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Anthony J. Camp - Edward Mylius: the man who libeled King George V

Early life and influences

Edward Frederick Mylius was born at Ostend, Belgium, on 4 July 1878, the son of Henry F. Mylius, a British Subject, and his wife Sophie Cremetti [US Social Security Applications and Claims Index 1936-2007]. By the age of twelve in 1891 he had, apparently with an older sister [1891 Census, RG12/38-201-26], come to live as a scholar with an uncle Charles Frederick Mylius, the former master of a Roman Catholic private school [Victoria County History of Middlesex, vol. 12 (Chelsea), pages 190-195] and then a retired dispensing chemist, born at Carshalton, Surrey, who had a large household at Hammersmith and died, aged 74, in 1892 [GRO Death Index]. Mylius remained living in Hammersmith with Charles Frederick's widow, Catherine, who died in 1901, when, aged 22, he was said to be working as a draper's clerk [1901 Census, RG13/50-97-51] though papers found when he was arrested in 1910 indicate that he had been employed in the Department of the Accountant General of the Navy from 1895 to 1898, and then, from November 1900 to October 1901, as cashier and transfer clerk for an accountant and auditor with the Pearson Fire Alarm Co when that company was being re-structured [R.C. Smith (2012) 7-8].

The growing unrest in India towards the end of the nineteenth century interested the young Edward Mylius and it is likely that he had come to know more about it from his friend the anarchist Guy Aldred (1886-1963) a disciple of the Indian revolutionary fighter Shyamji Krishnavarma (1857-1930) who, aiming to inspire mass opposition to British rule in India, had founded The India Home Rule Society and begun to publish The Indian Sociologist in 1905, openly advocating political assassination. Mylius himself described Krishnavarma as 'the Hindu pandit, leader of the extremist faction of the Indian nationalist movement' [Mylius (1916) 1]. Krishnavarma moved to Paris in 1907 but continued to use an English printer, Arthur Fletcher Horsley, for his journal. The latter was, however,convicted of seditious libel at the Old Bailey on 19 July 1909, and the 22-year old Guy Aldred, a passionate believer in free speech who had already been known to the police for two and a half years, then volunteered to organise the printing of Krishnavarma's August issue. On 7 September 1909 Aldred was himself found guilty of seditious libel in The Indian Sociologist and sentenced to a year's hard labour at the Old Bailey [RCS (2012) 7]. Meanwhile considerable unrest continued in India and on 1 July 1909 an Indian student, Madan Lal Dhingra, had shot dead at the Imperial Institute in Kensington, Sir William Curzon-Wyllie, Political Aide-de-Camp to the Secretary of State for India, and Dr Gawas Lalcaca who had tried to intervene.

Edward Mylius first came to the attention of the police in London in August 1909 when they noted his close interest in the trial of Guy Aldred and his attendance at other anarchist and socialist meetings. After Aldred's conviction in 1909, Mylius went to Paris and there first met Krishnavarma. Also in Paris with his wife and family was the wealthy American socialist Edward Holton James (1873-1954), a nephew of the novelist Henry James and of the psychologist William James [Mylius (1916) 1] and Krishnavarma told Edward James that Mylius was one of Aldred's intimate friends.

As a result, on 19 January 1910, Edward James sent to Mylius for his interest an article mentioning Aldred [letters from James to Mylius quoted at trial]. On 13 February 1910 James wrote again to Mylius saying that he was starting a new journal, The Liberator, 'devoted to the extension of the Republic', and soliciting a short article giving his views on a republican government in England. Mylius was delighted to accept and made several contributions to the journal, published monthly from 20 Rue St Dominique, Paris, and he eventually undertook to organise its distribution from various centres in England [Mylius (1916) 1]. On 8 July 1910 the police saw Mylius distributing copies of the journal and 'other literature of a revolutionary character' at a talk by Aldred, fresh from prison, in Kennington and it was noted that Mylius was regularly visiting the anarchist bookseller Charles Lahr (1885-1971) in Whitechapel [RCS (2012) 7].

