Orsam Books

Bunny's Friend

In her attempt to befuddle and confuse the internet in response to 'Bunny's Aunt', Caroline Morris tries to suggest (#502, 'Special Announcement' thread) that it's no surprise that the Countess de Gabriac might have been described by James Maybrick as Florence's aunt because she was described in various different ways by different people: 'aunt' (Addison), 'godmother' (Hopper), 'mother' (Yapp) and 'friend' (Margaret Baillie - who she wrongly calls 'Margaret Baillie Knight').

It's a very Trumpian/Putin style argument.  If there is no truth, if everything is wrong, we just can't know ANYTHING. Sow the seeds of confusion and make it seem like it's all so complicated that anything's possible.

The first three examples are easy to explain.  Why did Addison call the woman to be visited by Florence her 'aunt' Easy, because he confused her with the aunt of John Baillie Knight with whom Florence DID stay while she was in London.  Why did Hopper call the woman her 'godmother'?  That's easy too.  Because she was!  Why did Yapp call the woman her 'mother'.  Well I think that's easy as well.  She didn't - but that's what she was misheard as saying.  She obviously said 'godmother'.

So that now leads us to Florence's 'friend'.  Let me tell you, for such a simple story as Florence's short visit to London, it's extraordinary how so many people fail to understand what happened.

The original plan was for Florence to go to London with her friend.  That friend was Mrs Matilda Briggs.

For some unknown reason, but probably by design, the plan changed and Florence went on her own.

But - and here's the crucial factor - Florence's mother, then living in Paris, wasn't aware of the change of plan.  She thought that Florence DID come to London with Mrs Briggs.  Even while Florence was in London she thought she was in the company of Mrs Briggs.

I'll return to that but, for the moment, let's understand some chronology.

Florence's planning for her visit commenced on 16 March 1889 when she sent a telegram to Flatman's Hotel asking if they had a room available (for a week from 21 March). Mr Flatman said he did have a room but it would not be vacant until Friday 22 March.  Florence replied on 17 March to say that the room was for her sister-in-law, Mrs Thomas Maybrick, who would therefore 'stay with friends on Thursday arriving at Henrietta St during the afternoon of Friday'.  As explained by Florence, Mrs Thomas Maybrick's husband was going to join his wife on the Friday.

That was, of course, a lie and the room was for Florence herself who was planning to hook up with Alfred Brierley for some illicit sex.

Florence arrived in London during the afternoon of Thursday 21 March.  She met up with her friend John Baillie Knight and they had dinner together at the Grand Hotel.  She told him that the reason for her visit to the capital was to see a solicitor, in order to arrange a separation from her husband.  The pair then went to the theatre and Knight accompanied her back to Flatman's Hotel at 11.30pm, so she must have managed to arrange a room earlier than documented.

Florence spent Friday 22 March and Saturday 23 March with Brierley at the hotel until they parted on Sunday 24 March.  As far as I can tell, the parting was abrupt and unanticipated because Florence appears to have been expecting to stay with him in the hotel for a full week.

With Brierley gone, Florence left the hotel and went to stay with her friends, the Misses Baillie, the aunts of John Baillie Knight, at 19 Palace Gardens Terrace, near Notting Hill in Kensington.  There must have been some kind of intention for Florence to visit them while she was in London because John Baillie Knight states of her visit that, 'it had been arranged that she was to spend some days with my Aunts the Misses Bailiie'

On Monday 25 March, Florence DID visit a solicitor.  It was one recommended by John Baillie Knight, a Mr Markby of Markby Stewart & Co.  

Florence remained at Kensington with the Misses Baillie until Thursday 28 March then left back for Liverpool.

One thing is clear.  Florence's story to her friends about what she had been doing on the Friday and the Saturday could not have been very convincing because Margaret Baillie thought she was lying about it.  She had also told them that she had been staying at the Grand Hotel which was, of course, a lie (but she had been having her letters sent to her there).

Anyway, by a cruel twist of fate for Florence (and for some unexplained reason), when Margaret Baillie wrote to Florence at Battlecrease after her return to Liverpool, her letters were returned.  This made her very worried that Florence had been involved in some sort of accident during her journey to Liverpool but she also wondered if Florence at gone back to stay at the Grand Hotel.  However, when enquiries were made at the hotel it was discovered that Florence hadn't been staying there at all.

