An Interview With Sir Charles Warren

On the same day that the news of the Jack the Ripper murder of Mary Kelly broke, it was also announced that Sir Charles Warren, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, had resigned.

It is often suggested that the reason for his resignation was caused by his force’s inability to catch the perpetrator of the Whitechapel atrocities, but this most certainly was not the case.

Indeed, he resigned because he was publicly censured over an article that he had written for Murray’s Magazine, in which he had defended the record of the Metropolitan Police.

This, so it transpired, broke the rule that a public official was not allowed to speak to the newspapers without the permission of their immediate superior, who was, in Warren’s case. Sir Henry Matthews, the Home Secretary.

Although he had resigned in early November, Warren remained in office until a successor could be appointed.

A portrait of Sir Charles Warren.
Sir Charles Warren, The Metropolitan Police Commissioner. From The Illustrated London News, 1st May 1886. Copyright, The British Library Board.


On 13th November, 1888, The New York Herald managed to secure an interview with the outgoing Police Chief, in the course of which he gave a little more information about the reason for his resignation.

Although he had to be quite guarded in his replies, on account of the fact he was still the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, the article provided an intriguing glimpse of Warren in the aftermath of the announcement that he was standing down from his role:-


The Herald’s London correspondent had an interview with Sir Charles Warren yesterday regarding his retirement from the Police department.

John Murray, the publisher, invited Warren a few weeks ago to use his pen and he produced an article on the police defending himself.

The matter came up before parliament, and his superior, the home secretary snubbed him – saying Sir Charles was ignorant of the rule in the department that no attache should write of his office without permission.

This was tantamount to stating that Sir Charles was inattentive, so he resigned.


Sir Charles is a handsome military man, looking but a little over 40, and considerably bronzed. He wears a moustache suggestive of silence, and his features are regular and handsome.

In place of the military martinet which he is represented to be in some quarters, the correspondent found a gentleman of courteous manner and amiable disposition with much of dignity.

His manner had more of the suavity of the diplomat than the rough and ready style of the military man.


“Can you give me any details about your announced resignation!” asked the reporter.

“Well, not much,” he replied, “you must understand that, until the government have appointed someone in my place I can say little.

However, there is one thing I wish to be understood, and that is that Mr. Matthews is speaking for the government, but he is not doing so for me.

I will, when the time comes, have my say,  at present I am still Commissioner, and responsible for the London police. Therefore, I may not speak.”


“Yet, can you suggest the reason of your resignation?”

“Not fully; but I will say that a great grievance has been the cause of the interference of the Home Office in the police department.”

“Is that of recent date?”

“No, it has been so for two years.

The police department was by law originally placed under the control of the chief secretary of state.

A change was next made over to the Home Secretary, but this did not make us a department of the Home Office.

I have resisted this latter assumption throughout, and when it came to orders being written to us by Home Office clerks it was a little too much.”


“Were you not consulted?”

“Not directly.

The curious feature of the whole business was that the government, represented by Mr. Matthews, held me personally responsible for all the crime of London and yet they made some communications to my subordinate.”


“You did not resign on account of the last Whitechapel murder?”

Sir Charles smiled and said:- “No. I sent in my resignation, before the Kelly murder, on the 5th of this month, immediately after Mr. Matthews’ statement in the
Commons in reference to my article in Murray’s Magazine.

My resignation was accepted yesterday.

That article was perfectly innocuous and could not do any harm,”