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Florence BRAVO






Known as The Charles Bravo Murder and the Murder at the Priory
Classification: Murderer?
Characteristics: Unsolved crime committed within an elite Victorian household at The Priory, a landmark house in Balham, London
Number of victims: 1 ?
Date of murder: April 21, 1876
Date of birth: 1850
Victim profile: Charles Delauny Turner Bravo, 32
Method of murder: Poisoning (antimony)
Location: Balham, London, England, United Kingdom
Status: Died two years later, on September 17, 1878, from alcohol poisoning, due to her chronic drinking

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Charles Bravo (1845 – 21 April 1876) was a British lawyer who was fatally poisoned with antimony in 1876. The case is still sensational, notorious and unresolved. The case is also known as The Charles Bravo Murder and the Murder at the Priory.

It was an unsolved crime committed within an elite Victorian household at The Priory, a landmark house in Balham, London. The reportage eclipsed even government and international news at the time. Leading doctors attended the bedside, including Royal physician Sir William Gull, and all agreed it was a case of antimony poisoning. The victim took three days to die but gave no indication of the source of the poison during that time. No-one was ever charged for the crime.


Charles Delauney Turner was born in 1845, the son of Augustus Charles Turner and Mary Turner, and took the surname Bravo from his stepfather Joseph Bravo. He became a barrister and by the time of his marriage to Florence Ricardo (née Campbell) he had fathered an illegitimate child.

His wealthy wife Florence had previously been married, in 1864, to Alexander Louis Ricardo, son of John Ricardo MP but had been separated from her first husband because of his affairs and violent alcoholism. She in turn had had an extramarital affair with the much older Dr James Manby Gully, a fashionable society doctor who was also married at the time, and she had fallen out of favour with her family and society. Ricardo died in 1871 and Florence married Charles, a respected up and coming barrister, on 7 December 1875, terminating her affair with Gully.

Police enquiries in the case revealed Charles's behaviour towards Florence as being controlling, mean, violent, and a bully. The marriage was unbalanced where power was concerned. Florence was wealthier than Charles and had opted from the start to hold onto her own money, an option provided by new laws in England at the time (Married Women's Property Act 1870), and this led immediately to tensions within the marriage.

Their relationship was stormy and the poisoning occurred four months into the marriage. In a BBC docudrama, Julian Fellowes Investigates: A Most Mysterious Murder, Julian Fellowes investigates the suspects; the household, Florence herself, her former lover Dr Gully, the housekeeper Mrs Cox and the likelihood of suicide. It also portrays Charles Bravo as a particularly crushing Victorian husband, totally lacking in feeling to staff, animals and his wife, his unreasonable treatment going beyond even the social expectations of the submissive woman in Victorian society.

A hypothesis is that Charles Bravo was slowly poisoning his wife with small cumulative doses of antimony in the form of tartar emetic (antimony potassium tartrate), which explains her chronic illness since shortly after their marriage. It theorises that he wanted to control her fortune from the start and this was one way he would get his hands on it. When while treating himself with laudanum for toothache before bedtime, he mistakenly swallowed some, he then took the tartar emetic, mistakenly believing it was a true emetic that would induce vomitting.

The housekeeper Mrs Cox reportedly told police Charles admitted using the tartar emetic on himself when they were alone together, later changing her statement in the witness box to deflect suspicion from herself to Florence.

His death was long, lasting from two (Ruddick) to three (Fellowes) days, and painful. It was particularly notable that he did not offer any explanation of his condition to attending doctors, suggesting he had some personal implication to hide, not being the type to protect others.

Other investigators have offered different suggestions as to what happened to cause his death, including suicide, murder by the housekeeper, Mrs. Cox, whom he had threatened to sack, murder by his wife, and murder by a disaffected groom whom he had discharged from employment at the Priory.


Two inquests were held and the details were considered to be so scandalous that women and children were banned from the room while Florence Bravo testified: the searching cross-examination launched the career of the lawyer George Henry Lewis. The first returned an open verdict. The second inquest returned a verdict of wilful murder; however, nobody was ever arrested or charged.

The household broke up after the inquest ended and the twice widowed Florence moved away, dying of alcohol poisoning two years later.

The novel (and later film) So Evil My Love by "Joseph Shearing" (pseudonym of Marjorie Bowen) both have elements of the Bravo poisoning in the plot.

The novel Below Suspicion by John Dickson Carr also has elements of the Bravo case in the first murder.


Florence Ricardo Bravo

Florence Bravo was a famous Victorian Heiress and young widow at 26, her first husband died under mysterious circumstances.

She was well known for seducing rich men with her charms and wiles. She met and married Charles Delauny Turner Bravo, a rich, mean Barrister who was just 30 years old. They lived together in a huge, beautiful Estate in a section of London, England, called Priory in Bedford Hills which lies in Bulham.

In her brief, stormy marriage to Charles, she was having an affair with an elderly doctor, he became suspicious and confronted her, she confessed and swore it was over.

