Monday, July 28, 2008

Murder Most English - Florence Bravo and the Balham Mystery

It was a mystery that has baffled people for over a century, even Agatha Christie couldn't solve it. Who murdered Charles Bravo that dark April night in 1876? Leading doctors, including Queen Victoria's physician, Sir William Gull, were called in to try and save his life but to no avail. The only thing they could agree on was that he had been poisoned by antimony. Bravo suffered for three days in excruciating agony but gave no indication of who he thought might have wanted to cause him harm.

At the time of the inquest, the news reports eclipsed even government and international news. And at the center was Bravo's wife, Florence Campbell Bravo. What was it about this case that made it so interesting to mystery writers over the past hundred years or so? And what made it so scandalous that people are still interested to this day?

Florence Campbell was born in 1845, the second of seven children. Her father Robert Campbell had made his fortune in Australia where the family lived for several years before moving to England, where they bought Buscot Park in Berkshire, while also maintaining a house in Lowndes Square in Knightsbridge, London. Her childhood was idyllic by anyone's standards, surrounded by servants, with holidays abroad. She was her father's favorite child, and he had spoiled her. Florence grew up to be a beautiful woman, with auburn curls, grey eyes, and a lush figure, determined to have her own way in all things. As a child, she would sulk for days if she was thwarted. While she was beautiful and vivacious, there was also an air of fragility in her, that called out to a man's instinct to protect. She loved animals, her mother noted that she was inconsolable on her 18th birthday, because a family pet had died.

At the age of 19, while on a trip to Canada, she met Alexander Ricardo, where he was stationed in the Grenadier Guards. He was tall, dark and handsome in his grey-green uniform, Byronic she called him. Florence saw him across the proverbial crowded room at a party. Years later Florence could recall in minute detail the exact moment she saw him. She managed to effect an introduction, they danced 3 times that night, and then slipped out to the balcony to talk. It was love at first sight, and Florence couldn't wait to tell her father about the man she had met. Her father was impressed by Ricardo's lineage. Alexander's father, John Ricardo was a Liberal MP who had also founded the International Telegraph Company, and Ricardo's mother was sister to the Duke of Fife. When the time came for the Campbell's to leave Canada, Ricardo arranged a three month leave to England to court Florence. Within six weeks of his arrival, they were engaged. By the end of the 3 months they were married. Her father settled a thousand pounds a year on her, not an inconsiderable sum.

The old saying 'marry in haste, repent in leisure' certainly was true in Florence's case with her first marriage. Florence had no intention of being an army wife, it was only a few years after the devastating war in the Crimea and she worried that he would be sent to India or Africa where he might be killed. She pressured him to quit, which left him dangling at loose ends. The army was all her knew, he had no desire to go into business. He missed the discipline and structure of the army, not to mention the camraderie of his fellow officers. He tried to go into business with his father, and he also worked for awhile for Florence's father, but he would lose interest after a few months which gave him plenty of time to drink and carouse, and soon there were rumors of other women. Florence discovered that she was married to a full blown alcoholic who became verbally abusive after a few drinks, accusing her of trapping him, of ruining his life. At first Florence tried to ignore what was going on, but then she took to spending weeks alone at her father's cottage in Brighton or touring the coast with her friends to get away from him. After six years of marriage, Ricardo was rarely sober.

Matters finally came to ahead one night one Christmas when Florence chastized her husband for insulting her sister. Ricardo struck her three times in the face. Florence fled to her parents, pouring out her story. She begged them to let her stay. Her father was appalled at the idea of seperation, finding it morally repugnant. Florence had married Ricardo, and it was up to her to make the marriage work, no matter what. The next morning, he insisted that she return to her husband. Florence refused, if her parents would not allow her to stay with them, she would find someplace else, but returning to Ricardo was not an option. Her mother suggested a compromise, that Florence spend some time at the Hydro, a fashionable sanitorium run by James Gully, in Great Malvern. Once she felt better, then she could make a decision.

The Hydro at Great Malvern was run by Dr. James Gully, a friend of her family. Florence had known him since childhood when he had treated her for a throat infection. Gully was 63 at the time, well known for practising hydrotherapy or the "water cure." Along with his partner, James Wilson, he had founded the clinic at Malvern in Worcestershire, where many notable Victorians sayed, including Charles Darwin and Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

Gully, like many of the participants in this little drama, was born in Jamaica, the son of a wealthy coffee planter. He left Jamaica at an early age to attend school in England as most of the sons of the Empire did. While in school, his family lost their fortune when slavery was abolished in the British colonies. Although they were recompensed for the loss of their 'property,' Gully now faced the fact that he would have to work for a living. He later told Florence that it had been a good thing because it forced him to make something of himself. In 1825, he entered the University of Edinburgh to study medicine along with one Charles Darwin, gaining his MD in 1829. Dissastified with the medical treatment of the time, he made the acquaintance of Wilson who itnroduced him to the idea of hydrotherapy. Gully wrote several papers on the treatment, and became a member of the British Homeopathic Society in 1848. Soon he and the clinic became well known among the well to do, leading to the opening of two more clinics in Malvern to handle the increasing number of patients who were flocking to be treated. Of course, along with fame, comes criticism and Gully and Wilson came in for their fair share.

Gully surprised her by taking her side in the matter of her seperation from her husband. In fact he went one better and offered to help her by becoming her legal guardian. He instructed his lawyers to have the papers drawn up, including an annual alimony payment for Florence, and he offered to allow her to stay at the Hydro for free. Of course, when Ricardo heard the news, he flooded her with letters pleading his case. Like most abusers, he was now contrite. But they fell on deaf ears, Florence refused to either see him or to read the letters and telegrams he sent her.

When Gully told Florence she was well enough to leave, she protested that she had no where to go, but the truth was that she didn't want to leave Gully. She was totally infatuated with him. Gully arranged for her to rent a house in Malvern. They had spent increasing time together at the Hydro, and Gully had told her about his life, his marriage, his work. He invited her to join him on a trip to Kissingen, in Bavaria. It was there that they became lovers for the first time.

It almost seems inevitable that Florence and Gully should develop a relationship. Gully was a firm believer in causes like women's suffrage. He also advocated temperance which would have appealed to Florence having been saddled with an alcoholic husband. While most Victorian men believed that women were frail creatures that needed to be protected, Gully believed that the pyschological problems that many Victorian women suffered were due to the pressures they were under to remain on a pedestal as chaste virtuous women who never had sexual desire or a thought in their head that wasn't put their by their husbands or fathers.

Gully was married, to an older woman who he had been seperated from for over thirty years, she now lived in an asylum. He wasn't exactly the image of a lothario, he was bald, wore a monacle, and he was slightly rotund. Florence, at 26, fell under the spell of this kindly man who seemed to provide the care and attention that she never received from her husband. Unlike most Victorian men, Gully believed that women had sexual needs, and he took the care to make sure that Florence had pleasure in bed.

In April of 1871, Florence learned that she was now a widow. Alexander Ricardo had died in a hotel room in Cologne from drink. Since he had not changed his will, Florence inherited his entire estate, to the tune of forty thousand pounds. Not only was she free, but she was also a wealthy woman in her own right. No longe would she have to rely on her parents for support. Immediately Florence made plans to leave Malvern and move to London where the action was, and she convinced Gully to join her. Gully took some convincing but he didn't want to be away from Florence. This wasn't just a love affair, they were secretly engaged, waiting for the day when Gully's wife was no longer living, and they could be married. He bought a house less than five minutes walk from Florence's in Balham.

Florence bought a mansion called the Priory in Balham and soon after she hired a companion, a woman named Jane Cox. Jane Cox had been born in England but had spent several years in Jamaica after she married. After her husband's death, she had returned to England, with her three sons so they could attend school. She borrowed money from her husband's former employer, so that she could buy a small house in Notting Hill which she let out, while living in a small furnished room. She had worked as a nanny for a curate and a solicitor, where she interviewed with Florence for the post of companion. Florence was impressed by the older woman's qualities. Cox was the perfect companion, she loyal, hardworking and cheerful. She had perfected the fine art of being invisible, with a quiet voice that one had to strain to hear. Before long, Florence offered her the job of her companion, and Jane Cox moved into the Priory. The two women soon became close friends, and Florence began to rely on Jane increasingly. They called each other 'Florrie' and 'Janie', and Cox began to look on Florence as the daughter she never had.

Soon after Florence and Gully moved to Balham, their passion for each led to them to make a serious mistake. While staying with her solicitor and his wife in Surrey, Florence and Gully were caught in flagrante delicto on the couch by them, when they came back to the house early from a walk. The solicitor and his wife were horrified and appalled, not only that the two were having an adulterous affair, but that they had been so crass as to abuse their hospitality by openly fornicating on their sofa. Gossip about the affair spread like wildfire via the servant grapevine. Soon everyone, including Florence's parents knew about the relationship. And they were not happy about it. Not only had Gully transgressed the doctor/patient relationship, but the idea that there daughter would have an adulterous affair with a man old enough to be her grandfather was beyond the pale. This coming so soon after the disaster of her marriage to Ricardo was too much for the Campbell's and they cut off all contact with Florence. Her letters and telegrams were returned unopened. Even Florence's sister refused to see her.

