With hundreds of potential Ripper suspects, there are hundreds of stories about the Ripper. Who was he? Why did he kill the Canonical Five? The choices are nearly endless. But my favorite …
It’s complicated. That’s why it’s my favorite: it’s unique and also ridiculous, weaving in some of the more believable or standard elements with new conspiracies. So, here we go: John Wilding’s theory of what actually happened.
Wilding published Jack the Ripper: Revealed in 1993 and an updated version (Jack the Ripper: Revealed and Revisited) in 2006. He starts with Mary Jane Kelly, the final victim of the Canonical Five, putting her in a difficult position. Wilding’s Mary is pregnant, and the father is the Crown Prince himself. For some reason, once she discovers her pregnancy, Mary goes to lawyer Montague John Druitt to inform him of her situation.
Druitt has long been associated with the Ripper case simply because he committed suicide shortly after Mary Jane Kelly’s murder, providing theorists with a convenient explanation for why the murders stopped. He is not considered to be a serious suspect by any means, but Wilding’s Druitt has some interesting twists in and of himself. Druitt is only half of the Ripper in this story, since he turns to his friend, J.K. Stephen, to ask him for help and advice.
Stephen is tutoring Prince Eddy – shorthand for Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale, the Crown Prince’s elder son – and both Stephen and Druitt anticipate being in positions of power once their friend Eddy ascends to the throne. They can’t risk Eddy’s inheritance on the unborn child of an East End sex worker, so, keeping the secret between themselves, Druitt and Stephen decide to kill Mary Kelly.
When they try to follow her one night, keeping track of Mary by her unique bonnet, Mary Kelly passed that bonnet to Mary Nichols in order to throw off her tail. She did not recognize Druitt and Stephen, and they did not realize that they killed the wrong woman. Thus Mary Nichols’ death was a case of mistaken identity. Mary Kelly worried that it was her bonnet that got her friend killed and told another friend, Annie Chapman. She also made the mistake of expressing the same concerns to Druitt and telling him Annie’s name, turning Annie into the second Canonical victim.
Liz Stride’s death is more difficult to explain, since Wilding argues that she recognized one of the killers and had to be eliminated before she publicly identified them. However, while Mary Nichols and Annie Chapman were killed because of their association with an unknowing Mary Kelly, Catharine Eddowes was purposefully chosen.
By this point, Queen Victoria has discovered that her son is expecting another child. Rather than being aghast, she wishes to preserve any possible descendant of her beloved deceased husband. Druitt, Stephen, and Mary Kelly herself are roped into a new scheme: to continue the series of murders so that Mary Kelly can be made to disappear and no one will question it.
Mary Kelly chooses Catharine Eddowes are the next victim, trying to get her drunk so she presumably won’t feel a thing. Eddowes ends up arrested for public drunkenness, but Druitt and Stephen manage to catch her once she’s released and take care of business. Finally, Mary Kelly chooses another of her friends, this woman nameless, to be murdered and mutilated in her rented room and therefore mistaken for her. In this version, the woman discovered at 13 Miller’s Court is not Mary Kelly, but this anonymous friend.
Mary Kelly, perhaps feeling a bit of guilt about getting two of her friends brutally murdered, is thus able to slip away and give birth to the Crown Prince’s child in peace and luxury. Druitt and Stephen sadly both die young, as does Prince Eddy. Their chances at holding high positions at court were dashed all around, and it seems they murdered five innocent women for nothing.
This conspiracy hasn’t caught as much attention as From Hell and the Freemasons, but it certainly makes for a good story. It’s not true in the least, but it’s fascinating all the same.
What’s your favorite Ripper theory?