Today, we explore a true Victorian scandal involving poisoning, secret lovers, and a young socialite’s fall from grace in the case of Madeleine Smith. Listen to the latest Glasgow Crime Stories episode on all streaming platforms. 

It was the Glasgow murder trial where millions across the world eagerly awaited the outcome. 

The case of 22-year-old socialite Madeleine Smith, charged with poisoning her older French lover, was the scandal of the age. 

When she strode into the dock at the High Court in Edinburgh in June 1857, she was probably the most notorious woman in Britain if not the world. 

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The subsequent nine-day trial filled the pages of newspapers everywhere with stories of poison plots and illicit passionate love affair. 

It was like something out of a Shakespeare play or in today's parlance a soap opera. 

One reporter in The New York Herald wrote at the time: "Our readers will probably find our report of the trial the most thrilling narrative of crime, passion and judicial inquiry that has ever fallen under their notice." 

Madeleine was alleged to have given her French lover Pierre Emile L'Angelier - ten years her senior - cups of hot chocolate laced with arsenic, after he had tried to blackmail her over their relationship. 

She wanted to marry a young business associate of her father's with far greater prospects. 

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However, L'Angelier threatened to make their relationship public, including almost 250 steamy love letters and details of how she lost her virginity to him. 

If that came out, it would have ruined not only her marriage prospects but her entire reputation.  

The case caused even further controversy when Smith was cleared on a not proven verdict by a jury of 15 men at the High Court in Edinburgh, even though she was the only person with motive and opportunity. 

So, who was Madeleine Smith, and did she get away with murder? 

Smith was born in 1835 into one of the best known and most respected families in Glasgow at the time.  

Her architect father James Smith and grandfather David Hamilton had designed many of the city's modern Victorian buildings. 

The family lived in Blythswood Square, then the city's most prestigious address, and young Madeleine had spent two years at a private girls finishing school in London. 

When Smith returned as an 18-year-old, she mixed only with the crème de la crème of Glasgow society. 

The family also had a country retreat at Rhu on the River Clyde near Helensburgh.  

As was then normal her parents planned to find Madeleine a suitable husband - a Victorian version of an arranged marriage. 

As the daughter of a wealthy and famous Glasgow architect, she was expected to marry someone of her own social standing. 

However, the 20-year-old socialite broke all the rules when she began a secret two-year affair with dashing 30-year-old L'Angelier. 

L'Angelier, had arrived in Glasgow in 1853 from the Channel Islands via Dundee and Edinburgh. 

Despite being a gardener to trade he had gotten a job as a clerk in a warehouse in Bothwell Street. 

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The couple had met by chance in 1855 during one of Madeleine's many shopping trips to nearby Sauchiehall Street. 

She and L'Angelier were soon exchanging passionate letters - as many as 250 - and Smith would sneak downstairs in the middle of the night to admit her lover to the family home in Blythswood Square. 

The passionate love letters - which were considered highly indecent at the time - shocked the public when they were published in newspapers with their detailed sexual content.  

Her parents weren’t aware of their daughter’s night-time activities and often were away at their country home when the Frenchman came calling. 

Like many women in her position, surrounded by solid, dull, respectable men, Madeleine was captivated by the exotic Frenchman. 

When her parents announced a match with the far more suitable William Minnoch, a wealthy merchant and friend of her father, she knew that she would have to end things with her lover before too long. 

Her husband-to-be was said to earn £4,000 a year - around £500,000 in today's money - compared to L'Angelier's measly clerk's wage.  

There was no contest really in Madeleine's eyes. 

Being a realist, the young woman knew that Minnoch offered her a brighter and more secure future. 

Someone who could keep her in the style to which she had become accustomed. 

In February 1857, Madeleine agreed to marry Minnoch, and asked L'Angelier to return her letters and photograph, but he refused 

In one letter, she pleaded: 'I trust to your honour as a gentleman that you will not reveal anything that passed between us. 

However, L'Angelier was furious at the news that their affair was over, believing that she had promised to marry him.  

He then pressurised Smith into a series of secret meetings at her home - and began keeping a diary. 

He told people he had seen Madeleine and "felt ill" after drinking chocolate she provided adding: "I think I'm being poisoned." 

L’Angelier collapsed suddenly at his lodgings in Glasgow on March 23, 1857. 

