Wallis Simpson wasn't the first mistress to threaten Edward VIII's reputation
LONG before a glamorous married American called Wallis Simpson rocked the House of Windsor, a high-class Parisian courtesan, Maggie Meller, threatened to undermine Edward VIII, the then Prince of Wales, with another tale of sex and blackmail.
Sat, Apr 6, 2013
Maggie Meller had an 18-month affair with Edward Prince of Wales.
On September 10, 1923, at London's Central Criminal Court, Marguerite 'Maggie Meller' Alibert stood accused of the murder of her Egyptian husband, Prince Ali Fahmy. But despite evidence that she deliberately shot him three times in the back at the Savoy Hotel in London, she was acqutited.
[...] As Channel 4's documentary Edward VIII's Murderous Mistress uncovers, Maggie's hold on Edward helped her avoid the death penalty.
"This was a 'show trial' with a difference," says historian Andrew Rose, who contributes to the Channel 4 documentary. "If Maggie was sentenced to death, as she would have been in those days, who knows what she might have revealed."
Edward and Maggie's story begins in Paris in 1917. The First World War was still raging and Edward was stationed in France. Disappointed that he wasn't allowed to fight, he sought solace in parties and pleasure and met Maggie, a high-class prostitute who had worked her way up to a position of power with a number of influential clients.
"Initially, Edward thought she might be the love of his life," says Andrew, whose book The Prince, The Princess And The Perfect Murder was published by Coronet last week.
Edward was later stationed in Italy, and he and Maggie would write to one another. These letters could have been his downfall.
"He was indiscreet in them," says Andrew.
"He made rude comments about the war and his father. If the contents had become public knowledge the consequences could have been catastrophic."
By March 1918, Edward had begun an affair with Mrs Dudley Ward and his relationship with Maggie cooled. Maggie briefly attempted to blackmail him, sending him a letter asking for money. But to his relief, the blackmail stopped.
For five years, Edward became the darling of the British Empire. But Maggie's second marriage, to an Egyptian playboy, panicked the Prince of Wales and the Palace.
Arrested and put in Holloway Prison, the Royal household realised that Marguerite Alibert was Edward's former lover.
"I discovered a letter from Lord Curzon, who at the time was the Foreign Secretary," says Andrew. "He writes to his wife that they were 'terribly afraid about what would happen'."
Getting the letters back became crucial and Major Ernest Bald, who had links to the Royals, visited Maggie in Holloway to broker a deal.
"An arrangement was agreed and the letters were returned," says Andrew. "We believe Edward checked their authenticity and it's believed he destroyed them."
The trial went ahead, but the judge, Sir Archibald Bodkins, ruled that the prosecution couldn't ask anything about Marguerite's life before she met Prince Ali. "Guess who was being protected?" says Andrew.
Despite the fact it was clear she had killed him deliberately, she was freed and Edward was spared the embarrassment of his indiscretions.
With the letters destroyed, the story may have remained buried had it not been for a previous book of Andrew's called Scandal At The Savoy. In it, he had recounted the story of Marguerite and the murder of her Egyptian Prince. Marguerite's grandson, Raoul, saw the book and contacted Andrew.
"Raoul was able to recount the contents of the letters which had been passed down through his mother," says Andrew. "It was extraordinary that this was kept so quiet."