'Cutting away respect for the King'

When the Duke of York became King as George V on 6 May 1910, it had for some years been rumoured that, when a midshipman with the Mediterranean fleet, he had secretly married at Malta in 1890 and had children and that his marriage to the Queen was thus invalid. The story first appeared in print in the Star newspaper in 1893 and the Prince wrote about the rumours to his father's secretary that year. Although without the slightest basis in fact, the socialist Keir Hardy mentioned the story in the House of Commons on 28 June 1894. Prince George had initially laughed at the absurdity of the claims and no attempt was made to deny them but when he succeeded to the throne they were denied in a speech by the Dean of Norwich in July 1890 and, on the King's behalf, by his Private Secretary, Sir Arthur Bigge, in a letter to Reynold's Newspaper, printed on 30 October 1910 [Mylius (1916) 2; Camp (2007) 390-1] which ended, 'Moreover nothing in His Majesty's life could give the slightest ground for the conception of such a cruel and wicked lie'.

'Sanctified Bigamy'

However, in America the socialist republican Edward Holton James seeing, as he wrote to Mylius, 'that we have here an opportunity to make a formidable attack on the Monarchy' [Mylius (1916) 2], ignored the contradiction and encouraged Mylius to write an article on the subject for The Liberator. They knew nothing of the Royal Marriage Act and made no attempt to check the facts, not knowing which of the Admiral's daughters was supposedly involved or if she were still alive [Mylius (1916) 3]. Mylius himself had written to James saying that 'the article must be directed at the so-called British Constitution which allows and tolerates a bigamist king to rule over an empire' [Mylius (1916) 3]. James believed that 'the only way to deal with the British monarchy was to cut away respect' [quoted by Attorney General at trial].

The article, which appeared under the heading 'Sanctified Bigamy' in the 19 November 1910 issue of The Liberator [vol. 1, no.9] stated that the King had contracted a lawful marriage in Malta in 1890 with 'the daughter' of Admiral Sir Michael Culme-Seymour and that she had had three children before being abandoned by him in 1893. The article continued, 'we are offered the spectacle of the immorality of monarchy in all its sickening, beastly monstrosity'. The King, it said, had 'foully abandoned his true wife' and subsequently had 'entered into a sham and shameful marriage' in 1893. He had committed 'the crime of bigamy ... with the aid and complicity of the prelates of the Anglican Church ... with its crew of emasculated, canting priests' [Mylius (1916) 2-3]. The next issue, published on 19 December, asked when the Daily News wrote of the King's intended visit to India with his wife, 'would the newspaper kindly tell us which wife?' [Rose (1983) 83].

Copies of the November issue, which described Mylius as 'our valued and steadfast friend', had been sent to all the Anglican clergy and to all the Members of Parliament [Mylius (1916) 3] but about a thousand copies intended for distribution in England were seized by the police at Newhaven on 16 November having been landed from the SS Brest from Dieppe [Smith (2012) 13-14] and following further mailings from Notting Hill Post Office on 10 and 19 December [Smith (2012) 29], Mylius was arrested whilst out walking in London on 26 December 1910 [Mylius (1916) 3; Associated Press]. His private papers were taken from his room at 18 Courtnell Street, Bayswater, and revealed that James's intention was to bring out a 'Bigamy Coronation Number' for distribution at the Coronation on 22 June 1911. Mylius was taken to Scotland Yard for questioning and asked to find bail with two sureties, each of £5,000 (or $25,000 as in his own account, page 3) and his own recognizance of £10,000 (or $50,000). Unable to do so, he was, two days later, brought before Judge Sir Samuel Evans at the Law Courts and committed to Brixton Prison where he declined to state his religion [Mylius (1916) 4]. Edward Holton James having told him that he should get good counsel for which he, James, would be responsible, Mylius on 30 December gave instructions to the solicitor Arthur Newton who in 1909 had prepared the defence for the murderer Dr Crippen. Newton asked for an adjournment to take fuller instructions but on 16 January, 'owing to the attitude adopted by the defendant's friends', Newton withdrew his representation [R.C. Smith (2012) 20-21].

