Scotland Yard's Storied History
By Richard J. Koreto
Even those who have never been to England have heard of the famed London police force known colloquially as "Scotland Yard." Its fictional exploits in novels, movies and TV shows may actually outnumber its real achievements—as impressive as they are. But its history is more astonishing then the stories written about them.
London's Police Force Was Established by a Novelist and His Blind Brother
London was a large and thriving city in the 18th century. It was also a dangerous one. Private thief-catchers and disorganized watchmen were all the city had for law enforcement. But there was little appetite for a formal government police force. Freedom-minded Englishmen thought a government-sponsored agency would lead to tyranny.
Still, something had to be done to curb crime, and Henry Fielding, the magistrate of London's Bow Street Court, put his mind to it. He was a man of great imagination—not only a magistrate, but a distinguished writer, who practically invented the English novel. He is best remembered today as the author of "Tom Jones."
This is a portrait of Henry Fielding, magistrate and author.
He created a group of law officers who answered to him as magistrate. They came to be known as the Bow Street Runners. This was the first time England had professional law officers, paid for by the government, and they were a success. After Fielding died, he was succeeded by his brother, John Fielding. Although John had been blinded in an accident as a young man, he still manage to educate himself. John Fielding continued his brother's work in developing law enforcement and was eventually knighted for his achievements.
|This is a portrait of Sir John Fielding, a magistrate, although blind.|
Scotland Yard—Which Has Nothing to Do with Scotland—and a Nickname is Born
However, London continued to grow, and as England moved into the 19th century, it became clear a more sophisticated, national solution was needed. Sir Robert Peel, a member of Parliament who eventually became prime minister, thought the time was right to establish a formal police force in London—which would be a model for other cities to follow.
Fortunately, Peel was a shrewd lawyer, and did everything to soothe an anxious public that feared a national police force would become the tool of an oppressive government. They thought about France: the public there viewed the police as enforcers for a series of dictatorial rulers. Anyone who read Les Misérables or seen any of the many dramatizations understands that Englishmen did not want a country full of Inspector Javerts!
Sir Robert Peel, a leading Victorian statesman and founder of the modern British police force.
First, Peel made sure the senior officers of the new police force would bear civilian titles, not military ranks: instead of colonels there would be superintendents. Instead of a general running the show there would be a commissioner. He also made sure that the new officers would not be wearing military uniforms. Indeed, the first constables, as they were called, wore top hats! And they carried batons, or truncheons, not swords and guns.
|Here's what the early constables looked like. They originally wore top hats—the iconic helmets came later.|
A New Way of Policing: Cooperation Rather Than Fear
Peel established their headquarters on the grounds of what had long ago been the Scottish embassy in London—hence the name Scotland Yard. Although it's moved from its original location, it's still casually referred to as Scotland Yard. Another nickname is the Met, from its official name, the Metropolitan Police Service.
|Here I am in front of the current Scotland Yard building.|
As Peel explained it, the police were just citizens paid to help out with law and order. He said their purpose would be "to maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence."
Or, as historians have put it, Scotland Yard became the first police force based on cooperation rather than fear.
Gradually, and with increasing enthusiasm, the public welcomed the new police force, in London and other cities. The constables were called "Bobbies" in honor of Robert Peel, a nickname they retain.
|Here I am in front of the Thames Valley police station in Oxford, where the fictitious Chief Inspector Morse worked.|
At first, the police force consisted of uniformed constables, but later the Yard established a plainclothes detective division, the Criminal Investigation Department, which used the latest techniques and technology to bring criminals to justice.
In one of it most notable examples, Scotland Yard detectives were hot on the trail of Dr. Crippen, suspected of murdering his wife and fleeing with his young mistress. The pair disguised themselves and boarded a ship for Canada. They thought they had made a clean getaway—but Scotland Yard was in touch with the ship's captain with the new technology of "wireless telegraphy." The captain realized the pair looked like the wanted criminals.
Chief Inspector Walter Dew hopped onto a faster ship, and when Crippen disembarked in Quebec, Dew was there with a pair of handcuffs. Crippen was eventually found guilty and hanged.
Henry Fielding and Sir Robert Peel would no doubt be pleased and proud that their legacy of policing continues. But what would they find more surprising: that the force now includes more than 31,000 constables, or that its current commissioner—Cressida Dick—is a woman!
Death at the Emerald
By R.J. Koreto
An elderly family friend commissions Frances to find Helen, a stunningly beautiful actress who vanished 30 years ago. Frances and Mallow immerse themselves in the glamorous world of Edwardian theater and London’s latest craze—motion pictures. They visit the venerable Emerald Theatre, and Frances interviews aging actors who are still in love with the memory of the beguiling Helen. Passions are stirred up, as one old suitor is murdered and another, long presumed dead, secretly threatens them. Will Frances’ new skills in Japanese martial arts be enough to save them?
Frances and Mallow follow clues to a forgotten grave outside of London, which contains a mysterious biblical inscription—and a shocking secret. Frances finally assembles the pieces, and with Mallow as stage manager, produces her own play to uncover a decades-old conspiracy, reveal a killer—and find the remarkable Helen.
Lady Frances and her maid, June Mallow, meet King Edward VII and his mistress, Mrs. Keppel.
"Oh!" gasped Mallow.
"You've seen the king before," said Frances.
"But as a servant, my lady. I am a guest here."
"And like me, his most loyal subject. Come."
The king's eyes roved and landed on Lady Frances.
"Dear Lady! So pleased to see you here. I hope you enjoyed the play as much as Mrs. Keppel and I did."
Frances and Mallow curtsied. "Yes, we did, your Majesty," said Frances.
"I wonder how you find time for the theatre, being so busy working on suffrage for women."
"I find it very refreshing, sir, and will be able to address members of Parliament with renewed vigor the next day."
Mrs. Keppel laughed. "Well said, Lady Frances." She greeted Frances warmly. "I enjoy meeting you again. Wit binds together all members of your family."
"You are too kind, Mrs. Keppel. May I present my friend, Miss June Mallow." Mallow was standing in Frances's shadow, never expecting to be introduced, but she was equal to the task.
"Your Majesty. Mrs. Keppel," she said and curtsied again.
"Did you enjoy the play as well, Miss Mallow?" asked Mrs. Keppel.
"It was very full of emotion, Mrs. Keppel," said Mallow.
The working-class accent and simple clothes identified Mallow as a servant, but Mrs. Keppel pretended not to notice: If Lady Frances chose to bring her maid to opening night at the Emerald Theatre, that was just another one of her eccentricities, and nowhere near the most egregious.
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Death at the Emerald
Richard Koreto works as a business and financial journalist. Over the years, he’s been a magazine writer and editor, website manager, PR consultant, book author, and seaman in the U.S. Merchant Marine. He is the author of the Lady Frances Ffolkes and Alice Roosevelt mysteries, set at the turn of the century. He has been published in both Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. He also published a book on practice management for financial professionals. With his wife and daughters, he divides his time between Rockland County, N.Y., and Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.