HE not only lost his liberty but also a highly enviable job.

William Clifford served as a seaman on the Princes of Wales's schooner, Aline, until he succumbed to his craving for drink and stole valuable and highly sentimental jewellery from guests on board after it had just returned from a Mediterranean cruise and was lying at anchor off the Isle of Wight.

The items included five brooches, two strings of coral, a gold necklace, a diamond pendant, a turquoise charm and several loose pearls owned by Sir and Lady Charles Beresford.

It was on June 30, 1882, that Clifford suddenly turned up with a bag of clothes at the home of Jane Hayward whose husband George ran the West Quay Tavern in Southampton.

"Would you take of this please?" he asked.

"Yes," she replied.

With that, the mariner opened the bag and presented a jewel encrusted necklace.

Taken aback, she remarked: "This is a pretty thing and expensive, isn't it?"

Williams told her: "Yes, I gave £2 10s for it in Malta for my sister."

He then left but returned the following morning wanting one of three £1 notes he had also left with her.

Hayward did so and he departed, only to suddenly turn up again at dinner time desperate for more money. As she handed it over, he then produced a coral necklance and two strings of pearls which he urged her to look after.

Instead she contacted the police. Sgt McLaughlan made inquiries and discovered another woman had also been similarly conned, on this occasion with a brooch.

The officer eventually found the seaman on the Royal Pier, challenging him: "Is your name Williams?"

He did not prevaricate.

"Then I have to take you back to Cowes on a charge of stealing a gold brooch and other jewellery from Lady Beresford. Now I want to know what you did with your bag when you left Cowes."

Williams lied: "I threw it overboard from the ferry opposite Calshot Castle. There was nothing any good in it."

But McLaughlan knew that was anything but true and after delivering the prisoner to his Isle of Wight colleagues, he returned to the West Quay Tavern where he recovered his bag as well as the missing items.

"Why did you do it?" he was asked in interview.

"Drink," he confessed. "When I came to my proper senses, I realised what I had done and am very sorry for it."

Hours later, Williams appeared before Newport magistrates who remanded him in custody to appear for sentence at the Hampshire Quarter Sessions.

There, in front of the chairman Melville Portal on October 17, he repeated his explanation.

"It was not for gain, sir. It was for drink. After I took them I didn't have the opportunity to restore them without being discovered and I gave them away."

Williams, who had joined the crew in Malta, was jailed for three months.

At the time, Beresford was a close friend of the future King Edward until he began an extra-marital affair with the Countess of Warwick which ultimately led to him being excluded from the royal circle.

Highly popular with the public and the navy, he was then captain of the gunboat HMS Condor which the same year had taken part in the bombardment of Alexandria in the Egyptian War, winning admiration for his courage in taking the ship inshore to attack batteries at close range.

Despite being the son of a marquess, he was still eligible to enter the House of Commons, combining the careers of a naval officer and an MP, and was regarded by many as the personification of John Bull. To further the image, he was often accompanied by its trademark, a bulldog.

As an admiral, he was to hold the most senior commands of the Mediterranean and Channel fleets but was thwarted in his ultimate ambition of becoming the First Sea Lord.

He was created a lord in 1911 on his retirement from the navy and with Lord Baden-Powell, he devised a training programme for the newly formed sea scouts.

Beresford died six years later, aged 73, and is buried in a south London cemetery. With no issue, his title became extinct.