"A Scandal in Bohemia" is one of the 56 Sherlock Holmes short stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It is the first of the twelve stories collected as The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. It was originally published in The Strand Magazine in July 1891.
Sherlock Holmes is visited by a masked gentleman introducing himself as Count von Kramm, an agent for a wealthy client, but Holmes quickly deduces that he is in fact Wilhelm Gottsreich Sigismond von Ormstein, Grand Duke of Cassel-Felstein and hereditary king of Bohemia. The King admits this, tearing off his mask.
It transpires that the King is engaged to Clotilde Lothman von Saxe-Meiningen, a young Scandinavian princess, but the King's in-laws-to-be would have a very low opinion of him if any evidence of his former liaison with an opera singer named Irene Adler, originally from New Jersey, were ever revealed to them. Unfortunately, that is what the lady herself is threatening to do, apparently not, though, for monetary gain, for the King's agents have already tried to buy the evidence. They have also broken into Miss Adler's house to find it, to no success.
It is a photograph described to Holmes as a cabinet (5 1/2 by 4 inches), and therefore too bulky for a lady to carry upon her person, showing both the King (then the Crown Prince), and Adler. The King gives Holmes £1,000 to cover any expenses. Holmes asks Dr Watson to join him at 221B Baker Street at 3 o'clock the following afternoon.
The next morning, Holmes goes out to Miss Adler's house dressed as an out-of-work groom and manages to elicit useful information from the other stable workers. Irene Adler has a gentleman friend Godfrey Norton, a lawyer, who calls at least once a day. On this particular day, Norton comes to visit Miss Adler, and soon afterwards, takes a cab to the Church of St Monica in Edgware Road. Minutes later, the lady herself gets in her landau bound for the same place. Holmes follows in a cab and, arriving, finds himself dragged into the church to be a witness to Godfrey Norton and Irene Adler's wedding. Curiously, they go their separate ways after the ceremony.
Holmes decides to make his move that evening, with Watson's help. Disguising himself as a simple-minded clergyman, he arrives at Irene Adler's house and, with his agents' help, causes a commotion in which he falls down with his face bloodied, just as Miss Adler, or Mrs Norton, arrives home. She has the clergyman conveyed into the house where she tends to him. Watson, having been instructed to keep near the sitting room window, waits for Holmes to raise his hand. At this signal, Watson throws a plumber's rocket through the window and yells "Fire!", as do the assorted other characters in the street, all hired by Holmes with the money from the King. Holmes observes Mrs Norton rushing to a panel in the sitting room, opening it, and beginning to take something out. Having thus discovered where the photograph is, he calls out that it is a false alarm, and contrives to leave the house and to meet Watson at the corner as prearranged.
Upon arriving back at Baker Street, however, something odd happens: they hear a voice say "Good-night, Mister Sherlock Holmes". Holmes recognizes the voice but cannot place it. If he could, he would deduce what the episode meant.
Holmes, Watson, and the King go to Adler's house early the next morning to see about achieving what Holmes did not have the opportunity to do the night before, namely stealing the photograph. However, they find that she and her husband have left England never to return. The picture is gone, and in its stead another has been left, showing only her.
She has also left a letter for Holmes, making it plain that she knew who he was — her suspicions were aroused by the "fire" — and that he was likely to be hired by the King. She declares that she loves and is loved by Godfrey Norton and no longer feels the need to mire her former lover in scandal, and also that the King need never worry now about the photograph—unless he is foolish enough to take any threatening action against her. She has, of course, kept it. She also reveals that she followed him home after the fire and she was the one that said "goodnight" to him.
The king is satisfied with this outcome, and offers a valuable ring to Holmes as his reward. Holmes, however, is impressed by Adler's intelligence, and asks instead to keep her portrait saying Irene Alder was the only one to outsmart the great Sherlock Holmes. Later Holmes receives a gold snuff box from the King.
Complete Story Text
- In reality, the Habsburg emperors were also kings of Bohemia and there was no separate dynasty; Doyle chose to place an imaginary king at an existing country, rather than create a whole imaginary country such.
Movie and TV Adaptations
- The eponymous episode of the Granada TV series with Jeremy Brett was faithful to the original story. It was the first episode of the entire series and was first aired on the 24th April 1984. The episode's main guest stars were Gayle Hunnicutt as Irene Adler and Wolf Kahler as Wilhelm von Ormstein.
- Titled "A Scandal in Belgravia", episode one of the second series of the TV series Sherlock, set in the 21st. century, was loosely adapted from the short story "A Scandal in Bohemia" and aired on 1 January, 2012. It stared Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock, Martin Freeman as John and Lara Pulver as Irene. The plot of the original short story – Holmes and Watson attempting to recover incriminating photos from Adler—is covered briefly in the first half of the episode and updated for the contemporary period (Adler's photos are stored digitally on her mobile phone, and the royal they incriminate is a female), before the episode moves on to an original storyline that includes Irene, and Jim Moriarty (Andrew Scott).