Buggering the Valet 212

The row over Prince Charles in Canada reminded me of the role of the Royal Family in personifying those timeless traditions which comprise the spine of British culture.  One of these great Royal traditions, which has continued right down to the present generations, is buggering the valet.

31 May should be a national holiday in celebration of this great tradition. We should call it Bugger the Valet day.  On 31 May 1810 Ernest Duke of Cumberland, fifth son of George III, was buggering his valet Neale.   While Cumberland was fully engaged, another servant named Sellis impertinently entered the room.  Naturally the Duke, having ordered Sellis to wait and be spoken to, took out his sword and ran Sellis through seven times. Sellis remained impertinent, and even after being stabbed the first time, had the temerity to grab a candlestick and hit the Duke hard on the face, inflicting a disfiguring wound.  This of course is described in official histories (and I see on Wikipedia) as having been received in the Napoleonic Wars.

Over the years, seven journalists were imprisoned for publishing an account of Sellis’ death.  The Duke failed to pay Neale the money he had promised him to lie that Sellis had attacked the Duke, and subsequently Neale talked rather a lot.  The first journalist imprisoned, Henry White, died of disease contracted in prison. Henry White deserves to be remembered.

Cumberland was to marry a woman very widely believed across the German speaking world to be herself a murderess, Princess Frederica of Mecklenburg Strelitz, whose two earlier husbands had died, the second particularly unexpectedly and conveniently.

During the reign of King William IV, Cumberland was second in line to the throne after Victoria.  Victoria’s widowed mother, the Duchess of Kent, was shagging her Private Secretary, Sir John Conroy.  Actually every summer in Victoria’s teens they did their shagging in Townley House, which I can see now from my study window.

Ten months of the year they lived in Kensington Palace, and Conroy put Victoria into seclusion.  Conroy was hated – he was far too middle class to be shagging a Duchess.  There was a successful film by that awful far right “Lord” Julian Fellowes a few years ago called The Young Victoria.  Conroy was portrayed as a caricature villain, and conventional historians have accepted the monarchist line that his seclusion of Victoria was to maximize his own influence of control.

What Conroy himself said, and is almost never published, was that he was keeping Victoria under very close guard because he was terrified she would be poisoned or otherwise murdered by the heir to the throne after her, her uncle Cumberland, and his wife. Where this is ever mentioned by historians, it is to ridicule it as a crazy pretext.

In fact Cumberland was a murderer,  and Frederica very probably was too.  Conroy was absolutely right to protect Victoria from Cumberland.  What the establishment would not admit then or now was that there was a very real reason for Conroy to apprehend this danger.   Ernest Duke of Cumberland had killed Sellis.  His wife Frederica was reputed throughout Europe to have poisoned her second husband in order to marry Ernest and gain the possibility of becoming Queen of England.  Only Victoria stood between them and the throne, in an age of high mortality.

When William IV died, Victoria became Queen but as a female could not inherit the other Kingdom of Hanover.  Cumberland therefore became King Ernest of Hanover.  He abolished parliament and persecuted those regarded as liberal, including the Brothers Grimm who he dismissed from their University posts.

Ahh, our beloved Royal family! Remember – 31 May is Bugger the Valet Day.

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212 thoughts on “Buggering the Valet

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  • John Goss

    Your writing can be very witty at times, not always intentionally I suspect, but this really made me smile.

    I doubt though it is just third sons of monarchs doing the shirt-lifting of junior staff. Grapevine says Ted Heath and a whole host of others were into buggery – mostly people with heaps of money.

  • Mary

    Didn’t the said HRH at Highgrove/Clarence House have someone to squeeze his toothpaste out?

    We never heard any more about the identity of a royal in a video.

    So funny. When googling ‘royal in video homosexual activity’ brought up three pages of links to Alan Turing posthumously honoured by Her Maj. Much good will that do him. Q Was the half eaten apple found by his bedside laced with cyanide. He left no note AFAIK.


  • Rehmat

    Many reports have claimed that Diana, Princess of Wales was killed in 1997 due to her love affair with a Muslim, Dodi Fayed, son of Egptian billionaire Mohamed Abdel Moneim Al Fayed. However, not many people know that Queen Victoria too fell in love with her Muslim servant Abdul Karim from British India.

    British Channel 4′s documentary, titled ‘Queen Victoria’s last love’ shed light on one of many secrets about England’s longest reigning monarch. The documentary features interviews with relatives of both Queen Victoria’s household and Abdul Karim, as well as extracts from Queen Victoria’s diaries and journals.


  • Glass

    “Ahh, our beloved Royal family! Remember – 31 May is Bugger the Valet Day.”

    I think this is beneath you, Mr Murray.

  • Mark D.

    I think you are presenting as fact a version of the story that is highly contentious and debatable to say the least.

    The theory of the Duke and Neale having sex is only one of many lurid theories bandied about at the time, mostly by journalists worse than the worst tabloid journalists today.

