The Story Of The Royal Baccarat Scandal Of 1890 – Part 3
December 11, 2017
The final instalment of the Royal Baccarat Scandal picks up with Gordon-Cumming’s court case which would reveal dirty secrets about the Prince and leave the Royal Family reeling. Here is Part one & Part two so you can catch up on the story.
Gordon-Cumming was worried. The letter he signed back in Doncaster was supposed to preserve the silence of the ongoings of that fateful night, but word was getting out. In desperation, he wrote to the Prince.
“The secret is already on the mind of far too many, I fear. I wish to point out that the only hope I have of remaining in the eyes of the rest of the world an untarnished England gentleman is that the said world should not be aware of any alteration. I cannot help making this final appeal to show how utterly it remains in your power to utterly damn one who has ever been a loyal and devoted subject to your royal highness.”
– Sir William Gordon-Cumming
Gordon-Cumming’s reputation was being torn apart at the seems, and he couldn’t understand why. He was desperate for a response. A man he considered a good friend had turned on him and chose to believe the word of mere acquaintances over his. He couldn’t wrap his head around it.
The Prince never replied. Gordon-Cumming had realised he had been hung out to dry, and he wasn’t going to let it drop like the Prince thought he would. Instead, he went in heavy and sued his accusers for slander. The scandal Lord Coventry was desperate to evade had swung round full-circle to hit the Prince right in the face.
The Royal Baccarat Scandal trial began on the 1st June 1891 to a cosmic and melodramatic audience. The court had been full for half an hour before the trial commenced and the mood inside felt more like one of theatre than judicial law.
The press were equally as vociferous. The press box was full with journalists from The New York Times, The Echo, The Pall Mall Gazette, The Manchester Guardian, The Illustrated London News, The Daily News, The Daily Chronicle, The Daily Telegraph, and The National Observer to name but a few.
Most of the papers had already drawn their own conclusions before the trial had begun. The Prince’s partying and womanising was legendary yet never proven, and the press believed there was something more sinister to the story than met the eye.
“We are hopeful that the rottenness of the English aristocracy will be exposed.”
– Punch magazine
From day one the audience were on Gordon-Cumming’s side. Gordon-Cumming was a war hero whereas the Prince and his acquaintances were viewed as ‘spoiled rich kids’. “The Colonel has risked his life for you and yours, his sword is stained with the blood of his country’s foes,” stated Gordon-Cumming’s lawyers.
The evidence seemed to be on the Colonel’s side, but the Prince and the Establishment had a trick up their sleeve. The man appointed to the case was Lord Coleridge, a 70-year-old judge who was known for falling asleep in court, and more importantly, known as a friend of Edward’s.
Coleridge’s summary after 8 days of court was, predictably, “unacceptably biased” according to Havers, Grayson and Shankland. As a result, the jury, despite all the revelations, took 13 minutes to deliberate before siding with the Prince and Gordon-Cumming’s accusers, prompting vehement boos from the gallery.
Gordon-Cumming instantly was dismissed from the army and his reputation had been tarnished forever. But the newspapers weren’t happy and were desperate to find out more.
A few weeks later the rumourville went into overdrive. A woman going by the name of Daisy Brooke was making all the headlines. The Prince’s mistress’ name had become public knowledge, and suddenly the jigsaw had been pieced together by the press.
Two days before meeting at Doncaster Races, the Prince, according to the newspapers, had found Daisy, his mistress of over a year, in bed with the Colonel. Edward left incensed and put the baccarat game together to get back at his old friend. The intricacies of the revenge attack were delightfully savvy and dexterous. Together with the Wilson’s, the Lycett-Green’s, Lord Coventry, and General Williams, the Prince looked to have pulled off the ultimate retribution. The problem was, they didn’t expect the Colonel to fight back.
Upon receipt of the news, the public snapped. Not only was Edward sleeping around whilst married, but he was also lavishly gambling the public’s money, and betraying noblemen. At Ascot the Prince was booed, bishops would go on to denounce him, and the press called for him to step aside from royal duties.
The Prince and the Monarchy survived despite public pressure and Queen Victoria’s fears, but the courts established a principle that the people had a right to know what the Royal Family got up to in their private lives, no matter how outrageous and disgraceful it might be.
Edward would be crowned as King ten years on from the trial, and though he didn’t quit gambling altogether, he would go on to live a lot more discreet life free from mistresses and baccarat. His revenge plan, which seemed genius at the time, didn’t quite go according to plan but would go on to change the Monarchy for the better forever and would humble the Prince in a way none thought possible.
The revenge plan was even more ingenious than Edward could ever have hoped.