Madeline Smith Murder Mystery Part 1

About the Madeline Smith murder mystery that was the talk of British crime in the mid 1850s, the crime involving poison and her lover.


The Murder: Murder will out? Not always. On March 23, 1857, Emile l'Angelier--vomiting and violently ill with stomach cramps--staggered home before dawn to his shabby lodgings in Glasgow, Scotland. His landlady called a doctor, who prescribed laudanum, but a few hours later Emile was dead. It was his 3rd such attack in a month. A postmortem revealed death was caused by a massive dose of arsenic--enough to kill 50 men. The murder of an obscure, 31-year-old clerk hardly merited headlines. Nevertheless, the trial of his accused murderess was one of the most sensational in the history of 19th-century British crime.

Born in England, of French extraction, Emile l'Angelier was a short, dark, self-styled ladies' man with a fatal ambition to marry above his station in life. After his death, more than 100 love letters were found in his room and in his office desk. The writer was Madeleine Smith, the beautiful 21-year-old daughter of a wealthy Glasgow architect. Her letters were both incriminating and--even more shocking to the prudish sensibilities of a Victorian society--"indecently" passionate.

The clandestine correspondence traced a romantic misalliance between an adventurous Juliet and a calculating Romeo. Emile l'Angelier met and quickly seduced Madeleine Smith in 1855, when she was only 19. Her father denounced him as a fortune hunter, and ordered his daughter to terminate the "friendship." Fiery, strong-willed, and remarkably sensual for a Victorian-bred teen-ager, Madeleine was ready to forego her inheritance at that point and marry Emile. Her lover, though, was more cautious. He obviously wanted to marry money even more than he wanted to marry Madeleine, and wasn't above using gentle blackmail to advance his courtship. Urging Madeleine to be more persuasive in winning her parents' approval of the match, he wrote, "Think what your father would say if I sent him your letters for perusal." This was only one of many copies of letters written to Madeleine curiously preserved by Emile.

By January, 1857, Madeleine had understandably cooled toward her lover. Unbeknownst to Emile, she accepted a marriage proposal from well-to-do businessman William Minnoch, one of her father's closest friends. Then, early in February, she asked l'Angelier to return her letters and "likeness." His reply was apparently threatening, because on February 12, Madeleine wrote again begging, "Emile, for God's sake do not send my letters to Papa!" In the same letter, she denied rumors of her engagement to Minnoch. Soon thereafter, Madeleine resumed her ardent correspondence and secret meetings with the volatile Emile.

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