The story of Florence Maybrick in the late 19th century fascinated Victorian audiences. Was she a vile poisoner or a Victorian victim? Because she was an American by birth, the case ended up involving the US press as well as the US gove...
The story of Florence Maybrick in the late 19th century fascinated Victorian audiences. Was she a vile poisoner or a Victorian victim? Because she was an American by birth, the case ended up involving the US press as well as the US government, as her lawyers worked frantically to get her sentence either commuted or overturned.
Name: Florence Elizabeth Chandler
Born: September 3, 1862, Mobile, Alabama.
Parents: William George Chandler, a banker and
one-time mayor of Mobile, and the Baroness von Roques.
Background: Florence’s father died when she was a
baby. Her mother married twice more, the
final time to a German baron. Florence grew up in Europe, educated privately by
governesses, spoke French and German fluently. She was pretty, vivacious and
Name: James Maybrick
Born: October 25, 1838, Liverpool England
Parents: William and Susanna Maybrick.
Profession: Cotton Broker. His business required him to travel regularly
to the United States. In 1871, he
settled for a time in Norfolk, VA, to establish a branch office of his company.
Background: In March of 1880, Florence Chandler met James
Maybrick on a ship from New York to Liverpool, England. When the boat docked 8 days later, they were
engaged. Florence was 18 and James was 42. The two were an odd couple. While Florence was
petite with dark, wavy hair and big blue eyes, James was portly with florid
cheeks, typical middle-aged Englishman. Despite their age difference, the couple was
wed over a year later on July 27, 1881 at St. James Church, Piccadilly in
London. For three years, the couple divided their time between Norfolk and
Liverpool before settling permanently in Liverpool.
couple had two children, a son named James Chandler known as “Bobo” and a
daughter Gladys Evelyn. They moved into Battlecrease House in a suburb of
Liverpool, a huge house that had over twenty rooms. By necessity (Florence wasn’t going to clean
those rooms herself!), they employed a gaggle of servants including two maids,
a nanny, a nursemaid, a footman etc. Florence had no close friends in
Liverpool, although she led an active social life with parties, teas, benefits,
and charity dances. Her husband’s family
was suspicious of her and her mother, considering them to be adventuresses. Her husband’s ex-fiancée and her two sisters
came and went freely from the Maybrick home.
had no idea how to deal with servants or how to run a household. She and her mother had led a peripatetic
existence in Europe and the United States, never settling anywhere for long,
because of their finances. She had no
idea how to budget. When her husband was
having financial difficulties, he put her on allowance of £7 a week, out of
which she had to pay the bills as well as the servants. Florence borrowed money from money lenders in
order to pay creditors which left her increasingly in debt. She lived in fear of her husband finding out exactly how much money she owed.
5 years of marriage, Florence discovered that James not only had a long-term
mistress, but they also had several children. As soon as Florence found out
about Maybrick’s mistress, she stopped sleeping with him. Lonely and wanting a little romance, Florence
began an affair with a businessman named Alfred Brierly but the affair was
short-lived. When Maybrick discovered her affair, there was a violent row
during which Maybrick assaulted her. Divorce was impossible. While Maybrick
would have been able to divorce Florence for her adultery, Florence would have
had to prove not only adultery but cruelty, desertion or incest for her to
obtain a divorce. Maybrick might have
been able to take her children from her, and if he divorced her for adultery,
he was not obliged to support her.
James Maybrick’s health deteriorated suddenly in April of
1889, and he