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social sciences

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Cleveland Street Scandal  
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Parke sensed a cover-up and a conspiracy. He published a story on September 28 that "the heir to a duke and the younger son of a duke" were involved in the scandal. He followed up that story on November 16, naming Lord Somerset and the Earl of Euston, and asserting that both men had been allowed to leave the country in the government's attempt to conceal the involvement of a gentleman "more distinguished and more highly placed." It was widely understood by his readership that this protected public figure was none other than Prince Eddy.

Although Parke was correct in his assertion that Somerset had fled the country, he was misguided about the Earl of Euston. The Earl was still in England and had no intention of leaving; instead, he sued Parke for libel. When the case went to trial, Parke was unwilling to reveal his sources and therefore could not produce the witnesses needed to prove his allegations. Consequently, Parke was found guilty of libel, and sentenced to twelve months in prison.

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However, another trial began on December 12, 1889 that to some extent proved Parke's contention of a conspiracy in the Cleveland Street scandal. Newlove's defense attorney, Arthur Newton, was charged with obstructing justice by warning Charles Hammond of his imminent arrest, and assisting Hammond to leave the country in an effort to evade having to testify against his prominent clientele. The attorney was easily convicted of the charge and sentenced to six weeks in prison.

Parliament Member Henry Labouchère, an ardent who had four years earlier successfully campaigned to have the "gross indecency" amendment added to the Criminal Act of 1885, closely watched the Arthur Newton trial. He suspected that the cover-up went far beyond a lawyer's mere efforts to protect his clients. He believed that a principal member of the government, perhaps even the Prime Minister himself, had arranged for Lord Somerset to be forewarned of an impending arrest and given an opportunity to escape.

Labouchère first expressed his suspicions in Parliament on February 28, 1890 and requested that a committee be formed to investigate the actions of the government in the scandal. A particularly voluble debate ensued. Labouchère was so confrontational during it that he was suspended from Parliament for a week.

His efforts to expose the alleged cover-up failed, and by a vote of 204 to 66 his motion to form an investigative committee was rejected.

Consequences of the Scandal

The Cleveland Street scandal gradually faded from public interest, but had a lasting impact on the general perception of homosexuals in Britain. The scandal helped to fuel a belief that sex between men was an aristocratic vice that corrupted working-class youths. It also helped to highlight a period of national abhorrence for homosexuality that eventually climaxed in the three sensationalistic trials of Oscar Wilde in 1895.

The release of Public Record Office police documents in 1975 regarding the case, and more significantly, the publication of the private letters of Lord Somerset, have since confirmed the involvement of Prince Eddy in the Cleveland Street scandal beyond a reasonable doubt.

Officially, Prince Eddy died of pneumonia on January 14, 1892. Several rumors and conspiracy theories, however, have emerged suggesting alternative fates. One theory suggests he actually died of syphilis, while another claims that he died of a morphine overdose, deliberately administered to him. A third theory claims that he actually survived until the 1920s in an asylum on the Isle of Wight, and that his death was intentionally faked in order to remove him from the line of succession.

Craig Kaczorowski

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Hyde, H. Montgomery. The Cleveland Street Scandal. New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, Inc., 1976.

Robb, Graham. Strangers: Homosexual Love in the Nineteenth Century. New York: Norton, 2004.

Simpson, Colin, Lewis Chester, and David Leitch. The Cleveland Street Affair. Boston: Little, Brown, 1976.


    Citation Information
    Author: Kaczorowski, Craig  
    Entry Title: Cleveland Street Scandal  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2005  
    Date Last Updated March 11, 2013  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2005, glbtq, inc.  


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