Two very important people were born on the 9th November 1841 - The Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) and Hans Gunther Winkel. On the face of it, the two men's backgrounds could not have been more different. Edward was of course born into the trappings of royalty, whereas Winkel's origins were much more humble. His father, Otto, was outwardly a respectable civil servant in Dresden, but, as an avid disciple of the Marquis de Sade, he had a strange sexual fetish - he enjoyed doing rather unpleasant, and unhygienic, things with items of cutlery. His idea of foreplay towards Winkel's timid mother, Magda, usually consisted of an abrupt "fancy a fork?" or "How about a quick fork?" and it was during one of these sessions that she suddenly went into labour and Winkel appeared to the world, thereby becoming the only case in documented history actually to have been born quite literally with a silver spoon in his mouth! And there the similarity between him and the Prince of Wales, who was born with only a metaphorical silver spoon in his mouth, ends.
Having given birth to Winkel, the hapless mother died a few hours later in Dresden General Hospital, while undergoing surgery in the Metallic Objects Removal Unit, leaving her infant son in the dubious care of his brutal father, who promptly began to use him in his vivisection experiments, another of his favourite pastimes.
The experiments which his father carried out on the baby Winkel were extremely painful and the new-born infant spent most of the first weeks of his life screaming the house down. The noise was unbearable and began to encroach on the night-time activities of his father and the new love of his life, the Countess von Blemenschnitz, who was not only ninety five years old but also excruciatingly ugly. However, being an expert in galvanism, she held a fascination for Winkel's father and it was as she was demonstrating to him the joys of applying massive electric jolts to his genitals, to the accompaniment of the usual loud screams in the next room, that she had a brilliant idea. Why not, she suggested, buy the baby a dummy as a Christmas present? That would certainly shut him up, she cackled.
So it was that on Christmas Day, 1841, Winkel got his first dummy. Things did not quite go accordingly to the Countess's plan, however, since Otto had not the faintest inkling about babies' accessories and had bought him a three foot tall, heavy oak ventriloquist's dummy instead! Being incredibly miserly, Otto refused to rectify his error and they were therefore forced to spend the next few weeks teaching baby Winkel how to use his new toy to their best advantage.
It was well worth all the hard work, though, and eventually they were able to resume their nights together in peace. The baby Winkel still screamed as loud as before, but, thanks to the new skill they had taught him, he was now able to throw his voice and from that time the screams came from the ventriloquist's dummy, which they kept locked in a cupboard deep in the basement as far away as possible from their bedroom!
The unlikely romance between Winkel's father, Otto, and the ancient Countess von Blemenschnitz blossomed and, after a whirlwind courtship based entirely on how much pain one inflicted on the other, they decided to get married. The wedding was to be a simple, quiet affair. Not that that was the original intention; it was just that, having sat down together one evening to compile a list of friends they should invite, the truth dawned on them after five hours' silence that neither of them had any! They both needed cheering up after this revelation, so Otto suggested that they wed in the most romantic of cities, Paris, an idea which the Countess eagerly accepted with a cavernous, toothless grin and much joyous sucking of her ninety-five-year old gums.
So it was that on the 19th January, 1842, having left baby Winkel in the care of his aunt Brunhilde, Otto and his Countess became husband and wife. The service was over in no time at all, owing to the fact that the priest was so horrified at the appearance of the happy couple that he rushed through it before he was forced to vomit all over them, and the newlyweds then went for their champagne wedding supper.
By now, Otto never went anywhere without a case containing some portable science equipment and shortly after they sat down for their meal he had an uncontrollable urge to carry out an experiment in galvanism on some frogs' legs. He immediately set up his equipment, but unfortunately they were at the time in the extremely crowded and fashionable Restaurant Robespierre and the only frogs' legs in sight were a mouthful about to be swallowed by a very well-to-do lady at the next table. Undeterred, he rammed the electrodes into the poor woman's mouth and switched on the power, electrocuting her on the spot!
At his trial, he conducted his own defence, which was not helped by the fact that (a) his actions had been witnessed by fifty independent onlookers and (b) his victim had been the much-loved wife of the Chief Justice of all France. Inevitably, he was found guilty of murder, sentenced to death and guillotined on the 4th February 1842. An hour after his execution, his distraught wife threw herself into the river. Whether he last words were "I am insane" or "I am in Seine" was a matter of some argument at her inquest, but it really made no difference - both statements had been perfectly accurate and, anyway, the result was the same - she drowned.
Baby Winkel was now left to be brought up by Otto's sister, Brunhilde - a strange woman, reputed by her own superstitious neighbours to be a werewolf!