Mylius's chief friend was Guy Aldred (named incorrectly by Associated Press as Alfred), then editor of The Liberator and known as a barrack-room lawyer, who was present at the interview with Newton. Their joint object was, if at all possible, to gain the King's presence and questioning at the trial. Aldred wrote immediately to the King, 20 January 1911, asking him to 'waive the right secured to you as a political personage, and attend the court in your private capacity' [Smith (2012) 22] but the intention of the Home Secretary, Sir Winston Churchill, was 'to press ahead with the plan that would convict Mylius and demonstrate the falsity of the libel without exposing the King to the need to appear as a witness' [Smith (2012) 23].

The Law Officers of the Crown (the Attorney General and the Solicitor General) had met on 23 November 1910 and doubted the wisdom of giving world-wide publicity to an article in an obscure paper with a small circulation. However, they agreed to take action whilst the principal witnesses were still alive, at the same time denying the prisoner any opportunity to appeal for public sympathy before the trial [Rose, King George V (1983) 83]. Bail would be fixed at a quite prohibitive level and there would be no preliminary hearing before a magistrate, the whole case and its undoubted falsity would thus be kept from the public, as the Home Secretary Churchill recommended, until the trial itself.

Mylius was charged under the Libel Act of 1843 with publishing a defamatory libel of a personal nature (and not with the more serious seditious libel) [Mylius (1916) 5]. Mylius demanded the King's attendance, saying that an action for libel required a personal denial by the prosecutor, in this case the King [Mylius (1916) 8], but when he met the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Alverstone, about a week before the trial, he was told that his application would not be granted as he, Lord Alverstone, had no power to request the King's presence and Mylius had not said how the King's testimony would assist him [Mylius (1916) 6].

James informed the press of developments and by 28 December, Associated Press was aware of Mylius's arrest and its connection with The Liberator. The Cork Examiner on 31 December 1910, under 'London Sedition Charge', knew of the heavy bail conditions, and they were criticised in Freedom (London) on Sunday, 1 January 1911, the hearing in camera being described as 'the ugly part of the business' as 'nothing more can be obtained in the way of information'. On 2 January the Associated Press reported that James, in Paris, would go to England to take up the case, and on 4 January the Hull Daily Mail under the headline 'Editor champions political prisoner', said that James was proceeding to London to assist Mylius, 'charged with sedition'. The latter article was next to one headed, 'Anarchists Preparing. Coronation in June. Police and Secret Service Quietly Active', about a claimed widespread anarchist plot which would have its climax at the Coronation and was directed against certain crowned heads [Hull Daily Mail, 4 January 1911, page 8].

It was clear from an intercepted letter to James that Mylius had written on 4 January 1911, that he realised he would be spending some time in prison and he discouraged James from coming to England for fear of his arrest. However, he was convinced that they were 'on the right track', writing, 'I want to see all the forces of socialism, anarchism and republicanism united. All three are one.' [RCS (2012) page 8].

The Birmingham Mail for 4 January noted that James had arrived in Paris from Lisbon on 3 January, saying that he knew nothing of a plot but was going to London, 'to assist his friend Mr Edward Mylius, who had been arrested in London on a charge of sedition in connection with an article published in The Liberator'. Similarly on 5 January 1911 an article in The Daily News, headed 'The Sedition Charge', was one of several which appeared that day saying that James was coming to England to assist Mylius on a charge of sedition [e.g. Belfast News-Letter, The Scotsman, The Exeter and Plymouth Gazette].

The paper Labour Leader on 20 January was nearer the mark when it said that the offending issue of The Liberator 'contained an article which criticised the English royal family', and the Labour Member of Parliament, Victor Grayson, strongly criticised 'The Law's High Hand' in The Clarion of 27 January 1911 page 6. An article in The Yorkshire Post for 28 January 1911, headed 'The King's Traducers. Rumoured action for criminal libel', was better informed, taking its writer to task for referring to 'what the correspondent euphemistically, but quite improperly, calls a morganatic marriage' [The Yorkshire Post, 28 January 1911, page 9].

