The cover-up that saved the Prince of Wales' murderess lover from the gallows
Prince of Wales had a relationship with Marguerite in the First World War
The Parisian courtesan went on to marry Prince Ali Fahmy of Eqypt
She shot him dead in the Savoy Hotel in 1923
By TONY RENNELL FOR MAILONLINE
PUBLISHED: 22:01 GMT, 15 March 2013 | http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2294153/The-cover-saved-Prince-Wales-murderess-lover-gallows.html
Shady character: Princess Marie Marguerite Fahmy, French wife of late Prince Ali Fahmy of
, was a lover of the Prince of
Late-night diners at the Savoy Hotel in
mouthfuls and stared at each other in amazement. London
At one of the tables an unseemly row had broken out — shrieks of rage from a bejewelled French woman in a chic satin Chanel gown, howls of anger from her youthful white-tie-and-tailed Middle Eastern husband.
‘Shut up, or I’ll smash this bottle of wine over your head,’ she screamed at the top of her voice.
‘And I’ll do the same to you,’ he hurled back, until waiters intervened to try to calm them down.
To those in the know, this was just another everyday argy-bargy in the volatile six-month marriage of 32-year-old Marguerite, high-class Parisian hooker and notorious gold-digger, and 22-year-old Prince Ali Fahmy, effeminate, filthy-rich Egyptian playboy, besotted with her and intensely jealous.
They were forever clawing and scratching each other, biting and kicking.
But it was more than that this time. A few hours later during a violent thunderstorm, that night in July 1923, there was more loud cursing and rowing in the corridor outside their suite — followed by the sound of three pistol shots fired in rapid succession.
Enigmatic: Madame Marguerite Fahmy who was accused of murdering her husband, Aly Bey Fahmy, in the Savoy Hotel, pictured in
A hotel porter who rushed to investigate found Ali slumped against a wall in a pool of blood, a bullet through his head, and a hysterical Marguerite bending over his body and crying out, ‘J’ai lui tiré’ — ‘I’ve shot him.’
Murdered: Egyptian Aly Bey Fahmy was shot dead by his wife Marguerite Fahmy in 1923
If ever there was an open-and-shut murder case, this seemed it. The ambitious Marguerite — who had slept her way out of the gutter by selling her sexual favours, reeled in scores of wealthy lovers and landed a prince — seemed certain to be heading for a date with the hangman.
And yet, ten weeks later, after an Old Bailey trial that had Press and public agog at all the lurid sexual details unearthed, she was acquitted. It was one of the most sensational turnarounds in British legal history. How could this have happened?
The answer, according to author and barrister Andrew Rose in a new book, is equally sensational. He argues that friends of the then Prince of Wales — the hapless Edward VIII-to-be — conspired to get her off the hook.
Why? To hush up the fact that she, a prostitute, had bedded the Prince on numerous occasions during the last 18 months of World War I while he was serving with the Army in
Moreover, she had racy love letters from him to prove it. France
The moment the news came out that Marguerite was under arrest in Holloway prison, a secret, high-level damage-limitation exercise was set in motion. The Prince’s intimate entourage of toffs, toughs and old Army chums went into overdrive to save him from embarrassment and ridicule.
They knew that in his early 20s the young and immature heir to the throne had enjoyed her delights — some of them had even dallied there too and discovered how well versed she was in the tricks of her trade.
Cover up: Prince of Wales, here in 1925, had met Marguerite in the last 18 months of the First World War while he was in the army in
The Prince, a newcomer to such arts, had been initiated, bewitched and then become more than a little obsessed with the shapely body, auburn hair and sensuous mouth of the woman he knew as Mme Maggie Meller. She was adept at playing the dominatrix. He pursued her with slavish devotion at every opportunity, lavishing gifts on her.
She sent him an erotic novel with a strong lesbian theme. Foolishly he wrote letters to ‘mon Bebe’, as he called her, 20 of them at least, intimate, possibly rude about his father, King George V, often indiscreet about the conduct of the war, and definitely not the sort he would ever want the world to see.