On April 18th, 1976, Charles was dining with his wife and her live-in companion, Jane Cannon Cox. Florence excused herself early, saying she was going to bed, she wasn't feeling well. She was an excessive drinker. Her and Charles slept in separate rooms. He retired to his room a short time later. He took some laudanum for neuralgia and a tooth ache. Neuralgia is facial pain between the jaw and forehead, due to infected nerves. Laudanum was a popular medication of the Victorian era, widely used as a pain killer. It was a combination of alcohol and opium. Soon he came dashing out of his room shouting, crying out in pain. Jane Cox rushed to his aid. He became violently ill, collapsed into unconsciousness. Florence was woke up and a doctor was summoned. The doctor suspected poisoning, but could find no trace. When Charles was questioned in the hospital, he said he took some laudanum for his neuralgia. Florence called in Sir William Gull, a well known doctor of that era. The two doctors discussed the case, both agreed it sounded like poisoning. Charles Bravo died 3 days later, on April 21st, 1876.

A post-mortem examination revealed he had doses of 20-30 grains of antimony in his system. They conferred he may have deliberately committed suicide after finding out about his wife's affair. A second inquest was held, which showed he died from poisoning by antimony. Antimony is similar to Arsenic, consisting of metal components. During the trial her and her female companion was acquitted, due to insufficient evidence. Florence Bravo died two years later at the age of 28, from alcohol poisoning, due to her chronic drinking.


Victorian whodunnit solved

By Chirag Trivedi - BBC News

January 13, 2003

In 1876 a young barrister named Charles Bravo was found poisoned at his south London home.

The murderer has never been caught and in Victorian England it sparked outrage as the public played a national game of real-life Cluedo.

Was it the wealthy wife, Florence, who resented Bravo's brutal sexual advances?

Or the housekeeper, whom Bravo was about to dismiss from service.

Or was the murderer (as Agatha Christie suspected) Florence's ex-lover, the physician James Gully?

Many theories have been put forward since then, but author and historian James Ruddick says that he has solved the case after uncovering new evidence.

Bravo was killed at his home The Priory, in Balham, which was then an idyllic village in Surrey.

The poison potassium antimony had been slipped into his bedside glass of water.

On his death bed Bravo failed to say who might have poisoned him and remained strangely calm during his last agonising days.

Detectives took his ambivalence to mean that he had committed suicide.

It was only discovered in the 20th Century that antimony itself caused this reaction.

Suspicions were aroused when during the coroner's inquest (the court is now the Bedford Arms pub in Balham) details of an earlier relationship between Bravo's wife, Florence Bravo and surgeon Dr James Gully, came to light.

Pregnancy fear

She had had an abortion, carried out by Dr Gully, which in Victorian times shocked the public who were glued to their newspapers for all the titillating details.

The inquest also heard that Bravo and Florence argued a lot about him controlling her lifestyle and about having children.

He wanted them but she was wary. She was ill after suffering two miscarriages and was scared a third pregnancy would kill her.

Another suspect was the maid, Mrs Cox.

She was a widow with three children, but Charles was about to sack her to save money.

Reports at the time said she was evasive on the night of the murder and told police that Bravo had spoken about committing suicide, which he had not.

Mr Ruddick said: "Of the three suspects Dr Gully is the one that can be eliminated the first.

"He was nowhere near the scene and his butler had said he had given his blessing to Bravo and Florence's marriage, despite people saying he was bitter and angry about their marriage."

Lost documents

Mr Ruddick has also found out that Mrs Cox stood to inherit a fortune from the West Indies.

He discovered documents in the Jamaican national archives which show that she owned three vast plantations.

So that leaves Florence.

Mr Ruddick said: "Antimony was used by women in Victorian times to control their husband's alcohol addiction, which in small quantities would make them sick, and Florence had previously been married to an alcoholic.

"So she had plenty of experience with the poison.

"I think on the night of the murder, Bravo wanted sex but Florence was scared that a third pregnancy might kill her.

"In Victorian times women had no right to deny their husband sex and in these circumstances she resorted to poison.

"But she couldn't have done it alone. Mrs Cox must have got rid of the glass and then misled the police.

"It's a tragic story which highlights how poor a woman's standing was back then."


The Priory Puzzle

On April 18, 1876 the occupants of the ostentatious mansion known as the Priory at Balham, a suburb of London, sat down to dinner. Their meal included whiting, lamb, and poached eggs on toast. The male occupant drank three glasses of Burgundy while his female companions polished off almost two bottles of sherry between the two of them.

After three days of excruciating agony, one of them would be dead. The cause of death was determined to be antimony, a particularly harsh poison, and would lead to one of England's most celebrated unsolved murder mysteries.

The Victim:

Charles Delauney Bravo was an up and coming barrister with a promising Parliamentary career in front of him. He resided at the Priory with his wife, Florence Bravo and her paid companion, Mrs. Jane Cannon Cox.

Charles Bravo was described as a cruel and vindictive man who had been accused of marrying Florence for her money. In typical Victorian fashion, he was the master of his domain and his wife was to submit to him in all things. He became enraged when he learned that Florence, intended to retain control of her considerable fortune and punished her by forcing her into degrading sexual acts, in addition to being verbally and at times physically abusive. In an effort to cement his hold over Florence, he insisted that she bear him a child regardless of the consequences to her health.