The Trial, 1 February 1911

The hearing (of which an almost verbatim account appeared in The Times for 2 February 1911, pages 6-7, under the heading 'The King's Honour') was in the Court of Kings Bench before the Lord Chief Justice and a Special Jury on 1 February 1911. The room was crowded, Mylius himself seeing, amongst the many there, Sir Winston Churchill, then Home Secretary, and the novelist Rider Haggard [Mylius (1916) 6]. The Times reported that he was 'a small dark man of youthful appearance' [The Times, 2 February 1911, page 6] and the London Daily News, which has a sketch of him, said, 'He is a short, dark, clean-shaven man' [London Daily News, 2 February 1911, page 1; the sketch is also in the Daily Telegraph and Courier (London), 2 February 1911, page 14].

Culme-Seymour gave evidence that his wife, and two daughters, had joined him in Malta in 1893 and had not been there previously, that his younger daughter Laura had died unmarried in 1895 without ever having spoken to the King, and that his elder daughter Mary had not met the King between 1879 and 1898. Mary and her three brothers confirmed these details, she having married for the first and only time in 1899 her present husband, Vice-Admiral Sir Trevylyan Napier (died 1920) [Burke's Peerage, 2003, vol. 1 (sub Culme-Seymour), page 992]. Naval records were produced from the Admiralty to show that the Prince had not been in Malta between 1888 and 1901 and the appropriate Maltese church registers were brought by the Crown Advocate for Malta to show that they contained no record of the alleged marriage.

The jury took no time to find Mylius guilty and he was sentenced to the maximum one year's imprisonment , the Attorney General then reading a statement signed by the King, stating that he had never been married except to the present Queen, and had not gone through any ceremony of marriage except with her, adding that he would have given such evidence in person but that the Law Offices had advised him that it was unconstitutional for the sovereign to do so. [Kenneth Rose says that it would have been contrary to constitutional law as the monarch is the source of justice and cannot himself give evidence; George V (1983) 83].

The trial received widespread favourable publicity.The Belfast Evening Telegraph characterised the claim, as the Attorney General had said, as 'a tissue of untruths' [2 February 1911, page 5] and The Scotsman thought Mylius 'the agent of others who kept a safe distance from the arm of the law' [2 February 1911, page 6].

Imprisonment

Mylius served the full term at Wormwood Scrubs Prison, Hammersmith and was there when the 1911 Census was taken, saying that he was aged 32, single, a journalist, and 'English by parentage (resident)'. He appealed the court's decision, 5 February 1911, but Edward Holton James in France renewed his attack on the King in the next number of The Liberator, 12 February 1911, saying that he would try the case in his own way, and Mylius withdrew his appeal on 15 February 1911. The impossibility of any leniency or earlier release after 'this cruel and abominable libel' had been urged by the King [Rose (1983) 85].

America

Mylius was released from prison on 7 December 1911 and a year later on 14 December 1912 sailed steerage class for New York from Le Havre as Edouard Mylious, an alien passenger on the Steamship La Provence, saying that he had been a prisoner in London for a year and giving 'Mr James, 127 Washington Street, New York', as his 'Nearest Relative'. He was, however, detained at Ellis Island on 21 December 1912, and it was said that he might be deported. He gave a short interview to the New York Times on 24 December 1912, repeating his allegations [RC Smith (2012) 34]. His case was heard by the Ellis Island Board of Enquiry which confirmed his deportation, 28 December 1912, and he began a legal fight to enter the USA. The State Department received his appeal, 4 January 1913, and James arrived from France to assist him, 12 January 1913 [Associated Press, Name Card Index to AP Stories, 1905-1990]. However, the Secretary of Commerce and Labor, Charles Nagel, ordered his deportation, 16 January 1913, and Mylius immediately appealed to the federal court and a writ of habeas corpus was obtained, 17 January 1913. A public meeting to protest his deportation was then held in New York, 27 January 1913, but he was still refused bail, 14 February 1913. However, he wrote a letter appealing to the American people for support and at a full immigration appeal Judge Walter C. Noyes, gave it as his opinion that criminal libel was not a crime that involved the standard bar of 'moral turpitude' and that Mylius should be allowed to enter the USA, 19 February 1913 [RC Smith (2012) 34].

It was then said that Mylius would work on plans for a social republic and he addressed socialists in New York on 2 March 1913, again referring to English despotism in India. However, the US Department of Justice decided to question his right to enter the country at the Circuit Court of Appeals, 29 March 1913, and although it asked for an early hearing, 21 April 1913, it was not until 13 January 1914 that the Court agreed that he might enter the USA [Associated Press, Name Card Index to AP Stories, 1905-1990].

