Caroline "Carrie" Holbrook and her daughter Florence "Florie" Chandler, moved in the highest circles of American and European society. As Victorian ladies they were taught to run from any hint of scandal, but by the time they passed from this life their names were linked to infidelity, secret marriages, murder and even Jack the Ripper.
During her youth, Caroline Holbrook raised eyebrows and only her family ties and wealth kept her from being completely ostracized from polite society. However it was not until her daughter, Florence Chandler Maybrick, was accused of poisoning her husband that the rest of the world learned of several, sordid stories she thought had long been buried. The implications of the newspaper articles were obvious, which was the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
Caroline Holbrook was born in 1838, to Darius Holbrook and Elizabeth Ingraham. Both of her parents could trace their family history back to the 17th century and pre-revolutionary times. In 1856, she went to visit her uncle Rev. Joseph H. Ingraham in Mobile, Alabama. She met her first husband William Chandler who was the head of the St. John Powers & Co. a famous banking house during that visit. They married in 1858.
Caroline Chandler was described as a "brillant society woman, stylish, though not pretty." She gave birth to their first child Holbrook in their first year of marriage. I
In the third year of their marriage, William Chandler who was thirty-two years old fell ill. Caroline tended him at their home and none of his relatives were permitted to see him. He died on July 8, 1862. She was eight months pregnant with their second child, Florence, who was born in September 1862.
There are different stories as to what took place after Chandler's death. The family grew suspicious and supposedly made life so impossible for Caroline that she left for Macon, Georgia. Some say their hostility towards her was due to the fact that she was a Northerner and Alabama was part of the Confederacy during the Civil War.
Allegedly Caroline claimed her young husband died because of the anxiety he felt due to his responsibilities as head of the St. John Powers & Co.
In his will, Mr. Chandler urged his wife to return to New York, but that his son should be raised by his maternal grandmother. Caroline Chandler did not comply with either of these wishes.
Some versions said that Caroline had met Capt. Frank DuBarry while she was still married as he was a friend of the family, and another placed their meeting later when she left for Macon, Georgia, or possibly when she worked at a Civil War hospital in Charleston.
Wherever the truth lies, less than two years later she had married Captain DuBarry.
Here again there is a divergence of stories. In one version, he was sent to Europe representing the Confederate army, possibly to buy ammunition. The second story is that he headed to the Bahamas to improve his health since he suffered from consumption.
The DuBarrys along with the children left on the steamship, Fanny, which managed to get away from the blockade vessels stationed off the coast of Wilmington. In the early hours of May 27, 1864, one hundred and fifty miles out to sea, Captain DuBarry became ill. By the end of the day he had died. He was 27 years old. It was said the captain of the ship wanted to return to Wilmington so DuBarry could be interred on hallowed ground. The Dubarrys were themselves a prominent family, his father Dr. Dubarry (1797-1853) had been the United States Navy Surgeon. He had four brothers and one sister still alive. However Mrs. DuBarry insisted he should be buried at sea. The notice of his death posted from Nassau a few days later.
In the span of five years, Carrie Chandler Dubarry had become a bride and widow twice.
Contrary to the saying that you can never go home, Caroline did exactly that. She joined her mother Elizabeth who was by then a widow still living in New York. Her frequent companion was her cousin, Frank Armstrong Crawford Vanderbilt, whose family of origin were the Crawfords out of Mobile, Alabama. The city, once the capital of then French Louisiana, had been the winter retreat for wealthy New England families who built their mansions on Government Street.
It was not until the scandal of her daughter's trial that a secret marriage between Caroline and a certain Charles Rebello (Revello, Revollot) came to light. It took place in 1866, in Newark, New Jersey. In some instances he was described as an exiled Italian count. Some newspapers confused him with Charles Rebello who served as the British Vice Consul at Cuba in 1861, or another Charles Rebello (1828-1868) who was a reporter for the New York Sun. The worse, but probably the most accurate connection, was that he was an actor she had become involved with after she returned to New York.
Mr. Rebello, if that was his real name, crossed paths with Caroline, who possibly at that point wanted a husband with a title. She had wealth not only from her husbands, but through her father's inheritance. So Mr. Rebello, made himself Count Rebello.
