Did you guys know that Queen Victoria had a 14 year old stalker?

Posted: July 9, 2013 in Uncategorized

(Reposted from http://drvitelli.typepad.com)

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Stalking Queen Victoria

Her Royal Majesty, Queen Victoria, was definitely not amused to find herself the target of what is likely the first known case of celebrity stalking.

In 1838, a fourteen-year old boy was caught by a porter in Buckingham Palace’s Marble Hall. The boy, later identified as Edward Jones, had sneaked into the palace dressed as a chimney-sweep. After the porter raised the alarm, Jones (who later became known in the newspapers as “the Boy Jones”) managed to escape the palace and was later captured by police in St. James Street. A search revealed that he had somehow managed to steal various samples of the Queen’s underwear, which he had stuffed down his trousers. Despite evidence that Jones had also stolen linen and a regimental sword from the palace, the court was lenient and he was later acquitted by a jury.

But that was hardly the last anyone would hear of the Boy Jones…

It’s hard to say for certain when Edward Jones first developed what would later turn out to be a serious obsession with Queen Victoria. He was born in 1824, the son of a Westminster tailor and was, by all accounts, rather unattractive and unpopular with woman. According to Cardiff University lecturer Jan Bondenson, who wrote a book about Edward Jones and Queen Victoria, “He was a very solitary character but he was not schizophrenic or classed as mad, just odd. He was extremely ugly, with a wide mouth and low brow and he never washed, which is why people thought he was a chimney sweep.” Although Edward Jones never confessed any sexual feelings for the Queen (which likely would have gotten him committed to Bedlam), his obsession with her took some odd turns.

On November 30, 1840, just nine days after the birth of Queen Victoria’s first child, the Boy Jones managed to scale the wall of Buckingham Palace, just half-way up Constitution hill. Although he managed to get away, a more serious incident happened on December 1 when he managed to sneak into Queen Victoria’s dressing room. This time he was caught hiding under a sofa and dragged out by police. Queen Victoria, who was getting more apprehensive about the “Boy Jones”, later recorded in her journal of how frightened she would have been if he had managed to enter her bedroom.

And she wasn’t the only one leery about Edward Jones’ antics. Not only did newspaper coverage turn “the Boy Jones” into a national celebrity, but palace security staff felt, well, royally humiliated by his success at invading the palace. Not only did he seem to have no trouble getting in as he pleased but he later boasted about having sat on the Royal Throne on at least two occasions. Jones also claimed to have lived at the palace for more than a year and that he managed to enter by sliding down a chimney. While nobody quite believed his grandiose claims, the fact that he had been caught inside the palace was damning enough. The palace security was beefed up and three additional guards were hired. If the courts had been lenient with Edward Jones before, the 1840 incident was enough to get him sentenced to three months in prison (although his father had tried to argue at his trial that his son was insane).

Edward Jones’ jail term didn’t make him any less of a celebrity. Charles Dickens and other prominent Victorian writers were fascinated by his story and his strange obsession with the Queen. After his release from prison, Jones was offered a chance to join the music hall circuit and talk about his exploits. Despite the tempting sum offered (four pounds a week), he turned the offer down. Palace staff and London police were as apprehensive as knowing that the Boy Jones was still at large. After he was caught loitering near Buckingham Palace, government officials decided that they had enough of Jones and he was ordered, without benefit of a trial, to do involuntary service on board a British warship. Although “press gangs” had been common enough during the 18th century, forcing men to serve on navy ships had become largely illegal by Jones’ time. Still, the risk that he posed to the Queen overrode any concerns about his legal rights.

Not that Edward Jones made it that easy for them. Although the ship that they placed him on was bound for Brazil, he managed to escape when it stopped at Portsmouth and he walked back to London from there. Recaptured near Buckingham Palace, the navy took no more chances with him and he was placed on a prison ship that was never allowed near shore. After six years, Edward Jones finally managed to return to England and his obsession with the Queen had managed to fade by that time. Never being able to live down his “Boy Jones” reputation and the continuing jokes at his expense, he eventually became an alcoholic and was later transported to Australia for burglary.

Although Jones managed to support himself by selling pies and even becoming town crier in Perth for a time, he never really settled down for long. When he later returned to England, his family eventually persuaded to go back to Australia since he represented a continuing embarassment to them. According to Jan Bondenson, “He was very annoyed about always being known for being the queen’s stalker and felt persecuted by the jokes, even in Australia”. The finger-pointing and publicity hounded him for years and people would follow him shouting, “There’s the boy who went to visit the Queen.” Not surprisingly, Edward Jones’ drinking grew steadily worse and likely killed him in the end. Alcohol was a probable factor in his fatal fall from a Perth bridge on Boxing Day, 1893.

Did Edward Jones suffer from erotomania? Whatever his feelings toward Queen Victoria, he doesn’t appear to have ever been involved with any other woman during his life. Although he was examined by medical doctors after his various arrests, there is no actual clinical evidence of the erotic delusions that usually accompany celebrity stalkers (the courts would have likely treated him more harshly if he had confessed to something like that). The nature of his obsession seemed not to focus on Queen Victoria herself but on Buckingham Palace (he was never caught stalking her anywhere but the palace). While Jan Bondenson argued in his book that Edward Jones suffered from a “schizoid” personality, the available information on Edward Jones seems surprisingly limited (no official records on his trial or imprisonment still exist).

If Edward Jones represented the first known case of celebrity stalking, he was hardly the last. Much like the Michael Fagan incident in 1982, the relative ease with which Edward Jones entered a supposedly secure palace was a humiliating wake-up call for palace security and the British government. If locking him away in a prison ship for years seems like an extreme solution for dealing with his strange obsession, it likely reflected the lack of any better alternatives.

While the “Boy Jones” case seems relatively benign, more recent celebrity stalking incidents have highlighted the real threat that obsessed fans can pose to the object of their affection. As the risk of violence becomes greater, the question of how to prevent potential tragedies still remains.

(Story was inspiration for 1950 Film “The Mudlark”)

 

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