Later activities

Mylius quickly made friends with like-minded people in New York and in 1913, with Charles Plunkett (1892-1981) and Hippolyte Havel (1871-1950), helped to co-edit the former's journal, The Social War, much of which they were writing themselves. They all frequented the Ferrer Centre in New York, where the Modern School Movement had been founded in 1911 and which had become a centre of anarchist thinking [Paul Avrich, Anarchist Voices: an oral history of anarchism in America (Princeton University, 1995) 191-96].

There in 1913 Mylius met the birth control activist Margaret Sanger (1879-1966) and he is known to have worked with her at the 'dingy' apartment which she rented at 34 Post Avenue in Upper Manhattan, when with other anarchists in January 1914 she developed ideas for her radical feminist monthly Woman Rebel. Mylius himself contributed a short note to the journal, in his characteristically extreme language, on the police activities in Union Square on 4 April [Woman Rebel, April 1914, page 13]. Sanger later described him as the 'young social rebel' who had given her a letter of introduction to Krishnavarma which she used when fleeing to Europe in August 1914, but she was shocked by the slave-like subservience of Krishnavarma's wife! [Margaret Sanger, My fight for birth control (London: Faber & Faber, 1931) page 70].

It was presumably in this period, before May 1915 when the Modern School moved to Stelton, New Jersey, that Mylius was the lover of Christine Ell, an anarchist cook in Greenwich Village, on whom Eugene O'Neill, a friend of Havel's often seen in the Village, modelled his character Anna Christie in the play of that name premiered in 1921 [Paul Avrich (1995) 220, 490-91 note 134, 500 note 264; RC Smith (2012) 8].

Mylius continued to repeat his worthless story about the King and in 1916 the small-press publisher in Greenwich Village, Guido Bruno (1884-1942), printed Mylius's pamphlet The morganatic marriage of George V, in which he re-stated all the claims dismissed at his trial and noted that the King had indeed met Mary Culme-Seymour in 1891 as, when Duke of York, he had opened the dancing with her at a ball in Portsmouth Town Hall on 21 August that year [Mylius (1916) 6-7]. It was perhaps a convenient slip of memory on her part but one which hardly proved bigamy on his! An account of her wedding in The Queen, 26 August 1899, page 40, says that among the presents she received was a turquoise and diamond crescent from the Duke and Duchess of York. In his pamphlet Mylius also questioned what the Prince had been doing at Gibraltar between 9 and 25 June when he could easily have gone to Malta, a question not fully answered until Kenneth Rose's biography of the King, with access to his diary, was published in 1983 and revealed his many innocent activities in that period [Kenneth Rose, King George V (1983) 86]. The New York City Directory for 1916 showed Edw F Mylius, writer, living in the same block as Sanger at 26 Post Avenue in the Inwood district of Manhattan.

At the time of his US World War I Draft Registration, 12 September 1918, Mylius was at 616 West 184 Street, Manhattan, saying that he was a 'citizen of Belgium' and employed as the Manager and Organiser of The Liberator Publishing Company at 34 Union Square. He then said that his nearest relative was his friend Margaret Sanger, of 104 Fifth Avenue, New York, unrelated but well known to him and now one of the group of radicals which included Max Eastman (1883-1969) who earlier that year had started editing a new series of The Liberator.

Mylius's earlier supporter the wealthy and eccentric Edward Holton James had meanwhile himself been held in prison in Germany for seditious activities since July 1915 and when in 1916 James's uncle Henry James discovered his earlier association with Mylius and The Liberator he cut him out of his will [Rose (1983) 86-87]. James was not released from prison until November 1919 when he returned to his mother at Concord [Avrich (1995) 127].

Through an advertisement in the June 1919 issue of The Liberator, Mylius sold a 29-page pamphlet, Socialization of money; a treatise presenting a practical solution of the money problem (New York, The Graphic Press, June 1919 [advert in The Liberator (June 1919), vol. 2, no. 6, page 54; short review in same, page 57], in which he advocated making banking a state not-for-profit monopoly and the sole issuer of currency. Of this he produced a 'second edition' in September 1920 [reprinted by the Nabu Press, 2012].