Despite the ostracism of society, the relationship continued. However, the end came when Florence accidentally became pregnant while on holiday with Gully in Austria, the primative forms of birth control that they had used had failed. This was a disaster, an illegitimate child would have ruined Florence permanently, and damaged Gully's reputation further. There was no alternative but for Gully to perform an abortion on Florence which he reluctantly did. There were complications after the surgery and Florence almost died. From that moment, the relationship changed and became platonic, although Gully was still clearly in love with Florence.

Jane Cox nursed Florence through her illness after the abortion, keeping the truth from the servants but she could see how the social ostracism was beginning to effect her. Florence was a social creature, it wounded her terribly that the doors to society were now shut to her. It became Jane Cox's mission to find Florence another husband. Perhaps if she were respectably married, things might change.

It was through Jane Cox that Florence Ricardo met Charles Bravo. Cox's late husband had worked for Bravo's partner in Jamaica. Mrs. Cox had only met Charles on a few occasions but he seemed exactly what Florence needed. While shopping in London, the two women called upon the Bravo house, where Charles and Florence met for the first time. Several days later, Mrs. Cox stopped by again, this time to sell Florence to Charles's parents.

It was in Brighton while attending the sports day for Mrs. Cox's eldest son that Florence met Bravo again while strolling along the sea front a meeting engineered once again by Mrs. Cox. Charles told Florence he was there on business. He danced almost constant attendance on Florence which she found flattering. It was soon clear that Charles was interested in more than just making her acquaintance, he was serious about her.

On the surface, Charles seemed like the perfect man, he was witty, urbane, and cynical. A man who had a zest for life, who could talk knowledgeably about politics as well as literature. He was somewhat attractive, but looking at this picture, his eyes are mean, his expression somewhat sullen and cruel. The same age as Florence, he was born in 1845, the only son of Augustus and Mary Turner. When Charles was a small boy, his father died, and his mother later remarried Joseph Bravo, a wealthy merchant from Jamaica. Educated at King's College, London and at Oxford, Charles had trained to be a barrister. He was called to the bar in 1868, and set up a small practice with a friend Edward Hope, in the Temple. He was ambitious, with plans to eventually stand for Parliament. He was also a typical Victorian gentleman, with memberships in private clubs such as Boodles and Whites. Unfortunately, he only made two hundred pounds a year, not exactly a princely sum for a man of his ambitions. His biggest flaw, was that he had no sense of a common humanity. As far as he was concerned the world was divided into 'us' and 'them.'

Back home, they began to spend a great deal of time together, when they were apart, they kept up a steady correspondance. Soon Charles proposed marriage. The only sticking point was Dr. Gully. Although their relationship was now platonic, Florence still had warm feelings towards him. Before she could make a fresh start with Charles, she would have to break things off with Gully. Not only that, but Florence felt the need to confess to Bravo about the affair. Jane Cox tried to warn Florence not to do it, that she could be ruining her chance with Bravo. But Florence decided to risk it. After all there was a very good chance that Bravo might have heard the rumors about her relationship with Gully from someone else who might put an entirely different spin on the affair.

To her great surprise, Bravo took the news with ease. He confessed that he was not blameless, he had kept a mistress and there was a child. They agreed that they would break off both liaisons and never mention them again. Bravo asked Florence to marry him again and she agreed. Florence send Gully the Victorian equivalent of a 'Dear John' letter. When Gully heard the news, he advised Florence to take her time and not rush into anything, so that she could get to know Charles and his family properly. Once again, Florence ignored the well meaning advice. And Bravo was just as eager to get the show on the road so to speak. The wedding was set for December 14, 1875. Gully was upset, even more so when Florence asked him to move away from the area. He had sacrificied a great deal for his relationship with Florence, leaving the clinic at Malvern to be with her. His reputation had suffered as well when the news of their affair had gotten out. Gully refused to move, instead he cut off all communication with Florence.

The first sign of trouble occurred before the marriage. Bravo was enraged that Florence planned to keep her fortune in her name, which was now her right since the Married Woman's Property Act. It was revealed that Charles had debts of over 500 pounds, which was a huge sum at the time. 'I cannot contemplate a marraige which doesn't make me master in my own house.' Florence turned to Gully for advice. He suggested that she make ownership of the Priory to Bravo. Florence reluctantly agreed. But that was not the only disagreement. Florence suspected that their temperments didn't suit and wrote Bravo a letter to that effect. Why after suspecting that Bravo was after her money, did Florence decided to go through with the marriage? According to James Ruddick in his book, Death at the Priory, Charles had gotten Florence pregnant before the wedding. He was known to have spent nights at The Priory (Florence later told the inquest that his mother worried about him catching a chill in the late night air if he returned home), it would have been a simple matter for Bravo to demand his marital rights beforehand. After all, why shouldn't he taste what Gully already had? The dye was cast, things had gone to far, what assurances had she that any other man would have wanted to marry her once he found out about Gully? Marriage to Charles Bravo would give her back the veneer of respectability.

After a short honeymoon in Brighton, the newlyweds returned to the Priory. Slowly Florence found that society was beginning to open its doors to her again. She threw a party at Christmas for 30 guests including the Mayor of Streatham. For a brief moment they were happy. Charles would write to Florence when he was away at Sessions. 'Apart from the beginning of my first marriage, this was the happiest time of my life,' she later said. But cracks began to appear before the ink was even dry on the marriage license. Bravo received several anonymous letters accusing him of marrying Florence for her money. He suspected Dr. Gully of being the culprit. Far from refraining from ever mentioning his name, now it appeared that Bravo was obsessed with Gully.

Charles soon proved that he was the model of a Victorian husband in more ways than one. He expected total obedience from his wife in all things, after all he was the man, and she was just a woman. Wives in Victorian England for the most part were treated like domestic animals to be petted but kept in line with a firm hand. Most women knew this, accepted and found ways around it. While Florence was no suffragette, she was not the type of woman to pretend to be meek and submissive just because it was expected behavior. After the failure of her first marriage, she no longer believed in complete obedience to a man just because of his sex. Soon after the New Year, Bravo told Florence that things would have to change at the Priory. She was living too extravagantly, and he needed to curb her spendthrift ways. He insisted that she dismiss her personal maid, and use the housemaid. And that was just the beginning, he also wanted her to dismiss one of the gardeners, as well as get rid of her horses. Florence refused and Bravo exploded in rage. The struggle between them had just begun. He would threaten to leave her if he didn't get his way, storming out of the house. Florence would not submit, after all she held the purse strings. The only place that Bravo could force Florence to submit was in the bedchamber. Apparently it wasn't above him to force her into practices that she considered degrading including sodomy.

Soon Florence was pregnant. Although she fled to her parents for a few days, the reality was that now that she was with child, she had no choice but to go back to Bravo. In the meantime, Charles like Alexander before him, flooded her with pleading letters. The only difference being that Charles refused to admit that he was wrong. While Florence was at her parents, Bravo determined that Mrs. Cox had to go. It was not only the expense but the closeness between the two women. Instead of turning to her husband, Florence depended on Mrs. Cox for advice, and Mrs. Cox inevitably took Florence's side. Mrs. Cox was distraught, she had many debts, including a mortgage on her house, and she'd taken out a loan in 1868 to start a school which had failed. She desperately needed the job, and although Florence promised to protect her, Mrs. Cox worried that Charles increasing need to have control would force Florence to capitulate just to keep the peace.

Shortly after her return, Florence miscarried. Bravo showed his complete insensivity by striking her when Florence told him that she had planned on a trip to Worthing to recover. He also insisted that they try again only three weeks after she lost their child. He took no notice of how depressed and ill she was after the miscarriage. Florence was afraid, she doubted that she could carry a child to fruition, and if she did, that it might kill her. Besides the abortion, Florence had had other gynecological problems. While she could conceive easily enough, carrying a child seemed to be a problem. But there was nothing she could do. Two weeks after they resumed relations, she was pregnant again. This pregnancy didn't last long either, less than a month later, Florence miscarried while working in the garden. Soon after she discovered that she was pregnant, Bravo was struck down briefly by a mysterious illness one day on his way to work in London. He was hit by a wave of nausea, and was violently ill, but by the end of the day, he felt better.

By April of 1876, things were tense in the Bravo household. On that day of April 18th, Bravo went out riding. He returned to the house so badly shaken that he had to be helped into a chair, his horse spooked by something had run away with him. After a presumably long hot bath, Bravo joined Florence and Jane Cox for dinner. During dinner, he received a letter from his stepfather, Joseph Bravo, with a stockbroker's report which he had received by mistake. It appeared that Charles had suffered some losses in the market. Bravo was furious at his gambling. Florence said later that 'His face worked the whole of dinner and he had such a strange yellow look. I thought he would go mad at any moment.' Bravo's bad mood didn't abate, he accused Florence of having too much drink, after hearing her ask her maid to bring her a glass of Marsala wine to drink before bed. That night Bravo slept in his own room down the hall, as Florence insisted that Jane spent the night with her, pleading that she hadn't yet recovered from her last miscarriage.