How long did it take for Caroline to realize the truth is unknown. She claimed during the divorce that he abandoned her within 24 hours of their marriage, and set sail to on a ship headed to Venezuela, South America. According to her, they had never consummated the marriage, and that she was unaware that he married her only to gain possession of her lands. This explanation begs the question; why would he leave?
Within a year of the marriage she brought suit in 1867 in Floyd County Circuit Court at New Albany, but it was dismissed on January 4, 1868. A few days later Caroline Rebello with her mother and her children established temporary residence in Columbus, Indiana. They were accompanied by two lawyers, Colonel A. T. Hawhee and Col. Thomas B. Farlegh. Caroline stated that Rebello had compelled her to marry him through duress, fraud and misrepresentation. Within two months the divorce was granted and the ladies and the children immediately left Indiana.
Once she could marry again, Caroline sailed to Europe with her children. There she met Baron Heinrich Louis Adolf von Roques (Von Rorque, Von Roque) a cavalry officer in the Eighth Cuirassier Regiment of the German Army. They married on April 4, 1872 in Wiesbaden Germany. He was born December 22, 1845, and she gave her birthday on the marriage record as February 4, 1846, when in reality the actual birth year was 1838.
Scandal trailed behind Caroline like a faithful puppy. Shortly after her marriage, she confronted her new husband about his infidelities. He beat her, so she left him, but took her title of Baroness with her.
After this she allegedly became involved with a Mr. Haggard who was an attache of the British Legation at Teheran, Persia. He was the brother of Sir H. Rider Haggard who wrote King Solomon's Mines, among other adventure stories. Rumors were they lived as husband and wife, and that he was in full knowledge of her history.
In 1889, J. Treeve Edgcome, Inner Temple, London published a statement given by Caroline, Baroness Von Roques who was then living in Rouen, France about the scandal involving her daughter:
She described where her first husband had died from inflammation of the brain caused by tension and anxiety because of his heavy financial responsibilities his firm had during the Civil War.
Baroness Von Roques educated her children in Europe but did visit New York during those years. It was on a trip returning to Europe in 1880, that 18-year-old Florence Chandler met James Maybrick, 43, a wealthy merchant from Liverpool.
They married in 1881 and had two children, James in 1882 and Gladys in 1886.
Caroline's son, Holbrook St. John Campbell Chandler studied medicine in Paris, but died from a "lingering illness" in 1885, when he was 26 years old. He did not live to witness the scandal his sister would be embroiled in only a few years later.
The Maybricks to all appearances seemed a happy couple, but Florence soon learned that her husband was a hypochondriac. Eccentricities of this nature could be overlooked, however infidelity was not.
During the first six years of the marriage, Maybrick prospered and paid for his bastard children and his former mistress. According to English law he was responsible for the five children he fathered until they were 16 years old, as well as their mother. Then in 1887, his business declined and when he failed in his payments the mistress wrote him a letter which came into the hands of Florence. This prompted Mrs. Maybrick to visit a lawyer in London to consult upon a divorce.
Perhaps the attorney advised against it, these were the times where James would be criticized, not for his infidelity, but more for indiscretion in allowing his wife to become aware of his affairs. A husband could obtain a divorce with only a claim of infidelity; a wife's bar was set much higher. She had to prove desertion, sodomy or other type of deviant behavior in order to secure a divorce, and afterwards a divorcee faced silent but relentless disapproval from society.
Whichever the case, she decided to pay her husband back in kind, and started an affair with Alfred Brierley a merchant who ran in their same social circle. Maybrick became aware of it, and was furious when they attended the Grand National Day at Aintree and Florence walked up the course with Brierly. All of their friends were present, and this doubled Maybrick's ire. Once home they fought and he struck her.
The rift was so deep that Maybrick drew up a new will, leaving everything to his children and excluding Florence.
Dr. Hopper, the family physician was aware that James Maybrick regularly added arsenic to a cup of beef tea, and he also drank a preparation containing strychnine. He had warned him several times against taking these poisons.