However, on 30 November 1921, Associated Press reported that The Liberator was asking for financial support from its subscribers following an alleged theft by Mylius of $4,000, and this was mentioned in The New York Times, but Mylius responded saying that he had 'borrowed' not 'stolen' the money. To this Max Eastman replied in The Liberator for January 1922 [vol. 5, No. 1, page 28] under the heading 'Our Bookkeeper'. He printed a letter from Mylius, 'our former bookkeeper and advertising manager', in which Mylius said that money had often been advanced to editors in need and repaid later. Mylius admitted taking $4,500 in US Treasury Certificates from the journal's safe-deposit at the Guarantee Trust Company and he had sold them to a broker and spent the money in speculation on the Stock Exchange. His pathetic letter to Eastman dated 19 October (1921) and signed 'Yours remorsefully, E. F. Mylius', asked for time to make restitution. He had sent a $500 certificate to the bank on 1 October and so owed $4,000. He asked to be addressed c/o E. Boskin, 505 Washington Street, Newark, New Jersey.

On receipt of this letter Eastman had sought an interview with Mylius and a detective had identified him as the Edward Boskin who had just left the address in Newark. Eastman threatened the girl who lived there as Mrs Boskin with arrest and exposure, and she organised a meeting with Mylius at an office where she worked. Mylius said that he had $1,000 due to him from one broker and a further $325 due to him from another and gave Eastman letters authorising him to close these accounts and to receive the balances. The $325 was thus recovered. At the interview, on a Saturday, Eastman had found Mylius 'sick and badly shaken up' and 'contrite and abject' and Eastman offered to help him find work, but on the Monday he was shocked to find that Mylius had, as 'Boskin', gone early to the bank and drawn out the remaining $1,000. In the face of this double deceit an angry Eastman wrote that he had made every effort to apprehend Mylius and would continue to do so [The Liberator, vol. 5, No. 1 (January 1922) 28].

Mylius had apparently taken the name 'E. J. Boskin' and he seems to be the Edward J. Boskin who appears in the New York State Census for June 1925, aged 43, an alien born in Belgium, as a store clerk at the State School for Mental Defectives at Rome in Oneida County, north of New York, claiming to have been 30 years in the U.S. One Lena Boskin aged, aged 26, secretary, was also employed on the staff there.

However, at the time of the US World War II Draft Registration in 1942, 'Edward Frederick Mylius' was at 17 South Portland Avenue, Brooklyn, Kings, New York, and unemployed. He had not been at that address in 1940. He may be the Edward Mylius, age 68, who died at Kings, New York, 24 January 1947, but the entry in the New York Extracted Death Index 1862-1948 on FamilySearch says that he was the son of Eugene and Lena Mylius which does not agree with his parentage as stated in the US Social Security Application and Claims Index 1936-2007.

Sources 

E. F. Mylius, The Morganatic Marriage of George V, King of Great Britain and Ireland, and of the dominions beyond the Seas, Emperor of India, Defender of the Faith, etc., etc. (New York, Privately Printed [1916]). 

Robin Callender Smith, 'The Missing Witness? George V, Competence and Compellability and the Criminal Libel Trial of Edward Frederick Mylius', in The Journal of Legal History, Vol. 33, No. 2, (August 2012) pages 209-239.

Paul Avrich, Anarchist Voices: an oral history of anarchism in America (Princeton University Press, 1995; reprinted A.K. Press, Edinburgh, Oakland, West Virginia, 2005). 

Associated Press: Name Card Index to AP Stories, 1905-1990, sub Edward F. Mylius, available on Ancestry.com.

Kenneth Rose, King George V (London, 1983). 

Anthony Camp, Royal Mistresses and Bastards: Fact and Fiction: 1714-1936 (London, Privately Printed, 2007).

Victoria Sciancalepore, 'Rebels in Post Avenue', in Margaret Sanger Papers Project - Research Annex, 15 January 2014, online.

Anthony J Camp, 3 and 12 May 2020.