Charles went to bed. A few minutes later, he opened his door and cried out for hot water. The maid Mary Anne heard his cry and came to see what was the matter. Bravo's face was hot and sweaty, he shrieked again for hot water, and then opened the window and threw up on the roof. Mary Anne immediately knocked on Florence's door and found Mrs. Cox sitting in a chair calmly knitting. As soon as she was told about Bravo's illness, Mrs. Cox called for coffee and mustard in the hopes of bringing up whatever was making him sick. Bravo threw up again, this time in a basin. Mrs. Cox gave the basin to a servant to wash out. She then sent for Florence's personal physician despite the fact that he was over in Streatham.

Now Florence was awakened by all the commotion. She sprang into action, sending a servant to go out and fetch the nearest doctor, that they couldn't wait for Dr. Harrison, her personal physician to arrive. By this time, Charles Bravo had lost consciousness. Both doctors, once they arrived, came to the same diagnosis, Bravo had been poisoneed but by what they had no idea and the patient wasn't in any shape to help them. Florence suggested that they call Bravo's cousin, Royes Bell, who was also a doctor. When Bell arrived early that morning, he brought along another doctor, Dr. George Johnson. Now awake, Bravo was questioned about what had made him ill. Bravo told them that he had taken laudanum for a tooth ache, and that he may have swallowed some. But his symptons didn't suggest an overdose. This was when Mrs. Cox pulled the doctors aside and told them that Bravo had revealed to her when she first went to him to help, that he had told her, 'I've taken some of that poison; don't tell Florence.' Mrs. Cox admitted that he hadn't told her exactly what poison it was.

The next afternoon, Bravo managed to make out a will, leaving everything to Florence. Doctors questioned him again, but he still stuck to his story, that he had taken laudanum and only laudanum. In the morning of the third day, Dr. Johnson took some fresh vomit with him for analysis. After examining the specimen, Dr. Johnson could find nothing. On Thursday, April 20th, Sir William Gull, Queen Victoria's personal physician showed up after being sent for by Florenec. He had treated her father once. In the meantime, Mrs. Cox had asked Dr. Gully for a homeopathic treatment. Finally, Dr. Henry Smith showed up completing the sextuplet of doctors. After examining him, Sir William Gull was blunt and to the point. Bravo was dying and needed to tell them what had transpired. If he did not speak out, someone might be accused of poisoning him. Once again, Bravo repeated his story about taking the laudanum. More vomit was collected as a specimen to be tested. Finally on Friday morning, April 21st at 5:30 a.m. Bravo died.

The police were ill-equipped to deal with a crime of this nature, in fact it took them 8 days after Bravo's death to question Florence and Mrs. Cox. The majority of the crimes they dealt with involved property theft. And this crime involved the upper classes, most of the police were not used to dealing with their 'betters' as it were. And the upper classes weren't used to being questioned by the police either. Florence's father had been a Justice of the Peace, as well as a High Sheriff. He dismissed the police inquiries by boasting that he could get a verdict of suicide in five minutes. As a preventative measure, he retained the services of Sir Henry James, a one of William Gladstone's closest friends, as a barrister as well as arranging for Queen Victoria's personal physician to give evidence on Florence's behalf. An autopsy showed that Charles had been poisoned by tarter emetic, made from antimony, a rather harsh poison. A dose of more than 4 grains was poisonous, Charles had more than 30 in his stomach. But how would someone slip him the tartar emetic? It could not be tolerated in food or wine. After further research, it was discovered that Charles had been in the habit of drinking water before bed. Tartar emetic could be dissolved into water, making it both soluble and tasteless.

An inquest was held at the Priory after Florence offered it as a venue, providing refreshments for the jury. The coroner took pains to keep unwanted exposure to a minimum, no press was notified and he didn't call Florence as a witness. He saw no reason not to uphold the initial diagnosis that Bravo had committed suicide. However his family protested, his stepfather Joseph Bravo went to the trouble of hiring a Scotland Yard inspector to investigate. It came out that George Griffiths, one of the grooms at the Priory, had been sacked soon after Florence and Charles were married. Not only was he sacked, but there were witnesses who overheard him state that Bravo would not live four months. He had also purchased a quanity of antimony to use on the horses. Florence put up a reward for 500 pounds to anyone who could give information, and on the 2nd of June, both she and Jane Cox gave voluntary statements to their solicitors. Florence detailed Charle's meanness, she also admitted to her relationship with Gully for the first time. Jane Cox, however, changed her statement. She now said that Bravo had told her that "I have taken poison for Gully, don't tell Florence," hinting that Bravo's motive for commmiting suicide was his jealousy of Gully.

The public hue and cry led to a second inquest was held at the Bedford Hotel in Balham. Suspicion soon fell on both Florence Bravo and Jane Cox. Poison has long had a reputation as a women's weapon. The case of Madeleine Smith came to mind, and Lucrezia Borgia (wrongly) had the reputation of using poison on her enemies, the reason being that poison doesn't require any brute strength, and its also convenient. Most households have some form of poison lying around in their kitchens. It's a quick matter of taking that rat poison or in the case Charles Bravo, antimony from the stables. The sickroom was another place to find poisons, particularly in the Victorian era with its plethora of medicines, many of which contained poisons. It would have been very easy to accidentally on purpose give someone an overdose.

Outside the hotel, crowds swelled in the hot summer air, trying to get a glimpse into the proceedings. One of the first witnesses called was the groom George Griffith. Griffith confessed that his famous proclamation that Bravo would be dead in four months came because he had heard that Bravo had been bitten by a dog. His new employer also vouched for his whereabouts. It soon came out that his real motive was collecting the 500 pound reward for evidence.

During the inquest, it was revealed that Dr. Gully and Mrs. Cox had been in contact with each other before Bravo's death. Mrs. Cox explained that they had met at the train station to London quite by accident. During the next several weeks they were seen together in public a total of five times. Mrs. Cox asked Dr. Gully to prescribe a medicine for Florence who was having trouble sleeping. Dr. Gully agreed and suggested that he leave it at her house in Notting Hill for her to pick up. When one of her tenants signed for it, he noticed that the bottle had a small poison label. However, Florence never received the medicine, in fact she hadn't known that Mrs. Cox and the Doctor had been in contact. When the time came to produce the bottle, Mrs. Cox declared that she had thrown it out because Florence hadn't required the medicine after all.

The inquest took 32 days. During that time Florence was questioned repeatedly about her relationship with Dr. Gully. It seemed as if George Lewis cared more about their relationship than Bravo's death. Three times during her testimony, she broke down. At one point, she demanded that the coroner protect her from the intrusive questions asked by Joseph Bravo's solicitor. "I refuse to answer any more questions about Dr. Gully. This inquiry is about the death of my husband, and I appeal to the jury, as men and as Britons, to protect me." Gully too found the questions a bit much but he was better able to control himself. "I don't see the relevance of these questions," he said. Despite the testimony of Florence and Jane Cox, and their own suspicions, the jury had no hard evidence. On Friday, August 11, a verdict was reached. 'We find that Mr. Charles Delauney Turner Bravo did not commit sucide; that he did not meet his death by misadventure; that he was willfully murdered by the administration of tartar emetic; but there is not sufficient evidence to fix the guilt upon any person or persons.'

Florence and Jane Cox were free to go but the second inquest was devastating to Florence. With the press in attendance, there was no way to keep the news of her affair with Gully out of the papers. The public ate up every salacious word. The Saturday Review described it as 'one of the most disgusting public exhibitions which has been witnessed in this generation.' The Evening Standard complained that 'She was a miserable woman who indulged in a disgraceful connection.' And the venerable Times wrote 'She was an adulteress and an inebriate, selfish and self-willed, a a bad daughter and worse wife.' Not only her reputation was besmirched but Gully's as well. All his hard work was nothing compared to the sensationalist news that he had been sleeping with a woman young enough to be his granddaughter. After the inquest was over, Florence's brother William, the only one of her siblings to keep in touch after her family cut off ties with her after the revelation about her affair with Gully, begged her to join the family in Australia to get away, make a fresh start but Florence declined. Her father became ill, devastated by the press, and the effort to protect his daughter. The family business went bankrupt and Buscot Park and all their property abroad had to be sold to pay off the debts. Florence moved to Southsea on the coast, where she drank herself to death, at the age of 33 in 1878. Gully didn't live much longer, he lived with his widowed sisters, estranged from his only daughter, finally dying of in 1883. To this day, his descendants refuse to talk about that period in Gully's life. Mrs. Cox went back to Jamaica to claim the inheritance left to her and her sons by her husband's aunt. She eventually moved back to England, dying in 1913.

Who really did kill Bravo? Was it Florence? And if she did, why? Florence Bravo was unique in Victorian England in that she had more control over her life than most women. She had run her own household, managed her own money. It was she who chose the men in her life, not the other way around. Ricardo was her choice not her father's, and it was she who who initiated the relationship with Gully and then ended it when it suited her purpose. And she also chose to marry Bravo, instead of perhaps going abroad for a few years, until the scandal of her relationship with Gully had perhaps subsided. But even though she had more choices, it didn't necessarily mean that she had the tools to make the right ones. One could almost say that Florence Bravo could be the Victorian poster girl for Smart Women, Foolish Choices. Like Isabel Archer in Henry Jame's masterpiece, Portrait of a Lady, an independent fortune did not keep Florence from making a huge mistake. So is it so far-fetched to come to the conclusion that Florence would choose poison to get rid of her husband?