And when in 1918 he dumped her for the arms of Mrs Freda Dudley-Ward, the first of his long-term mistresses, she pointedly reminded him she still had them, with a hint that she wanted money for their return.
Why Marguerite pulled back from blackmail at this point is unclear, but in time the Prince seemed reassured that, though ‘IT in Paris’ (the ungentlemanly term he now used for the woman he’d once adored) had not given up his billets-doux, she was not going to make trouble.
Now her arrest in
on a capital murder charge punctured
that hope. The real possibility loomed of almost limitless public scandal
descending on the Royal Family. London
The first thing the Prince’s men did, according to author Rose, was to make a discreet approach to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Archibald Bodkin, explain the delicacy of the situation and get him on board. He guaranteed a date for the Old Bailey trial in September, and they arranged for the Prince to be well out of the way then on a two-month tour of
But that wouldn’t stop Marguerite spilling out from the dock details of her boudoir activities with the royal rake or producing those incriminating letters if it suited her. There would have to be a deal to silence her — and the go-between for that transaction, Rose claims, was one Major Ernest Bald.
The debonair Bald had been one of Marguerite’s ‘intimates’ back in France, as had the man who now enlisted his help, his old commanding officer, ‘Bendor’ Grosvenor, the dissolute Duke of Westminster. ‘Bendor’ was a disreputable womaniser and heavy drinker, and among the Prince’s closest confidantes.
Bald was sent to visit his old flame in Holloway jail and, though there is no record of what they discussed in frequent meetings in a white-washed room with barred windows over the next five weeks — talking in French so the watching wardress could not understand — Rose believes they horse-traded the Prince’s bedroom secrets for some sort of guarantee that she would get off.
From her cell, it seems Marguerite instructed her lawyer to arrange for the Prince’s letters to be handed back. She had stored them in
Cairo and they were duly
given to the British High Commission there and
dispatched to . London
But were they the real thing? Rose believes the Prince interrupted his summer holiday in
to dash to
to check their authenticity and that they were all accounted for. They weren’t.
Marguerite had wisely kept some back for insurance. London
The crucial part of the deal, however, was that she would make no mention of the Prince’s name in court, and that part of the bargain she kept in full.
A few days before the trial opened Lord Curzon, Foreign Secretary at the time, confided to his wife some gossip he’d heard: ‘The French girl who shot her so-called Egyptian prince in London and is going to be tried for murder, is the fancy woman who was the Prince’s “keep” [kept woman] in Paris during the war, and they were terribly afraid that he might be dragged in. [But] his name is to be kept out.’
In return, Rose claims, all the other details of her racy past would be left out of the court proceedings, too. And that, he adds, would undermine the prosecution’s case that she was a wicked, foul-tempered, violent woman who had killed her husband to get her hands on his fortune.
Caught with the smoking gun in her hand, Marguerite’s only possible line of defence was that she was a much-battered wife in fear of her life from a vicious and perverted husband. When she told him she was going to divorce him, he had gone berserk and she had shot him in self-defence.
And, says Rose, with the help of the Prince’s connections and the connivance of some leading Establishment figures, that is what her side set out to argue.
‘This was to be a show trial,’ he states, ‘but one with a difference. The authorities wanted Marguerite to be acquitted. A murder conviction would have been catastrophic for the Crown.’
The ground had been prepared. An inexperienced judge was assigned to hear the case and Rose believes he may well have been nobbled from the outset into steering the court away from Marguerite’s steamy past.
The prosecuting counsel was lacklustre and less than forensic in his approach, as if he knew the case was somehow stacked against him, whereas the defence lawyer, pleading Marguerite’s innocence, was the biggest legal star of the age. The theatrical, eye-catching Sir Edward Marshall Hall, orator and advocate extraordinaire, was widely hailed as the ‘Great Defender’.
Marshall Hall’s tactic was to besmirch Ali Fahmy’s reputation, appealing unashamedly to every evil racial stereotype to do so. Playing on prejudice common at the time, he conjured up an image of a respectable white woman falling into the clutches of an unprincipled Arab with perverted sexual tastes.
