In 1868 at the age of twenty-five, Patti married a French marquis, whom she divorced ten years later, settling 64,000 pounds on him. In that same year, 1878, she bought an estate in Wales and began a rela­tionship with Ernesto Nicolini, an opera tenor. In 1886, they married in a lavish ceremony at the Wales estate where they lived until Ernesto died in 1898. One year later at fifty-six, she married Baron Rolf Cederstrom of Sweden, twenty-six years her junior. By the 1890's, she was one of the most famous women in the world and the highest paid opera singer, her earnings setting a record which stood for almost a century. Her last concert was in 1906, although she gave one last performance in 1914 to help with the war effort. She died in 1919 at the age of seventy-six.

            Now let us examine A Scandal in Bohemia. When this case began, it was obvious to Holmes and Watson that they were dealing not only with a European nobleman, but also with one of the most celebrated women of the time. Watson, of course, was eager to write up an


Patti in Wales 1897

account of Holmes’ accomplishment, especially since it was early in Holmes’ career. How could this be done so as not to expose these celebrated people to scandal and notoriety?

            Apparently Watson decided that the personal facts could be disguised in such a way that no one could guess who these two people actually were. With this in mind, let us first look at the King of Bohemia. Ob­viously this was a pseudonym. Bohemia had not had a position in Europe for two hundred years. What princess of any stature would consider an alliance with Bohemia? Several possibilities for the king have been mentioned, including Edward VII, Franz Josef of Austria, Kaiser Wilhelm and others.


            However, I think the most likely candidate is Francis Ferdinand of Austria. At the time of the case, which I place in 1886 instead of 1888 as Watson states, Francis Ferdinand was twenty-three. His indiscretion had taken place five years earlier when he was eighteen. It is easy to imagine a young man of eighteen, involved with a beautiful, sophisticated woman of thirty-eight, getting into a situation where he might be compromised. Also he was contemplating marriage with a princess with more prestige than he, since he was only fourth in line to the Austrian throne at the time. Therefore heavily disguised, he consulted Holmes. Francis Ferdinand did become Crown Prince of Austria in 1889 after his cousin, the son of Emperor Franz Josef, committed suicide and the next heir, his father, declined to be in line for the throne. Since Francis Ferdinand did not marry until 1900, all his efforts to avoid blackmail by Irene Adler must have come to naught so far as the Prin­cess of Scandinavia was concerned. Note the Archduke’s description of Irene which Watson apparently left intact. “You do not know her but she has a soul of steel. She has the face of the most beautiful of

women, and the mind of the most resolute of men.” Does this not sound like the tough-minded Patti, who knew the worth of her talent and demanded appropriate recompense?

            When discussing the situation with the “king,” Holmes referred to his index. In actuality, Holmes may or may not have considered the index necessary since the lady in question was so well known. However, to obscure her identity, Watson changed her from a soprano to a contralto, made her 15 years younger, and said she was born in New Jersey. This description has led to all kinds of speculation, with opera buffs placing her in roles where women sang male parts, and others speculating that she was Lillie Langtry, the Jersey Lily. The fact that Patti resided in the environs of New York City from the time she was three until she began her adult career at sixteen is obscured by having Adler “born” in New Jersey. Pretending that she had retired by 1886 or 1888 and was dead by 1891 also beclouds her identity.

            But Watson left just enough facts to make things interesting. It is very difficult to make things up out of whole cloth. Some things have to remain to make a deception credible. The date of the account was changed from 1886 to 1888, though Baring-Gould sets the date at 1887, for reasons not made clear. However, Patti married in a lavish ceremony at her estate in Wales in 1886, which almost dictates that year for Scandal in Bohemia, as we'll see.