With a couple of old research documents provided to him by Keith Skinner, Iconoclast tries to suggest that Keith and Anne Graham had already spotted the mistake in the diary about Bunny’s aunt in the 1990s (#436 of the Special Announcement thread). It may surprise him to learn, however, that documents he posts in support do NOT support this.
Nor is it correct for Caroline Morris (who evidently hasn't even read my article) to say, ‘But it isn’t new research is it…The ‘anomaly’ was found back in the 1990s’.
I will explain why but, before I do, I would draw attention to the fact that I expressly stated in ‘Bunny’s Aunt’ that Paul Feldman (and/or his researcher) MUST have been aware that the Countess was Florence’s godmother, not her aunt, having seen this in Hopper’s supplementary witness statement in the National Archives, even though Feldman nevertheless falsely stated in his book that Florence went to London to see her aunt.
So I was making clear that that this discrepancy had, indeed, been spotted by researchers (but that they seemed to have kept very quiet about it). I don’t know who his researcher was in this case, although I do know that Keith Skinner has previously described himself as ‘a member of Paul Feldman’s research team’ so, with Feldman’s book having been first published in 1997, someone is going to have to explain to me why Feldman states as a historical fact in his book that Florence said she went to London to see her aunt, even though Keith Skinner was in possession of a note in February 1996 stating that the evidence in the case was that it was her godmother she was going to see.
However, I need to make clear that this discrepancy alone does NOT prove that a mistake had been made by Maybrick. So when we find it said in the ‘Special Announcement’ on this site that ‘literally hundreds of people have crawled over the Diary during the past 28 years’ but that I had ‘found a glaring error that they had all missed’ I wasn’t actually just talking about the simple godmother/aunt discrepancy (or ‘anomaly’ as some like to call it). As my article made clear, I believed that Feldman had already spotted THAT. But as Feldman nevertheless seemed to think that Florence went to London to see her aunt (and let’s generously assume he genuinely did think that) he obviously didn’t think there was a mistake in the diary and, therefore, must have thought that Hopper had got it wrong. So, in the sense that he didn’t understand what he had found, he missed it!
When I said that no-one had previously spotted the mistake I didn’t actually have in mind one of the alleged forgers and co-conspirators, funnily enough, but as my article also made clear, it was obvious that Anne Graham (and Carol Emmas) had spotted from the documents in the National Archives that Hopper said that Florence had gone to see her godmother because it is mentioned as a fact in her book that this was the stated purpose of her visit to London. This is rather more worrying because if she genuinely believed that, she should have been able to appreciate that it was inconsistent with what the diary said. But that depends on her being aware and not having forgotten in 1995/6 that it was mentioned in the diary (as to which, the diary entry relating to Florence’s aunt isn’t expressly mentioned in her 1996 notes – only ‘sick aunt’ which isn’t an accurate quote from the diary - so that it’s unclear if the discrepancy between the evidence of Hopper and the diary had actually been appreciated at that time). I can’t answer for Anne as to why she either didn’t appreciate it or remained silent – and it just means that she has some explaining to do (and if she assisted Mike with the forgery she has a LOT of explaining to do!) – but regardless of whether Anne had spotted the discrepancy or not, she (and Carol Emmas) still didn’t get to the bottom of the matter, as I discuss below.
Certainly in terms of the information that Keith Skinner had collated in 1996, either on his own or with the assistance of Anne Graham, he couldn’t possibly have concluded that he had identified a mistake which proved the diary to be a fake because he didn’t have enough information.
I will explain.
Let me first give some background to how my article came about.
I first noticed the issue relating to Florence’s aunt when I was carrying out my own detailed comparison of the diary text to the secondary sources (not for the purpose of proving the diary to be a fake, which I'd already done, but to see how a modern twentieth century forger could have forged it). It was something I had been meaning to do for some time but, due to the pandemic and being at home, I finally had some time to get round to it. I can actually place the date as being Friday 10th July 2020. On that day I noticed for the first time that the Maybrick books were saying that Florence claimed that she went to see her aunt in London in March 1889 whereas Hopper had said in his evidence that it was her godmother, the ‘Countess de Gabrial’ (or so it seemed). I noted that Robert Smith said in his 2017/19 book that it was ‘Countess de Gabrielle’ so figured that he, or someone sensible, must surely have worked out the woman’s correct identity in able to be able to change the spelling of her name so confidently.
