Mrs. Jack the Ripper Oct 13, 2016 23:53:26 GMT -5
Post by Joanna on Oct 13, 2016 23:53:26 GMT -5
Mrs. Jack the Ripper
Rumors, unsubstantiated allegations, bad luck and outright lies shaped the life and legacy of a Mobile, Alabama, woman born during the War Between the States, leaving her with the ignominious labels of convicted murderer and wife of Jack the Ripper. So what is the true story of Florence Elizabeth Chandler Maybrick (above), who was born to a wealthy family in 1862, but died in obscurity in 1941?
Alabama roots. Florence, known as "Florie," was the daughter of William George Chandler, a banker and former mayor of Mobile, who died three months before she was born. After her mother, Caroline Chandler Du Barry, married German officer Baron Adolph von Roques in 1872, the family spent much of their time overseas.
In 1880, when Florie was 19, she was with her mother, onboard a ship sailing to England, when she met cotton broker James Maybrick. Despite the fact he was 42, the two had a whirlwind courtship and married in London in July 1881. Their residence, known as Battlecrease House, was in Liverpool and there, Florie gave birth to two children, Gladys and James “Bobo” Chandler, but the marriage was tumultuous. Maybrick was a womanizer and one of his mistresses had five of his children. At some point, Florence also began an affair – some said in retaliation. In addition to his infidelity, Maybrick was a difficult man who was also a hypochondriac and fond of medicating himself and some of the medications he took included arsenic and strychnine, which, in small doses, have healing qualities.
The “murder.” Maybrick became ill in 1889 and died May 11, after languishing for two weeks. Arsenic was discovered in his system and authorities determined he died of poisons administered by “persons unknown.” Then Florence was charged, arrested and found herself on trial for her life. Part of the evidence was that she had been seen soaking arsenic-coated flypapers to remove the poison, which was once used my women to clear their face of blemishes. The 27-year-old widow was convicted and sentenced to death, a sentence commuted to life in prison just four days later. According to an article in the Mobile Register of Nov. 26, 1995, she was the first American woman to be convicted of murder in England.
Reporters questioned the manner in which the case was handled, particularly because Maybrick was known to have used arsenic to the point he could be categorized as what was known at the time as an “arsenic eater.” In addition, the judge in the case was soon committed to an insane asylum and died there a few months later. W. T. Stead, editor of the Pall Mall Gazette during the trial, would write in “The Review of Reviews” in 1892: “Mr. Matthews ... was Home Secretary, and Sir Fitzjames Stephen was the judge, and between them they contrived to make as nice a botch of the whole business as wrong-headedness on one side and semi-dotage on the other could have brought about.” He further wrote that Florence herself would not allow testimony about her husband that could have spared her: “When the Messrs. Cleaver, her solicitors, were in consultation with her before the trial, Mrs. Maybrick pathetically implored them ‘to spare Jim as much as possible. I know,’ she said, ‘he has done many wrong things, but he is dead now, and I would be distressed if his life were to be made public.’”
A movement began in England and the United States, calling for Florence's release. In 1904, her release finally came after evidence was reviewed by officials. Florence sailed for the United States and for a time, gave lectures about her imprisonment, always declaring her innocence. She also penned a book called My Fifteen Years Lost. She eventually settled in Connecticut and using the name Florence Chandler, lived a reclusive life with a number of cats. When she died Oct. 23, 1941, people in the community knew her only as the “Cat Lady,” and it wasn't until newspapers began reporting her past that neighbors learned of her true identity. She is buried in Saint Michael’s Chapel Cemetery in South Kent, Connecticut.
Mrs. Jack the Ripper. Florence was allowed to rest in peace for the next five decades until a document surfaced that propelled her name back into the headlines, this time as “Mrs. Jack the Ripper.” In 1992, Warner Books Inc. announced plans to publish a newly discovered diary from a man purporting to have been Jack the Ripper. Although there was no name in the diary – which described the murders in detail – dozens of clues in the narrative identified the man as none other than James Maybrick, who had, until then, never been a suspect in the case. The sensational murders occurred in 1888, when Maybrick was 50-years-old. The diary, reportedly “discovered” in England, soon came under fire and Warner canceled its publication in 1993, concerned it was a hoax. However, it was later released by an American publisher and, in 1995, London author Shirley Harrison published a version of the diary with her own conclusions. She claimed Maybrick's motive for the brutal murders of prostitutes was his wife's philandering. According to the Mobile Register, he experienced “uncontrollable jealousy over his young wife, Florence, the Mobile-born beauty he'd fallen in love with eight years before.” To this day, some claim it is authentic.
Whether a hoax or real, James and Florence Maybrick will forever be linked to the unsolvable case, another stroke of bad luck for the pretty Southern belle who married well and died a cat lady.
Source: Kelly Kazek, Alabama.com, October 26, 2015.