Queen Victoria, widowed by her consort Prince Albert, married a favorite servant and bore a child by him, according to a Scottish scholar who says he spent a decade researching the secret romance.
The servant, a Scottish highlander named John Brown, was indisputably a favorite of the queen. For nearly a century, rumors have circulated about his relationship with Victoria - speculation all the more piquant because Victoria's very name is associated with strait-laced sexual conduct.
Alarmed at the new findings, Buckingham Palace issued an official denial today that Victoria married Brown or had a child by him. A spokesman said there was no evidence to support the report in palace records to which Scottish scholar had access during his year of research.
But that has not discouraged the historian, Micheil MacDonald, curator of the Museum of Scottish Tartans in remote Comrie, Scotland. It also has done nothing to diminish the market value of a book planned by MacDonald - if he can find a publisher - or the appeal of a series planned by the commercial television company in Scotland - to whihc MacDonald is acting as consultant.
Victoria's prize-winning biographer, Lady Longford, recalled that gossip of a romantic relationship between Brown and the queen was rife in London after Albert's death in 1861, when Victoria was 42, but that the speculation has never been substantiated by known evidence.
For his part, MacDonald is keeping details of his evidence secret, along with the names of his sources and the identity of the child Victoria is supposed to have born, because of his book project.
MacDonald, an anthropologist and specialist on Scottish matters, claims the evidence shows that the story of Victoria and Brown began when he was only 21, six years Victoria's junior.
Brown was hired as a servant by the queen and Albert when they bought Balmoral Castle in Scotland.
By the time Albert dies, the royal couple had been married, by all accounts happily, for 21 years and had four sons and five daughters. But in her grief and uncertainty about running the British Empire, the queen turned to Brown, a large, handsome and reassuring man, MacDonald says.
A lady-in-waiting saw Brown emerging from the queen's bedroom at 4 a.m. and was later told by Victoria that what she saw was proper, MacDonald says.He also says he has a tape recording of a witness who claims to have the death-bed confession of a minister who said he married the queen and Brown.
MacDonald claims Brown helped Victoria rule the empire as a secret advisor who, according to a medium contacted by the queen, was speaking for the departed Albert. As the queen's closest servant after Albert's death, Brown attended to her around the clock and occupied a room next to hers until his own death in 1883, according to MacDonald.
There also is evidence, MacDonald says, that the queen's child by Brown lived as a recluse in Paris until the age of 90.
While the idea of a secret remarriage by the queen has attracted most public attention here, MacDonald says the interesting aspect for historians should be what influence Brown had as an adviser on Britain's then far-flung foreign activities.
In the time between Albert's death and Victoria's, for example, Britain fought with South African war, Victoria was proclaimed empress of India and London seized control of Egypt. CAPTION: Picture, Queen Victoria by Lady Abercromby, from the National Portrait Gallery.