Last edited: October 25, 2003

Wilde Trial Was to Distract from Gay PM, Biography Claims UK, October 20, 2003

Victorian playwright Oscar Wilde’s imprisonment was an attempt by the government to cover up the prime minister’s own gay affair, according to a new biography.

Published next week, The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde by Neil McKenna claims that the government’s insistence that Wilde was tried and imprisoned for his homosexuality was because his lover’s older brother was having an affair with the PM, the Earl of Rosebery.

Lord Alfred Douglas’ father, the 9th Marquess of Queensbury, was so enraged that both his sons were having gay affairs that he threatened to uncover the prime minister’s homosexuality. In a bid to prevent this, the government acted quickly to arrest Wilde and publicly humiliate both him and Lord Alfred Douglas, his lover.

“Oscar was sacrificed to save Rosebery and the Liberals,” the author of the book, which is based on unpublished diaries, told the Sunday Times yesterday.

The newspaper claims that as Queensbury came closer to outing the PM for sleeping with the older son Viscount Drumlanrig, a meeting was called by senior ministers, who thought that if they punished Wilde, Douglas Rosebery could be saved.

The book adds that the relationship between Rosebery and Drumlanrig led to the Viscount being made the PM’s private secretary, and eventually a Lord.

However, the Viscount’s father was continually suspicious, and openly called the PM “a Jew nancy boy”, the book alleges.

The trial of Oscar Wilde scandalised Victorian Britain, where homosexuality was still illegal and considered the “unmentionable vice”. He was sent to prison for gross indecency in 1895.

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