The Victorian Era is highly known for its strict social code and the sense of strong morality, yet not all members of British society followed the strict social code. Included in this social code was the marriage between a man and a woman, as well as the idea of marrying within a particular social class. The upper class consisted many individuals of nobility, and those considered to come from wealthy families. These families were held to the highest standard as a means to maintain their social standing. Yet when a particular member of this social class disobeys the well established social code, they may face a less severe reaction.
A well known scandal that arose in the 18th century involving Prince Albert Victor who was the eldest son of the Prince of Whales, making him Queen Victoria’s grandson. He was engaged to Princess Mary of Trek, yet his involvement in the Cleveland Street Scandal, spoke differently about not only his sexuality but also about his social standing.
In 1889 Detective Inspector Frederick Abberline led a bust of a gay brothel at 19 Cleveland Street. During the 18th century brothels were very common, yet still illegal, an fell under the realm of socially unacceptable. The Cleveland Street brothel was infamous for its clientele that included many upper class gentlemen, including Prince Albert. The possibility that many upper class individuals involved may be classified as homosexual causes an even larger uproar. Yet his name was never mentioned during the trials, nor was his name ever tarnished. Many of his friends and family attested to his heterosexuality. So what is the understanding to be acknowledged from the scandal?
Those who are intended to be of an upper class, may not always be of the same image they appear to portray. They are those who by society are held to what can be known as the highest social code, yet the evidence presented shows lower moral value behind closed doors. Then one must ask, what is the psychological effect of being involved with the upper class? Can the fact of being welcomed to many privileges, but not being socially able to indulge make an individual succumb to secrecy? Can idea of privilege can be a desire as well as prison?
Paterson, Mike. “London Historians’ Blog.” London Historians’ Blog. N.p., 19 Feb. 2011. Web. 30 Aug. 2012. <http://londonhistorians.wordpress.com/2011/02/19/the-cleveland-street-scandal-rent-boys-and-the-gpo/>.