He was found by his landlady in a doubled-up position and despite medical attention by a doctor he died the following day.  

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After his death, his family insisted a post-mortem was conducted and the results were handed over to the police.  

A forensic examination detected over 30 grains of arsenic in his remains. 

Detectives also uncovered the secret correspondence between the pair which revealed their passionate liaison and helped piece together the events surrounding L’Angelier’s suspicious death. 

A decision was then taken to charge young Madeleine Hamilton Smith with this murder 

On June 30, 1857, her trial began in Edinburgh in full glare of the world's media. 

The full extent of their relationship was revealed, including Madeleine's explicit love letters. 

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“My nightdress was on when you saw me," she wrote to her French lover.  

"Would to God you had been in the same attire."  

The prosecution claimed she had poisoned L'Angelier with arsenic at her father’s house between February 19 and March 23 that year to prevent news of their affair emerging.  

It was the trial of the century and the newspapers had found a goldmine both in the accused, her lover, and the letters 

Madeleine was pretty, well-connected, and young, and the letters that became the crucial pieces of evidence were steamy, to say the least. 

The Frenchman often referred to his lover with the words "Wifie mine".  

On one occasion Madelaine had written, "Am I not your wife? Yes, I am" 

There is reason to believe that L’Angelier assumed that they were married according to Scots law. 

And in at least one letter, Madeleine promised to marry the Frenchman. 

Madeleine Smith wrote her first letter to Pierre Emile L’Angelier in April 1855, two years before his murder. 

She became a prolific letter writer and visited the Post Office in Glasgow’s George Square on a regular basis, both to send and collect letters, many of which were delivered within a few hours. 

Given the secrecy of their relationship, letters were their main form of communication between the lovers.  

It was difficult for them to meet without Madeleine’s parents finding out, and so they corresponded several times a week.  

Alongside the letters, what intrigued newspaper readers of the time was how cool calm and collected she seemed in the dock. 

After her arrest Madeline’s family were said to be distressed and ashamed, however Miss Smith did not seem to suffer from the same discomfort.  

Throughout the trial Smith never seemed concerned by the proceedings. 

One newspaper described how she entered the dock in the following terms: "With the air of a belle entering a ballroom or a box at the opera.  

"Her steps were buoyant and she carried a silver-topped bottle of smelling salts. She was stylishly dressed and wore a pair of lavender gloves." 

Madeline Smith also seemed to exert a peculiar fascination over the men in the court, particularly the jurors.  

She was later to tell a female prison governor in the jail, where she had been held awaiting trial, that she had received hundreds of offers of marriage and money from men who had read about her exploits. 

In her defence Madeleine claimed that she had not seen L’Angelier for three weeks prior to his death.  

There was no doubt that she had the means, the motive, the opportunity - but what the prosecution didn't have was concrete evidence. 

The court was told that Madeleine purchased a bottle of arsenic from Murdoch Brothers Dispensary on Sauchiehall Street under the name MH Smith - with the H referring to her middle name. 

Arsenic was a popular murder weapon in the 19th century because it was so readily available.  

It was also used to make candles, wallpaper, and dresses. 

Madeleine however insisted that the arsenic she had bought from the chemists was for killing vermin and also for cosmetic purposes, diluted with water, to wash her face, arms and neck.  

The prosecution case rested on the overwhelming motive that the young woman had for disposing of her former lover.  

However, her legal team argued that there was no evidence that she and her lover had ever met on the days when she was supposed to have administered the deadly doses of poison. 

Someone did come forward later to say that they had seen a man and a woman matching the couple's description outside Madeleine's house the night of the murder. 

But because the trial had already begun, they could not be called as a witness. 

It was even suggested that the heartbroken L’Angelier may have taken his own life after she ended their affair. 

L'Angelier had spoken of suicide and was familiar with the use of arsenic himself.  

Despite objections from the defence all the love letters were read out in court. 

Due to their frank descriptions of sex, they shocked and excited the then prudish Victorian society in equal amounts.  

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The letters were also widely published in the hundreds of newspapers which were covering the case. 

But although they proved a possible motive for the murder there was nothing incriminating in the content. 

Madeleine wanted to end an affair to start another relationship, but it didn't necessarily make her a killer. 

