotional psyche. The Queen and his father were worried that, among other indiscretions, the twenty-three year old had an unhealthy crush on Winston Churchill’s married mother, ten years his senior.

Early on, PAV’s tutor, the Reverend John Neale Dalton, had reported that his student’s mind was “abnormally dormant.” Even some members of the Royal Family, and some aristocrats, derided his intellect. Yet he learned Danish, his mother’s native tongue; spent some months at the University of Heidelberg learning German and, for two years, was a student at Cambridge University. I’m told though by those who went to Oxford University that being a student at Cambridge is a sure sign that your mind is “abnormally dormant.”

Even the actuality and circumstances of PAV’s reported death at Sandringham House in January 1892 are questioned.

So, we know many claims about this prince but very little that is clearly fact. Great stuff therefore for novelists who dare to let their imaginations run fully free. And we at TRC did. Forget what historians say. Ignore claim and counter-claim. Read TRC, which tells an exciting, entertaining, creative story centred on PAV back then and now.

Next week: Rasputin


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How TRC was written – Part 1

21/02/2012 at 11:25 am (Great Britain, History, Royalty, Russia, The Ruthless Court, Writing) (, , , , , , , , , )

“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on,” Louis L’Amour (1908-1988), Author.

So that’s what we, daughter and father Autumn and Bonny St John, did. How did it all start? We were enjoying a drink and pub lunch in the Hand & Racquet pub in Wimbledon Town, planning a trip to the USA. We were off to stay with family who had invited us to celebrate a significant birthday of mine. I was about to take my paternal family’s record of having lived longer than any other member of our family! No more to say about that!

As our conversation meandered from one thing to another, Autumn remarked that the names Alexandra and Clarence seemed to be favourite place and pub names in that part of Wimbledon. We immediately assumed that this was in honour of Queen Alexandra, wife of Edward VII, and Prince Albert Victor (PAV), the Duke of Clarence, their somewhat ill-fated son.  Of course, we might have been wrong, but that didn’t matter. The point was that our conversation generated fertile ground for our imaginations.

So we began to chat about the two major salacious rumours surrounding PAV: he was Jack the Ripper and he hadn’t died in 1892 but was “exiled” to some secret location to avoid the truth about his Jack the Ripper murders becoming public.

Still talking about these scandals we jumped on a bus up to Wimbledon Village, went for a walk on the Common and then dropped into the famous Dog & Fox pub on the High Street. Alcohol- influenced and inspired by the sights of the Common, we decided in very short order that we could give the PAV rumours a new twist and write a novel based on that twist.  Luckily I had a sheet of blank paper as I always do. On it I jot down lines of poetry which come into my head. But that’s a completely different story.  There and then in the Dog & Fox we sketched out the heart of our plot: rather than die, where did PAV go and why? And what would be the present day, early Twenty-First Century, consequences? After all, we weren’t writing a historical review, we were planning on writing an exciting novel. That was the absorbing, challenging bit of using our imaginations. How could we marry Nineteenth Century royal history and a gruesome passage of social history and bring all that alive now? We went for it. But after an hour or so of thinking through our ideas for a plot we saw that they were flawed. So we scrapped them and started again.

Fortunately for both of us we had done a lot of writing, though not strictly speaking creative writing.  Autumn had written hundreds of essays for her history degrees, and I had written many policy papers in the Foreign Office. So we were practitioners of the Rudyard Kipling philosophy he described in his poem Six Serving Men. How well we applied it others would have to say. But suffice to say, Autumn got her degrees, good ones, and I ended up as a Head of Section. So we must have shown some competence in writing. Anyway, we knew that any good piece of writing answered the questions, What? Why? When? How? Where? and Who? And we used them as a template by which to dissect PAV’s life, looking for motivations,  emotions, behaviours and events we could contort into a unique, creative plot. But we didn’t manage it then. Too much red wine, perhaps. So we agreed to do much more research independently and liaise closely by phone, email and in person. We went off to our separate flats.

Next week: Plotting on our way to the USA, and an accusatory couple. Next stop Guantanamo?

