The boy who stole Victoria’s bloomers! But is the stalker who broke into the Palace her best-kept secret – or is it the love child her daughter is rumoured to have had?
- In December 1838 Edward Jones, 14, was found in Buckingham Palace, London
- He claimed he’d been there for 11 months and was found hiding again in 1840
- Another scandalous rumour is that Princess Louise had an illegitimate child
The queen was not amused when she became the victim of possibly the first celebrity stalker in history.
At 5am on 14 December, 1838, when she was 19, the night porter at Buckingham Palace spotted a boy with a blackened face and gave chase, but he escaped.
A search revealed that the intruder must have entered Victoria’s private apartments, but that night, fortunately, she was at Windsor.
He was eventually caught with several items of female underwear – Her Majesty’s bloomers – stuffed down his trousers, and the police surmised he had entered through a chimney, greasing himself to aid his escape.
An engraving showing Edward Jones peeping at Queen Victoria and Prince Albert
Everybody remarked on the boy’s repellent appearance. He claimed that he had been hiding behind furniture in the Palace for 11 months, eavesdropping on meetings with ministers and wandering about at night.
It was only when his father, a poor tailor, saw newspaper stories about the mysterious break-in that the boy was identified as 14-year-old Edward Jones, who had an obsessive interest in the queen and palace life.
When he was charged with theft there was no mention of the queen’s drawers, and his destitute father managed to borrow money to pay a barrister who – after much hilarity in court – got the boy acquitted.
Fourteen months passed and Victoria married. Then in December 1840, shortly after the birth of Princess Vicky, her midwife collared an intruder hiding under a sofa in the royal dressing room: it was the Boy Jones up to his tricks again.
The queen was in bed in the next room. This time, to avoid salacious revelations, the case was heard in secret by the Privy Council and the boy was allowed no legal representation.
He claimed he had got in through a window, stolen food from the kitchen, sat on the throne, toured the queen’s apartments then hid under the sofa.
Perhaps Victoria’s best-kept secret was that of her prettiest daughter Louise’s rumoured illegitimate son. Louise is pictured after becoming the Duchess of Argyll
He heard the baby squealing, he bragged. He was sentenced to three months hard labour.
But only two weeks after the boy was released, he was nabbed yet again in the Palace’s Picture Gallery.
He’d wanted to eavesdrop on the queen’s conversations so he could write a book and make his fortune.
By now the boy was famous, celebrated in popular ballads such as ‘The Boy wot visits the Palace’, and the authorities wanted him gone.
So they lured him onto an emigrant ship bound for New Zealand, but the captain refused to have the miscreant aboard.
At last, disguised in a wig, they got him onto a merchant ship bound for Brazil.
Four months later the boy was back in Liverpool where he got a job as an errand boy in a cigar shop, but he was being watched by mysterious men determined he wouldn’t get anywhere near the Palace.
This time he was press-ganged into the Navy, an unwilling sailor (he jumped overboard twice), until his father petitioned the House of Lords in 1847 and he was discharged after five and a half years.
Victoria’s daughter was said to have had a baby with her brother’s tutor who was later adopted by the family’s gynaecologist. Pictured is a portrait of the Queen
Back home he kept away from Buckingham Palace but was arrested for burglary.
After several years on the hulks – prison ships moored on the Thames and Medway rivers – he was transported to Australia in 1853.
He died an alcoholic, in his 70s, in 1893 – having never rummaged in the queen’s knicker drawer again!
But perhaps Victoria’s best-kept secret was that of her prettiest – and flightiest – daughter Louise’s rumoured illegitimate son.
In 1866, when Louise had just turned 18, her haemophiliac brother Leopold acquired a new tutor, a young lieutenant named Walter Stirling.
Leopold was Louisa’s favourite brother and the three became good friends, until four months later, when Stirling was suddenly dismissed with the excuse that Leopold needed someone with more experience of dealing with invalids.
Leopold was distraught as this left him at the mercy of his abusive footman Archie Brown, younger brother of John Brown, the queen’s obnoxious Highland servant.
Stirling certainly defended his young charge against these ‘dreadful Scotch servants’ – and that alone might explain his dismissal.
But it caused gossip, and gave rise to rumours (never proved or disproved) that Louise was pregnant.
Fashions in the 1860s made it easy to conceal a bump under corsets and frills, but could the wayward princess secretly have given birth to an illegitimate son?
Certainly she made few public appearances towards the end of that year, and the queen noted that she eschewed the help of a lady’s maid to dress.
When Victoria wrote to a friend that she dreaded Stirling might gossip, was it because she feared prurient revelations about her own relationship with John Brown, or something even more scandalous about her daughter?
Since the 1860s a story has passed down the family of Sir Charles Locock, Queen Victoria’s gynaecologist, the natural person to turn to if a daughter was ‘in trouble’.
In December 1867, Locock’s newly married son Frederick and his wife Mary adopted a baby named Henry (whose birth certificate has never been found).
In later life Henry Locock would claim he was Princess Louise’s biological son and that she had access visits during his childhood.
He recalled parties with other royal children and playing croquet at Osborne House – even walloping his ‘cousin’, the future Kaiser Wilhelm, for cheating.
To add to the mystery, Walter Stirling’s mother had visited Sir Charles shortly before the adoption.
And in royal letters from the time, a ‘great secret’ is mentioned, while Louise refers to feeling tearful and sad. The gossip has never died down.
In 2004, the country’s highest Church court was asked to permit the exhumation of a body for DNA tests to discover if it was Princess Louise’s secret love child.
Unsurprisingly, permission was refused, and Henry Locock, who died in 1907, lies undisturbed in the family vault in a graveyard in Sevenoaks, Kent.
Queen Victoria’s Stalker by Jan Bondeson is available on Amazon Kindle. The Mystery Of Princess Louise, Queen Victoria’s Rebellious Daughter by Lucinda Hawksley is published by Vintage, £14.99.
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