The Sordid lives and dark secrets of Florence and James Maybrick (AKA Jack the Ripper)
Florence Elizabeth Chandler was born to a family of good means in Mobile Alabama. Her father was the mayor and a partner in a successful banking firm. After her father died, her mother, Caroline Chandler Du Barry remarried. Florence accompanied her mother on a ship to Britain, and it was there she met James Maybrick, a very successful cotton broker, who came from a good family. She was 19, he was 42, and despite the vast age difference, they fell in love. A marriage ceremony in Piccadilly soon followed. The couple soon settled in London, dancing and dining, popular within the highest social circles. They were the picture of happiness! But in private, their lives were anything but!
Studio Photo of Florence Maybrick
Poor Florence soon discovered that James was an addict of arsenic and other poisonous concoctions.
Note that there is strychnine and arsenic in the ingredients
Men like James Maybrick took such tonics or elixirs to improve manhood / sexual issues
And if that weren’t enough, she learned that he had numerous affairs, one of which was a long lasting one in which he had five illegitimate children. To make matters worse, James regularly beat her, often quite severely.
Miserable, Florence went in search of finding a corner of peace and joy for herself. She too began having affairs. Both struck close to home – Edwin Maybrick, James’ brother, and Alfred Brierley, James’ colleague. Of course, the inevitable happened and James learned about her affair with Brierley. He beat her nearly to death and threatened her with divorce.
Early in April 1889, Florence traipsed down to her neighborhood chemist to buy some flypaper laced with arsenic. She soaked it in a bowl of water, claiming it was her way to extract the arsenic for a cosmetic lotion she wanted to prepare. She had run out of the actual lotion and was trying to create her own similar recipe.
Meanwhile, on the 27th day of April, James took a double dose of strychnine.
That made him severely ill. Doctors were called and they treated him for severe indigestion, but without satisfactory results. His condition grew steadily worse.
In May, Florence wrote a letter to Brierly, but somehow, the nanny, who had never been fond of her mistress intercepted it and handed it to Edwin – her husband’s brother with whom she had slept with a time or two. Edwin handed the letter over to Michael Maybrick, the eldest brother. Michael's stripped Florence of her household duties and kept her under scrutiny, forbidding her to leave the house.
But Florence’s troubles were far from over. Early in May, one of the nurses in attendance to her husband reported that Florence had tampered with a meat-juice bottle in her husband’s room. James never drank any of it. Nevertheless, the contents of the bottle were analyzed and a half-grain of arsenic was identified. James Maybrick died at his home on May 11th.
Suspicious as to the cause of his death, or perhaps to get rid of Florence once and for all, had his body examined. Traces of arsenic were found, but not in amounts that would be considered lethal. Despite the fact that no one could prove who administered it, whether it was James or someone else, an inquest was held and Florence was formally charged with the murder of her husband.
Courtroom where Florence's trial was held
St. George's Hall
In a trial that today might be considered prejudiced and biased, she was found guilty and sentenced to death.
Florence Maybrick in the prisoner's box in court
The London public was highly divided over this case. Many supported Florence, believing in her innocence, while others were adamant as to her guilt. Fifteen years passed. Florence spent her time in jail, awaiting her death, longing for her children who were adopted out to a doctor and his well-to-do family.
The evidence was re-examined and the Chancellor concluded:
“…that the evidence clearly establishes that Mrs Maybrick administered poison to her husband with intent to murder; but that there is ground for reasonable doubt whether the arsenic so administered was in fact the cause of his death”.
Florence’s death sentence to hang was commuted to life imprisonment.
To say Florence’s case was sensational would be an understatement. It made headlines in Britain as well as North America. Many men used arsenic as an aphrodisiac, and it was clear that James had been a devoted user.
What finally helped sway the scales of justice in her favor was when a city chemist testified he had supplied James Maybrick with a steady flow of the arsenic over many years. A search of the home had previously revealed enough arsenic to kill fifty people or more.
After leaving prison, Florence returned to the U.S., writing a biography entitled My Fifteen Lost Years and toured about the country giving lectures protesting her innocence.
Lecture Tour Brochure
As the years passed, she became a recluse, a cat lady, and lived under an assumed name. No one knew who she truly was. She died alone and penniless on October 23, 1941.
Among her possessions was a tattered family bible. Pressed between its pages was a scrap of paper, which, in faded ink bore the recipe for the soaking of flypapers for use as a beauty treatment.
