This is a story despite the title about one person.
Marguerite Marie Alibert was born on 9 December 1890, in Paris to Firmin Alibert, a coachman, and Marie Aurand, a housekeeper. When she was sixteen she gave birth to a daughter, Raymonde, the father unknown and after a few months left the child with her parents to search for employment. In the following years, Alibert led an itinerant life until she met Mme Denant who ran a Maison de Rendezvous, a brothel catering to a high society clientele. Mme Denant took her under her wing and she became a high-class prostitute.
In April 1917 under the name Maggie Meller she met Edward Prince of Wales, the future if short lived King of England in Paris. He became infatuated with her and during their relationship he wrote many candid letters. Although the affair was intense while it lasted, by 1918 Edward had broken off the relationship.
By the 1920s she had changed continents and also her name. She was now Marguerite Laurent after a short tempestuous marriage and she mingled with the smart set in Egypt. It was while accompanying a businessman on a tour of the country that she was seen by Ali Kamel Fahmy Bey. “Prince Ali” as he styled himself was a dapper Egyptian playboy who led an idle life squandering a significant allowance from his wealthy father. He seems to have become infatuated with her and followed her around for several months before they were formally introduced. They embarked on a gambling and drinking tour of Europe before Prince Ali proposed.
They were married in December 1922 and had a formal Islamic wedding in January 1923, but by all accounts the relationship was volatile and there are reports of the Princess Fahmy as she was now known sporting black eyes and facial bruising. It appears that Ali was not unscathed either several times being seen in public with scratches to his face and neck. In July 1923 the couple visited London and took a suite at the Savoy Hotel.
It’s at this point that I have to choose my words delicately. After a few days at the hotel Marguerite summoned the hotel doctor. The initial conversation revolved around the Princess’ haemorrhoids, but before any examination took place she complained to the doctor that in fact the problem had arisen due to “acts of an unnatural nature“, which Ali had a preference for and that he was always pestering her to accommodate him. Possibly with an eye on grounds for a hurried divorce she asked the doctor to write her a document attesting to her “injuries” and corroborating the cause of them. The doctor, either finding himself not qualified or possibly just shocked by the whole subject refused to do so and left without examining the Princess.
On the evening of the 9th July the couple dined at a fashionable restaurant , but early into the evening they were seen to quarrel and a short time later Marguerite refused Ali’s request to dance and stormed out, leaving a less than happy looking husband to finish his drink. Around midnight a porter was making his way along one of the hotel corridors was nearly knocked off his feet by a partially undressed and very agitated Prince Ali. “Look at my face” and “Look what she has done” he kept shouting and the porter noticed several livid red marks and scratches, some dripping blood onto the Princes’ pristine white vest. Not knowing who this excitable foreign chap was, the porter admonished him that he aught to “Pipe down, as respectable people were trying to sleep” and taking the agitated man by the arm escorted him to his room.
Edward Marshall Hall
Moments after leaving the guest the porter heard three pistol shots and ran back, entering the room through the still open door. He was just in time to see Marguerite drop a small handgun that she was holding onto the floor. In the corner of the room slumped against the wall was the body of Prince Ali bleeding from a wound on his temple with bone and brain tissue splattered over the wall behind him. When the police arrived all Marguerite would say was “Qu’est ce que j’ai fait mon cher?” (What have I done my dear). Ali’s lifeless body was taken away and his wife taken into custody. Things looked bleak for the Princess, but enter legal colossus Edward Marshall-Hall, a barrister who had a formidable reputation as an orator who became known as “The Great Defender“. Marshall-Hall based the defence around Prince Fahmy’s race and sexual habits, painting the victim as an evil-minded foreigner who threatened a “white woman” for perverted sexual reasons, whereupon she defended herself, “a monster of Eastern depravity and decadence, whose sexual tastes were indicative of an amoral sadism towards his helpless European wife“.
The jury imbued with an unhealthy dose of racism and xenophobia acquitted Madame Fahmy. The Egyptian ambassador wrote several angry letters to the newspapers criticizing Marshall Hall’s blackening of the victim and Egyptians in general. After the trial, Mademoiselle Fahmy as she was now known unsuccessfully tried to sue her late husband’s family aiming to lay claim to his property. A court in Egypt rejected the verdict at the Old Bailey and dismissed her claim.
She lived in an apartment facing the Ritz in Paris until the end of her life in 1971 and rumours began to circulate that as well as Marshall-Hall’s forceful advocacy pressure may have been brought to bare on the jury to acquit by unnamed establishment agents due to Marguerite having many compromising letters from the future King of England in her possession.
After her death, the few remaining letters from Edward (it’s not known if they were compromising), which she had kept as insurance, were found and destroyed.