Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Madeleine Smith Story

Madeleine Smith

Emile was born the first of five children to French parents on the Channel Islands in April of 1823. The family ran a seed merchant business out of their small house, and their business was confined to natives or French speakers.

Emiles father wanted to attract the business of the wealthy English visitors who spent time on the islands. With this goal in mind, Emile was sent to be an apprentice to a neighboring nursery that catered to that British clientele. After some initial uneasiness, Emile became a hard worker and enhanced the basic English he had learned at school becoming quite fluent in both French and English.

In 1842, as Emile was nearing the end of his apprenticeship, Sir Francis Mackenzie from Scotland took a liking to him and offered to take him back to work on his Scottish estates. The family agreed this would be a good way to attract even more of the British business, and so Emile journeyed to a nursery in Edinburgh for training in the plants of Scotland. One year later, however, Sir Francis died suddenly, and, without enough money to return home, Emile was stranded in Edinburgh. Fortunately, the nursery where he had been training was pleased with his work and offered to keep him on. Over the next few years, Emile would continue to work as a nurseryman in Scotland, the Channel Islands, and France. In 1852, he moved to Glasgow, where his fate awaited him.

While the young Emile was in the early years of his apprenticeship on the Channel Islands, a first child was born to the wealthy Glasgow architect James Smith and his wife Elizabeth. The child was named Madeleine and, like Emile, Madeleine was to become the oldest of five children.

As a daughter of an upper-class family, Madeleine was educated from her earliest years in the proper manners and culture of the gentry. Class separation was a strictly enforced concept in mid-19th century Glasgow, and Madeleine, almost from birth, accompanied her parents to the parties and other social occasions worthy of one of her status.

Madeleine Smith
Madeleine Smith
When she came into her early teens, she traveled to London to attend Mrs. Alice Gorton's Academy for Young Ladies, where she was taught proper manners and took appropriate courses (piano lessons, walking as exercise, tatting and other ladies' crafts), and then returned to her family home in the summer of 1853 at the age of 18 years. Once again she slipped into the proper role of a daughter of gentry. It was a docile role that someone of Madeleines temperament would never be comfortable with.

It is not known when Emile first saw Madeleine in Glasgow, but she was attractive enough that he sought an introduction to her by a mutual friend, as was the proper custom of that era.

After several weeks of searching, he found a mutual acquaintance, and so in the early spring of 1855, Madeleine, the daughter of one of the most prominent families in Glasgow met Emile, who was then working as a warehouse clerk.

The meeting would soon end the life of one and forever haunt the life of the other.

 

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