Edward VIII caused one of the biggest royal scandals of the 20th century when he abdicated the throne all in the name of love. The monarch caused shockwaves across the world in 1936 when he decided that marrying Wallis Simpson – an American divorcée – was more important than being head of the British royal family. However, this wasn’t the first time that a relationship had got Edward into trouble.
This particular drama came to a head in September 1923 at the Savoy Hotel in London, England. A night porter heard three shots fired in a room on the fourth floor and rushed to the scene to discover what had happened. There, he saw a woman soon identified as Princess Marguerite Fahmy brandishing a gun. And she was standing in front of her dying husband – the Egyptian playboy known as Prince Ali Fahmy.
The Frenchwoman had shot her spouse once in the head and twice in the back and was immediately taken into custody by police. But who exactly was this unlikely killer, and how did her story involve another British prince? Furthermore, in what way was their association entirely covered up by his famous family? We’ll discover all of this a little later, but first let’s learn more about the woman behind it all.
Marguerite Alibert entered the world in Paris in 1890 and was later viewed as a great beauty by her coach driver father and domestic servant mother. The couple hoped that their daughter’s striking looks would help them to escape the relative poverty of their surroundings. However, things didn’t initially turn out that way.
By her mid-teens Marguerite had dropped out of school, been fired from her servant job and fallen pregnant with a daughter who was later adopted by a farming family. The Parisian ended up homeless and as a result became an upper-class prostitute – aka a courtesan – to make ends meet. Yet it was while working for brothel owner Madame Denart that Marguerite began to climb the social ladder.
Marguerite became particularly popular with the brothel’s more elite patrons. According to News.com.au, Denart once hailed her as “the mistress of nearly all my best clients: gentleman of wealth and position in France, England, America and other countries.” And perhaps her number one fan was Andre Meller – a rich Parisian who was over two decades older than Marguerite.
Meller invested in a property for Marguerite in order to keep their relationship quiet. The wealthy Frenchman was married at the time. However, he couldn’t resist from lying to various acquaintances that he and Marguerite had walked down the aisle together. And his mistress would often use the surname Meller instead of her own.
In 1917 Marguerite met someone much closer in age but even further away from her poor background. A then-22-year-old Prince Edward became instantly smitten after first clapping eyes on the Parisian while enjoying leave from his Western Front regiment. And the pair forged a secretive relationship that would last for at least 12 months.
And it was Marguerite who took the lead – despite the gulf in their social standings. In his 2013 book The Prince, the Princess and the Perfect Murder, historian Andrew Rose wrote, “She evidently taught [Edward] a lot about sexual technique. All these stories about him being taught sexual technique by Wallis Simpson, I’m afraid that’s really out of the window: if he hadn’t learnt his sexual techniques from Marguerite he wouldn’t have learnt it from anybody!”
Though Marguerite’s qualities extended beyond the bedroom, according to the historian. She was also articulate, intelligent and extremely shrewd. However, the Frenchwoman also had quite the temper, could be a bit of a mean girl and would regularly go to bed with her pillows hiding a gun. In fact, Andrew argued that Marguerite saw the Prince of Wales more as a meal ticket than her one true love.
Prince Edward made several trips to the French capital during his year-long affair. Eventually, though, the distance appeared to take its toll and the pair went their separate ways. The royal may well have wished to put his dalliance with a high-class prostitute to the back of his mind. But Marguerite had other plans.
Rather naively, Edward reportedly penned at least 20 incriminating letters to Marguerite in-between their various reunions. This correspondence would also often include information that should have remained strictly confidential. The royal disclosed details about the British military, and he also told her about some of his family’s deepest, innermost secrets.
The prince discussed the turbulent relationship he had with his father George V in many of the letters that he penned to Marguerite. He also described the royal duties he had to undertake as “stunts.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, the woman Edward addressed as “mon bébé” held on to these revealing and potentially damaging letters in the wake of their split.
Marguerite decided to write a letter herself after learning that the royal had entered into a relationship with a British woman. And it was, of course, far less romantic in nature. Furthermore, she made sure he remained aware that his previous correspondence was still very much in her possession.
The future king soon realized he’d made a terrible mistake revealing so much in writing. According to News.com.au, Edward told a friend, “Oh, those bloody letters. How I curse myself now, tho’ only if I can square this case it will be the last one as she’s the only woman I’ve ever written to.” In a letter to another pal, he wrote, “I must get those letters back somehow.”
Marguerite found a new man shortly after issuing a veiled threat to her past love. In fact, she went on to walk down the aisle with Charles Laurent – another deep-pocketed Parisian. However, their marriage didn’t last much longer than Marguerite’s royal affair. And by 1921 she’d moved on to husband number two.
Marguerite’s latest conquest wasn’t exactly short of a dollar or two, either. Ali Fahmy – a full decade younger – was a wealthy and self-described Egyptian prince renowned for his party lifestyle. But once again, things in the romance department didn’t run particularly smooth. In fact, Marguerite’s second marriage was even more disastrous than her first.
News.com.au claims that the pair earned the nickname “the fighting Fahmys” due to their constant domestic bouts. And the two of them weren’t afraid of battling in public, either. They became renowned for clashing in several reputable establishments in both of their homelands and the U.K. Nevertheless, few could have imagined how grisly their troublesome relationship would end.
All the drama started at London’s high-class Savoy Hotel in 1923. By this point, the couple were bickering non-stop about money problems. The Parisian would also later claim to police that she was often raped by her spouse. And on that fateful night, Marguerite suddenly decided that she’d had enough.
The pair had already caused a scene earlier that evening while eating dinner at one of the Savoy’s dining rooms. According to the Daily Express, Marguerite picked up a wine bottle and threatened, “You shut up or I’ll smash this over your head!” In return, Ali allegedly responded, “If you do, I’ll do the same to you.”