After one terrible and abusive marriage, Florence was now trapped in another. "I told him that he had no right to treat me in such a way," Florence said in her Treasury statement. Divorce was not an option, it would have effectively ruined her already damaged reputation. Although it no longer required a special act of Parliament, Florence would have had to proven that Bravo committed adultery, not just mental cruelty and abuse. Yes, seperation was a possibility but Florence had already gone through one seperation and Bravo would never have let her go. Her only other option would have been to find someone to act as her legal guardian, which Gully had done for her to facilitate her seperation from Ricardo, but there was no one to step up to the plate this time. Her relationship with her parents had already been damaged by her relationship with Gully, and her father had let her know that he would not support her decision to leave Bravo.

Still was that a reason for murder? Maybe not, but Florence had suffered two devastating miscarriages in five months of marriage, and Bravo was determined to have an heir. Chances were she would not have been able to put off for much longer, even though getting pregnant again could have killed her. Florence had been drinking, it is probable that she had just planned on making Bravo sick, but instead she ended up giving him too much of the antinomy. I don't think that she was thinking clearly at the time, she just wanted it to end. If women suffer from post-partum psychosis, it's not unreasonable to believe, that suffering two miscarriages back to back practically, might not have left her dealing with some form of it.

And perhaps she thought she would get away with it. Charles had hurt his back earlier in the day, how easy it would have been to suggest that he had mixed together too much medicine, claim it was an accident. If he had died quickly, instead of lingering, no one might ever have known. As far as Florence was concerned, it was a matter of either her survival or Bravo's and she chose to her life over his. Florence had the motive, and she had the means. She knew about antimony, and had the access to it. Tartar emetic had been known to be used by women who were trying to curb their husband's drinking. It was entirely possible that Florence had tried this method with her first husband, Alexander Ricardo.

And what of Jane Cox, Florence's devoted companion? Despite the fact that Bravo dearly wanted to fire her, would have that been a motive? James Ruddick suggests in his book Death at the Priory, that Jane Cox already knew that she was due to inherit a fortune from a relative. Why would she have risked killing Bravo when financial independence was right around the corner?
Still it is clear that Jane Cox's actions the night that Bravo took ill suggest that she suspected that Florence might have poisoned him, or Florence had confessed to her what she had done. She threw out the rest of the water in the jug and rinsed it out, she had the vomit on the roof cleaned up, had Bravo's bloodstained nightshirt removed and burned, it was she who told the Doctors and the police that Bravo had said that he had tried to commit suicide.

There are other theories, in the television program, A Most Mysterious Murder, writer and actor Julian Fellowes put forth the theory that Charles took the antimony by accident, that the bottles of laudanum and antimony looked a great deal alike. Other writers suspected that Gully was the culprit? But what would have been his motive? He was resigned to the fact that his relationship with Florence was over, she hadn't confided in him about her relationship with Bravo, and if he had poisoned Bravo, he wouldn't have chosen antimony. As a medical doctor, he would have known far more effective ways to poison Bravo.

The story of Florence Bravo and the Balham Mystery is another illustration of the constraints that Victorian women labored under. For many women, marriage turned into little better than a prison sentence. Women were expected to endure no matter what, whether the marriage was abusive, constant pregnancies year after year. Even upper class women had little recourse, there were no battered women's shelters, most Victorian fathers would have insisted like Florence's, that she make the best of it. Florence Bravo, if she indeed murdered Bravo, unlike her Victorian sisters was not about to stand by and let another man continue to abuse her. Her sex was also what saved her from being charged with murder. The police, the coroner, the lawyers, and the jury, despite feeling that Florence was perhaps guilty, were reluctant to condemn an upper class woman to the gallows or to long-term imprisonment. But Florence paid a heavy price for her actions. The years of abuse and guilt lead to her turning to drink, the same that killed her first husband, and her death.

Sources include: Wikipedia

Death at the Priory: Love, Sex and Murder in Victorian England - James Ruddick
Victorian Murderesses - Mary S. Hartman
Victorian Sensation - Michael Diamond
Murder Casebook No. 107 : Traces of Poison

A Most Mysterious Murder: The Case of Charles Bravo

Thursday, July 17, 2008

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Camilla? - The Life of the Duchess of Cornwall

She's been called 'The Rottweiler.' Princess Diana famously declared on television that 'there were three of us in this marriage, so it was quite crowded." Prince Charles once declared in a private phone conversation that was heard around the world that her greatest mission in life as been 'to love him' She's been reviled as a homewrecker, pelted with bread rolls, the woman who ruined the fairytale marriage of the century. Was it fate that brought her and Prince Charles together? Who is Camilla Parker Bowles, HRH The Duchess of Cornwall? What is it about this earthy, chain-smoking dame that has enthralled the Prince of Wales for almost forty years?

She was born Camilla Rosemary Shand sixty one years ago today on July 17, 1947, making her a Cancer like her rival Princess Diana. As everyone now knows, her great grandmother was Alice, Mrs. George Keppel, mistress of Edward VII. Contrary to the myth, Camilla did not announce to Prince Charles when they first met that her great-grandmother and his great grandfather got it on, so how about it? Her mother Rosemary was the eldest daughter of Alice's daughter Sonia and Roland Cubitt, 3rd Baron Ashcombe. Her father Major Bruce Shand was the son of Philip Morton Shand, an architectural writer and critic who was a close friend of architects Walter Gropius and Le Corbusier. Shand graduated from Sandhurts and was commissioned in the 12th Lancers. He served heroically during World War II, where he was captured and taken to Greece as a prisoner of War, later being transferred to Spangenberg. One could almost say that it was inevitable that Camilla and Charles should meet and fall in love. Not only is Camilla descended from Charles II's mistress, Louise de Keroualle, Duchess of Portsmouth, but also Arnold Joost van Keppel, particular favorite of William III.

Camilla spent her early youth in Plumpton in East Sussex, across from the racecourse, before the family moved to Dorset. Her father Bruce worked in London for several wine merchants before later becoming Deputy Lieutenant of Sussex. She is extremely close to her younger brother and sister, Annabel Elliott and Mark Shand as well as to her late parents. Camilla attended Queen's Gate school, a tony girls boarding school in South Kensington, whose alumnae included Lynn Redgrave. Queen's Gate was an old fashioned school that prepared the girls for marriage and motherhood as opposed to higher education. Most of the graduates went on to finishing schools or secretarial college until they made a good marriage. 'Milla' as she was known then was even at a young age, a boy magnet. While not as pretty as some of the other girls, she exuded an earthy sexuality that attracted the boys like bees to honey. According to her fellow classmates, she was always a 'man's woman' able to converse with them on the subjects that mattered like sports, fishing, hunting. She exuded confidence, loved to flirt and liked men a great deal.

According to her friends, Camilla reveled in her illustrous ancestor's royal connection (apparently Prince Charles is equally fascinated. He has been on a mission to buy Camilla pieces of jewelry once owned by Alice Keppel, perhaps given to her by Edward VII). She never shied away from talking about Alice Keppel (what she thought about her Scandalous great Aunt Violet Trefusis is unknown). "My great grandmother was lover of the king," she allegedly boasted. "We're practically royalty." (Andersen, page 67). Like Camilla, Alice Keppel was not a great beauty. While she had chestnut hair, blue eyes, and a lush figure, it was her husband George Keppel who was considered the beauty in the family. Sir Harold Acton remarked that one could easily see Keppel waltzing to the Merry Widow waltz. Apparently he inherited the beaux yeux of his ancestor Arnold Joost van Keppel (the current Earl of Albemarle has them as well.) What she did have, and what Camilla seems to have in spades, is an even-tempered personality, the 'gift for happiness' that her daughter Violet wrote about.

Camilla left school after achieving only one 'O' level. After a year at finishing school, Camilla made her London debut as a debutante. She also inherited $1.5MM from a relative. Still, even though, she didn't need the money, Camilla joined the workforce, taking a job at the tony decorating firm of Colefax & Fowler. Moving into a flat, she shared it with friends who went on to marry well, one flatmate even married Camilla's uncle, Lord Ashcombe! Camilla was noted by her friends for being a total slob, she would come home from work and drop her clothes on the floor, leaving a trail to her bedroom. Even later in life when she had servants, her house still looked like more like nouveau pauvre than nouveau riche.

She joined the social swirl of the swinging sixties, spending time at private clubs such as Annabels, owned by Mark Birley, the former husband of Lady Annabel Goldsmith. More than her city life, Camilla loved the country, and all manner of country pursuits including hunting.
She made her debut with a party for 150 guests in 1965. Soon after she met Kevin Burke, the man to whom she lost her virginity. This is significant because it immediately took her out of the running as a potential Princess of Wales. Despite the fact that it was the 'swinging sixties', a future Princess of Wales was still expected to be pristine before her marriage.