The Suspects:

Florence Bravo was a widow when she met Charles Bravo. Her first husband, Algernon Lewis Ricardo, was a Captain in the Grenadier Guards. He received an honorable discharge from the guards after their wedding but found that he was not cut out for a non-military regimen. Within a year the marriage was already under a tremendous strain. Florence discovered that he was sleeping with other women. He also developed a fondness for the bottle and quickly developed into a dipsomaniac. They remained married an additional 6 years during which time he was rarely sober. Their marriage ended after he became physically abusive during one of their frequent arguments and she packed up and left. Rather than go back to her husband as her father demanded she went to a hydropathy clinic in Malvern, Worcestershire. While at the clinic she was informed of her husband's death and that she had inherited his estate to the tune of 40 thousand pounds. She immediately made plans to leave Malvern and move to London where purchased the Priory. She would eventually meet Charles Bravo and the two married in December of 1875 after Bravo made sure the odds were stacked in his favor. The two began having premarital relations and Florence became pregnant in November but she had difficulty carrying the child and miscarried in January. Charles insisted that they resume relations three weeks later even though Florence had not yet recovered. She soon found herself pregnant but again was unable to carry the child to fruition and miscarried in April. Florence became seriously ill after the miscarriage and was terrified that if Charles again forced her to become pregnant before she had a chance to sufficiently recover it would kill her.

Mrs Jane Cannon Cox was a widow with little means and considerable debt. She and her three small sons moved back to England from Jamaica after the death of her husband. Her sons were enrolled in private school and she barely supported herself and her family by renting out her home and by working as a governess. When she and Florence met they took an instant liking to each other and Florence offered her an ideal position as a highly paid live-in companion. The two became fast friends and Florence came to rely heavily on Mrs Cox for advice and guidance. Charles was jealous of the close relationship between Florence and Mrs Cox. He also felt that Mrs Cox was the reason why he could not control his wife. Even though they were extremely well off, Charles was a penny-pincher and insisted that Florence fire Mrs Cox among other things in an effort to save money. Mrs Cox faced the possibility of losing her comfortable lifestyle and returning to a state of poverty and destitution.

Dr James Manby Gully was the director of the hydropathy clinic in Malvern, Worcestershire. He first met Florence when she came to the clinic after she had separated from her first husband. Even though he was nearly 40 years her senior the two became attracted to each other and began a scandalous affair causing Florence to be ostracized from her family and society. During one of their illicit rendezvous, Florence discovered that their attempts at birth control had failed and she was with child. Realizing that their reputations would be permanently destroyed if word of her pregnancy became public knowledge, Dr Gully agreed to perform an abortion on Florence.

Florence suffered severe complications after the abortion and nearly died. She would eventually recover but their relationship was never the same. Even though he was still deeply in love with her, Florence insisted that their relationship remain purely platonic. Upon hearing about the upcoming nuptials, Dr Gully became angry and broke off all communication with Florence.

The first inquest was held on April 25, 1876 at the Priory with Florence providing refreshments for the jury. The Coroner, an acquaintance of Florence's family, convinced that Charles Bravo had committed suicide, took great pains to keep any scandal to a minimum. The proceedings were kept private and Florence was never called to testify. Two of the five doctors present during Charles' sickness testified to the fact that when he was confronted with the fact that they believed he had been poisoned stated that he had rubbed laudanum on his gums for a toothache and might have accidentally swallowed some. He denied taking poison and refused to name anyone who might have wanted to harm him. The doctors also testified that Mrs Cox had made known to them that Charles had admitted "I've taken some of that poison, but don't tell Florence." The Coroner then closed the inquiry and the jury returned with an open verdict. That is, "the deceased died from the effects of poison - antimony - but we have not sufficient evidence under what circumstances it came into his body."

When additional facts of the case and the verdict of the inquest were revealed to the public there was an immediate outcry of dissatisfaction and a demand to open up a second more in depth inquiry. One of the physician's present, Dr George Johnson, who had not been allowed to testify at the first inquiry gave a statement to the press in which he claimed that Charles Bravo had not knowingly taken poison. Mrs Cox also changed her statement previous statement which she had altered in an attempt to shield Florence from public scorn. She claimed that Charles had actually told her that he had taken poison for Gully and to not tell Florence. In light of this the illicit affair of Florence Bravo and Dr James Gully again resurfaced.

On June 19, 1976 the Attorney General made application to the Court of Queen's Bench and was granted a rule that squashed the first inquiry and ordered the Coroner to hold a new inquest.

The second inquest was held at the Bedford Hotel in Balham on July 11. Both Jane Cox and Florence testified that Charles Bravo was mean-spirited and deeply disturbed. They claimed that he was often verbally abusive and had one time even struck Florence. He was also extremely jealous of her former relationship with Dr. Gully. On one occasion he had called Florence a selfish pig and that he was leaving her. How he hated both her and Gully and wished they were dead. Their testimony was seen by some as a means to lay the groundwork for establishing the fact that he had taken his own life.

Florence and Mrs Cox's statements were refuted by the unanimous testimony of relatives, friends, and servants. They described Charles as a strong, active man with a cheerful disposition. The last man who would ever commit suicide. To them his relationship with Florence appeared happy and affectionate and none of the servants had ever heard or sensed the level of discord described by Florence and Mrs Cox.

It was further established that Charles kept a water bottle at his bedside and it was his custom to drink from it each night when he went to bed. The bottle was filled nightly by one of the housemaids. It was presumed that the water bottle was the medium for the poison since he would have become ill within 15 minutes of consuming the antimony. But one of the physicians was sure that he had drunk some of the water from the bottle while attending to Charles.

