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"To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex."

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, A Scandal in Bohemia

Irene Adler was the well-known prima donna and adventuress who was Sherlock Holmes' opponent in A Scandal in Bohemia. She was born in New Jersey in 1858 and eventually became a famous contralto, singing at La Scala and The Imperial Opera in Warsaw. There she met Wilhelm Gottsreich Sigismond von Ormstien, Grand Duke of Cassel-Felstein, and hereditary King of Bohemia, whom she had an affair with. When the King was getting married several years later he hired Holmes to recover an incriminating photograph of him and Irene together.

Irene had by then retired from singing and has moved to London (her address is Briony Lodge, Serpentive Avenue, St. John's Wood). She lived a reclusive life but went for a two-hour drive in the parks of London each day. She had a gentleman caller, one lawyer named Godfrey Norton. The two finally got married the 21 March 1888 in the Church of St. Monica, accidentally ending up with Holmes in disguise as wedding witness. They left the country the next day in order to foil Holmes' plans and their further adventures are unknown.

King Wilhelm had this to say about her:

"You do not know her, but she has a soul of steel. She has the face of the most beautiful of women, and the mind of the most resolute of men."
There is a legend among sherlockians that Holmes and Adler met years later and had a love affair. William S. Baring-Gould, in his book Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street also puts forth the idea that their son is none other that Nero Wolfe, the great detective of New York.

Irene is also the heroine of the novels Good Night, Mr. Holmes, Good Morning, Irene and Irene at Large by Carole Nelson Douglas.

As a side note, the antagonist from The Dumas Club by Arturo Perez-Reverte is also a woman named Irene Adler, but not the same one.

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