The young Egyptian was presented as a cruel, promiscuous, bisexual. Driven by lust, he had forced her to have ‘unnatural’ intercourse that left her ‘torn’ in the most intimate of places. He beat her and threatened to kill her. For all his sophisticated outward appearance, he was a beast, a devil.
The judge should have stopped Marshall Hall’s flow of unsubstantiated accusations against the dead man, but the lawyer was allowed to proceed with his rhetoric.
In the dock, Marguerite — a consummate actress as ever — sat with her head hanging limply forward and her black gloved right hand supporting her forehead. Her eyes were closed and tears trickled down her cheeks.
Similarly, Marshall Hall got away with muddying the waters over basic facts that damned Marguerite — that Ali had also been shot in the back and that she had pulled the trigger three times.
As for her own copious sins, her promiscuous past (and present), her naked ambition, her greed, her violent temper which had led her to horse-whip one ex-lover, the phalanx of wealthy men she had snared, exploited and cast aside — these were simply never mentioned. Witnesses who would have given evidence of her own threats to kill her husband were never called.
Instead, she was this ‘poor, wretched woman’, declaimed the Great Defender, ‘suffering the tortures of the damned’, who had fired the pistol in desperation as Ali ‘crouched like an animal, crouched like an Oriental . . .’
In his closing speech, his oratory soared to even greater heights as he invited the jury ‘to open the gates where the Western woman can go out, not into the dark night of the desert, but back to her friends, who love her in spite of her weaknesses.
‘Open the gate and let this Western woman go back into the light of God’s great Western sun.’
The judge’s summing-up took up the same theme. ‘We in this country put our women on a pedestal: in
not the same views,’ he told the jury. Egypt
He declared Ali’s alleged sexual tastes ‘shocking, sickening and disgusting’. And he steered them towards a conclusion of justifiable homicide. ‘If her husband tried to do what she says, in spite of her protests, it was a cruel and abominable act.’
The jury took less than an hour to pronounce her Not Guilty and set her free. She was in the clear. So too was the Prince of Wales, his frolics with her wiped from the slate, thanks to his friends.
Also wiped clean, Rose admits, was much of the confirming evidence of the scheming he reckons had taken place to secure her release.
Her surprise acquittal is a matter of record. That it was achieved by a deliberate cover-up at the highest level has to rest on circumstantial evidence, and perhaps not surprisingly. ‘Smart plotters do not leave a paper trail,’ Rose writes. ‘Finding out what has been carefully concealed by clever people is challenging.’
Yet he remains convinced that ‘the Establishment, in the form of the Royal Household, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the trial judge, agreed to do whatever was necessary to preserve the reputation of the Prince of Wales, even if this meant interfering with due process of law. ‘Arguably,’ he says, ‘this created a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.’
Freed, Marguerite returned to
cheekily tried to claim a slice of the vast wealth left by the husband she had
gunned down. It didn’t work and she returned to her life-long trade of trapping
wealthy men. France
As for the Prince of Wales, he continued his pursuit of unsuitable women — with consequences, as the world knows, that cost him not only his reputation, but his crown, too.
