The Woman before Wallis

Margaret Alibert was a French national of unremarkable birth. Ordinarily middle class, she longed to be rich. And she was going to make sure it happened. A relentless social climber and self starter, Margaret became one of the "grande horizontales" of Paris during the first world war as a  way to support herself and her young daughter. A quick study, MMe Denart was more than happy to mentor Margaret. Margaret in turn reinvented herself, changed her surname to Meller ( the name of her first and married lover) and became known as Maggie Meller.

Maggie met Prince Edward when he made his first trip to France, in 1912. Maggie was already established by that time and the Prince was a very young, very sheltered youth of 17. The Prince was  traveling under an assumed name.  He stayed with a friend of his grandfather's, Henri deBreteuil. One of deBreteuil's sons introduced the Prince to Maggie. In  1913 while on a visit to Germany the Prince is introduced to "doubtful women" and Paris nightclubs. Turns out he likes both.

Stationed in France during the war, the prince carries on a torrid affair with Maggie. Not in the least subtle, they are everywhere when he is on leave. He also writes her letters which are indiscreet at best, by passing the regular mail (and the censors) and using a King's messenger to deliver them. By the end of the war the Prince was a true party boy. In 1918 the prince decided he was finished with Maggie. She did not take this well. Maggie sent the Prince a letter reminding him of the comments he made in his letters during the war - and she wants money to keep quiet. The Prince demanded the letters back. Maggie retains the letters.

This behavior continued for both of them until 1922. The Prince partied and worried about the letters being made public and Maggie took a series or ever more rich lovers to keep her in style. After her divorce in 1920 Maggie was a very rich woman. To recover from her divorce (and the loss of her latest lover) she travels to Egypt where she meets Ali Kamel Famy Bey, young, rich and sexually experienced. Younger than Maggie, Ali falls desperately in love with her. She is not interested. Ali is rich and Maggie remembers him when they meet again in 1922 in Paris. Maggie agrees to marry Ali and travels to Egypt. She has hired an attorney to protect her "interests." A good idea since Ali's family is horrified at the prospect of her joining the family.

The two are married in late 1922. The marriage is strained from that start. Conservative socially, Ali doesn't want Maggie to continue her partying ways. The fighting starts almost immediately. Maggie sleeps with a gun under her pillow so she can protect her jewelry. Ali is aware of this and  in June 1932 Ali and Maggie head to England on holiday. After more arguing, Maggie shoots Ali in the back. In front of a witness. She is charged with his murder.

Now we come to the meat of the book: the murder trial of Maggie in England. The Prince is now in a real panic. Remember the letters that Maggie has from the Prince? He doesn't want them exposed and they will be once the prosecutor and the press start looking into Maggie's past. Now starts the royal cover up.

Through the use of official documents, private letters, and news reports Andrew Rose pieces together the amazing acquittal of Maggie. While there are some blanks in the evidence and what is there is mostly circumstantial, this book is very interesting. Everyone knows about Wallis but who knows about Maggie?  Almost no one -  possibly because of the cover up. She is just never mentioned. Read this book and you will find out all about her! This book makes the royal scandals of today seem tame!

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