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Jack the Ripper—Not Prince Albert Victor?

18/05/2011 at 8:47 pm (Books, Current Affairs, Great Britain, History, Royalty) (, , , , , , )

The story of ‘Jack’ the Ripper is one of the most simultaneously gripping and chilling of all time. A serial killer who was never caught, this individual brutally murdered a number of prostitutes in Whitechapel, London during 1888. Ever since then, rumours, suppositions and theories have claimed that the mysterious Ripper was a surgeon, a woman, even a member of the Royal Family—that member namely being Prince Albert Victor, the tragic grandson of Queen Victoria. In The Ruthless Court, the Prince fakes his own death and flees to Russia in order to win the heart of his beloved Alix of Hesse, known by that time as Alexandra Feodorovna—the last Tsarina. Our ripping yarn of course addresses the Ripper theories about the Prince, but not in the way you might expect.

So imagine how our interest  was piqued by the news that Ripperologist Trevor Marriott believes he now knows who ‘Jack’ was— it’s not Albert, but merchant seaman Carl Feigenbaum. Marriott has already written two books on the Ripper—Jack the Ripper: The 21st Century Investigation and The Evil Within—and now wants to develop and write about his latest theory. Hence his attempts to have Scotland Yard Special Branch (now known as Counter Terrorism) release hitherto top-secret documents on the original investigation into the murders. The Yard is so far refusing to make public the ledgers, as the files contain the names of informants and supergrasses—which is of course confidential information and understandably so but, as Marriott points out, five generations have passed since the killings and everyone involved in the investigation is long gone.

However, if the Ripper actually was Prince Albert Victor, that would of course explain the authorities’ reluctance to reveal what they’ve known all this time…

Marriott took his request for access to the ledgers to a tribunal, the outcome of which is expected in three weeks’ time. Follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook or subscribe to this blog to keep updated on this fascinating story.

Who do you believe Jack the Ripper was? Let us know in the comments below!

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Welcome to The Ruthless Court!

24/02/2011 at 8:54 pm (Great Britain, History, Royalty, Russia, Tennis, The Ruthless Court, Uncategorized, Writing) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Welcome to The Ruthless Court, where it’s hard to get off the court–alive…

Allow us to tell you about this highly imaginative and entertaining yarn which spins some of Britain’s and Russia’s most historic events into a single, fantastic, human story.

But first, fire up your imagination to full burn. Lift-off achieved? Then, here’s the adventure you’re on.

The supposedly dead Prince Albert Victor, suspected by some of being Jack the Ripper, second in line to Queen Victoria’s throne, feuds with Rasputin for the love of the last Tsarina, Alexandra, at the Russian Imperial Court in St Petersburg. And to make sure he wins, he dangerously uses the first MI6 officer in Russia, Lenin, the coming, and then the actual Russian Revolution and even Henri Matisse. And the feuds don’t die with the Prince and Rasputin. Their noble descendants clash now at the Wimbledon Championships where the Queen is taken hostage. Current MI5 and MI6 spies in the UK and in Russia use their tricks to try to defeat the self-styled ruthless court behind the present day mayhem. But who are the ruthless court?

How? Why? Who? Questions you’re asking. It’s a great escapist read finding out the answers in The Ruthless Court.

And now that you’re a ruthless courtier, we – Bonny and Autumn St John, father and daughter – your servants in the blogosphere, provide links to all the info you might want (or not) to dip into as  you enjoy your Court.

The Ruthless Court. The first novel by father-and-daughter team Bonny and Autumn St. John, The Ruthless Court is a relentless thriller that dramatically jumps between the late 19th century, early 20th century and the present day. The exciting yarn focuses on an entertaining, heart-stopping version of key points in British and Russian history, as well as the work and lives of 21st century spies…

We’ve basically set up this blog to get the word out about The Ruthless Court, post excerpts from it, update you on our quest to get published and to comment on anything and everything else to do with the world of The Ruthless Court–such as tennis, the Royal Family and Russia, to name but a few subject matters we’ll be chewing the fat over in the days, weeks and months to come.

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