The Prince, The Princess And The Perfect Murder by
Andrew Rose is published by Coronet on April 4
"Andrew Rose first published the tale of Marguerite Alibert 12 years ago, in a book called Scandal at the
. As crime stories
go, it ticked all the right boxes: a sexy French adventuress shoots dead her
creepy Egyptian husband at Savoy 's
smartest hotel, stands trial for his murder and is acquitted." But Craig
Brown in the Mail on Sunday had problems with Rose's updated version, The
Prince, the Princess and the Perfect Murder, published because in the earlier
book "he had missed an essential detail. The then Prince of Wales"
had been one of the Marguerite's many lovers, as detailed in her "1934
memoir, which Rose describes as 'an essential source previously overlooked by
Royal biographers'. And by you, too, matey!" In the Spectator, Selina
Hastings felt that the "story of Marguerite … is fascinating not only for
what it reveals of this far from appealing personality but for the social
history of the time." But according to the Sunday Times's Peter Conradi,
"However painstakingly he puts together the elements of the conspiracy,
the evidence is thin and circumstantial." London
Friday 19 April 2013 19.19 BST / http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/apr/19/critical-eye-book-review-roundup
Getting away with murder... and that's the author
By CRAIG BROWN FOR THE DAILY MAIL
PUBLISHED: 21:00 GMT, 6 April 2013 / http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/books/article-2304979/CRAIG-BROWNS-BOOK-OF-THE-WEEK-Getting-away-murder--thats-author-Review-The-Prince-Princess-Perfect-Murder-Andrew-Rose.html
THE PRINCE, THE PRINCESS AND THE PERFECT MURDER by Andrew Rose
Andrew Rose first published the tale of Marguerite Alibert 12 years ago, in a book called Scandal At The Savoy. As crime stories go, it ticked all the right boxes: a sexy French adventuress shoots dead her creepy Egyptian husband at
Marguerite Alibert was born in Paris in 1890, the daughter of a cab driver and a char lady. From an early age, she was, as they say, a bit of a goer: aged 16, she had a baby. To these 21st Century eyes, she looks a bit dumpy, not unlike the Queen Mother, but there was clearly something about her – ready availability, perhaps –that made gentlemen’s eyes swivel in their sockets.
Before long, she was taken up by one of
’s most influential
madames, who apparently taught her all she needed to know. In Andrew Rose’s
salivating words, Marguerite became ‘an expert in the arts of love’. Paris
She certainly didn’t let her new expertise gather dust. ‘She’s been the mistress of nearly all my best customers, gentlemen of wealth and position in France, England, America and many other countries as well,’ her old boss proudly recalled, years later.
She embarked on a seven-year affair with a wealthy married man, who set her up in her own apartment, within which she carried on with several other men, too. Her wealthy suitor finally had a nervous breakdown and retreated to
but not before she had extracted 200,000 francs from him, plus a plush
apartment with servants, and a stable full of horses. Bordeaux
From then on, there was no looking back, her bank account expanding with every new gentleman caller: a Belgian landowner, a handful of Americans, the owner of a chain of nitrate mines in
brother-in-law of the Grand Vizier of Turkey and so on. The plucky British,
often so sluggish in matters of the flesh, even managed to field their own
delegate in the shape of the Duke of Westminster. Chile
In 1919, she married a serious young man called Charles Laurent, but she soon began yearning for the nightclubs. They were divorced within a year, leaving her wealthy enough to expand her stable to ten horses, and to add a full-time groom and a chauffeur to her growing roster of staff.
To cut a long story short, in
she set her cap at an Egyptian playboy and
self-styled prince called Ali Fahmy, ‘a
millionaire umpteen times over’. To some, his home decoration – his
Nubian servants all liveried, his furnishings all encrusted with diamonds – may
have been a little too showy, but to Marguerite they were as plankton to a basking
They married in January 1923. Within days bride and groom were threatening to kill each other, and punches were traded. In July they moved into a suite in The Savoy Hotel in
but, like so many warring couples
before and since, soon discovered it
only takes mutual hatred to turn luxury hotel suites into padded cells. A few
days into their stay, Marguerite shot Ali dead in the hotel corridor. ‘What
shall I do? I’ve shot him,’ she
exclaimed, as the night manager came running. London
Marguerite was put on trial for murder, but was acquitted on the grounds of self-defence, thanks to a wonderfully over-the-top xenophobic attack on her victim by her defence barrister (‘He not only had the vilest of vile tempers, but was vile himself, with a filthy perverted taste . . .’).
As I have already said, Andrew Rose wrote a diverting account of this spectacular case 12 years ago. It is now, he assures us, ‘long out of print’. In the introduction to this new book, he confesses that soon after the publication of the original, he received a letter from Marguerite’s grandson telling him he had missed an essential detail. The then Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII) had, he said, been one of his grand- mother’s many lovers. This grandson then gave Rose a copy of his grandmother’s 1934 memoir, which Rose describes as ‘an essential source previously overlooked by Royal biographers’.