When she was on the stand Florence was forced to describe in lurid details her relationship with Dr Gully and at one point pleaded with the Coroner to protect her from the relentless questions put to her by the solicitor representing Charles' family.

Dr. Gully was much more controlled on the witness stand. Even though he admitted to the affair with Florence he unequivocally denied any direct or indirect participation in the poisoning of Charles Bravo.

On August 11, with no hard evidence, the jury reached a verdict of willful murder. "We find that Charles Delaunay Turner Bravo did not commit suicide; that he did not meet his death by misadventure; that he was willfully murdered by the administration of tarter emetic; but there is not sufficient evidence to fix the guilt upon any person or persons.

After the trial, the three suspects were free to leave but their lives were forever changed. Florence Bravo was publicly disgraced and disowned by her family. She moved to Southsea in the county of Hampshire where she died at the age of 33 in 1878 from alcohol poisoning. Dr. Gully also suffered complete ruin to his social and professional reputation and died in 1883.

Mrs Cox fared much better than her counterparts. She returned to Jamaica with her sons where she received a substantial inheritance from her husband's aunt. She eventually returned to England and died in 1913.

To this day the questions still remain a source of great debate, who killed Charles Bravo and how?


Murder Most English - Florence Bravo and the Balham Mystery

It was a mystery that has baffled people for over a century, even Agatha Christie couldn't solve it. Who murdered Charles Bravo that dark April night in 1876? Leading doctors, including Queen Victoria's physician, Sir William Gull, were called in to try and save his life but to no avail. The only thing they could agree on was that he had been poisoned by antimony. Bravo suffered for three days in excruciating agony but gave no indication of who he thought might have wanted to cause him harm.

At the time of the inquest, the news reports eclipsed even government and international news. And at the center was Bravo's wife, Florence Campbell Bravo. What was it about this case that made it so interesting to mystery writers over the past hundred years or so? And what made it so scandalous that people are still interested to this day?

Florence Campbell was born in 1845, the second of seven children. Her father Robert Campbell had made his fortune in Australia where the family lived for several years before moving to England, where they bought Buscot Park in Berkshire, while also maintaining a house in Lowndes Square in Knightsbridge, London. Her childhood was idyllic by anyone's standards, surrounded by servants, with holidays abroad. She was her father's favorite child, and he had spoiled her. Florence grew up to be a beautiful woman, with auburn curls, grey eyes, and a lush figure, determined to have her own way in all things. As a child, she would sulk for days if she was thwarted. While she was beautiful and vivacious, there was also an air of fragility in her, that called out to a man's instinct to protect. She loved animals, her mother noted that she was inconsolable on her 18th birthday, because a family pet had died.

At the age of 19, while on a trip to Canada, she met Alexander Ricardo, where he was stationed in the Grenadier Guards. He was tall, dark and handsome in his grey-green uniform, Byronic she called him. Florence saw him across the proverbial crowded room at a party. Years later Florence could recall in minute detail the exact moment she saw him. She managed to effect an introduction, they danced 3 times that night, and then slipped out to the balcony to talk. It was love at first sight, and Florence couldn't wait to tell her father about the man she had met. Her father was impressed by Ricardo's lineage. Alexander's father, John Ricardo was a Liberal MP who had also founded the International Telegraph Company, and Ricardo's mother was sister to the Duke of Fife. When the time came for the Campbell's to leave Canada, Ricardo arranged a three month leave to England to court Florence. Within six weeks of his arrival, they were engaged. By the end of the 3 months they were married. Her father settled a thousand pounds a year on her, not an inconsiderable sum.

The old saying 'marry in haste, repent in leisure' certainly was true in Florence's case with her first marriage. Florence had no intention of being an army wife, it was only a few years after the devastating war in the Crimea and she worried that he would be sent to India or Africa where he might be killed. She pressured him to quit, which left him dangling at loose ends. The army was all her knew, he had no desire to go into business. He missed the discipline and structure of the army, not to mention the camraderie of his fellow officers. He tried to go into business with his father, and he also worked for awhile for Florence's father, but he would lose interest after a few months which gave him plenty of time to drink and carouse, and soon there were rumors of other women. Florence discovered that she was married to a full blown alcoholic who became verbally abusive after a few drinks, accusing her of trapping him, of ruining his life. At first Florence tried to ignore what was going on, but then she took to spending weeks alone at her father's cottage in Brighton or touring the coast with her friends to get away from him. After six years of marriage, Ricardo was rarely sober.

Matters finally came to ahead one night one Christmas when Florence chastized her husband for insulting her sister. Ricardo struck her three times in the face. Florence fled to her parents, pouring out her story. She begged them to let her stay. Her father was appalled at the idea of seperation, finding it morally repugnant. Florence had married Ricardo, and it was up to her to make the marriage work, no matter what. The next morning, he insisted that she return to her husband. Florence refused, if her parents would not allow her to stay with them, she would find someplace else, but returning to Ricardo was not an option. Her mother suggested a compromise, that Florence spend some time at the Hydro, a fashionable sanitorium run by James Gully, in Great Malvern. Once she felt better, then she could make a decision.

