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“Call me ‘Eddy:'” A Seance with the Duke of Clarence: 1895

The tomb of the Duke of Clarence

The tomb of the Duke of Clarence

Today is the anniversary of the death of Prince Albert Victor Christian Edward, Duke of Clarence and Avondale. Let us commemorate the occasion with a curious story of “Prince Eddy’s” posthumous return by Florence Marryat:

The cabinet séances I am writing of were quite private and held amongst friends, so that the forms that appeared were mostly known to the sitters. The first that appeared in whom I took any interest was that of the Duke of Clarence. Not being on the royal visiting list, I had no personal acquaintance with him during his lifetime, and was puzzled at first to think why he should have singled me out to pay the compliment of a visit to. But I had, in common with the rest of the nation, been deeply grieved at the announcement of his death, and, as will be seen hereafter, he seems to have been aware of it. For some time before he appeared, we heard him remonstrating inside the cabinet, and saying: “Leave me alone; do leave me alone! Can’t you see that I’m ill—let me rest!” He evidently believed himself to be still lying in his bed at Sandringham. We did not know who was talking after this fashion, but as soon as the Duke appeared, I recognised him from his photographs. I exclaimed: “Why! it is the Duke of Clarence,” and he replied: “No, not that ! Call me ‘Eddy.”’ I then remembered a story I had heard to the effect that, some few months before his death, he had been to visit a clairvoyant, who told him, amongst other things, that “Marriage for him spelt Death.” “So the clairvoyant was right, my poor boy,” I said, “and marriage for you did spell Death.” He drew himself up, retreated a few steps, and exclaimed in a clear voice, so as to be heard by everybody: “No! Miss Marryat, not Death—Life! Tell everybody it spelt Life—Life!”

This was the first time of the Duke’s appearing, but after that he came whenever we sat. Sometimes he was remarkably like himself—at others he was not. He generally asked me if he looked as he used to do. One day I told him he would be just like, according to my opinion, if his complexion was a little fairer. He retired to the cabinet, but returned a minute later with a much fairer complexion, but also a much shorter face. I laughed and said: “Oh! go away! You are not a bit like yourself now!” at which he smiled too, and disappeared altogether. Lady G , who had known the Prince well during his lifetime, was much interested on hearing I had seen him, and called on me for the express purpose of asking how he looked and what he had said. “Was he just like himself?” was one of the questions she put to me. I hesitated. “Well, not always,” I replied, “and I noticed one thing about him which seemed very unlike. You know how particular he was about his hair. It was always so neatly arranged with the curl over his forehead. Well, the curl is gone. His hair seems ruffled over his forehead, as if someone had ruffled it with his fingers on purpose.” “You have given me the best possible proof of his identity,” said Lady G; and she then went on to tell me that she had been at Sandringham at the time of the Duke’s lamented death, and the lock of hair he used to wear had been cut off as a memento, and the remaining hair ruffled over his forehead just as I described his wearing it. If Lady G ’s account was true (and I have no reason to doubt her word), it was a pretty good proof I had given her, considering I had never seen the Duke of Clarence except in his published likeness. Of course I talked to him on the many occasions on which I saw him on various subjects, but equally, of course, it is hardly possible for me to repeat our conversation here. When I asked him why he came so perseveringly to a humble individual like myself, who has never had anything to do with royalty in her life, he said: “Because you wept for me.” “But half the nation wept for you,” I replied. “Yes, perhaps so, but you—you are not one who weeps for everybody,’” which is quite true. Once, when I accompanied another Duke to Mr Husk’s, and Prince Eddy appeared, he at once addressed the new-comer by his title, and so betrayed the incognito which he had wished to preserve, and of which Mr Husk had not the least suspicion.

