Famous Scots
- Madeleine Smith (1835-1928)

The murder trial of Madeleine Smith in 1855 was the most sensational ever heard in a Scottish court. Madeleine was the beautiful daughter of a successful Glasgow architect who met and fell in love with Pierre Emile L'Angelier from Jersey. Her father banned Madeleine from seeing her lover but she secretly continued a passionate affair and wrote a number of explicit love letters.

However, this relationship cooled when Madeleine began to be pursued by William Minnoch, a richer and more acceptable suitor. When Madeleine tried to break the relationship with L'Angelier he threatened to show the love letters to her father. However, L'Angelier died a few weeks later. A post-mortem showed arsenic poisoning - and Madeleine had bought arsenic in local chemist shops prior to his death.

Her trial was a sensation in Victorian Scotland as her explicit love letters were read in court. Her defence lawyer portrayed her as an innocent, seduced by a blackmailer. And there was no evidence of her meeting her lover in the days before his death. The jury found her "Not Proven" a unique judgement in Scotland which means that there is insufficient evidence to find the accused guilty - but leaves the door open for another trial if new evidence emerges.

Madeleine later moved to London, married, had two children and then separated from her husband. She emigrated to New York in 1916 (at the age of 80) and married again. She turned down offers from Hollywood to take part in a film of her life and eventually died at the age of 92.

There is an extensive Website covering the Trial of Madeleine Smith, if you are looking for more details. >

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