The Hydro at Great Malvern was run by Dr. James Gully, a friend of her family. Florence had known him since childhood when he had treated her for a throat infection. Gully was 63 at the time, well known for practising hydrotherapy or the "water cure." Along with his partner, James Wilson, he had founded the clinic at Malvern in Worcestershire, where many notable Victorians sayed, including Charles Darwin and Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

Gully, like many of the participants in this little drama, was born in Jamaica, the son of a wealthy coffee planter. He left Jamaica at an early age to attend school in England as most of the sons of the Empire did. While in school, his family lost their fortune when slavery was abolished in the British colonies. Although they were recompensed for the loss of their 'property,' Gully now faced the fact that he would have to work for a living. He later told Florence that it had been a good thing because it forced him to make something of himself. In 1825, he entered the University of Edinburgh to study medicine along with one Charles Darwin, gaining his MD in 1829. Dissastified with the medical treatment of the time, he made the acquaintance of Wilson who itnroduced him to the idea of hydrotherapy. Gully wrote several papers on the treatment, and became a member of the British Homeopathic Society in 1848. Soon he and the clinic became well known among the well to do, leading to the opening of two more clinics in Malvern to handle the increasing number of patients who were flocking to be treated. Of course, along with fame, comes criticism and Gully and Wilson came in for their fair share.

Gully surprised her by taking her side in the matter of her seperation from her husband. In fact he went one better and offered to help her by becoming her legal guardian. He instructed his lawyers to have the papers drawn up, including an annual alimony payment for Florence, and he offered to allow her to stay at the Hydro for free. Of course, when Ricardo heard the news, he flooded her with letters pleading his case. Like most abusers, he was now contrite. But they fell on deaf ears, Florence refused to either see him or to read the letters and telegrams he sent her.

When Gully told Florence she was well enough to leave, she protested that she had no where to go, but the truth was that she didn't want to leave Gully. She was totally infatuated with him. Gully arranged for her to rent a house in Malvern. They had spent increasing time together at the Hydro, and Gully had told her about his life, his marriage, his work. He invited her to join him on a trip to Kissingen, in Bavaria. It was there that they became lovers for the first time.

It almost seems inevitable that Florence and Gully should develop a relationship. Gully was a firm believer in causes like women's suffrage. He also advocated temperance which would have appealed to Florence having been saddled with an alcoholic husband. While most Victorian men believed that women were frail creatures that needed to be protected, Gully believed that the pyschological problems that many Victorian women suffered were due to the pressures they were under to remain on a pedestal as chaste virtuous women who never had sexual desire or a thought in their head that wasn't put their by their husbands or fathers.

Gully was married, to an older woman who he had been seperated from for over thirty years, she now lived in an asylum. He wasn't exactly the image of a lothario, he was bald, wore a monacle, and he was slightly rotund. Florence, at 26, fell under the spell of this kindly man who seemed to provide the care and attention that she never received from her husband. Unlike most Victorian men, Gully believed that women had sexual needs, and he took the care to make sure that Florence had pleasure in bed.

In April of 1871, Florence learned that she was now a widow. Alexander Ricardo had died in a hotel room in Cologne from drink. Since he had not changed his will, Florence inherited his entire estate, to the tune of forty thousand pounds. Not only was she free, but she was also a wealthy woman in her own right. No longe would she have to rely on her parents for support. Immediately Florence made plans to leave Malvern and move to London where the action was, and she convinced Gully to join her. Gully took some convincing but he didn't want to be away from Florence. This wasn't just a love affair, they were secretly engaged, waiting for the day when Gully's wife was no longer living, and they could be married. He bought a house less than five minutes walk from Florence's in Balham.

Florence bought a mansion called the Priory in Balham and soon after she hired a companion, a woman named Jane Cox. Jane Cox had been born in England but had spent several years in Jamaica after she married. After her husband's death, she had returned to England, with her three sons so they could attend school. She borrowed money from her husband's former employer, so that she could buy a small house in Notting Hill which she let out, while living in a small furnished room. She had worked as a nanny for a curate and a solicitor, where she interviewed with Florence for the post of companion. Florence was impressed by the older woman's qualities. Cox was the perfect companion, she loyal, hardworking and cheerful. She had perfected the fine art of being invisible, with a quiet voice that one had to strain to hear. Before long, Florence offered her the job of her companion, and Jane Cox moved into the Priory. The two women soon became close friends, and Florence began to rely on Jane increasingly. They called each other 'Florrie' and 'Janie', and Cox began to look on Florence as the daughter she never had.

Soon after Florence and Gully moved to Balham, their passion for each led to them to make a serious mistake. While staying with her solicitor and his wife in Surrey, Florence and Gully were caught in flagrante delicto on the couch by them, when they came back to the house early from a walk. The solicitor and his wife were horrified and appalled, not only that the two were having an adulterous affair, but that they had been so crass as to abuse their hospitality by openly fornicating on their sofa. Gossip about the affair spread like wildfire via the servant grapevine. Soon everyone, including Florence's parents knew about the relationship. And they were not happy about it. Not only had Gully transgressed the doctor/patient relationship, but the idea that there daughter would have an adulterous affair with a man old enough to be her grandfather was beyond the pale. This coming so soon after the disaster of her marriage to Ricardo was too much for the Campbell's and they cut off all contact with Florence. Her letters and telegrams were returned unopened. Even Florence's sister refused to see her.

