Florence Maybrick: Death Sentence Commuted - Summary

During a transatlantic crossing, from America to Paris, Florence “Florie” Chandler falls in love with an Englishman who drastically changes her life.

Florie meets James Maybrick and falls in love with him, even though he is 24 years older than she and has many dark secrets. Maybrick presents himself as a successful cotton merchant, hiding the fact that he is a drug addict and has a mistress.

The marriage starts well, but soon deteriorates due to financial problems and Maybrick’s addiction as an “arsenic eater." He abuses Florie, who retaliates by befriending another man. 

During this time in Victorian England, arsenic is used as a drug, in cosmetics and in flypaper. Florie has an arsenic-based cosmetic prescription, which she loses before her husband becomes desperately ill. Using flypaper to make her own concoction, in front of her servants, she casts suspicions upon herself. 

As her husband's condition worsens, Florie's brother-in-law bans her from his sick room.  She continues to visit him but also "carries on" with another man. A note to her paramour implies that she might be plotting her husband’s death, and this note becomes public. 

Soon after, Maybrick dies and Florie is arrested for his murder because the coroner’s report says that arsenic is the cause of death. An incompetent lawyer and a mentally ill judge seal Florie’s fate, and she is found guilty of capital murder.

Florie is sentenced to hang, but her sentence is later changed to “penal servitude for life." She serves fifteen years in prison, and her case changes Britain’s criminal-justice system.

After her ordeal, Florie writes a successful book about her fifteen years in prison.  After spending some years on the lecture circuit, as a way to earn a living, she eventually becomes a recluse. 

Florie’s story does not end here.

In 1993, surprising evidence surfaces to indicate that James Maybrick could be the infamous "Jack the Ripper." A diary, allegedly written by Maybrick, graphically describes the Whitechapel-area murders. A pocket watch has the words “I am Jack,” and the initials of the victims are scratched into its cover.

This evidence leads many to believe that Maybrick is the infamous Ripper. No one knows for sure who Jack the Ripper really is, but most "Ripperologists" doubt that it's Maybrick. 

Whether James Maybrick is Jack the Ripper remains questionable, but one thing is certain: Florie Chandler’s life changes for the worse when she meets him. Maybrick’s addiction to arsenic causes him to be an abusive, sickly man, who - some say - could be one of the most-famous murderers in history.

Florie’s bad decisions in love and life almost end her life. No one knows if she truly intends to murder her husband, just as no one can say for certain whether Maybrick is Jack the Ripper.

Visitors to Madame Tussaud's Wax museum in London can view representations of Florence Maybrick and Jack the Ripper.  Linked together in marriage (during their lives), is this couple also linked together (after their deaths) for their alleged crimes? 

The answer is:  We may never know.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Oct 01, 1999

Updated Last Revision: Jul 03, 2019

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"Florence Maybrick: Death Sentence Commuted" AwesomeStories.com. Oct 01, 1999. Feb 17, 2020.
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