Tuesday, August 2, 2011

August 13, 1891 --- Advice from the Prince of Wales

In the aftermath of the "Great Baccarat Scandal" (of which more later) the Prince of Wales issues a public statement on gambling.  No stranger to scandals, this was his worst.  He had been denounced in the public papers as a "wastrel." He had associated with frivilous young people and card cheats.  The New York Times reported "a growing conviction" in Britain that the Royal family wasn't worth the expense any longer.

After protracted negotiations overseen by Prime Minister Salisbury, the Prince agrees to write a letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury - for public release - in which he admits to a "horror" of gambling. The Prince complains to Archbishop Benson of "a torrent of abuse upon me not only by the Press, but by the Low Church and especially the Nonconformists." The Prince even goes so far as to declare, "Gambling, like intemperance, is one of the greatest curses a country can be afflicted with." He exempts horse-racing, however, calling it "a manly sport which is popular with Englishmen of all classes." Waxing philosophical, he concludes, "Alas! Those who gamble will gamble at anything."

Lord Salisbury hoped that the letter "would suffice to deodorize him of all the unpleasant aroma which this case has left upon him." It had taken a lot to bring the Prince and Prelate together.  Bertie was miffed when the Archbishop agreed to a request for a special prayer for a restoration of morality in the land. They had even suggested that the Princess of Wales should join their entreaties; she declined. The Prince remained bitter on the subject.  If you can afford the losses, it isn't gambling, he reasoned.  Certainly someone earning the average workman's wages of £10 a week couldn't appreciate that.

The anti-Royals weekly, Reynolds' Newspaper, let him have it: "The Heir Apparent to the British throne [is] staking his gold upon the chances of a card or the roll of a ball.  Gold, be it remembered, that he obtained from the toil and sweat of the British working-man, without himself producing the value of a halfpenny."

Bertie remained active on the Turf but his card-playing days were all but over.

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