Despite the ostracism of society, the relationship continued. However, the end came when Florence accidentally became pregnant while on holiday with Gully in Austria, the primative forms of birth control that they had used had failed. This was a disaster, an illegitimate child would have ruined Florence permanently, and damaged Gully's reputation further. There was no alternative but for Gully to perform an abortion on Florence which he reluctantly did. There were complications after the surgery and Florence almost died. From that moment, the relationship changed and became platonic, although Gully was still clearly in love with Florence.

Jane Cox nursed Florence through her illness after the abortion, keeping the truth from the servants but she could see how the social ostracism was beginning to effect her. Florence was a social creature, it wounded her terribly that the doors to society were now shut to her. It became Jane Cox's mission to find Florence another husband. Perhaps if she were respectably married, things might change.

It was through Jane Cox that Florence Ricardo met Charles Bravo. Cox's late husband had worked for Bravo's partner in Jamaica. Mrs. Cox had only met Charles on a few occasions but he seemed exactly what Florence needed. While shopping in London, the two women called upon the Bravo house, where Charles and Florence met for the first time. Several days later, Mrs. Cox stopped by again, this time to sell Florence to Charles's parents.

It was in Brighton while attending the sports day for Mrs. Cox's eldest son that Florence met Bravo again while strolling along the sea front a meeting engineered once again by Mrs. Cox. Charles told Florence he was there on business. He danced almost constant attendance on Florence which she found flattering. It was soon clear that Charles was interested in more than just making her acquaintance, he was serious about her.

On the surface, Charles seemed like the perfect man, he was witty, urbane, and cynical. A man who had a zest for life, who could talk knowledgeably about politics as well as literature. He was somewhat attractive, but looking at this picture, his eyes are mean, his expression somewhat sullen and cruel. The same age as Florence, he was born in 1845, the only son of Augustus and Mary Turner. When Charles was a small boy, his father died, and his mother later remarried Joseph Bravo, a wealthy merchant from Jamaica. Educated at King's College, London and at Oxford, Charles had trained to be a barrister. He was called to the bar in 1868, and set up a small practice with a friend Edward Hope, in the Temple. He was ambitious, with plans to eventually stand for Parliament. He was also a typical Victorian gentleman, with memberships in private clubs such as Boodles and Whites. Unfortunately, he only made two hundred pounds a year, not exactly a princely sum for a man of his ambitions. His biggest flaw, was that he had no sense of a common humanity. As far as he was concerned the world was divided into 'us' and 'them.'

Back home, they began to spend a great deal of time together, when they were apart, they kept up a steady correspondance. Soon Charles proposed marriage. The only sticking point was Dr. Gully. Although their relationship was now platonic, Florence still had warm feelings towards him. Before she could make a fresh start with Charles, she would have to break things off with Gully. Not only that, but Florence felt the need to confess to Bravo about the affair. Jane Cox tried to warn Florence not to do it, that she could be ruining her chance with Bravo. But Florence decided to risk it. After all there was a very good chance that Bravo might have heard the rumors about her relationship with Gully from someone else who might put an entirely different spin on the affair.

To her great surprise, Bravo took the news with ease. He confessed that he was not blameless, he had kept a mistress and there was a child. They agreed that they would break off both liaisons and never mention them again. Bravo asked Florence to marry him again and she agreed. Florence send Gully the Victorian equivalent of a 'Dear John' letter. When Gully heard the news, he advised Florence to take her time and not rush into anything, so that she could get to know Charles and his family properly. Once again, Florence ignored the well meaning advice. And Bravo was just as eager to get the show on the road so to speak. The wedding was set for December 14, 1875. Gully was upset, even more so when Florence asked him to move away from the area. He had sacrificied a great deal for his relationship with Florence, leaving the clinic at Malvern to be with her. His reputation had suffered as well when the news of their affair had gotten out. Gully refused to move, instead he cut off all communication with Florence.

The first sign of trouble occurred before the marriage. Bravo was enraged that Florence planned to keep her fortune in her name, which was now her right since the Married Woman's Property Act. It was revealed that Charles had debts of over 500 pounds, which was a huge sum at the time. 'I cannot contemplate a marraige which doesn't make me master in my own house.' Florence turned to Gully for advice. He suggested that she make ownership of the Priory to Bravo. Florence reluctantly agreed. But that was not the only disagreement. Florence suspected that their temperments didn't suit and wrote Bravo a letter to that effect. Why after suspecting that Bravo was after her money, did Florence decided to go through with the marriage? According to James Ruddick in his book, Death at the Priory, Charles had gotten Florence pregnant before the wedding. He was known to have spent nights at The Priory (Florence later told the inquest that his mother worried about him catching a chill in the late night air if he returned home), it would have been a simple matter for Bravo to demand his marital rights beforehand. After all, why shouldn't he taste what Gully already had? The dye was cast, things had gone to far, what assurances had she that any other man would have wanted to marry her once he found out about Gully? Marriage to Charles Bravo would give her back the veneer of respectability.