In 1966, she met Andrew Park Bowles, her future husband. Like her, Andrew came from a well connected and aristocratic family from Berkshire. His father, Derek, was a great-grandson of the 6th Earl of Macclesfield, and his mother, Anna was the daughter of millionaire Sir Humphrey de Trafford. Twenty-seven at the time they met, he was educated at Sandhurst and was a lieutenant in the Blues and Royals regiment of the Royal Horse Guard. Camilla was instantly smitten with Parker-Bowles camera ready good-looks. On his side, despite the many beautiful woman he squired, there was something about the earthy, bawdy Camilla that intrigued him. For seven years they had an on-again, off-again relationship. From the beginning, Andrew Parker-Bowles was not faithful. "Andrew behaved abominably to Camilla," a friend Lady Caroline Percy said, "But she was desperate to marry him." He had many girlfriends, including at one point, Princess Anne who he squired for a time in 1970. There were even rumors that Princess Anne wanted to marry Parker Bowles. It was this relationship that inadvertantly led to the defining relationship of her life, the Prince of Wales.

The Prince and his future Dutchess met appropriately enough on the polo fields near Windsor Castle in August of 1971. Camilla complimented him on his mount and his prowess on the playing field. They chatted briefly that day but people noticed how at ease they were in each other's company. A few weeks later, one of the Prince's former flames Lucia Santa Cruz, told Prince Charles that she had met the perfect girl for him and introduced him formally to Camilla. For the rest of the evening they were glued to each other's side, echoes of the first meeting of an earlier Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) and Alice Keppel.

Although the Prince had met and dated many beautiful women by this time, he was intrigued by Camilla's down to earth manner, and ease. She didn't seem awed by his presence which was a breath of fresh air for him. Camilla even wondered if perhaps she might be the reincarnation of her great-grandmother. "Strange, but I never felt intimidated in his presence, never," she explained to a friend, "I felt from the beginning that we were two peas in a pod. We talked as if we had always known each other." (Andersen, page 70).

Prince Charles had had a lonely childhood. As a small child, his mother once went off on a six month tour of the current and former British colonies, leaving him alone with nannies. He was required to curtsey to his mother. Sensitive and shy, at school he was bullied by the other children. Sent to Gordonstaun, Prince Philip's alma mater, to toughen him up, he instead felt like it was a prison sentence. When he arrived at Cambridge, he had very few close friends. The one person that he could talk to or count on was his great-uncle, Lord Louis Mountbatten, Earl of Burma, First Sea Lord and the last Viceroy of India. He would spend weekends at his great-uncle's estate Broadlands, where his uncle would introduce him to suitable women, including his own granddaughter Amanda Knatchbull. His great-uncle was the father that Prince Charles would have liked to have. He even gave his seal of approval to the relationship by allowing Charles to use Broadlands for weekends with Camilla. Meanwhile Camilla was the motherly figure that the Queen could never be. That wasn't all that she gave him. Apparently lessons in love-making were also on the cards. According to Tina Brown's biography of Princess Diana, Charles was not a good lover at this time. Camilla helped him to become more relaxed about sex.

The relationship was put on hold when Prince Charles shipped out in early 1973 as part of his duties in the Royal Navy. He had also apparently decided that he wouldn't be getting married before he turned 30, which was not part of Camilla's plans. While he told her that he loved her before he shipped out, he made no commitments. Although they wrote to each other, the Prince pouring his heart out to her, Camilla became engaged to Andrew Parker-Bowles and married him on July 4th 1973 in front of 800 guests. At this point in time, while Camilla was fond of the Prince, it was Andrew that she loved.

Prince Charles was devastated by the news. There were even rumors that he was so distraught over the marriage that he didn't attend, when the reality he was that he'd had a prior engagement in his calendar for months. Over the next several years, he dated a slew of eligible females, both suitable and unsuitable, he also started a relationship with a woman named Jane Jenkins who lived in Canada. But none of them were prepared to be the Princess of Wales, not even Diana's elder sister Sarah, who the Prince dated briefly. He even proposed to his cousin Amanda Knatchbull, who turned him down. And there was Dale, Lady Tryon, a jolly bouncy Australian nicknamed Kanga, who also had a rather motherly relationship with Charles as well as being his lover. Still, he couldn't forget Camilla. It was the death of his great-uncle that brought Camilla back into the Prince's life. He was absolutely shattered. Despite the fact that she was married now, with two children Tom and Laura, Camilla soon took up her old role as the Prince's confidante.

Soon they were seen together all over the place. It was the beginning of their 'second' affair. At the Queen Mother's 80th birthday party, they danced together all night, leading Charle's girlfriend at the time, Anna 'Whiplash' Wallace to cause a scene. "Don't you ever, ever ignore me like that again! No one treats me like that, not even you." At one ball, they were seen making out on the dance floor, leading Andrew Parker-Bowles to comment that "HRH is very fond of my wife, and she appears fond of him." Parker-Bowles had his own extra-marital dalliances so it wasn't as if he could throw stones.

In a strange twist of fate, it was also the death of his great-uncle that led to his relationship with Diana. When they met again, she was terribly sympathetic to the pain he had gone through. She seemed like the perfect girl. Sweet, and more importantly totally innocent. While she had a few boyfriends, she had been "keeping herself neat and tidy for what lay ahead."

Ironically it was Camilla who encouraged Prince Charle's relationship with Lady Diana Spencer, mistakenly thinking that she would be a malleable presence in the Prince's life. It was a mistake that she would learn to regret. Still, in the initial days of the Prince's relationship with Diana, Camilla tried to befriend her. Her former brother-in-law, Richard Parker Bowles told Tina Brown that "she initially encouraged the relationship between Charles and Diana because she thought Diana was gormless. She never saw Diana as a threat, she thought that Diana was someone she could manipulate." At the time, she was more threatened by Charle's relationship with Kanga Tryon than she was by Diana.

Diana, however, was not that stupid and quickly sussed out that Camilla had ulterior motives, although it took awhile before she realized the real role that Camilla played in Prince Charles's life. After her wedding, Diana found a pair of cufflinks that Camilla had given Prince Charles with the initials C. Allegedly Prince Charles valet, Stephan Barry who was jealous of Diana, put the cufflinks out so that Diana could see them. But even before the wedding, Diana was suspicious. There was the story in the paper about Prince Charles and a blonde woman on the Royal Train before the engagement. Diana always said that it wasn't her on the train. Was it perhaps Camilla? Than there was the gift of a bracelet that Charles gave Camilla with the card from Fred to Gladys (their pet names for each other). He told Diana that it was just a gift from one friend to another, but Diana didn't believe him. She also found photographs of the two of them together in a book. Diana was so jealous that although she could do nothing about Camilla being invited to the wedding, she made sure that she was not invited to the reception afterwards.

It is unclear exactly when Prince Charles and Camilla renewed their sexual relationship. In his famous interview with Jonathan Dimbley, Prince Charles stated that their relationship was platonic until his marriage had 'irretrievably broken down' which some authors point as to around 1987. Other states that Prince Charles and Camilla renewed their relationship even soon, perhaps as early as 1983 or 1984. Whenever it was, it soon became clear that the Prince and Princess of Wales were fundamentally incompatible. Despite their age difference, they had little in common. Prince Charles preferred country pursuits, Diana the city, Charles liked opera, blood sports and his establishment friends, Diana loved pop stars and glamour. The only things they did have in common were feeling damaged from their childhoods, raging insecurities, and an interest in alternative medicine and therapy. The more popular Diana became, the worse their marriage. Prince Charles wasn't used to be overshadowed, and Diana did nothing really to reassure him, just he did not to reassure her that she was doing a good job. The emotional hole they both suffered from couldn't be filled by the other.

The pair were soon trysting secretly at the homes of their friends. Prince Charles effectively moved to his country house at Highgrove, while Diana remained at Kensington Palace in London. For awhile it seemed everyone was living some kind of French farce. The Parker-Bowles had moved from Bolehyde Manor to Middlewick which was conveniently located 15 minutes from Highgrove. Camilla would serve as hostess for Charles at Highgrove, but all traces of her would have to be removed before Diana arrived at the weekend. Even when Diana did deign to spend time at Highgrove, Prince Charles would sneak out and tryst with his lover in the bushes, leaving his valet having to come up with creative ways to remove grass stains.

At the 40th birthday party for Camilla's sister Annabel Elliott, Diana confronted her rival, telling her that she knew what was going on. Ugly rows ensued between the Prince and Princess of Wales. The Prince once told the Princess angrily that he would not be the only Prince of Wales to not have a mistress! Unlike Princess Alexandra, Diana was not about to sit by and allow another woman to steal her husband. She tried vainly to rekindle whatever spark had been between her and the Prince in the beginning. Soon she gave up and turned to her own extramarital affairs including James Hewitt and possibly Barry Manakee, her protection officer. While the Prince was dallying with Camilla, Andrew Parker-Bowles had his own extramarital dalliances (shades of George Keppel). The first hint that the public learned of their relationship was when Charles and Camilla took a painting holiday together in Italy without their spouses. Then there were the revelations in Andrew Morton's book: Diana, Her True Story (written with the full cooperation of the Princess).