On May 27, 1889, James complained of feeling sick, and asked for Dr. Humphreys, who regularly attended his children to come see him. He diagnosed Maybrick with dyspepsia and put him on a diet. He got better, returned to work but by the weekend he vomited constantly and complained of pains in his legs, and his hands felt numb. He felt better, however his brother Edwin who was staying at the house, brought in Dr. Carter for a second opinion.
He concurred with Dr. Humphreys' diagnosis and confirmed that he needed to be meticulous about what he ate.
Mrs. Hughes, a family friend sent a telegram to Michael Maybrick who lived in London. She also told Florence to bring a nurse to look after James. On that day, Florence gave the nanny, Alice Yapp, a letter to post. Whether intentionally or by accident, the letter was given to Florence's son to hold, and he dropped it in a puddle on the way to the post office. This allegedly gave the nurse an excuse to open it and clean it up. It was addressed to Brierly and the intimate words left no doubt about the relationship between them. The nanny gave the letter to Edwin Maybrick, who ironically was also supposed to have been involved romantically with his sister-in-law.
The family forbade Florence from tending to her husband, and locked her in the house, while they ransacked every closet and drawer in the house.
James condition worsened in the following days, however samples of his feces and urine did not show any trace of arsenic. He continued to worsen and the doctors warned the family recovery was not possible. Supposedly an envelope marked 'Arsenic: Poison For Cats' was found in Florence's room.
An autopsy completed on May 13, found James Maybrick had died due to an irritant poison. Traces of strychnine, hyoscine, morphia and prussic acid were found but the latter two were to be expected as they had been contained in the medicines administered to the dead man.
Florence was arrested and her trial started on July 31, 1889. All the doctors that testified agreed his death had been caused by gastro-enteritis but couldn't conclude if it was caused by bad food, a chill or arsenic.
During the trial Mrs. Maybrick's New York lawyers brought to light that James Maybrick was addicted to the arsenic habit. This challenged the accusation that Mrs. Maybrick had laced her husband's food with arsenic. They described Maybrick as a "morphine and strychnine fiend."
He'd been addicted for 12 years, and a former valet for Maybrick testified to his habit of eating arsenic. He wrote in the affidavit, "he (James Maybrick) took all kinds of medicines, patented and prescribed, and his room looked like a drugstore."
The judge used the disclosure that Florence had an affair with Brierly as proof she was capable of killing her husband. The all male jury returned a guilty of verdict within 45 minutes and sentenced her to death by hanging on August 26, 1889.
Her sentence was commuted to life imprisonment five days before her execution and she was sent to Aylesworth Prison to serve her sentence. During the time of her incarceration, Florence Maybrick received seven offers of marriage.
James Fitzjames Stephen, the judge had suffered a paralyzing seizure three years before the trial, and within two years after the trial he was "retired" due to senile decay and sent to an asylum. He died in 1894. He was rewarded by Queen Victoria with a baronetcy and an annuity of 3500£.
Sir Charles Russell, the Attorney-General in a memorandum to the Home Office pointed out the judge had "passionately invited them to find a verdict of guilty." He made suggestions that had never been advanced by the prosecution and went out of his way to make misleading references.
It was noted in the newspapers after Florence's conviction,"Sir James Fitzjames Stephen, who was much prejudiced against wives suspected of misbehavior, had worked himself up into a kind of frenzy when he thought of Mrs. Maybrick becoming a popular heroine."
According to the Freeborn County Standard, Minnesota, August 15, 1889:
After the verdict became known, thousands of people assembled around the entrance to the court-room and waited for the departure of the judge. As soon as he made his appearance, he was greeted with howls of rage, and the hooting of the crowd was kept up for a long time. There were incessant cries of "Shame," and an attack upon the judge's carriage was only prevented by the active interference of the police. The feeling in Liverpool against the verdict is intense. Steps have been taken to secure a stay of execution on the ground of the discovery of further medical evidence.
Florence's grandfather Darius Holbrook died in 1858 leaving an estate valued at $1,000,000 which he divided between his wife and children. Darius Holbrook, Florence's uncle died in 1875. That same year Elizabeth Holbrook, her grandmother executed a deed trust to her daughter Caroline before leaving on a trip to Germany, where she died in 1876. The family home in New York went to her two grandchildren.