After a short honeymoon in Brighton, the newlyweds returned to the Priory. Slowly Florence found that society was beginning to open its doors to her again. She threw a party at Christmas for 30 guests including the Mayor of Streatham. For a brief moment they were happy. Charles would write to Florence when he was away at Sessions. 'Apart from the beginning of my first marriage, this was the happiest time of my life,' she later said. But cracks began to appear before the ink was even dry on the marriage license. Bravo received several anonymous letters accusing him of marrying Florence for her money. He suspected Dr. Gully of being the culprit. Far from refraining from ever mentioning his name, now it appeared that Bravo was obsessed with Gully.

Charles soon proved that he was the model of a Victorian husband in more ways than one. He expected total obedience from his wife in all things, after all he was the man, and she was just a woman. Wives in Victorian England for the most part were treated like domestic animals to be petted but kept in line with a firm hand. Most women knew this, accepted and found ways around it. While Florence was no suffragette, she was not the type of woman to pretend to be meek and submissive just because it was expected behavior. After the failure of her first marriage, she no longer believed in complete obedience to a man just because of his sex. Soon after the New Year, Bravo told Florence that things would have to change at the Priory. She was living too extravagantly, and he needed to curb her spendthrift ways. He insisted that she dismiss her personal maid, and use the housemaid. And that was just the beginning, he also wanted her to dismiss one of the gardeners, as well as get rid of her horses. Florence refused and Bravo exploded in rage. The struggle between them had just begun. He would threaten to leave her if he didn't get his way, storming out of the house. Florence would not submit, after all she held the purse strings. The only place that Bravo could force Florence to submit was in the bedchamber. Apparently it wasn't above him to force her into practices that she considered degrading including sodomy.

Soon Florence was pregnant. Although she fled to her parents for a few days, the reality was that now that she was with child, she had no choice but to go back to Bravo. In the meantime, Charles like Alexander before him, flooded her with pleading letters. The only difference being that Charles refused to admit that he was wrong. While Florence was at her parents, Bravo determined that Mrs. Cox had to go. It was not only the expense but the closeness between the two women. Instead of turning to her husband, Florence depended on Mrs. Cox for advice, and Mrs. Cox inevitably took Florence's side. Mrs. Cox was distraught, she had many debts, including a mortgage on her house, and she'd taken out a loan in 1868 to start a school which had failed. She desperately needed the job, and although Florence promised to protect her, Mrs. Cox worried that Charles increasing need to have control would force Florence to capitulate just to keep the peace.

Shortly after her return, Florence miscarried. Bravo showed his complete insensivity by striking her when Florence told him that she had planned on a trip to Worthing to recover. He also insisted that they try again only three weeks after she lost their child. He took no notice of how depressed and ill she was after the miscarriage. Florence was afraid, she doubted that she could carry a child to fruition, and if she did, that it might kill her. Besides the abortion, Florence had had other gynecological problems. While she could conceive easily enough, carrying a child seemed to be a problem. But there was nothing she could do. Two weeks after they resumed relations, she was pregnant again. This pregnancy didn't last long either, less than a month later, Florence miscarried while working in the garden. Soon after she discovered that she was pregnant, Bravo was struck down briefly by a mysterious illness one day on his way to work in London. He was hit by a wave of nausea, and was violently ill, but by the end of the day, he felt better.

By April of 1876, things were tense in the Bravo household. On that day of April 18th, Bravo went out riding. He returned to the house so badly shaken that he had to be helped into a chair, his horse spooked by something had run away with him. After a presumably long hot bath, Bravo joined Florence and Jane Cox for dinner. During dinner, he received a letter from his stepfather, Joseph Bravo, with a stockbroker's report which he had received by mistake. It appeared that Charles had suffered some losses in the market. Bravo was furious at his gambling. Florence said later that 'His face worked the whole of dinner and he had such a strange yellow look. I thought he would go mad at any moment.' Bravo's bad mood didn't abate, he accused Florence of having too much drink, after hearing her ask her maid to bring her a glass of Marsala wine to drink before bed. That night Bravo slept in his own room down the hall, as Florence insisted that Jane spent the night with her, pleading that she hadn't yet recovered from her last miscarriage.

Charles went to bed. A few minutes later, he opened his door and cried out for hot water. The maid Mary Anne heard his cry and came to see what was the matter. Bravo's face was hot and sweaty, he shrieked again for hot water, and then opened the window and threw up on the roof. Mary Anne immediately knocked on Florence's door and found Mrs. Cox sitting in a chair calmly knitting. As soon as she was told about Bravo's illness, Mrs. Cox called for coffee and mustard in the hopes of bringing up whatever was making him sick. Bravo threw up again, this time in a basin. Mrs. Cox gave the basin to a servant to wash out. She then sent for Florence's personal physician despite the fact that he was over in Streatham.

Now Florence was awakened by all the commotion. She sprang into action, sending a servant to go out and fetch the nearest doctor, that they couldn't wait for Dr. Harrison, her personal physician to arrive. By this time, Charles Bravo had lost consciousness. Both doctors, once they arrived, came to the same diagnosis, Bravo had been poisoneed but by what they had no idea and the patient wasn't in any shape to help them. Florence suggested that they call Bravo's cousin, Royes Bell, who was also a doctor. When Bell arrived early that morning, he brought along another doctor, Dr. George Johnson. Now awake, Bravo was questioned about what had made him ill. Bravo told them that he had taken laudanum for a tooth ache, and that he may have swallowed some. But his symptons didn't suggest an overdose. This was when Mrs. Cox pulled the doctors aside and told them that Bravo had revealed to her when she first went to him to help, that he had told her, 'I've taken some of that poison; don't tell Florence.' Mrs. Cox admitted that he hadn't told her exactly what poison it was.

