Lord Arthur Clinton

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Lord Arthur Clinton
A studio, black and white photograph of three men, one is seated on an armchair, another is sitting on the floor beside him. The third is sitting behind them on a high stool and looks into the camera.
Arthur Pelham-Clinton (seated), with Thomas Boulton and Fredrick Park
Member of Parliament
for Newark
In office
11 July 1865 – 17 November 1868
Preceded byJohn Handley
Succeeded byEdward Denison
Personal details
Born(1840-06-23)23 June 1840
Christchurch, Hampshire, England
Died18 June 1870(1870-06-18) (aged 29)
Christchurch, Hampshire, England
Political partyLiberal
Alma materEton College
Military service
Allegiance United Kingdom
Branch/service Royal Navy
Years of service1854–1870[1]

Lord Arthur Pelham-Clinton (23 June 1840 – 18 June 1870), known as Lord Arthur Clinton, was an English aristocrat and Liberal Party politician. A member of Parliament (MP) for three years, he was notorious for involvement in the homosexual scandal and trial of Boulton and Park.

Early life[edit]

Clinton was the son of Henry Pelham-Clinton, 5th Duke of Newcastle, and Lady Susan Harriet Catherine Hamilton. He had three brothers and a sister, Lady Susan Vane-Tempest; she became a mistress of future King Edward VII of the United Kingdom in 1864, when he was the 23 year-old Prince of Wales. His parents divorced in 1850, following the scandal when his mother eloped with her lover, Horatio Walpole, by whom she had an illegitimate son, Horatio. In 1860, his mother married for a second time a Belgian, Jean Alexis Opdebeck. There is some evidence to suggest that Clinton himself was a product of an affair.

Clinton was educated at Woodcote School, Reading, and then Eton College; he entered the Royal Navy in 1854 at the age of 14 and served during the Crimean War in the Baltic Campaign of 1854. He then served in the Naval Brigade during the Indian Mutiny and was present at the siege of Lucknow. He was promoted to Lieutenant in 1861.[2] In 1863, he was appointed to serve on HMS Revenge.[3] On 10 November 1864, his brother Lord Albert was court-martialled on board HMS Victory at Portsmouth. Charges of "desertion and breaking his parole" were upheld by the court and Lord Albert Pelham-Clinton was sentenced to be dismissed from the navy, although The Times reported that the case referred to Lord Arthur in error.[4][5]

Member of Parliament[edit]

Clinton was elected as an MP for Newark at the 1865 United Kingdom general election that July,[6] a seat previously held by his brother Henry Pelham-Clinton, 6th Duke of Newcastle. He was declared bankrupt on 12 November 1868, with debts and liabilities reported to total £70,000,[7] or £6.7 million when adjusted for inflation, and stood down as MP at the subsequent 1868 United Kingdom general election,[8] which took place between 17 November and 7 December. His successor was the philanthropist Edward Denison.


In 1870, Clinton was living with Ernest Boulton, an established cross-gender actor known to the stage and friends as "Stella".[9][10] Nominally, Clinton was still a naval officer, although he was placed on the retired Navy List on 1 April 1870.[1]

Boulton and Frederick William Park often appeared in public in female dress. On 28 April 1870, they were arrested and later charged "with conspiring and inciting persons to commit an unnatural offence" with Clinton and others.[11][12]


Clinton officially died on 18 June 1870, the day after receiving his subpoena for testifying in the trial of Boulton and Park. Ostensibly, the cause of death was scarlet fever, but it was more probably suicide.[13] At the time, there was considerable speculation that he had used his powerful connections – he was the godson of Prime Minister William Gladstone – to flee abroad. In his book Fanny and Stella, biographer Neil McKenna cites circumstantial evidence suggesting that Lord Arthur lived on in exile.[14] Boulton and Park were acquitted.[9][15][16][17]

Criminal impersonation[edit]

On 8 February 1882, twelve years after Clinton's death, Mary Jane Fearneaux and James Gething were arrested in Birmingham and charged with obtaining £2,000 from one man and £3,000 from another under false pretences.[18] Fearneaux was found to have been living for some years as a man in Birmingham while claiming to be Lord Arthur Clinton, saying that the reported death was a fiction contrived by family and friends to avoid disgrace. She sometimes dressed as a woman while impersonating Clinton, saying that this was a disguise to avoid attention after the notoriety of the Boulton and Park case.[19] At the subsequent trial of the pair, Gething was acquitted and Fearneaux changed her plea to guilty; she was sentenced to seven years in prison.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "No. 23603". The London Gazette. 1 April 1870. p. 2008.
  2. ^ Mair, Arthur Henry (1867). Debrett's Illustrated House of Commons and Judicial Bench. London: Dent. p. 44.
  3. ^ "Naval And Military Intelligence". The Times. No. 24594. 25 June 1863. p. 7.
  4. ^ "Naval And Military Intelligence". The Times. No. 25027. 11 November 1864. p. 5.
  5. ^ "Naval And Military". London Daily News. 12 November 1864. p. 2.
  6. ^ Robert Henry Mair, "Debrett's Illustrated House of Commons and the Judicial Bench", 1867, p.44
  7. ^ "Court of Bankruptcy, Basinghall-Street, No. 12". The Times. London. 13 November 1868. p. 11.
  8. ^ Craig, F. W. S. (1989) [1977]. British parliamentary election results 1832–1885 (2nd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. p. 215. ISBN 0-900178-26-4.
  9. ^ a b Pearsall (1971) 461-8
  10. ^ Cocks (2003) 105
  11. ^ Michael Diamond (2004) Victorian Sensation: Or, the Spectacular, the Shocking and the Scandalous in Nineteenth-Century Britain Anthem Press, 121–122. ISBN 1-84331-150-X
  12. ^ Robert Aldrich, Garry Wotherspoon, "Who's who in gay and lesbian history: from antiquity to World War II", Routledge, 2001, ISBN 0-415-15982-2, p.66
  13. ^ Senelick, Laurence (2000). The changing room: sex, drag and theatre: Gender in performance. Routledge. p. 303. ISBN 0-415-15986-5.
  14. ^ Edge, Simon (1 February 2013). "Fanny and Stella: The young men who shocked Victorian England". The Daily Express. London. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
  15. ^ Edward William Cox (1875) Reports of cases in criminal law argued and determined in all the courts in England and Ireland, Volume 12 J. Crockford, Law Times Office
  16. ^ Chris White (1999) Nineteenth-Century Writings on Homosexuality, CRC Press, 45. ISBN 0-203-00240-7
  17. ^ Cocks (2003) 106
  18. ^ "Personating A Nobleman". The Times. No. 30426. 9 February 1882. p. 12.
  19. ^ "Alleged Extraordinary Fraud in Birmingham". Birmingham Daily Post. No. 7364. 9 February 1882.
  20. ^ "The Fearneaux Frauds". The Illustrated Police News. No. 952. London. 13 May 1882. p. 2.
  • Cocks, HG (2003). Nameless offences: homosexual desire in the nineteenth century. I.B. Tauros. ISBN 1860648908.
  • Pearsall, Ronald (1971). The Worm in the Bud: The World of Victorian Sexuality. Penguin.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Newark
With: Grosvenor Hodgkinson
Succeeded by