Remembering Cheiro, the Dublin man who became an infamous member of the Occult

82 years ago today, a man from Dublin passed away in Hollywood, California, having been one of the most famous figures of astrology of his time. Born in 1866, and also going by the name of Count Louis Hamon, ‘Cheiro’, as he is best known, was to become a symbol of the occult, a self-described clairvoyant and a world-renowned fortune-telling expert. Known for his ability to foresee world events, his clients are claimed to have included Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, Sarah Bernhardt and even Joseph Chamberlain. So how did a man from Dublin become arguably THE symbol of the occult in the early 20th century?Cheiroy

BACKGROUND

It was while travelling in India as a teenager that Cheiro met the Indian Brahmans, who was to become his Guru. Cheiro wrote in his memoirs that he was permitted by Brahmans to study an ancient book that has many studies on hands. After studying thoroughly for two years, he moved to London and started his career as a palmist, becoming popularly known as ‘Cheiro’ (taken from ‘chirology’ meaning studying the hands to tell fortunes).

PREDICTIONS

Some of the phenomenons Cheiro is purported to have predicted include the Boer War and the death of Queen Victoria. In 1925, he is alleged to have predicted the future partition of India. And he also claimed to have predicted the sinking of the Titanic, 13 years before it sank, while reading the palm of Harland and Wolff chairman William Pirrie. His office in the West End of London famously always had a queue of people waiting to hear about their future.

HIGH SOCIETY

But Cheiro’s unusual gift for the occult was not his only talent. He also befriended and read the palms some of the most eminent people of the day. Some of his clients included King Edward VII), General Kitchener, William Gladstone, Joseph Chamberlain as well as other leading military, judicial and political figures from both sides of the Atlantic.

He also read the hands of many literary and artistic figures such as Mark Twain, Sarah Bernhardt and Oscar Wilde -and is alleged to have been a major source of inspiration along the way. Mark Twain included references to fingerprint identification in his novel Puddin’ Head Wilson, and Oscar Wilde is believed to have written the short story Lord Arthur Saville’s Crime based on his encounter with Cheiro. Mark Twain said of his visit: “Cheiro has exposed my character to me with humiliating accuracy. I ought not to confess this accuracy, still I am moved to do so.”

WRITER

And Cheiro was also a writer himself. He wrote numerous books on fortune-telling, some of which are still in print today. His books reveal something about his abilities. Although he undoubtedly had a gift for the occult, Cheiro was known to have ‘premonitions’ more so that actual reading things from people’s hands. In Confessions – Memoirs of a Modern Seer, it’s clear that Cheiro saw himself more as psychic than a palmist.

DEATH AND LEGACY

Moving to America is his later years, he read the palms of the Hollywood elite as the infamous neighbourhood was gathering pace. He is also alleged to have tried his hand at screenwriting. Upon his death on October 8, 1936, his widow claimed that he predicted his own death to the hour, the day before he died. Later that month, Time Magazine wrote: “On the night he died, said his nurse, the clock outside his room struck the hour of one thrice.”

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Nellie Clifden: the Irishwoman who nearly brought down the Monarchy

The future King Edward’s teenage fling in Ireland, a few months before his father’s death, caused a rift between him and his mother, Queen Victoria, that coupled with a scandal so deep, threatened the core of the image Victoria and Albert had built…

The Curragh Wrens was the harem of Famine orphans who made their living providing their services to the soldiers training on the nearby Curragh. Their lives revolved around their ‘work’, growing potatoes and raising their illegitimate children. But a disputed member of the Wren’s was to make a name for herself in history, thanks to a scandal erupting from her encounters with a ‘client’.

It is unknown whether or not Nellie Clifden was one of the Wrens, or if she was, as was claimed, an actress. She has been described as “a known habitué of the most vulgar dance halls in London”.What is known is that Nellie was to unwittingly lead to a major rift between Queen Victoria and her son and successor, something the Queen attributed to her husband’s death.

So very little is known about where Nellie Clifden was born, her background, or how she ended up being in the Curragh in the summer of 1861. However, she was to have one of the most prestigious clients of any of her co-workers-Edward, Prince of Wales: the future King Edward VII.

Historians have often noted the somewhat troubled relationship that existed between Prince Edward and his parents. Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert. In 1861, aged 20, he was only to spend ten weeks at the Curragh, with the Grenadier Guards, to learn a little discipline. But his counterparts soon found that he was a sexual novice, and led arranged to encounter with Nellie Clifden for him.

And Nellie clearly impressed her client, who wrote in his diary after their third ‘meeting’, “NC – third time”.

However news of this “most disreputable liaison” quickly spread. Prince Albert, shocked that his attempts to discipline his son had backfired, visited Edward upon his return to Cambridge University. Despite already complaining of feeling ill, Albert insisted on visiting his son on rainy day in late November 1861, to discuss the scandal. He returned to London very weak, (presumably suffering from typhoid), but Victoria blamed the downturn in his health on the stress of the Clifden affair.

Prince Albert died in December 1861, a mere few months after “that dreadful business”. Queen Victoria blamed her son for causing Albert’s already fickle health to demise, writing, “I never can or shall look at him without a shudder!”[5] As for Albert (still then Prince Edward), he married Prince Alexandra of Denmark in 1863, but evidence exists of him keeping up to date with Nellie Clifden’s life, someone whom he clearly never forgot.

As for Nellie? She went back to being a largely unknown figure, with as little known about her life after meeting the Prince as is known about her life before it. But she made a name for herself in history, as the Irishwoman who nearly jeopardised the future of the British monarchy.

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