Very little is known about Annie Crook, who was born sometime c. 1862. During the 1880s she supposedly worked in a shop in or around Cleveland Street. In April of 1885 she gave birth to a daughter, Alice Margaret Crook
, whose father was not named at the time. The two were poor and frequently lived in workhouses when they could not support themselves. Annie was eventually institutionalized for recurrent epilepsy. She died in 1920.
Major Story Arcs
Jack the Ripper
In the early 1970s a man named Joseph Gorman came forward, calling himself Joseph Sickert and claiming to be the illegitimate son of Alice Crook and painter Walter Sickert
. He claimed that his grandmother, Annie, had secretly married Prince Albert Victor
, then second in line to the throne, and had his mother, Alice. The two were kept in a home on Cleveland Street where the Prince would visit them often, until their affair was uncovered by Queen Victoria
and the Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury, who ordered the apartment raided and remanded Annie to an institution under the care of William Gull
, where she was certified insane. He claimed that his mother, Alice, later became Sickert's lover. He claimed that the Jack the Ripper
murders were carried out, again by William Gull, to silence Mary Kelly
and her friends who were aware of the embarrassing affair and were attempting to blackmail the government with this information.
This theory, commonly dubbed the "royal conspiracy", has been widely discredited for a number of reasons. While it is true that Annie and Alice both existed, and Gorman was indeed Alice's son, he was one of five children born to her and her husband, William Gorman. It has been estimated that Alice herself would have been conceived sometime in the summer of 1884, when the Prince was in Germany and thus unavailable to father her. Alice herself later claimed that her father was named William Crook
, which was the name of her grandfather, and has been suggested by some to indicate that she was the product of an incestuous union between Annie and her father, though there is of course no proof of this conjecture.
It has also been pointed out that no records exist of the marriage between the Prince and Annie, and even if they had married, their marriage would have been invalidated because he had failed to gain the approval of his grandmother, voiding it through the Royal Marriages Act of 1772. As well, the home in which Annie was alleged to have been kept along with her daughter, 6 Cleveland Street, had been torn down before April of 1888, and both she and Alice were paupers, with no indication they were receiving money from a wealthy patron. Gorman claimed that Annie was a Catholic, but there is no evidence to support it, and even if it were true it would have simply removed Albert Victor and any children produced by the union from the line of succession, due to the Act of Settlement of 1701.
There is no indication that Alice and Walter Sickert knew one another, let alone engaged in an affair. Further, there is no indication that Sickert knew any member of the royal family, nor that he knew Annie. There is also no proof that he knew the victims of the Ripper, or that they knew each other or Annie. Even if they had known one another, the chances that their story of a royal illegitimacy would have been believed were fairly slim.
Shortly after the book putting the claims forward, Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution
, was published, Joseph Gorman retracted his testimony and admitted he had fabricated all of it. Nonetheless, the royal conspiracy theory has remained immensely popular, especially in popular fiction, where Annie most notably appeared as the Prince's secret wife in Eddie Campbell
and Alan Moore's From Hell
. She also appeared in the film "adaptation", where she was portrayed by Joanna Page.