But Florence’s story is far from over. 51 years after her death, in 1992, James Maybrick’s diary surfaced. In it, Maybrick confessed to being Jack the Ripper. The problem was that in its written pages, James Maybrick never mentioned his name. His connection to the diary was made through is written references that corresponded with Maybrick's life and behaviors and occurrences. The author of the diary wrote about his crimes over a period of several months, taking credit for killing the five women credited to Jack the Ripper as well as two other murders which to this day have not been identified.
As well as the diary, a pocket watch surfaced in 1993. Engraved on the inside were the words “I am Jack” and the initial of 5 murdered women.
Although the watch and diary provide convincing evidence, neither Jack Maybrick, his diary, nor his pocket watch, can be clearly linked to Jack the Ripper and his personal items.
Diary Page signed by Jack the Ripper
For a wonderful fact based fictionalized story about Florence and James and their sordid relationship, I urge you to read The Ripper’s Wife by Brandy Purdy! She truly brings all the facts of this tale to vibrant life.
Please join Brandy Purdy and HF Virtual Book Tours for The Ripper's Wife Blog Tour from October 27-November 14.
Publication Date: October 27, 2014 | Kensington Books | Formats: eBook, Paperback
Genre: Historical Fiction
Back Cover Blurb
"Love makes sane men mad and can turn a gentle man into a fiend."
It begins as a fairytale romance--a shipboard meeting in 1880 between vivacious Southern belle Florence Chandler and handsome English cotton broker James Maybrick. Courtship and a lavish wedding soon follow, and the couple settles into an affluent Liverpool suburb.
The Ripper’s Wife, a most definite page turner, is a richly written, dark, novel about the life of Florence Maybrick, the wife of a man suspected of being Jack the Ripper. The story closely follows the actual circumstances of their lives and the sensational trial that followed. The pages are decorated with brilliant and detailed descriptions of fashion, architecture, and home décor of the Victorian era. Told in the first person narrative of Florence Maybrick, author Brandy Purdy delves deep into the mind and thoughts of this young wife whose marriage slowly falls apart because of addictions, affairs, rage, cannibalism, and violence.
Praise for the Novels of Brandy Purdy
"Recommended for readers who can't get enough of the Tudors and have devoured all of Philippa Gregory's books." —Library Journal on The Boleyn Wife
"Purdy wonderfully reimagines the behind-the-scenes lives of the two sisters." —Historical Novel Reviews on The Tudor Throne
"I love Brandy Purdy's books, she does thorough research into the lives of the people in the Tudor era and it shows in her writing style. Very descriptive, engaging characters makes The Queen's Rivals a page turning novel. If you are a fan of the Tudor era like I am, then this book is a must." -CelticLady's Reviews on The Queen's Rivals
"The writing is inviting, intense and flawless, rich with the flavor of English country life as well as court life. The political machinations, the tragedy to befall the Dudley family and the mystery surrounding Amy's death were weaved to captivating detail and the end result is a mesmerizing work of historical fiction that puts Brandy Purdy on my "must read" list." -Psychotic State Book Reviews on The Queen's Pleasures.
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About the Author
Brandy Purdy is the author of several historical novels. When she's not writing, she's either reading or watching classic movies. She currently lives in Beaumont, TX. Visit her website at http://www.brandypurdy.com for more information about her books. You can also follow her via her blog at http://brandypurdy.blogspot.com/ where she posts updates about her work and reviews of what she has been reading.
The Ripper's Wife Blog Tour Schedule
Monday, October 27
Review at A Bookish Affair
Tuesday, October 28
Review & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Obsession
Interview & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair
Wednesday, October 29
Review at Kinx's Book Nook
Review at The Maiden's Court
Thursday, October 30
Review at Book of Secrets
Friday, October 31
Review at WTF Are You Reading?
Feature at Passages to the Past
Monday, November 3
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Interview & Giveaway at Mina's Bookshelf
Tuesday, November 4
Interview at A Chick Who Reads
Wednesday, November 5
Review at JulzReads
Thursday, November 6
Review at History & Women
Friday, November 7
Review at A Book Geek
Monday, November 10
Review at CelticLady's Reviews
Tuesday, November 11
Review & Giveaway at Historical Tapestry
Wednesday, November 12
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee
Thursday, November 13
Review at A Bibliotaph's Reviews
Friday, November 14
Review at Girl Lost in a Book