Kirkus Reviews QR Code
THE WOMAN BEFORE WALLIS by Andrew Rose

THE WOMAN BEFORE WALLIS

Prince Edward, the Parisian Courtesan, and the Perfect Murder

By Andrew Rose

Pub Date: May 7th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-250-04069-5
Publisher: Picador

Overly detailed look at the expert manipulations of an attractive young Parisian on the make and the English prince who fell for her.

To his journalistic credit, historian and barrister Rose (Stinie: Murder on the Common, 1985) doggedly pursues the sordid, classic tale of a Parisian girl largely abandoned by her parents who used her street smarts to make her way to rather spectacular success. Marguerite Alibert, aka Maggie Meller, among other names, was raised largely in state institutions and then placed in the Parisian home of a wealthy lawyer before becoming pregnant at age 16 in 1906. Showing a promising petite figure and willingness to learn, she quickly went from being a high-class prostitute in the fashionable 16th arrondissement, where she gained all kinds of lessons in manners, dress and elocution, to being the kept mistress for wealthy benefactors such as the Duke of Westminster. The duke introduced her to the young Prince of Wales in 1917, when he was on leave in Paris during World War I. Keen to have his own French mistress, the prince lost his head for the “poule de luxe,” whose specialty was in the arts of the dominatrix. The problem was indiscretion on the part of the prince, who wrote elaborate letters to Marguerite letting slip details about the military conduct of the war, “letters very probably scabrous into the bargain” and very worrisome to British officials. Marguerite had her eye to blackmail, yet she wisely bided her time until she happened to be indicted for murdering her Egyptian husband in London’s Savoy Hotel on July 3, 1923. Rose admirably tracks down Marguerite’s intriguing story, but he provides altogether too much information.

A good bit of journalistic documentation related in lackluster writing.