The expected testimony of Prince Harry on Tuesday in a phone hacking case will be the first time in more than 130 years that a senior member of the British royal family has been questioned in court.
The last time this happened was in 1891, and it did not go well for the royal family.
Prince Albert Edward – Queen Victoria’s eldest son, who became King Edward VII in 1901 – testified as a witness in a slander case centered on a gambling game at which the prince was present.
One of the players, Sir William Gordon-Cumming, is accused of cheating. The Prince sided with the accused and Mr. Gordon-Cumming lost the case.
A local report from that time, p Quoted in The GuardianHe said that Edward’s testimony took about 20 minutes and that it “tired him out a lot and made him very nervous”. The report also stated that he was unable to sit still. It was unusual then, too, for such a prominent member of the royal family—the future king, no less—to appear at court.
The report reads: “When he was asked a more pressing question, than usual, it was observed that the prince’s face turned greatly, and then turned pale again.”
Richard Fitzwilliams, one of the royal commentators, said: “You can see by reading this why it was later decided that this was not something the Royal Family wanted. It showed that you could not fully protect even the Queen’s son from questioning.”
A book published in 1899 He revealed a message from Edward He denounced the scandal and expressed the “deep pain and annoyance” he had suffered because of it.
Edward wrote: “The last trial, which no one denounced more than myself, and which I was powerless to prevent, gave occasion to the press to launch most bitter and unjust attacks upon me, knowing that I was defenseless.”
He continued, “It is now over, and I think, therefore, that it would be inappropriate for me in any public way to refer again to the sore subject which has brought this torrent of abuse upon me.”
Edward’s testimony in 1891 was not the first time the future king had appeared in court. Two decades earlier, he had testified in the case of the divorce of Harriet Mordaunt, wife of an English Member of Parliament, who had named Edward as one of her lovers. (Edward denied this in court.) During that trial Edward appeared to be in the witness box only for a few minutes, said Mr. Fitzwilliams, and this appearance seemed to have had the least effect on his reputation.
Edward – known as “Bertie” to those close to him – had a reputation as a womanizer with Love playing cards.
There are key differences between Harry’s scheduled court appearance on Tuesday and Edward’s appearance. Edward has been called as a witness both times he appeared in court, while Harry is one of the plaintiffs, meaning he may have known cross-examination was in his future.
Furthermore, while Harry is a senior member of the royal family, he is no longer a working royal. And he was never the first to accede to the throne, unlike Edward, who was heir apparent. However, if the questions make Harry uneasy, it can be embarrassing, experts say.
“There will be no safety net that he has with the various interviews,” said Mr Fitzwilliams, the royal commentator.
Not all of the press was unfriendly to Edward in 1891. In an article about Yesterday From testimony in the gambling libel case, The New York Times wrote that he was “friendly as ever” and “impeccably dressed”.
Edward was king for only nine years. In 1910, he died of pneumonia, leaving the throne to his son, George V.
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