Marguerite Alibert is known as "the princess who got away with murder". She’s also said to have a rags-to-riches story. Technically, neither of those statements is true - she was never a princess and she was not born into poverty - but her story is captivating nonetheless.
Marguerite Alibert was born in France on December 9th, 1890 to a taxi coach driver and a maid. One day when she was supposed to be watching her four-year-old brother, he ran into the street and was hit by a truck. As punishment, Marguerite’s parents sent her to live with the Sisters of Mary nuns, where she was psychologically abused for the next few years. The nuns insisted that her brother’s death was the result of her sins, not just an accident. The nuns sent Marguerite to work as a housemaid at age 15, but she was fired and thrown out on the streets when she became pregnant at age 16. The baby, Raymonde, was sent to live on a farm, which was the custom of the time. Later in life, when Marguerite had money, she sent Raymonde to school in London.
After sending Raymonde away, Marguerite became a sex worker. She was then scouted by Madame Denart, who trained her to become a courtesan, once bragging that she had "made a sort of lady" out of Marguerite, and that the girl was one of her most sought-after escorts.
At age 17, Marguerite decided to settle down in her own way by beginning a six-year-long affair with the wealthy, 40-year-old Andre Meller. Despite not being married to him, Marguerite changed her name to Maggie Meller. The couple split supposedly because Marguerite would not stay faithful to Meller (who I’ll remind you, was being unfaithful to his wife). Marguerite managed to get a form of divorce settlement out of him.
In 1917, while in her late 20s, Marguerite began an affair with the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VIII, who was 23. After a year, Edward grew tired of her but couldn’t completely remove her from his life. She had an estimated 20 letters he’d sent her which, if seen by the public, would greatly damage the royal family’s reputation. It’s reported that in one letter he wrote "Dad’s actually a bit of a wanker" and in another "This war is dumb and no one will let me drive the bloody ship." The letters were also said to contain sexually explicit writing from the prince.
After a year of regularly writing to the prince to remind him of the blackmail potential, Marguerite married Charles Laurent. He was rich, handsome, and boring, and they divorced six months later, with Marguerite receiving a sizable settlement: an apartment, 10 horse stables, some cars, and some servants.
In 1921, Marguerite met Ali Kamel Fahmy Bey while she was escorting another wealthy man. Bey fell for her and convinced her to convert to Islam, marry him, and move to Cairo. Marguerite wasn’t enthused about having to convert to Islam to marry Fahmy, but he convinced her to do it by agreeing to two conditions: one, that she be allowed to divorce him, and two, that she be allowed to wear Western clothing. However, just before they got married, Fahmy did away with the divorce clause and replaced it with one saying he was allowed to marry additional women. Fahmy was not a prince, but had the title "Bey", which is the Egyptian version of a Lord. People referred to Marguerite as "Princess Fahmy" despite her not actually being a princess.
For some reason, Fahmy thought Marguerite, of all people, would become a submissive, "proper" wife after they got married. This, of course, did not happen. The two regularly argued, often in front of other people, about Marguerite’s behavior, which Fahmy considered embarrassing.
It was rumored that Fahmy was gay, and Marguerite decided to use this against him, spreading rumors about his "perverted" desires. She also started keeping a list of his other abuses, with her friends believing she was preparing for yet another divorce settlement.
As if Marguerite’s life hadn’t been dramatic enough, she decided to murder Fahmy. In London, on July 9th, 1923, the two went to see a performance of "The Merry Widow" of all things, and upon returning to their hotel room at the Savoy got into a fight. Fahmy left, then returned a few hours later, and at 2am Marguerite shot him three times with the pistol she kept under her pillow.
There was no mystery to the crime. The facts were straightforward, but Marguerite managed to get away with it. She’d held onto the Prince of Wales’s scandalous letters and used them to get herself an advantage in court. To avoid the public knowing of her affair with the prince, the royal family ensured that her past would not be used as evidence in the murder trial. The court did not hear about the affair or her time as a sex worker.
The defense team combined this rule with their portrayal of Fahmy as an abusive, misogynistic, homosexual man. His being a Middle Eastern Muslim only helped the the defense team in the 1920s British courtroom. Marguerite was portrayed as a victim and was acquitted of all charges. The trial was called "the trial of the century" (along with about fifty other trials) and had people lining up around the building to see the action. Some people even paid for seats in the courtroom or sent their servants ahead of time to save them a seat. While Marguerite’s past wasn’t allowed as evidence, people still knew about it and were intrigued.
After the trial, Marguerite returned to Paris where she did a bit of work as a movie actress and continued to get money from wealthy men who fell for her. Marguerite lived well until she died in 1971 at the age of 80. After her death, her grandson discovered that she’d been supported by settlements from five separate men. The last remaining letters she’d kept from Edward VIII were found and destroyed.