And by you, too, matey! It seems astonishing that the biographer of a famous murderer somehow never discovered that she had published an account of the case. This oversight means that in Scandal At The Savoy there was not a single mention of the Prince of Wales. But Rose has now turned his incompetence to advantage by publishing a fresh account, this time introducing the Prince of Wales and bigging up his role to bursting point.
Well, I say that this is a ‘fresh’ account, but in truth most of it is exactly the same, with entire sentences, paragraphs, pages, and even chapters copied out, word for word, from the original. All Rose has done is to shoehorn the Prince of Wales into the narrative at every possible juncture, and many impossible junctures too.
His thesis is that the young Prince enjoyed sexual liaisons with Marguerite Alibert for 18 months from 1917, and that in its anxiety to preserve his reputation, the British Establishment conspired in a cover-up, which in turn led to what he now describes as ‘a show trial’, resulting in the foregone conclusion of Marguerite’s acquittal.
Sadly, he presents no evidence for this conspiracy, other than what he calls a ‘remarkable’ letter from Lord Curzon (whom he styles, bizarrely, ‘Marquess Curzon’) to his wife telling her he had ‘heard a piece of news which may amuse you if you do not know it already’: the French girl who shot her husband used to be the ‘fancy woman’ of the Prince, and ‘his name is to be kept out’ of her trial. And that’s all.
Rose describes this as ‘incontrovertible contemporary evidence of this con-spiracy of silence’, yet Curzon clearly regarded the story as just another piece of tittle-tattle that was doing the rounds, and even thinks his wife may have heard it already: hardly evidence of a ‘conspiracy of silence’, still less a ‘show trial’.
But when conspiracy theorists get the bit between their teeth, they won’t let anything get in the way. In their topsy-turvy worlds, lack of evidence is the surest proof of a cover-up.
So speculation is transformed – hey presto! – into fact by compulsive use of slippery words and phrases such as ‘perhaps’, ‘must have been’, ‘arguably’, ‘no doubt’, ‘might’, ‘possibly’, ‘may have’ ‘there was a distinct possibility that . . .’
Thus, early on we are told that, at their first meeting in a
restaurant, ‘she no doubt hinted discreetly over coffee at the delights which
awaited the Prince later that day’. Before the trial commenced ‘Perhaps on the
journey down from Scotland, the Prince, often prey to dyspepsia, his mind awash
with thoughts of Marguerite and the impending crisis, suffered abdominal
twinges’, which is a pretty big ‘perhaps’, given that there is absolutely no
evidence at all that the Prince was thinking about Marguerite, or that he even
knew about the ‘impending crisis’. Two pages later, when the Prince is seen out
and about enjoying himself, Rose says this is because he was ‘in denial’. Paris
Rose inserts new phrases into the original manuscript so as to lend weight to the idea of a conspiracy. For instance, in the original book he wrote of the Judge: ‘Rigby Swift’s summing-up ended with a simple question’, but here the same sentence reads: ‘Rigby Swift’s summing-up, now heavily slanted in favour of the accused, ended with a simple question’.
Who knows where the truth lies? I would guess yes to the affair with the Prince, no to a judicial conspiracy, and no to the ‘perfect murder’ of the title. Rose now argues that Marguerite planned the murder in advance (‘In my 1991 study of the trial, I had described the shooting as a crime passionel. It was nothing of the kind. This was murder for gain. An execution. A perfect murder’). But if so, why did she do it so cackhandedly, in a hotel corridor, in a manner that would guarantee her arrest, trial and humiliation?
Silliest of all, we hear that, after the trial, ‘a remarkable, wholly extraordinary, reunion of the Prince and Marguerite, the two wartime lovers, may have taken place, perhaps during the first month of
And, he may have added, pigs will fly – no doubt, perhaps, possibly, arguably –
during the fifth month of 2013.