Thankfully, the pair managed to refrain from any wine bottle smashing. Though things did get more physical when they retired to their room. After being alerted to the sound of gunfire, Ali was reportedly discovered “bleeding profusely from a head wound from which protruded fragments of brain tissue and splintered bone.” He passed away at the city’s Charing Cross Hospital within an hour.
Marguerite – whose tailor-made Coco Chanel white gown dress was covered in blood – was entirely unrepentant about the act of mariticide. While making her statement to the Bow Street station police, the Daily Express reports that the Parisian calmly admitted, “I did it. I have told the truth.” She then appeared to dismiss how serious her predicament was, adding, “It doesn’t matter.”
Marguerite had fatally shot her husband in cold blood, but she apparently wasn’t too concerned about a possible long stretch in prison. Living up to her astute reputation, Marguerite believed that the letters she kept from her secret royal affair would serve as perfect leverage. And, incredibly, her confidence was justified.
Biographer Andrew claims that those in charge of protecting the royal family from any scandal agreed a deal with Marguerite. The French woman would ensure her freedom if she handed back all the love letters that the prince had sent her. Not only that, but her former experiences as a high-class prostitute would also remain under wraps during the trial if she kept quiet.
The trial revolved around Marguerite’s husband’s previous domestic abuse – instead of focusing on the former’s murderous act. According to the Daily Express, the defense argued that Ali had an “Eastern temperament and Eastern idea of how women should be treated.” Andrew claimed, “This was a show trial. The authorities wanted Marguerite to be acquitted. A murder conviction would have been catastrophic for the Crown.”
But royal aides didn’t want to leave anything to chance. The Prince of Wales jetted off for an official royal visit to Canada when the trial began. And as a result, his alignment with a murder case that gripped the British nation had for years remained entirely undisclosed.
Marguerite was presented as a tragic victim during the trial. Neither her affair with the Prince, nor her time as an upper-class prostitute were mentioned in the courtroom. And the deal she struck with royal protectors paid off. She was acquitted of murder and able to fly back to her Paris hometown.
The court case verdict awarded Marguerite her freedom, and it also ensured that she was able to inherit Ali’s considerable fortune. And the acquitted remained as aloof as ever when asked to confirm that this was the case. The Daily Express claims that she nonchalantly told reporters, “Of course. He’s dead isn’t he?”
Ali’s murder was apparently regarded as a crime of passion. Though biographer Andrew believes that it was actually far more pre-meditated. He claims that the accused had “already made up her mind to get rid of her tiresome husband… The idea that Marguerite, a pistol-packer for nine years, did not know how the firearm worked is laughable.”
Andrew also alleges that Marguerite decided to put her plan in place after discovering that the prince wanted a divorce. Ali had reportedly fallen in love with someone else and was even talking of marriage with the woman in question. According to Andrew, the realization that the fortune she felt entitled to would slip away caused Marguerite to pull the trigger.
Andrew talked to Reuters in 2013 while promoting his book and said he couldn’t believe that Marguerite’s plan had actually worked. He added, “This affair had been carefully airbrushed from history so the connection between the murder and the Prince of Wales was never drawn. The royal household took steps to make sure that the prince’s name did not come out in the trial to protect the reputation of the future king. It is amazing that she got away with it.”
Marguerite lived in the French capital until she passed away in 1971 aged 80. And the secret that she’d kept for nearly half a century appeared to have died with her, too. In fact, Andrew’s first book about the Parisian and her murder trial – 1991’s Scandal at the Savoy – made no mention of the royal affair.
However, Andrew was contacted by Marguerite’s grandson after the book’s release. And the news he received inspired him to dig even deeper into her eventful life story for a new memoir that would only see the light of day more than two decades on. So, what fresh information did Marguerite’s relative offer up?
Marguerite’s grandson found a journal filled with surprise information about her life several years after she’d passed. He discovered that his grandmother had wed and subsequently divorced on five separate occasions. Marguerite’s relative also learned that no fewer than four rich men had helped to look after her in later years.
Of course, it was the news of her year-long affair with the one-time King of England that came as the biggest shock to Marguerite’s grandson. And Andrew decided to investigate further after he was informed of the journal and its scandalous contents. Furthermore, the biographer found evidence which appeared to confirm once and for all that Marguerite and Edward had enjoyed an intimate relationship.
Andrew tracked down a letter allegedly penned at the time of the scandal by an unknown name with ties to the royal family. According to News.com.au, it read that the “French girl who’s going to be tried for murder is the fancy woman who was the Prince of Wales’ keep in Paris during the war and they are terribly afraid that he might be dragged in… It is fortunate he is off to Canada and his name is to be kept out.”
Andrew had previously been entirely unaware about the hush-hush affair, but he wasn’t at all surprised. For the one-time king was already renowned among royal historians for being a bit of a playboy. And many believe that his early abdication from the throne was always inevitable.
Andrew told Reuters in 2013, “[Edward] was emotionally immature and feckless in his private life… although he had enormous charm. But you can be approachable and amusing and also neurotic, self-centered and unreliable. He spent his time chasing woman, had a string of love affairs and was always susceptible particularly to powerful women.”
Incredibly, Edward – who was given the title of Duke of Windsor following his abdication – died in the same city within a year of Marguerite’s passing. The royal had returned to Paris with his wife Wallis Simpson after World War II following a five-year post in the Bahamas. He passed away in the French capital in 1972 aged 77.
The one-time king was actually buried in England – despite having died in Paris. And Edward’s wife joined him at the same Windsor Castle spot 14 years later. Furthermore, despite the sordid revelations about his affair with Marguerite, it’s his against-all-odds love story with Wallis Simpson that undoubtedly remains the defining part of his life.