Things would probably have gone on as they had been for years if it hadn't been for the release of the Camillagate tapes. The breathless declarations of Prince Charles wishing that he could be Camilla's tampon, plus the lover's sex talk of needing each other several times a day, which were recorded on prehistoric mobile phones in 1989 and published first in Australia in the early party of 1993, both titillated and repulsed the nation. Suspicion on who taped the Prince and his mistress fell at first on the Security Services, but it was probably a amateur ham radio operator who recorded the calls. Once Andrew Parker-Bowles became known as the most famous cuckold in history, it was only a matter of time before the two divorced after 22 years of marriage.

Meanwhile, the Queen had had enough, after Diana gave her famous interview to Martin Bashir, she urged the couple to divorce, paving the way for Prince Charles and Camilla to finally go public with their relationship. In 1996, Prince Charles hired Mark Bolland to rehabilitate Camilla's image, a slow process that started with Camilla visiting the US on behalf of the National Osteoprosis Foundation. In July of 1997, Prince Charles even felt comfortable throwing a 50th birthday party for his love at Highgrove. Then in August of 1997, Princess Diana was killed in a car crash with her new lover Dod al-Fayed. Overnight, the tide turned against Prince Charles and particularly against Camilla. She was literally trapped in her home. If she dared to venture out to do some shopping, she was pelted with bread rolls or cursed at. The harrassment got so bad, that Prince Charles had a protection officer assigned to her. Any hope that they had of the nation finally accepting their relationship seemed to have ended.

And there were other obstacles as well. The Queen asked Prince Charles to publicly make a statement that he was giving up his relationship with Camilla. Charles refused, as far as he was concerned, Camilla was non-negotiable. In the spring of 1998, he even took the first step of finally introducing Camilla to Prince William. Camilla, of course, was understandably nervous. However, the meeting seemed to go well, although she did ask for a large Vodka tonic afterwards. The next step, at least as far as Camilla was concerned was to get rid of Tiggy Legg-Bourke, the nanny to the young princes. It was the one thing that Camilla and Diana had in common, their suspicion that the young woman was more than just a nanny to the boys. In Diana's case, it was her jealously of her boys having a surrogate mother. For Camilla, it was the idea that she might be replaced with a younger, prettier, more acceptable model.

Another obstacle, besides public opinion, was the Queen Mother. Her grandson's relationship with Camilla was a little too reminiscent of the Duke of Windsor's with Wallis Warfield Simpson. The former Edward VIII put love before duty to the nation, leaving his younger brother ill-prepared for his role as King. The strain of the job, and the second World War sent the king to an early grave, or so it seemed to his widow. Bertie and Elizabeth had given up their dream of a normal life to take on the role of King and Queen, despite their personal feelings. The Queen Mum was appalled that her grandson, not to mention the late Princess had put their own feelings before their duty to the crown. She refused to meet Camilla or even to have her name mentioned in her prescence. As long as she was alive, Prince Charles would never have taken the chance at losing his grandmother's respect by marrying Camilla. The Queen followed suit.

It was not until the Queen Mum's death at the age of 101 in 2002, that relations between the House of Windsor and Camilla began to thaw. Camilla slowly began to appear in public again. At first, the photo ops were carefully staged, Camilla and Charles sharing a kiss on the cheek, Camilla and Charles taking a trip to Italy together, Camilla being invited to the 50th Anniversary celebration of the Queen's coronation, attending a pop concert at Wembley stadium with the family (albeit seated 2 rows behind). She even managed to get along with William and Harry, becoming their friend, and not trying to step in as a mother substitute.

Finally after years of speculation, the Palace announced in February of 2005 that the Prince and Camilla Parker Bowles would be married in April of 2005. What finally provoked the Prince to pop the question. The wedding of Edward van Cutsem to Lady Tamara Grosvenor. While both Prince Charles and Camilla were invited, they were not going to be seated together. The Prince was tired of not having Camilla treated as his companion, the woman in his life. He declined to attend the wedding. The time had come to make Camilla his wife. There was a sense of relief in the establishment that the thing was finally going to be done. It cleared up Camilla's rather ambiguous role in the Prince's life, (they were already living together at Clarence House and at Highgrove although Camilla also maintained for awhile her own country house) and there was also the matter that the Prince was supporting her to the tune of $250,000 year for clothes, grooming, botox protection officers, some of which came from tax-payer money. Camilla had her teeth whitened to the tune of $10,000 (it costs a lot to get rid of those tobacco stains!), botox to smooth her wrinkles and fine lines, chemical peels, her hair professionally dyed (Camilla, like Diana, was more of a mousy blonde), designer clothes replaced her mumsy outfits, all befitting her new role as consort to the Prince. She even took over the redecorating of Clarence House after the Queen Mum's death, although Charles paid for the changes to her suite out of his own pocket, costing him around $2MM.

The announcement that Camilla would be known not as the Princess of Wales, which automatically became her title on her marriage to Prince Charles but as HRH The Duchess of Cornwall did a great to deal to make the idea of the marriage palatable to the general public. Still there were many people who were not happy about the marriage, including several prominent clergymen. But the general public at large seemed finally to accept that this was the woman the Prince loved and wanted to share the rest of his life with. The approval of the two Princes also went along way to smoothing things over. Once again, the Prince declined to have his future wife sign a pre-nuptial agreement, preferring to go on faith that the marriage will last. He also set up a $20MM trust fund for Camilla, which gives her an income of $600,000 a year. In the event of her death, the money returns to the Prince's family.

The wedding took place on Saturday April 9, 2005 (postponed by a day so that the Prince could attend Pope John Paul II's funeral) at the registry office in Windsor, followed by a blessing at St. George's Chapel Windsor. The press speculation leading up the wedding made it appear as if the whole thing were falling apart, the Daily Mail being the most awful in their press coverage. Instead the wedding went off without a hitch, although for a moment it looked as if Camilla's headdress would blow off her head. During the blessing the Prince and his new bride were obliged to read an act of contrition as it were for their previous behavior. While the Queen didn't attend the civil ceremony, she was at the blessing and gave a gracious toast to the newlyweds at the reception.

Although it can be hard to get past the fact that their relationship caused a great deal of pain to a lot of people, least of all themselves, one can't help admiring the fact that after almost forty years, they still love one another and they make each other happy. While she may not have the movie star good looks or the common touch that Diana possessed, Camilla has proven to be a hard working member of the Royal family undertaking hundreds of engagements a year. Everyone who comes into contact with her remarks upon her warmth, her wit, and her compassion. She also doesn't overshadow the Prince. Like Prince Philip, she knows her place is to support Prince Charles. It is easy to speculate on what might have been if Charles and Camilla had married when they first fell in love, but they didn't. There would be no William or Harry, no Tom and Laura Parker Bowles.

Comparisons have been made between Camilla and the Duchess of Windsor. While Wallis Simpson was denied the honor of HRH, Camilla was given the title by the Queen. The differences come down to the fact that while Wallis was a twice divorced American who seemed grasping, and ambitious, Camilla came from the British aristocracy, one of "them" so to speak and she never sought to be the wife of the Prince of Wales. She was content to love the Prince behind the scenes as it were, while it was Prince Charles who was more adamant that Camilla be accepted.

Will Camilla ever be Queen? More to the point will Charles ever become King? He turns 60 this year, and the Queen at 82 shows no signs of slowing down or turning over the reigns to her son. It is entirely possible that if the monarchy survives that either Charles will become King when he is elderly and who will care at that point if Camilla is Queen. Any rate, as his wife, she automatically becomes Queen.

Sources include:
Charles and Camilla: Portrait of a Love Affair - Gyles Brandreth
After Diana: William, Harry, Charles and the Royal House of Windsor - Christopher Andersen
The Diana Chronicles - Tina Brown
Diana: Her True Story - Andrew Morton
The Firm - Penny Junor
The Windsor Knot - Christopher Wilson
Royal Affairs - Leslie Carroll
Sex with Kings: Eleanor Herman

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Excellent Blogs

I just found out that Scandalous Women was just given an "Excellent Blog Award" by World of Royalty and Reading the Past (7/14). Wow! Thank you so much.

The blog meme was started by the Mommy Project.

Now it is my turn to pass the award on to some blogs I find excellent. It’s hard to choose because there are so many good blogs out there, but here are 10 that I think deserve an Excellent Blog Award:

Monday, July 7, 2008

Red Spy Queen - the story of Elizabeth Bentley

In 1945, a 37 year old matronly woman walked into the FBI offices in Connecticut with a fantastical story of being a handler for a spy ring for the Soviets during World War II. Her name was Elizabeth Bentley. When her story checked out, the FBI was faced with the hard truth that this woman had run not one but two spy rings that had sent damaging information about US war time activities to the Soviets. It forced the US Government to take a hard look at their security procedures and the rise of the Communist party in America.

What made this woman whose family put the W in WASP turn against her country to the point of spying for the Soviets? Was she naive, under the influence of a powerful man, or was she a genuine 'traveler'?

