The Peculiar Story Of The Boy Who Stole Queen Victoria's Underwear

The Victorian Era was, in many ways, a study in contradictions for Great Britain. While the empire itself was considered to be wealthy, expanding, and thriving, many of the poorer class went hungry (via Britannica). Similarly, its monarch, Queen Victoria presented the image of a dour and serious woman, and her subjects took the ideas of Victorian modesty to almost comical extremes. However, she earnestly loved a good laugh and didn't try to hide her emotions the way her subjects were expected to, according to CSMonitor.

One of the quirkier anecdotes from this era of British history occurred during her reign. Back in 1838, according to Timeline, the queen had a celebrity stalker, of a sort, a century before that phrase was coined. It was a teenage boy who, though not necessarily intending to bring her harm, knew where to hide at Buckingham Palace and, more importantly, where she kept her unmentionables.

A celebrity queen

The reasons why the British press and the public loved Queen Victoria would be best served in a longer article. But long story short, according to Timeline, her two predecessors, uncles William IV and George IV, were duds. When the youthful and beautiful monarch took the throne at the age of 18, her reign represented something of a clean slate for the kingdom.

As such, she was not just a royal, but a celebrity. Passersby would throw letters into her carriage as it traversed the streets, and she fielded numerous marriage proposals.

As often she attracted suitors, so too came stalkers. These days, getting into Buckingham Palace is going to require some effort, but in Queen Victoria's time, visitors could walk right in if they wanted to. At least one trespasser saw the inside of a jail cell for his efforts, and he wouldn't be the first. Meanwhile, the layers of bureaucracy inside the palace made security a laughing stock.

Security? What security?

The reason men (and teenage boys) with potentially nefarious aims were able to so easily get into (and walk around inside) Buckingham Palace came down to inefficiencies, per Timeline. Perhaps put less charitably, it can be called comical ineptitude.

The jobs inside the palace were assigned with such specificity that, to the opposite effect, it was impossible to get anything done. Once, for example, Her Majesty wanted a fire, only to be told that one man would be in charge of building it, another in charge of lighting it, and so it never happened.

Security was similarly haphazard, with no single person being in charge overall. What's more, the palace was without any real security features, such as even a fence, and it wasn't uncommon to see drunks sleeping it off on palace grounds.

Needless to say, it was quite easy for Edward Jones to get inside the palace, even easier for him to find and steal the queen's undies.

The story of Edward 'Boy' Jones

In 2011, Cardiff University professor Dr. Jan Bondeson compiled research, consisting of newspaper accounts from the era, and published the book, "Queen Victoria & the Stalker" (via BBC News). In it, Bondeson explains how a teenage boy was able to make himself at home inside the monarch's London residence and steal her undies.

Edward Jones, sometimes called "Boy Jones," was about 14 when he took an interest in the queen at the beginning of her reign. Described as "ugly" by the press at the time, he was often reportedly covered in soot and sporting dirty clothes, causing some observers to conclude he was a chimney sweep.

To say he made himself at home inside the palace is an understatement. When he wasn't hiding (perhaps in chimneys, which would explain the soot), he was helping himself to palace food, listening in on private conversations, doing his laundry in a palace sink, and even sitting on the throne (not a euphemism for using the bathroom).

And of course, he famously got into the queen's wardrobe and stole her underwear. Considering the attitudes of the era, this was quite possibly his worst crime.

Jones' crime spree

According to Dr. Bondeson, via BBC News, Jones was caught three times, admitted in court that he'd been inside the palace at least four times, and in all likelihood, spent much more time in the building than he admitted.

On one occasion, he was cornered by a security officer and told to take off one of the two pairs of pants he was wearing, during which Her Majesty's undies fell to the floor (via Timeline).

Putting Jones away for his crimes proved easier said than done. At one trial, the jury laughed at the comedy of the debacle. Nevertheless, he was a criminal, and he did do time — just not much. Further, he swore that as long as he was able to, he'd keep breaking into the palace.

Keen to be rid of him, the courts put him on a Brazil-bound ship, in what Bondeson describes as more of a kidnapping than a judicial punishment, only to somehow wind up back in Old Blighty. He was later sent to Australia, at the time a penal colony, only to return to England yet again. He wound up in Australia once more, and even got a job as Perth's town crier. To his dying day, Jones was famed for being the guy who stole Queen Victoria's underwear.

Another queen, another stalker

You would think that the British government broadly, and the people in charge of what goes on inside the monarchy specifically, would have learned a lesson about security after the Edward Jones debacle. But they didn't.

A century or so later, another queen would find herself bedeviled by an intruder who managed to get through the palace's apparently lackluster security. In 1982, according to Harper's Bazaar, a man named Michael Fagan broke into Buckingham Palace twice. On the second occasion, he even made it into Queen Elizabeth's private chambers and spoke to the pajama-clad monarch for 10 minutes before someone arrived to sort things out.

That was hardly the end of palatial lapses in security, though. In May 2022, a man disguised as a priest was able to talk his way past security at Sandringham Castle and spent the night drinking and laughing with the palace guards (via Harper's Bazaar). Fortunately, he didn't get anywhere near the queen, but Her Majesty's security detail was, once again, found with egg on their faces.