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Past And Present

Adelaide Bartlett and the Pimlico mystery

BMJ 1994; 309 doi: (Published 24 December 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;309:1720
  1. Michael Farrell, education consultant to the Department for Educationa
  1. a 28 Parklawn Avenue, Epsom, Surrey KT18 7SL

    In 1886 Adelaide Bartlett stood trial at the Old Bailey for the murder of her husband, Thomas Edwin Bartlett. The court witnessed sensational evidence and the case left questions which remain unanswered.

    Adelaide's origins are mysterious. Born illegitimately in Orleans in 1855, she was christened Adelaide Blanche de la Tremouille. Her father was probably Adolphe Collot de la Tremouille, Comte de Thouars d'Escury. Her mother may have been an obscure English girl, Clara Chamberlain. After a childhood in France Adelaide was dispatched to England to stay with her maternal aunt and uncle in Kingston-uponThames. Here in 1875 she was introduced to Edwin Bartlett, who became infatuated with the poised Anglo-French beauty and resolved to marry her. Aged 30, 11 years Adelaide's senior, Edwin was a comfortably off proprietor of grocery stores. Adelaide's parents in Orleans approved the match and her father provided a modest dowry.

    Strange marriage

    Immediately they were married, Edwin arranged for his bride to rectify gaps in her formal education and sent her to a boarding school in Stoke Newington. She attended for two years, staying with her husband only during school holidays. She was then sent to a finishing school in Belgium. By 1878 Adelaide's schooling was completed and she moved in with her husband in rooms over one of his shops in Herne Hill. Edwin's father resented Adelaide coming between him and his son and after he moved into the couple's house, soon after his own wife died, he accused her of having an affair with Frederick, his youngest son. Edwin endorsed his wife's denial of this and made his father retract the allegations before a solicitor.

    According to Adelaide, she and her husband had sexual intercourse only once during their married life. This was solely to make Adelaide pregnant, which it did. Nurse Annie Walker, a …

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