Elizabeth Turrill (also spelled Terrill) Bentley was born on January 1, 1908 in New Milford, CT. Her maternal ancestors had lived in New Milford since the 1632. Her father Charles Prentiss Bentley managed several dry-goods establishments, and her mother May Turrill had been a schoolteacher. Elizabeth's parents were in their late thirties when she was born, and she was their only child. Her parents were die-hard New Englanders with roots all the way back to the Revolutionary War. As a child, Elizabeth's parents frequently moved as Charles Bentley changed jobs, moving from one department store to another, trying to succeed. "It seemed that everything he tried failed," Elizabeth said later in life. The moves disoriented Elizabeth, who grew up a lonely and withdrawn child with very few friends. While some children become more outgoing, taking on new roles as they move, Elizabeth withdrew into a fantasy world, spending her time reading. Her parents finally settled in Rochester, NY where Elizabeth graduated from high school. Her parents were both socially active, her father ran a temperance newspaper, and her mother generously gave food to the hungry.

Elizabeth attended Vassar College on scholarship where she didn't make a mark, not even smudge, during her four years at college. In fact, one of her fellow classmates described her as a 'sad sack.' However she was exposed for the first time to radical thinkers including Hallie Flanagan who later became head of the Federal Theater project. By the time she was 25, both of her parents had passed away, leaving Elizabeth with no family. After college, Elizabeth taught at Foxcrofts, a tony private school in Virginia before applying to Columbia University for graduate school. While studying in Florence, Elizabeth first made the acquaintance with fascism. She also came into her own as an individual, smoking, drinking, and generally indulging in promiscuity. While she deplored what she saw of Mussolini and facism, she joined the facist party to take advantage of the perks that were allowed to students. On her return to Columbia, however, she wrote several papers denouncing the facist government in Italy, joining the American Anti-Facist League.

She also returned to a country that was in the grips of the great depression. Elizabeth found it hard to make ends meet while studying at Columbia. She also claimed to have lost a potential grant because of her involvement with facism while studying abroad. It was not only the poor that were hurting during the depression, the middle class was hurting as well. Teachers were finding it hard to find jobs. Elizabeth's experiences counted for nothing in the workplace. Instead, she was forced to take secretarial courses in order to find any work at all. While living in Morningside Heights, she made the acquaintance of a woman named Lee Fuhr living in her building who introduced her to the communist party. Elizabeth had found a new home. She responded wholeheartedly to the comraderie of the members, although it took a while for her to actually join the party, which she finally did but under a pseudonymn. Soon Elizabeth was attending meetings two or three times a week, volunteering to write for the newspaper, working as the party secretary for her unit. Her life now revolved around her communist activities, as did her love life. The communist party became the family that she had lost.

Elizabeth soon met a woman named Juliet Glazer who claimed that she was doing research on Italian facism and hired Bentley to work as a translator. Bentley jumped at the chance not only to earn some money but also to put her Italian language skills. The work never materialized and Glazer shocked Bentley by trying to recruit her to go to Europe to sleep with men to get information. When Bentley refused, Glazer called her a Trostkyite (the worst insult she could call her) and threatened to kill her.

Juliet Glazer turned out to be Juliet Stuart Poyntz, an American born, Moscow trained member of the Soviet secret police. Bentley had been targeted as a potential recruit for espionage work. Through Columbia, Bentley found a job at the Italian Information Library. Bentley was appalled to find that the Library was a front for fascist propoganda. It was while working at the library that Elizabeth first dipped her toe into espionage. She went to the head of her cell and proposed that she spy on the library for the party. For a year Bentley used her position at the library to collect and pass on information on pro-Fascist activity being fronted by the library. Elizabeth was eventually fired when the Library discovered anti-facist papers she had written while a student at Columbia.

In 1938 Bentley began working with Jacob Golos, an émigré from Lithuania who was an American citizen. Also a member of the Communist Party, Golos worked for World Tourists, a company that was a front for Soviet industrial espionage. He was also the handler of Harry Gold, one of the Venona spies. At first, Bentley didn't know who Golos was, she only knew him by his alias, Tim, but before long she learned that his name was Jacob Golos. Through him she met Earl Browder who was the head of the American Communist party.

After she lost her job at the library, Bentley began doing low-level espionage work for Golos, and the two became romantically involved, despite the fact that Golos already had a mistress in New York, and a common-law wife and child back in Russia. Golos trained her well, instructing her in the ways of espionage, everything from making sure to use a payphone whenever possible, to how to lose a possible tail. She took an apartment in Greenwich Village, chiefly because it had a fireplace that she used to burn any documents that could be traced back to her. Through his passionate commitment to his work, Elizabeth began to believe that she was helping to change the world. She was also deeply in love for the first time in her life. Golos was her mentor, her lover, her father, he was everything to her. Going underground meant that Elizabeth lost her communist family, she only had Golos now.

At Golos's instigation, Bentley took a secretarial job assisting Richard Waldo, a conservative businessman, and spied on his contacts, conversations, and movements, reporting the details to Golos. Bentley also began doing other espionage work for Golos. She carried information, including copies of U.S. government documents, to other agents and couriers, and she entertained men on his recommendations in order to spy on them. The work was hard, there were times that Elizabeth suffered from headaches, and exhaustion but she also felt more alive than she had in years. She felt a part of something, as if in some way, she was changing the course of history. For once, she mattered, she was important, not just to Jacob but also to the Soviets.

Jacob Golos was under suspicion by the FBI as well as the KGB. They were interested in wresting control of the spy rings from him. But Golos was worried that the Soviets wouldn't know how to handle the Americans who spied for him. After he was forced to register as an agent of the Soviet government, Bentley came to work for him as a vice president at the United States Service and Shipping Corporation, which replaced World Tourists as the soviet front. As a Vice President, Bentley now was earning a good salary of $800 a month.

As his health declined (he suffered a heart attack), Bentley took over more and more of the work. She began making trips down to Washington every two weeks and then eventually every week, meeting with her contacts, ferrying documents back and forth. She began carrying a large knitting bag with her as a cover. Eventually, Elizabeth was running two different groups, Silvermaster and Perlos. Perlos in particular had been dormant until Golos decided to revive it. Eventually both groups were made up of about thirty contacts. Elizabeth was working so hard, not only with her work at USSIS but also with her work as a handler that she sometimes fell asleep on the train. Her job was not just to ferry documents but also to soothe the worries of the contacts under her care, listen to their problems, advise them, and to keep them in the fold.

On Thanksgiving 1943, Elizabeth's world changed when her lover Jacob Golos died on her living room couch. As a good Soviet agent, Elizabeth called the appropriate people and made sure to burn all documents before calling the ambulance and the police. She was devastated, for 5 years, Jacob Golos had been her world. Now after his death, the Soviets decided to wrest control from Elizabeth of the two spy rings that she handled. While they appreciated all the work that she had done for them, they thought that the Americans were sloppy in the way that they handled their contacts, becoming friends with them. It was not the Soviet way. While Elizabeth fought having to relinquish her duties, eventually there was nothing that she could do, and she hated working for the Soviets. They seemed too polish and slick compared to Jacob Golos. The last straw was when they attempted to pay her off. She became depressed and started to drink heavily, eventually ending up in an affair with man who she picked up in the bar at the hotel she had moved to in Brooklyn.

Two things served to make Elizabeth decide to come in from the cold. She suspected that the Soviets were planning to kill her, and the recent defection of another Soviet spy in Canada threatened to reveal her own role. She decided that rather than waiting for the FBI to arrest her, it would be better to go to them. She chose Connecticut because she feared that the Soviets would discover what she was up to if she went to the offices in either New York or Washington.

On November 7, 1945, just after lunch Elizabeth Bentley walked into the FBI offices in New Haven, CT and proceeded to change the course of history. The agents in the office didn't know what hit them when this rather mumsy woman walked in, but before the end of the day they knew that they had hit the mother lode. Elizabeth not only named names (the list eventually ran to almost 150 people) but she gave such extensive detail that the eventual report ran to 107 pages with an index. She had almost total recall, probably honed from the time when she had to memorize huge chunks of information in her work as a Soviet spy. The only flaw was the lack of documentation. Elizabeth had done her job too well by eliminating all reports, and paperwork that could have betrayed her if she had been caught.

For the next two years, Elizabeth was interviewed and reinterviewed as the FBI checked out the details in her story. They ordered wiretaps on the contacts that she had named, sent field agents to follow them, up to 200 agents were eventually involved. Some of the names she gave them included Lachlan Currie, Harry Dexter White (a senior U.S. Treasury Department official), William Walter Remington (worked for the War Production Board), Nathan Gregory Silvermaster, Victor Perlo, among others. Some of the people Elizabeth named had also been named by Whittaker Chambers and Igor Gouzenko. The plan now was to use Elizabeth Bentley has a counter intelligence agent, a plan which excited her after being dormant for almost two years.

The FBI became stymied in their investigation when unbeknownst to them, the KGB knew that Elizabeth had defected. Information had been intercepted by Kim Philby, a Soviet spy who had been recruited during his Cambridge days. Philby worked in British Intelligence and had intercepted cables sent by the US to the British detailing the investigation. The Soviets ceased all covert operations and recalled their agents back to Moscow. The FBI would now not be able to use Elizabeth as a double agent. There was one result of Elizabeth's confession, it made the US aware of how lax their security had been. Background checks on all new employees were ordered, and a loyalty oath was a requirement.