    I was thinking about getting your book about Alexander Burns when it comes out, but this post really makes me wonder about the quality of your historical research.

  • Kempe

    “I always thought that Ernest, Duke Of Cumberland, was George III’s fifth son. ”

    For once Trowbridge you are absolutely correct. As Mark D has said I doubt much else of Craig’s piece is any more accurate either. Every other account I can find states that Sellis was found dead in his room with his throat cut and anybody who thinks the Kensington System wasn’t designed to break Victoria’s will so her mother and Conroy could control her after she became Queen doesn’t deserve to be taken seriously.

  • Trowbridge H. Ford

    And what is the basis, Kempe, for third sons being practicers of buggery?

    As I see it, William IV, and the Dukes of Connaught and Gloucester were among the best of the modern Royals, but I guess I am wrong about that.

  • Herbie

    There was a libel trial over this allegation:

    “That Josiah Phillips, now or late of Westminster aforesaid,
    in the county aforesaid, printer, being a malicious and evil-
    disposed person, and deceitfully, wickedly, and maliciously
    contriving and intending to scandalize and vilify his said Royal
    Highness the said Duke of Cumberland, and to impute to his
    said Royal Highness the said Duke of Cumberland the com-
    mission of, or the intention or design of committing, the de-
    testable and abominable crime of sodomy, or $ome other un-
    natural and indecent offence or practice with the said Corne-
    lius M’Neall, and also to impute that he his said Royal High-
    ness had been accessory or privy to the commission of the
    crime of murdering the said Joseph Sellis, and to deprive his
    said Royal Highness of his good name, fame, credit, and re-
    putation, and to bring his said Royal Highness into great
    contempt, scandal, infamy, and disgrace, did, on the 29th day
    of March, in the second year of the reign of our sovereign lord
    William the Fourth, and in the year of our Lord 1832, with
    force and arms at Westminster aforesaid, in the county of Mid«
    dlesex aforesaid, wickedly and maliciously print and publish,
    and cause and procure to be printed and published, in a certain
    book called ” The authentic Records of the Court of England
    for the last seventy Years,^ a certain false, scandalous, mali-
    cious and defamatory libel of and concerning his said Royal
    Highness the said Duke of Cumberland, and of and concerning
    the said attempt to assassinate the said Duke, and the death of
    the said Joseph Sellis, and the said inquisition so taken as
    aforesaid ; to the tenor and effect following ; that is to say :
    [here follows the libel before given] to the great damage,
    acandal, disgrace, and infamy of his said Royal Highness the said
    Duke of Cumberland, to the evil and pernicious example of all
    others in like case offending, and against the peace of our said
    Lord the King, his crown and dignity.”


    but we know that even in our own time, similar stories have emerged of backstairs activity in the royal household.

    The Duke was certainly attacked during the incident. He tells us this himself, and Sellis was found dead in his room.

    So, absent a phantom attacker, it does look likely there was some fight between the Duke and this valet.

  • Trowbridge H. Ford

    And ex-Chancellor Brougham tried to break the control of Conroy, the Duchess, and other courtiers, especially Melbourne, after William’s demise by having that private audience with Victoria soon after she became Queen – what cemented his war with the Whigs,

  • craig Post author

    I love Mark D and Kempe, who think that the only history is true is that which was sanctified by the Whig Tradition of history writing. Kempe was particularly outraged to be told that the Jacobites were not Catholic, and were overwhelmingly Scottish Nationalist, and that Charles Edward Stuart was not a believer in the Divine Right of Kings or autocracy. Having not read anything except what he was taught at O-Grade and the witterings of Antona Fraser and Victoria Glendenning.

    Aaah, the Whig tradition of history! Mark D will definitely not buy my book when I tell him it asserts that Macaulay was not only the uncle but at the same time the father of G M Trevelyan.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella) !

    “One of these great Royal traditions, which has continued right down to the present generations, is buggering the valet.”

    “The present generations” is admirably vague.

    I should like to hear from Craig which of the British Royals currently alive has buggered, or is buggering, his valet(s).

  • John Goss

    Habbabkuk (La vita è bella) ! 24 May, 2014 – 3:52 pm

    re: buggering valets today.

    I think the Queen did a pretty good job in buggering Paul Burrell after he disclosed the Diana letter about Charles preparing for her to die in a car-crash! 🙂

  • craig Post author

    John Goss,

    Yes I saw it (the Russian article) reported today and it inspired me to dash off this piece.

    I did it top of the head so I apologise for the “third son” error – which of course was logically impossible, as aside from George IV and William IV, there had to be the Duke of Kent for there to be Victoria. I had though forgotten Frederick completely.