It had been proved that she had purchased arsenic, but it could not be proved that she had been with the victim on the night he died or even in the days leading up to the death. 

The jury were told by the trial judge that they could find the accused guilty, not guilty or not proven. 

While they were absent, it was said that the most relaxed person in the court was the accused. 

After only thirty minutes of deliberations Smith was cleared of the murder charge on the controversial third verdict. 

When the foreman delivered their decision, the court broke out in applause. 

Madeleine, as cool and impassive as she had been throughout the trial, nodded her gratitude and disappeared through a great oak door behind the dock. 

Despite her acquittal she was seen by many ordinary people as the rich little girl who got away with murder. 

Madeleine Smith had become something of a femme fatale and was portrayed in some publications as a devil woman who captured unsuspecting men in her web of deceit. 

Victorian society was scandalised, finding it difficult to cope with the outspoken correspondence quoted during the trial and with the astonishing coolness of a glamorous young woman facing the death penalty. 

Despite the acquittal verdict, Madeleine was never quite free of suspicion and decided to leave Glasgow for good and moved to London. 

In 1861 she married George Wardle, the business manager of the artist William Morris.  

He possessed a good social position and considerable wealth, and Madeleine soon made a place for herself in the literary and socialist circles of London.  

They had two children, Tom and Kitty. 

For a time, she became involved with the Fabian Society in London, and was an enthusiastic organiser. As she was known by her new married name, not everyone knew who she was, but a few did 

The Wardle's separated and then divorced 1890. The same year Madeleine moved to New York City to be with her now grown-up son, Tom, who had emigrated there. 

She lived there in relative obscurity, managing to keep both her identity and earlier notoriety a closely guarded secret.  

Madeleine Smith then married a second time to a William Sheehy and this marriage lasted until his death in 1926. 

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She passed away two years later on April 28, 1928, aged 93 and was laid to rest under the name of Lena Sheehy. 

To this day she is buried in Mount Hope Cemetery in Hastings-on-Hudson in New York State. 

L'Angelier meanwhile is buried in the Ramshorn Cemetery on Ingram Street in the Merchant City. 

Because of the scandal Smith's family were forced to quit their luxury Glasgow home and country residence and moved to Bridge of Allan in Stirlingshire. 

They moved again to Polmont near Falkirk where Madeleine's father died in 1863, aged 55, broken by the whole affair. 

Most people at the time believed that Smith murdered her lover in order to protect her own future prospects and end the blackmail threats. 

However crucially there was no proof that Smith and l'Angelier had ever met in the weeks before his death. 

She was represented by one of the leading advocates of the day John Inglis. 

Crucially the eminent QC managed to have the Frenchman's diary of their later meetings, with references to being poisoned, excluded from the trial which probably saved her from a death sentence. 

Over the years the case has continued to hold a fascination for the public. 

In 1950 legendary Hollywood director David Lean made a movie of the story with Ann Todd in the starring role. 

For many years, a model of Madeleine Smith was one of the main exhibits at the Edinburgh Waxwords Museum 

Thirteen of the original love letters between Smith and her French lover can still be found at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow. 

In 2003 author Jimmy Powdrell Campbell published a book, A Scottish Murder: Rewriting the Madeleine Smith story. 

He later told the Evening Times that a turning-point for him had come when he read L'Angelier's diaries. 

The writer suggested that the Frenchman may have even poisoned himself to make it look as though Madeleine had tried to kill him and he could have deliberately written his entries in that diary to incriminate her. 

In other words, L'Angelier was hoping she would be charged with attempted murder, rather than murder, and he would get revenge for her perceived betrayal. 

Their relationship would then become public knowledge and she would be ruined. 

Powdrell Campbell said of the Frenchman's diary: "It had been started the day he and Madeleine had fallen out and you begin to wonder whether he could have deliberately written his entries in that diary to incriminate Madeleine. 

"Once these things fell into place, you could look at the circumstances in a different light."  

Most historians believe that Smith committed the crime and the only thing that saved her from a guilty verdict and a death sentence was that no eyewitness could prove that Smith and L'Angelier had met in the weeks before his death. 

To this day it remains one of Glasgow's greatest unsolved mysteries. 

If Madeleine Smith had not murdered her lover, then who did?