The Royal Baccarat Scandal

Published: November 3, 2017

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The history of gambling is peppered with scandals and this adds to the thrill. And when the scandal involves royalty, the thrill is even greater. One such event that has not yet died down is the Royal Baccarat Scandal. It was alluded to in the James Bond film Moonraker.

The Royal Baccarat Scandal took place at the end of the nineteenth century when baccarat was illegal in England. The laws did not bother the aristocracy, however. The future King Edward VII, then the Prince of Wales, had a weakness for gambling and often participated in baccarat games. The scandalous event took place on September 8, 1890. On that day a baccarat party was in progress at Tranby Croft, the country house of ship builder Arthur Wilson. The Prince was present along with a friend Lieutenant colonel Gordon-Cumming. Gordon-Cumming was brazenly cheating by adding chips to his bet when he won and removing some from his bet when he lost. The aggrieved guests confronted Gordon-Cumming and forced him to confess. In order to hold their silence, the guests also obtained a written pledge from Gordon-Cumming that he would never gamble again.

The Prince of Wales was one of those cheated. He was not willing to keep quiet. He instructed his current mistress Lady Daisy Brooke to spread the account of what had transpired. This resulted in social boycott of Gordon-Cumming. The Lieutenant Colonel retaliated by filing a defamation suit against the original accusers. The Prince was named as a witness. The press made merry of the incident, naming it the Royal Baccarat Scandal.

The trial began on June 1, 1891. The Prince of Wales was compelled to testify. He had to admit that he had played baccarat, and engaged in an activity that was illegal. Under the Queen's Army Regulations the Prince was required to report the illegal action of another officer of the Army. He had failed to do this as well. Because of the signed confession, the defamation charges were rejected when the trial ended on June 9. Gordon-Cumming was dismissed from the army. He married his fiancée, the American heiress Florence Garner, the day after the trial. The Prince of Wales did not give up gambling, but was a lot more discreet.

However, the Royal Baccarat Scandal refused to die down. There were two books published in the 20th century. One of then was converted into a dramatized play and aired on BBC.


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