Hoover however was not about to let a coup like this slip out of his fingers. When the Venona cables were decrypted, they had more evidence that Elizabeth Bentley was telling the truth. She was mentioned many times in the cables as Clever Girl, along with a host of other agents. The only problem was, the government was afraid that if the information in the Venona cables was released, the Soviets would know that the Americans had broken one of their toughest codes. If he couldn't arrest any of the operatives that Elizabeth had named, then he would get a grand jury involved. The grand jury sessions were closed to the public, which meant that the testimony was secret. However, all the people Elizabeth had named either denied her charges or pleaded the 5th Amendment. Several of them even claimed that she was paranoid. The most the grand jury could do was to indict the Communist party of America for inciting espionage.

Meanwhile Elizabeth was upset. After three years, all her hard work was about to be forgotten. Her boss at USISS had decided to close the agency, leaving Elizabeth without a job. With pressure from the FBI, the company was persuaded to give Elizabeth a year's salary as severance pay. But that wasn't enough for her. She went to the press with her story, meeting with a reporter from the New York Journal-American. The FBI pressured the newspaper to wait until after the case before the grand jury ended before publishing the articles. In July of 1948, a seriers of articles appeared describing Elizabeth as a shapley blonde femme-fatale. Elizabeth now took the line that she was a naive, innocent woman who has been corrupted by her liberal professors at college and by Golos.

The Republicans hoped to use Elizabeth's confession to their advantage to prove that Truman was soft on Communism, and to sweep the party back into office. After almost 18 years of Democratic rule, they were sick of what they saw. Roosevelt's New Deal smacked of the worst liberal thinking. Elizabeth was going to be their star witness and their tool, the only problem was coorboration. They found it in Whittaker Chambers. Chambers had been pretty much forgotten after his initial testimony before the HUAC in 1938. He had gone on to work at Time Magazine as a writer. While Chambers testimony did cooborate some of Elizabeth's story, it lead them to an even bigger prize, Alger Hiss.

But Elizabeth was still important to the process. She was proof that communists looked just like everyone else. If an Upper Middle Class woman could be duped into spying for the Commies, who knew who else had been lured into their lair? It was the beginning of the nation's paranoia of a communist around every corner. Elizabeth fed into this by insisting that the Communist party's mandate was for their members to spy for the Soviet Union. During her time testifying, she spoke without notes and without a lawyer present, impressing everyone with her poise and her ability to never waver from her story. She often seemed more capable and intelligent than the people interviewing her. She came across as cool and unflappable, unlike Whittaker Chambers who could drowned in his own sweat whenever he appeared.

While Elizabeth reveled in her new position as the anti-communist spokeswoman, the fall-out started. While some newspapers and the right wing of the country praised her for coming forward, others attacked her and her character, particularly the fact that Elizabeth had no cooboration for her story. She also symphathized with the very people that she had named. They called her at traitor to her country who was getting off scott free. While Whittaker Chambers had kept confidential papers to prove his story (as a safety net just in case the Soviets tried to eliminate him), Elizabeth had done her job too well. She got into a huge amount of trouble when she repeated her accusation against William Remington on the radio version of Meet The Press. Remington decided to sue Elizabeth, NBC, and the show for libel.

While the case raged on, Elizabeth quietly became a Catholic after taking instruction from Bishop Fulton Sheen (the man from whom actor Martin Sheen took his last name). Religion now filled the void that communism had filled, and like any athiest who had found religion, Elizabeth now became a zealot. Having quietly resigned her position as a teacher at a Catholic women's college in Chicago, Elizabeth now lectured across the country, warning the nation about the Red Threat.

The case with Remington was settled out of court, despite the fact that Bentley's lawyer had investigators digging up dirt against Remington. The network decided that the cost of the investigation outweighed the cost of the case, and they settled with Remington for $9,000 (Remington's lawyers had asked for $100,000 in damages). Elizabeth and her lawyer was furious. However, they turned over the information they had dug up to the HUAC and the FBI who eventually proved that Elizabeth had been right all along about Remington, but damage had been done to her credibility (Remington had earlier been cleared of charges by a review board).

Despite this, she was still called to testify in the Rosenberg trial (her statement had led the FBI to Harry Gold who had been a courier for David Greenglass). Elizabeth testified that Golos had met a tall, thin man with glasses one night who was named Julius. While she was not sure that the Julius was Julius Rosenberg, her testimony along with that of Greenglass (Ethel Rosenberg's brother) and Harry Gold sent the Rosenberg's to the electric chair.

Hurting for money, the government only paid her travel expenses when she testified, Elizabeth agreed to write her autobiography, entitled Out of Bondage. Unfortunately, instead of reflecting on her life and the why she had become a communist, Elizabeth turned out a melodramatic story, portraying herself as the innocent, naive victim duped by forces larger than herself. While the book was serialized in McCalls to great effect, the book sold below expectations. Once again, Elizabeth was running out of money. Although she was now in her forties, she had never learned to budget, save or manage her money. She loved restaurants, hotels, nice clothes. She depended on the FBI for money, often running to them when she encountered problems. They had replaced the communists as her erstwhile family.

Elizabeth was now caught in the positions of having sought out publicity, but now that she had it, she realized just how quickly the tide could turn, how open to criticism she would be. While some reviewers praised her book, others were more scathing, pointing out the differences between her sworn testimony and the book. Elizabeth admitted that she had changed some names, inflated some incidents, all for dramatic purposes (a charge that most memoirists have dealt with over the years). While Harry Dexter Smith had died of a heart attack soon after being accused of spying, William Remington was stabbed to death in prison. Elizabeth bore the brunt of her own guilt and the outrage of their defenders.

Throughout the 50's, Elizabeth was the go-to-girl for the government anytime new information was discovered. While Elizabeth was happy to help, it took a toll on her. For seven years, she lived a double life, now she was forced to constantly relive it. She suffered severely from depression, became paranoid, convinced that the communists were out to get her, particularly when the IRS came after her for back taxes. She had finally settled down and bought a house in Connecticut, but she eventually had to sell it to pay her bills. She bounced from one teaching job to another, having to leave either when irate parents found out about her, or from various scandals that seemed to keep cropping up.

The most serious was when another former communist turned informer, Harvey Matusow, after converting to the Mormon religion, accused her both in print and before the government of admitting to him that she had run out of things to testify about, and was going to have to "find" additional information, implying that she was making things up. He also claimed that he had been encouraged to lie by McCarthy and Roy Cohn about members of the American communist party. Elizabeth was appalled. She swore that she had never said anything of the kind, and the FBI was eventually able to find witnesses to back her up. The upshot was that Matusow ended up spending 5 years in prison for perjury.

Finally in 1955, Elizabeth had had enough. She had gone back to school to get another master's degree in education at Trinity College. One night while walking across campus, she blacked out, whether from stress, or alcoholism. Whatever the cause, she told the FBI that she would no longer be available to testify or to help. The FBI tried to change her mind, she finally agreed that in cases of national importance, they could come to her but she stuck to her guns.

Elizabeth found a job teaching at a school for wayward girls. She loved teaching and felt that it was the one thing that she was truly good at. Working at the Long Lane School was something that both her parents could be proud of. While Elizabeth was considered a good teacher, she never got personally involved with her students, keeping a distance from them. She had no friends and rarely went out. From time to time she would check in with the FBI agents in New Haven. She also occasionally wrote letters to Hoover.

In the fall of 1963, Elizabeth finally went to the doctor to see about the constant pains in her stomach. She was admitted for exploratory surgergy, where they discovered that she was riddled with cancer, and it was too advanced. Before they could reveal the diagnosis, Elizabeth died from complications from the surgery. She was 55 years old. She was buried near her relatives in New Milford. The funeral was sparsely attended and the obituaries were small. Soon she was just a footnote in the period we call the McCarthy era.

But she was much more than. Elizabeth Bentley's life was a bundle of contradictions. She was both a fervent communist and an anti-communist. She was both a weak woman, and fighter. She was a pawn of the FBI and the right wing tear down the New Deal and the Truman Administration, but yet she was quite capable of using them when she needed something. She was an emotionally distant woman, but capable of deep passionate feeling when she finally fell in love with Jacob Golos. She was both a traitor and a heroine.

She was a woman ahead of her time. While her contemporaries were bobbing their hair, and drinking bathtub gin, part of the lost generation, Elizabeth was prim and shy. She had no desire for domestic life or settling down. Most of her life was spent rootless, moving from place to place, job to job. She lived in a domestic arrangement with more than one man. She was promiscuous at a time when most women were virgins until marriage, a good girl gone bad. While she was an independent woman, she was not a feminist.

She was a soviet spy, proving that a woman was more than capable of running a spy network, that you didn't have to be Mata Hari or a femme fatale. Her later testimony led the US government to Alger Hiss, and the Rosenbergs, shut down the Soviet spy network in the US for a number of years, convinced the government to pay more attention to the communist threat. She opened the door to the McCarthy era, although even she couldn't have imagined the excesses and abuse of power that went with it.

Lauren Kessler said it best, when she wrote that Elizabeth Bentley was for better or for worse the author of her own conflicted life.

Sources: Wikipedia (for all the links.)

Clever Girl - Lauren Kessler

Red Spy Queen - Kathryn S. Olmsted

A Treasury of Foolishly Forgotten Americans - Michael Farquhar