This caused Margaret to write to the Baroness Von Roques in Paris to ask what was going on. In that correspondence, there was talk of Florence having supposedly spent time with a friend in London.  As Margaret later wrote to Florence, the Baroness gave her a satisfactory explanation of 'the reasons of your letters being returned here and of your friend's name not being on the books of the Grand Hotel.'  This is the quote being referred to by Caroline Morris when she refers to Margaret Baillie describing the person Florence was visiting in London as 'her friend'.

But who was that friend?

Well, as I said at the start, one thing we know for certain is that Florence's mother believed her to have been visiting London with her friend, Mrs Briggs.  How do we know this?  It's thanks to Dr Hopper again, because when he visited Florence on 1 April 1889 she showed him a letter received from her mother in which her mother had written:

'I cannot understand your movements in London.  I thought you were with Mrs Briggs. it was ridiculous to have your letters addressed to the Grand when you were not there.' 

So it is perfectly clear that the Baroness Von Roques thought that Florence was in London with Mrs Briggs, her friend.

To my mind that makes it very likely that SHE was the friend being referred to in Margaret Baillie's letter (which, contrary to Caroline Morris' summary of it, doesn't actually say that Florence was in London to visit that friend), not the Countess de Gabriac, Florence's godmother. 

It's true that the supposed fact of the Countess preferring to stay in lodgings, as Dr Hopper had been told, would explain why Florence was staying at the Grand Hotel on her own but there could have been another explanation why Florence's mother didn't expect Mrs Briggs to stay with Florence at the Grand.  Perhaps she had friends or relatives in London, for example, with whom she had planned to stay?

Certainly, if the Countess had believed that her own friend, the Countess de Gabriac, was staying in lodgings in London, where she had come to visit Sir James Paget, that story must have been true.  For Florence wouldn't have been able to fool her mother with such a story when she would have been in contact herself with the Countess.

But given that we have Florence believed to have been in London with a friend and Margaret Baillie referring to Florence being in London with her friend, it doesn't really need us to spend much more time on working out on who that friend was, does it? 

Even in the unlikely event that the Countess was the 'friend', and Florence's mother described her like that for some reason, one thing is clear, she wasn't being referred to as an aunt, so that whole 'Auntie Florence' nonsense is blown out of the water.

With all that in mind, let's look at a newspaper article posted by 'Yabs' who doesn't seem to have read my article (or, if he did, didn't absorb it), hence his posting newspaper extracts which get us nowhere in #504, #505 and #506.

In #506, he posted a story from the Ipswich Journal based on what a Liverpool gentleman, said to have been well acquainted with the Maybrick family, is supposed to have said to a reporter which concludes that, ‘As soon as Brierley left the Henrietta Street hotel she [Florence] repaired to her aunt’s and spent the remainder of the week there, and not with Brierley as has been supposed.

We know exactly where Florence went after she left the Henrietta Street hotel.  It certainly wasn’t to stay with her aunt.  As I've mentioned, it was to stay at 19 Palace Gardens Terrace in Kensington with her friends, the aunts of John Baillie Knight who were the Misses Bailie.  The source of the Ipswich Journal has basically made the same mistake as John Addison here, possibly influenced by what he had read of Addison’s opening speech in the newspaper.  As to that, he must have read Addison's opening speech because he refers to Margaret Baillie's letter and says that it was read out during the trial (which was, of course, by Addison in his opening speech and reported in the newspapers).

In connection with that letter, we can see that rest of the story is not quite correct either.  Whether Florence was expected to proceed directly to 19 Gardens Palace Terrace or not once she arrived in London (which seems highly unlikely given her plan to stay at Flatman's Hotel), it wasn’t her failure to do so which caused Margaret Baillie to write the letter to Florence as the article states.  It was the fact that it was discovered, after she left London, that Florence had not been staying at the Grand Hotel (as she had claimed) which was the cause of that letter.  

So to the extent that anyone (i.e. the Clanger) thinks that the source of the Ipswich Journal story was confusing Florence's godmother with her aunt they are wrong.  That was not the confusion.  The confusion was between the aunt of John Baillie Knight and a non-existent aunt of Florence Maybrick because we know for a fact that Florence stayed with the aunt of John Baillie Knight in London for the remainder of her week in London after leaving the Henrietta Street Hotel. 


19 September 2020