Madeleine Smith

(1825 – 1928)

Madeleine Smith was born on the 29th of March 1835 to James Smith Esq, Architect and Janet Hamilton. Mrs Hamilton Smith was the daughter of the well-known David Hamilton, (1768 – 1843) best known for his works ‘The Royal Exchange’ and ‘Hutchesons Hospital’.

The family moved from central Glasgow to Birkenshaw Cottage in East Renfrewshire in or around the year 1841. John Smith who was Madeleine’s grandfather lived close by in ‘Mansion House’. Madeleine enjoyed herself growing up on what she called ‘the farm’. The Smith family moved around and for a time settled within Govan with Madeleine’s Grandparents. In 1849 the bankruptcy was settled and the family moved back to Sauchiehall Street. The Smith family began to enjoy middle-class life once again employing various house help which included three servants, a general maid, and other bodies. Madeleine would join fashionable society and enjoy the socialite life that Glasgow had to offer.

Madeleine Smith in the Illustrated Times, 11 July 1857

During the spring of 1855 Madeleine was introduced to Pierre Emile L’Angelier, a native of Jersey. Emile was charming, rather dashing, and set his mind to be introduced to the young Madeleine Smith. Emile was not from a wealthy background but he set his sights high on Madeleine. Perhaps Emilie was looking for a woman of wealth?

Madeleine and Emile began to arrange to meet up at different locations around Glasgow. When Madeleine’s parents were informed of their daughter walking with Emile they were not pleased. The couple ordered their daughter Madeleine to put a stop to L’Angelier accompanying her on her walks. Madeleine’s parents viewed Emile as being below her, all but a poor Clerk. The wealthy couple was not pleased with their daughter’s behavior in allowing someone of the lower social class to join her whilst out on her walks. Emile was not within their family circle and was certainly not known to her parents. Upon her parent’s instructions Madeleine wrote to Emile informing him of her decision to put an end to their forming relationship. Emile did not wish to end his time with Madeleine and took a chance by passing her a letter proposing marriage, Madeleine later called herself his intended wife.

Passing letters back and forth, window meetings and sneaking Emile into her parents properties at both Rowaleyn and Blythswood Square ensued as Madeleine tried to hide their relationship. Emile appears to have wished that they had taken their relationship public though Madeleine was insistent on privacy. L’Angelier did not have the means to set up a family home for them, nor provide for her in the manner which she was accustomed.

In the May of 1856, Madeleine wrote to Emile to warn him of a new resident in the flat above the family at Blythswood. The gentleman was named William Minnoch and he was a junior partner of the Houldsworth’s. Rumors were beginning to spread that Madeleine was to be married to William. Minnoch had indeed begun courting Madeleine and he earned around £4000 a year. A much better match for the upper-middle-class Madeleine Smith than the Clerk Emile.

From the Autumn of 1856, Madeleine and Emile’s relationship began to fray as William Minnoch began to spend more time with the Smith family. Emile was overcome by jealousy and Madeleine had begun to make excuses as to why they could not be married. Minnoch proposed to Madeleine in the January of 1857, he was a man which her parents would accept. Madeleines parents were unlikely to ever accept Emile. Breaking off her relationship with Emile Madeleine asked for her letters to be returned.

Madeleine found herself with a rather large problem, Emile refused to return the letters and was threatening to show her father. The letters proved Madeleine had relations with him, she had also named him husband. If William were to read them he would undoubtedly call off his proposal of marriage.

According to Scottish law a couple could be wed via the use of an ‘Irregular Marriage’. Couples did not need to come before a minister, nor did they need witnesses to prove a marriage had occurred. A promise of marriage, followed by a sexual relationship, alongside proof such as letters was all that was needed – and Madeleine had given Emile the proof he needed to prove she was legally his wife. Did Madeleine understand this law, or not?

Please find more on Irregular Scottish Marriages here at the University of Glasgow’s website.

In a dash to prevent Emile from revealing their secret, Madeleine sent a letter to him. Agreeing to meet Emile at her bedroom window. From this letter onwards Madeleine appears to have settled on the idea of being with Emile. That is until his untimely death by arsenic poisoning on Monday the 23rd of March, 1857.