By then Caroline understood too well the cost of marrying for a title. Her husband's creditors after exhausting requests for payment from Baron Von Roques, tried to levy the house left to Florence Maybrick. The attorneys Roe and Macklin won the lawsuit for Florence and her brother. They had been handling legal matters for the Holbrook family for many years.
In 1902, Harriet Hubbard Ayer a reporter for the New York World visited Florence Maybrick who by then had served 13 years in prison. She had not seen her children for several years, and did not know of their whereabouts.
She then went to visit Baroness de Roques (von Roques) who lived in France. The reporter described where the baroness lived on the outskirts of Rouen in a small house, which she called a "poor little refuge". She had lived there for ten years attended only by one servant. The baron had already died.
Much of their fortune had been spent in defending Florence. During those years a letter was received by the County Clerk for Columbus, Indiana inquiring about a divorce procured by Baroness Von Roques. It was thought that Count Rebello was bringing suit to the divorce granted to Baroness von Roques as he was trying to recover an interest in large land estates his wife had in several southern states. The divorce seemed to be legal, since no more was heard of "Count Rebello".
In 1903, the Baroness and her daughter Florence were about to lose title to over 2.5 million acres in Kentucky, Virginia and W. Virginia valued at over 7.5 million dollar. It seemed that their attorney W. D. Armstrong had fraudulently procured their signatures to deeds claiming they were only for a small portion of the lands, when in fact they were for the entire holding. He had given the women only $3,000.
Florence Maybrick was released in 1904 after serving 15 years in Woking and Aylesbury Prisons. This was just in time so she could sign papers that would allow her attorneys to prevent the loss of these tracts of land.
She returned to America and wrote a book, Mrs. Maybrick's Own Story: My Fifteen Lost Years and lectured upon her experience during her incarceration. She never saw her children again who were given to Dr. Charles Chinner Fuller (1828-1902) and his wife Gertrude (1848-1935) to raise.
Her mother Caroline died in 1910, and was buried next to her son in a Paris cemetery.
For many years, Florence's whereabouts were unknown. Her fortune was gone, and some believe she lived as an indigent in Chicago when in 1918 she was referred to Henrietta Banwell who wanted a housekeeper in Gaylordsville, Connecticut. With donated funds she built a small cabin on Old Stone Road, and told everyone her name was Florence Chandler.
Her true identity became known when she gave a black lace dress to Genevieve Austin, a neighbor who found a ticket inside the box with the name, "Florence Maybrick". A librarian was contacted who told them the story of the scandalous trial from thirty years before. In an act of kindness they did not divulge her true name.
Florence became more withdrawn and only allowed cats inside her cabin. By 1926, she seemed to be suffering from some type of dementia and lived in squalor. Only through the kindness of her neighbors did she get firewood, and help during the Great Depression. In 1941 she fell ill, and Pop Conkrite a neighbor would check on her. One day he found her dead inside her home. She died October 23, 1941.
It was then that those who knew her real identity revealed it, and the press revisited the case, and how she had been shamefully treated by the English legal system and the Victorian mores of the day.
Florence's son James, started to use the surname of his adopted parents, Fuller. He moved to Canada and went to work as a mining engineer in British Columbia. In 1911, when he was 29 he accidentally took a swallow of cyanide instead of water and died.
Her daughter Gladys married Frederick Corbyn in 1912. She died in 1971, age 84.
James Maybrick attained public attention as the reputed author of the controversial Diary of Jack the Ripper, which surfaced in the early 1990s. It has been proposed that the true author of the diary was Michael Maybrick, who used his brother's death as an opportunity to plant a decoy for his own doings. He died in 1913, and his brother Edwin in 1928.
One has to wonder what would have been the fate of Florie Maybrick and her children if this diary would have been discovered 100 years earlier.
CLICK HERE TO READ THE STORY OF JACK THE RIPPER'S DIARY
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Stranger Than Fiction Stories by M.P. Pellicer