On another occasion I was invited to join a séance with Mr Husk given by several young men in town. I accepted, believing them to be sincere seekers after the truth instead of a set of scoffers, who merely assembled to make fun out of all they might see or hear. Amongst them, however, was a gentleman who, I was told, was or had been a clergyman or tutor at Sandringham, and acquainted with the Duke of Clarence. At any rate, as soon as we had sat down, the Duke appeared, and went straight up to this gentleman and spoke to him. My sailor son was ashore about this time, and I told him of the foregoing interviews. He asked me why I did not let those who were most deeply interested in the Duke’s reappearance know of what I had seen. I laughed, and said, “No, thank you, my boy! I don’t want to bring a storm of royal hailstones about my ears.” And, in fact, many people are quite affronted if you tell them you have seen their dead. They seem to think it a great impertinence on your part to have experienced what they have not done, and forget that such things are beyond your own control. I did not therefore act on my son’s suggestion, and the subject was not again raised between us. The next time I visited Mr Husk, however, and Prince Eddy appeared, he stood just outside the cabinet, and beckoned me to go to him. On my approach, he whispered: “Don’t tell my people yet, Miss Marryat.” I did not remember at first to what he was alluding, but when I did, I answered: “Oh, you are talking of what my son said to me. Well, if you overheard him, you must have also heard me say that I had no intention of bringing a storm of royal hailstones about my unfortunate ears.” “It’s not that,” he said, “but they are not ready for this phase of Spiritualism yet. You say yourself that I am not always recognisable. Sometimes I am like myself and sometimes not, and if they were to see me when I am not, it would set them against it altogether. The time will come, but it is not yet.” I have never sat with Mr Husk without this spirit appearing to me, and if, on the news reaching high quarters, I am condemned to be led forth to “hinstant hexecution,” I shall say so with my last breath. With him has often come, but not always, the Prince Imperial— another beautiful young treasured life cut lamentably short. Now, with regard to this apparition, I would like to mention what I call proof of identity. I knew this Prince no more than I did the other, and could only recognise him from his photograph.

Any distinguished-looking young man with an olive complexion and dark eyes and slight figure might have passed for the Prince Imperial with a stranger; but it was the pure Parisian accent with which he addressed me that convinced me of his identity. We were all men and women of education, as I have said before, but I will venture to affirm there was not one of us that could speak French as the spirit of the Prince Imperial spoke it to me. There is no mistaking a pure Parisian accent. It is something that very few Englishmen acquire even though they may live in Paris, and on the lips of this spirit it was undeniable. I have not seen him so often as I have the Duke of Clarence, but for the first few times they always came together or immediately succeeding each other, and the Prince Imperial invariably spoke with the same accent.

The Spirit World, Florence Marryat, 1895

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Cecil Husk, an opera singer turned medium, was exposed in 1891 by a sitter who removed his luminous gauze “spirit mask.” It is curious how multiple exposures did not dampen séance-goers’ enthusiasm for their pet mediums. A previous account of a spiritual visitatant written by Florence Marryat also featured a disgraced medium.

The Prince Imperial was the son of Emperor Napoleon III and the Empress Eugenie, living in exile in England. The Prince was a brilliant student at the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich and received his commission in 1875. He chafed at staff work and longed to see military action. The Duke of Cambridge helped the Prince transfer to South Africa where he took part in the “Anglo-Zulu War,” and where he met a soldier’s end pierced by Zulu spears.

Much has been whispered and written about the deficiencies, dissipations, and alleged murderous propensities of the Duke of Clarence. He was deeply loved by his own family and, a very short time after becoming engaged to Princess Mary of Teck, was said to have died in 1892 of the influenza. Mrs Daffodil caught one of the footmen reading a rather sensational book that claimed that his death was only simulated to remove an unfit heir from the succession and that he actually lived a long and quiet life as an artist, often visited by his beloved mother. The book was illustrated with photographs purporting to show the “late” Prince with Queen Alexandra, long after his “death.”

The Prince’s deathbed was attended by his parents, his fiancée and her parents, Prince George, two of his sisters, three nurses, three physicians, and the Prince of Wales’s chaplain, which, if we accept the premise that the Prince did not die in 1892, suggests either a very wide conspiracy of silence or a deathbed scene invented to appeal to the sentimental public.

As to Mrs Marryat’s curious visitations and the late Duke’s insistent on secrecy, one suspects that lady was duped by an unscrupulous medium who did not wish to find himself in the awkward position of putting on a command performance for the Royal Family.  Or “Prince Eddy” was an one of those imposter spirits, who (we are told) so frequently intrudes in the séance room to make mischief. Mrs Daffodil suggests that the former explanation is the more likely.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

For more on the death and mourning for the Duke of Clarence, see The Victorian Book of the Dead’s Facebook page.