In other words, I had reached, on the Friday evening, the exact same position that Keith Skinner had reached in 1996, according to the documents uploaded by Iconoclast. But that wasn’t good enough! I hadn’t yet found the mistake.
Because, for all I knew, the Countess de Gabrielle (or Gabrial) MIGHT have been Florence’s aunt, regardless of what Hopper had said. I mean, what if Hopper had been confused? He wasn’t a family member so perhaps the Countess was, in fact, Florence’s aunt. In such a situation, there was no mistake in the diary!
Sure, I knew that Addison shouldn’t have said ‘aunt’ because that wasn’t in the evidence but what if he had got it right by luck?
It was essential to establish whether the Countess de Gabrielle was or was not Florence’s aunt.
I did some online searches for ‘Countess de Gabrielle’ but nothing really came up. The closest I got was a mention in the Times of 1916 to a Countess Germaine Virginal Gabrielle de Planet de Beauregard also referred to, confusingly, as Gabrielle Diane Countess de Bichevest de Beauregard. Could it have been her, still alive, 27 years later? Possibly. She was certainly my main candidate. But I could find out nothing more about her. Might she have been Florence’s aunt? Possibly, I had to admit.
So I went to bed on Friday night, no closer to having established the identity of the woman who Florence claimed she went to see in London.
Without any confirmation as to who the Countess de Gabreille was, I realized that if I was going to confirm that she couldn’t have been Florence’s aunt (and thus prove the diary to be a fake on this basis) I was going to have to trawl through ALL of the sisters and sisters-in-law of Florence’s mother and those of her three husbands (i.e. identifying every single one of Florence's aunts) in order to ensure that there was no countess among them by a process of elimination. It seemed a daunting task but, without doing that, I didn’t have anything I could go public with.
I repeat. So far, I had nothing.
And to repeat again for emphasis, I had exactly the same that Keith Skinner had in 1996. Nothing!
So I started the exercise on the Saturday morning (11th July).
Fortunately, Florence’s mother, Caroline Holbrook, was an only child. Hallelujah!
Florence’s father, William Gaines Chandler, had a number of siblings but, thankfully, they were all well recorded on publicly available genealogical websites and all lived and died in Alabama (if I recall correctly). None of his sisters became a countess and none of the brothers became a count or married a countess.
So that was one out of the way. What about the Baron Von Roques who married Caroline’s mother in 1872? Hmmmmn, there was no information at all about him or his family anywhere (although I should add that I didn’t then, nor do I now, have access to any subscription genealogical websites). I’d hit a complete brick wall. This was going to be a problem because if anyone had a countess as a sister or sister-in-law it was most likely going to be him. I was in trouble.
However, I felt I had made a breakthrough when looking at the history of Caroline Holbrook’s first husband before she married William Chandler. This was a man called Franklin Bache du Barry. The ‘du’ in the name was interesting but what really caught my attention was that du Barry was an army officer who served on the staff of General P.T. Beauregard. Beauregard!!! Surely that explains the Countess Germaine Virginal Gabrielle de Planet de Beauregard as having been a godmother to the baby Florence.
It couldn’t be a coincidence surely? Those two Beauregards.
Well of course it could. And it was. But I didn’t know that at the time.
I tried to find a connection but just couldn’t see one. I couldn’t find anything more about the Countess Germaine Virginal Gabrielle de Planet de Beauregard on the internet. It looked like it was going to need some visits to libraries (which were all closed due to Covid!) so that this investigation might take some time.
However, having virtually given up, some random and hopeful searches (which I think related to the Baron Von Roques) brought me to Richard Jay Hutto’s 2018 book which is on Google books. I ran a hopeful search of the word ‘countess’ within his book and lo and behold, like a miracle, up came the Countess de Gabriac!!!
Aha, so not it’s not Gabrielle at all. Bloody Feldman and Smith giving out false information again!
Now, finally I had found her, and, knowing she was originally Florence Phalen, I knew that she was definitely NOT related to Florence and thus not Florence’s aunt. Hutto even tells us helpfully that she was a friend of Caroline’s mother.
It was only now that I had proved the diary was a fake in respect of the 'aunt' entry. It was only now that I knew that no-one could say 'Ah, but what if the Countess actually WAS Florence’s aunt? What if Hopper was wrong?' And believe me that’s what they would have said. The Clanger would have been first in the queue with Iconoclast second.
