In Victorian London, the age of consent was just thirteen. Unwitting girls were regularly enticed, tricked and sold into prostitution. If not marked out for a gentleman in a city brothel, they were legally trafficked to Brussels, Paris and beyond.
All the while, the Establishment turned a blind eye. That is, until one policeman wrote an incendiary report.
Disgraced for testifying against a violent colleague, Irish inspector Jeremiah Minahan was transferred to the backwater of Chelsea as punishment. Here he met Mary Jeffries, a notorious trafficker and procuress who counted Cabinet members and royalty among her clientele. Within days of reporting Jeffries, Minahan was unceremoniously forced out of the Metropolitan Police. So he turned private detective, setting out to expose the peers and politicians more interested in shielding their own positions (and peccadilloes) than London’s child prostitutes.
The findings Minahan did reveal in 1885 sparked national outrage: riots, arrests, a tabloid war and a sensational trial…other secrets were so fearful he took them to his grave, where they remained - until now.
This is the true tale of a man caught between a corrupt English Establishment and his own rebel heart: a very Victorian scandal, but also, a story for our times.
Victorian London: slums and stucco, strict morals and dark secrets. The sex trade in vulnerable young English girls was booming, fuelled by lax laws and lucrative trafficking to the brothels of Paris and Brussels. Chelsea’s most ‘exclusive establishment’ counted cabinet members and royalty amongst its clientele.
In the searing summer of 1885, the situation hit the headlines. There were arrests, riots, a tabloid scandal and a sensational trial – and one man lit the touchpaper. He was Jeremiah Minahan, Irish ex-inspector, exposer of corruption, rebel with a cause.
This is his extraordinary story, and that of the women he helped to protect. It is a very Victorian scandal, but also, a tale for our time.