Hitler’s Irish sister-in-law

Bridget Hitler in her later years. (I do not own this image).

This is the text of an article I wrote for http://www.theJournal.ie, published on 18th November 2014.

TODAY MARKS 45 years since a lady called Bridget, born and raised in Dublin, died in New York. Upon her deathbed she was known as Bridget Stuart-Houston – but she had changed her name to hide the fact that her estranged husband, the father of her son William Patrick, was the half-brother of Adolf Hitler.

Born Bridget Dowling, for many years she bore her husband Alois Hitler’s surname; the only known family connection between Europe’s most infamous dictator and Ireland.

Early life

Bridget Elizabeth Dowling was born in Dublin in 1891 and grew up at Flemings Place, near Mespil Road. In 1909 she went to the Dublin Horse Fair with her father William, where they met Alois Hitler Jr, the older half-brother of Adolf Hitler. Alois initially claimed to be a wealthy hotelier touring Europe, but later admitted being a kitchen porter at the Shelbourne Hotel.

After a number of months courting in Dublin, and due to her family’s disapproval of her relationship with Alois, in 1910, Bridget eloped with Alois to London. They married on 3 June 1910 and later settled in Toxteth, Liverpool. Bridget’s father William tried (unsuccessfully) to accuse Alois of kidnap, and for a few months relations between Bridget and her father were strained. However, they reconciled around the time of the birth of her and Alois’ son, William Patrick Hitler, in 1911 in Liverpool.

In 1914, Alois went back to Germany – purportedly to make a living selling razor blades – but the outbreak of the First World War meant that he was marooned there for a few years away from his family. He opened a restaurant in Berlin which would later become a favourite for high-ranking Nazi figures, and had numerous affairs before marrying again bigamously.

He began making contact with Bridget after the war, encouraging their son William Patrick (known as Patrick), to come to Germany to visit.

It was there, as a young man, that Patrick Hitler saw his uncle speaking at a Nuremberg rally. Patrick began working at a German car factory, but the suicide of his uncle Adolf’s niece Geli, whom Adolf was purportedly in love with, soured him against his uncle for life. He returned to England and began lecturing on his uncle, whom he claimed was a “madman”. The historian Patrick Butler even claims that Patrick predicted in 1939 that a coup would come from within the army against Hitler – something that did transpire, but not until 1944 (the famous ‘20 July Plot’).

Bridget welcomed her son back to England in the mid-1930s, and they spent a number of years living in North London, where the then-divorced Bridget ran a lodging house.

Disputed memoirs

In 1939, Bridget joined her son on a tour of the United States where he was invited to lecture on his famous uncle. They decided to settle there, and in that time Bridget wrote a manuscript, My Brother-in-Law Adolf, in which she claimed that her famous brother-in-law had moved to Liverpool to live with Bridget and Alois from November 1912 to April 1913 to dodge conscription in his native Austria. She claims that she introduced Adolf to astrology – and that she advised him to trim off the edges of his moustache.

However, the credibility of this account is often questioned by historians. Bridget’s memoir was published posthumously in 1979, but it was never finished, and ended on a comma. The historian William Unger suggests that it may have been ghost-written because it bears none of the usual characteristics of a first-draft memoir.

However, it was Bridget’s account of a young, sloppy boy named Adolf arriving at Lime Street Station in Liverpool that was the inspiration for Beryl Bainbridge’s Young Adolf – a fictionalised account of the dictator’s early years. It was also the inspiration for Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell’s 1989 comic The New Adventures of Hitler.

Ultimately, Bridget settled in Long Island, New York, changing her name to Stuart-Houston. Today marks 45 years since she passed away, on 18 November 1969. Her son William Patrick, died in 1987, effectively ending the Irish link with Hitler, as his children bore his adopted surname Stuart-Houston.

Bridget and her son Patrick are both buried in Coram, Long Island.


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.