While there was uncertainty on the matter, in other words, it could NOT be said that Maybrick had made a mistake.
And I assume that is why Keith Skinner never identified the aunt/godmother discrepancy as a mistake which proved the diary to be a fake, or at least I hope that is the reason and that he didn’t deliberately keep the discrepancy a secret so as not to undermine the diary. In short, he never seems to have found the final piece of the puzzle.
So Iconoclast is quite wrong when he writes that, ‘The material seems to show that the ‘error’ wasn’t such a big deal, and certainly no big Reveal’. With all due respect to Keith Skinner, he hadn’t nailed down the identity of the woman the notes in his possession have down inaccurately as ‘Countess de Gabriel’ (‘Gabriel’ being a mis-transcription of the copy of Hopper’s statement which reads as ‘Gabrial’ if not ‘Gabriac’).
I don’t want to get involved in a game of one-upmanship with Keith Skinner but the fact remains that it took me 48 hours to discover what he couldn’t find out in 28 years, namely that the woman Florence claimed to be visiting in London WAS definitely her godmother. That’s why my article IS based on new research contrary to what Caroline Morris (who, I repeat, hasn't read it) seems to think.
For all I know (and, for some reason, we are not made privy to his thinking) Skinner believed that Countess de Gabriel might have been Florence’s aunt. In fact, I assume he must have done.
Otherwise, what is Iconoclast’s point? He’s not saying that Keith spotted a glaring and unexplained mistake in the diary in 1996 and deliberately kept quiet about it, is he? I mean, Keith Skinner certainly doesn’t appear to have mentioned it to Paul Feldman or Shirley Harrison or Robert Smith. Because none of them mention it in their respective books. All three of them: Feldman (1997), Harrison (2003) and Smith (2017) expressly say it was an AUNT that Florence went to see, even though Skinner had evidently worked out in 1996 that Hopper said it was her godmother!!! [Note btw that Caroline Morris, and only Caroline Morris, was personally thanked by Robert Smith for‘correcting errors and omissions’ in his book yet, she now tells us in #498 of the Special Announcement thread that, even though Smith said in his 2017 book (repeated in his 2019 edition), that it was Florence’s aunt she went to visit - and he actually names her as ‘Countess de Gabreille’ - it had been spotted way back in the 1990s that she wasn’t her aunt, as the diary says, she was her godmother!!!!]
So what’s going on here? Is Keith Skinner looking for brownie points as being the first person to spot the mistake, contrary to me saying no-one had spotted it before, despite him keeping totally silent about it, or is he actually agreeing with me that he couldn’t possibly have concluded there was a mistake in the diary due to his failure to identify the person he mistakenly thought was called ‘Countess de Gabriel’? I can only be generous and assume it’s the latter. But if it’s the former then he’s got a lot of explaining to do.
In his post, Iconcolast then says something totally and utterly daft. He writes:
'If anything it can be argued it strengthens the case for the diary, as the author (let us say it is JM - oh please let it be he!) reflects on what he has been told by Florence as the reason for her going to London. Addison confirms that was the story Florence gave to her husband. One could interpret from the material that JM didn't believe a word about Florence's reason for going to London but played along with it.'
This is ridiculous because James and Florence told Hopper that Florence had been to London to see her godmother. So THAT was the cover story. It wasn't that she went to London to see her aunt. There can be no doubt about it.
Iconcolast's statement that 'Addison confirms that was the story Florence gave to her husband' just shows Iconoclast's lack of knowledge of court proceedings. Addison could confirm nothing. He was only informing the jury what the evidence they would be hearing from witnesses was going to be. This was based entirely on what was in his brief. He, Addison, was not, and could not be, a witness! Nor did he have any personal knowledge about Florence's family. And it doesn't matter if JM didn't believe a word about Florence's reason for going to London and played along with it or not. The point was that he (or rather the forger) records in his diary that Florence was going to see her aunt when we know for a fact that Florence's story was that she was going to see her godmother. So why would the real JM write that she was going to see her aunt? That wasn't the story! So he would not have written it.
Iconoclast is just confused. It's the fact that the fake JM writes that is wife was going to see her aunt when it wasn't her aunt - and the real JM knew that full well - which shows us 100% that the diary is a rotten fake.
19 September 2020