    I am generally interested by those who wish to deny the story. Henry White published in 1813, when all anti-monarchist thought was very severely repressed in the “anti-Jacobin” period and Liverpool was PM. White knew he was doing something terribly dangerous and was very brave – to compare him to a tabloid journalist is disingenuous. White refused to recant and insisted he had an eye witness source in Neill. Although very horrid, the 18 month jail sentence (and large fine) was in the circumstances of the time actually remarkably light. The story could not of course be admitted to be true, but it is not unreasonable to conjecture that if the magistrates genuinely thought it was untrue the sentence would have been a very great deal harsher.

    It is not, as far as I am aware, in dispute that Cumberland killed Sellis. Sellis was found dead in Cumberland’s rooms. Cumberland claimed self-defence, and that his valet attacked him. I find that less probable than White’s story.

  • doug scorgie

    Habbabkuk (La vita è bella) !
    24 May, 2014 – 3:52 pm

    “I should like to hear from Craig which of the British Royals currently alive has buggered, or is buggering, his valet(s).”

    Habbabkuk, for your information:

    George Anthony Smith (13 September 1960 – 24 August 2005) was a former footman and valet in the Royal Household of Prince Charles.
    Smith alleged:

    1. that he was raped by Michael Fawcett, a favoured servant of the Prince Charles; and

    2. that Fawcett was himself in a homosexual relationship with the Prince of Wales, who protected him.

    “The allegations made international headlines in November 2003 and were the subject of a legal injunction in the United Kingdom.”


  • John Goss

    Craig, we all make these little errors, we’re so busy, but my period is the latter half of the eighteenth century, and Cumberland may not have been the fifth son. Not many people know that the father of Cumberland got married in a secret ceremony to the fair Quaker, Hannah Lightfoot. This was before the Royal Marriages Act of 1772 making his marriage to Georgina bigamous. In a way the marriage was helpful to Quakers who in the early part of the 18th century were treated abominably by the Church. There was a daughter who married a man called Dalton but this marriage does not exist in any records that I can find. Subsequently there were other children ‘wrong side of the blanket’ and the poet Peter Pindar (John Wolcot) made a lot of capital out of the royal mishaps. Apparently all the royal children and bastards played together.

    I have a rather tatty third edition of Wolcot’s ‘The Regent and the King’ which I bought because it contains a subscribers’ list of members of Tamworth Book Club. Tamworth was very enlightened in those days. As to Daltons there have been several claims as to real heirs to the throne. xThere was somebody strutting round Sheffield in the early nineteenth century called Dalton, who according to one book on this secret marriage, was the spitting image of the king, allegedly. My family on mum’s side were Daltons from Sheffield.

  • Mary

    Having looked at Wikipedia too, I saw this DoC was the fifth son but I thought we were being referred to another third son of a reigning monarch!


    That ghastly Trevelyan the bane of ‘O’ level history students like myself in the 50s. I hope the copies have all been trashed by now. He wrote several ‘histories’. Almost incontinent with the number of them. He played a part in our evil EmPyre too.



    I prefer The Blood Never Dried by John Newsinger. I don’t suppose Gove is handing that out to the kids.

  • Mary

    Could someone tell Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells about this piece of Craig’s so that they can write in here too.

  • craig Post author


    There were two – George Macaulay Trevelyan and George Otto Trevelyan, both historians. We had to read both at school. Father and son. I think GM came first. C E Trevelyan was GM (or GO’s) father. Only he wasn’t. C E Trevelyan, a friend of Alexander Burnes, married Macaulay’s sister. Macaulay was shagging his sister actually both his own sisters, till one died- which I think is pretty well accepted by historians now. Perhaps even by Mark D. and Kempe.

  • Herbie

    “It is not, as far as I am aware, in dispute that Cumberland killed Sellis. Sellis was found dead in Cumberland’s rooms. Cumberland claimed self-defence, and that his valet attacked him.”

    Surely the official account is that Sellis committed suicide, having attacked the duke. That was the determination at inquest.

    Sellis is supposed to have attacked the duke in his bed, ran back to his room and committed suicide.

    The duke’s account is that he was asleep when attacked and had no idea who’d attacked him until Sellis was subsequently found dead in his own room and his slippers were found at the foot of the duke’s bed.

    Of course no one at the time believed that official account, and experts who examined Sellis’ body deemed it unlikely that he could have committed suicide given the fact that his head had almost been severed from the body and a number of other inconsistencies.

    Backstairs Billy:


  • John Goss

    I hadn’t heard of that Doug. But I believe Smith was probably telling the truth. If he was lying he would most likely have lied when he told his brother he walked in on a royal and a male member of staff. It would have been much more convincing if he had told his brother he caught them in flagrante delicto.

    “George has told me there was no physical activity but you didn’t have to be a brain surgeon to work out what had been going on.”

  • Trowbridge H. Ford

    Don’t like Whig history all that much, but the Tory version which concentrates on Parliament, especially the House of Commons, and the bureaucracy, isn’t much better.

    My biographies of Brougham and Dicey were attempts to refute both models on a individual basis.

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