The next afternoon, Bravo managed to make out a will, leaving everything to Florence. Doctors questioned him again, but he still stuck to his story, that he had taken laudanum and only laudanum. In the morning of the third day, Dr. Johnson took some fresh vomit with him for analysis. After examining the specimen, Dr. Johnson could find nothing. On Thursday, April 20th, Sir William Gull, Queen Victoria's personal physician showed up after being sent for by Florenec. He had treated her father once. In the meantime, Mrs. Cox had asked Dr. Gully for a homeopathic treatment. Finally, Dr. Henry Smith showed up completing the sextuplet of doctors. After examining him, Sir William Gull was blunt and to the point. Bravo was dying and needed to tell them what had transpired. If he did not speak out, someone might be accused of poisoning him. Once again, Bravo repeated his story about taking the laudanum. More vomit was collected as a specimen to be tested. Finally on Friday morning, April 21st at 5:30 a.m. Bravo died.

The police were ill-equipped to deal with a crime of this nature, in fact it took them 8 days after Bravo's death to question Florence and Mrs. Cox. The majority of the crimes they dealt with involved property theft. And this crime involved the upper classes, most of the police were not used to dealing with their 'betters' as it were. And the upper classes weren't used to being questioned by the police either. Florence's father had been a Justice of the Peace, as well as a High Sheriff. He dismissed the police inquiries by boasting that he could get a verdict of suicide in five minutes. As a preventative measure, he retained the services of Sir Henry James, a one of William Gladstone's closest friends, as a barrister as well as arranging for Queen Victoria's personal physician to give evidence on Florence's behalf. An autopsy showed that Charles had been poisoned by tarter emetic, made from antimony, a rather harsh poison. A dose of more than 4 grains was poisonous, Charles had more than 30 in his stomach. But how would someone slip him the tartar emetic? It could not be tolerated in food or wine. After further research, it was discovered that Charles had been in the habit of drinking water before bed. Tartar emetic could be dissolved into water, making it both soluble and tasteless.

An inquest was held at the Priory after Florence offered it as a venue, providing refreshments for the jury. The coroner took pains to keep unwanted exposure to a minimum, no press was notified and he didn't call Florence as a witness. He saw no reason not to uphold the initial diagnosis that Bravo had committed suicide. However his family protested, his stepfather Joseph Bravo went to the trouble of hiring a Scotland Yard inspector to investigate. It came out that George Griffiths, one of the grooms at the Priory, had been sacked soon after Florence and Charles were married. Not only was he sacked, but there were witnesses who overheard him state that Bravo would not live four months. He had also purchased a quanity of antimony to use on the horses. Florence put up a reward for 500 pounds to anyone who could give information, and on the 2nd of June, both she and Jane Cox gave voluntary statements to their solicitors. Florence detailed Charle's meanness, she also admitted to her relationship with Gully for the first time. Jane Cox, however, changed her statement. She now said that Bravo had told her that "I have taken poison for Gully, don't tell Florence," hinting that Bravo's motive for commmiting suicide was his jealousy of Gully.

The public hue and cry led to a second inquest was held at the Bedford Hotel in Balham. Suspicion soon fell on both Florence Bravo and Jane Cox. Poison has long had a reputation as a women's weapon. The case of Madeleine Smith came to mind, and Lucrezia Borgia (wrongly) had the reputation of using poison on her enemies, the reason being that poison doesn't require any brute strength, and its also convenient. Most households have some form of poison lying around in their kitchens. It's a quick matter of taking that rat poison or in the case Charles Bravo, antimony from the stables. The sickroom was another place to find poisons, particularly in the Victorian era with its plethora of medicines, many of which contained poisons. It would have been very easy to accidentally on purpose give someone an overdose.

Outside the hotel, crowds swelled in the hot summer air, trying to get a glimpse into the proceedings. One of the first witnesses called was the groom George Griffith. Griffith confessed that his famous proclamation that Bravo would be dead in four months came because he had heard that Bravo had been bitten by a dog. His new employer also vouched for his whereabouts. It soon came out that his real motive was collecting the 500 pound reward for evidence.

During the inquest, it was revealed that Dr. Gully and Mrs. Cox had been in contact with each other before Bravo's death. Mrs. Cox explained that they had met at the train station to London quite by accident. During the next several weeks they were seen together in public a total of five times. Mrs. Cox asked Dr. Gully to prescribe a medicine for Florence who was having trouble sleeping. Dr. Gully agreed and suggested that he leave it at her house in Notting Hill for her to pick up. When one of her tenants signed for it, he noticed that the bottle had a small poison label. However, Florence never received the medicine, in fact she hadn't known that Mrs. Cox and the Doctor had been in contact. When the time came to produce the bottle, Mrs. Cox declared that she had thrown it out because Florence hadn't required the medicine after all.

The inquest took 32 days. During that time Florence was questioned repeatedly about her relationship with Dr. Gully. It seemed as if George Lewis cared more about their relationship than Bravo's death. Three times during her testimony, she broke down. At one point, she demanded that the coroner protect her from the intrusive questions asked by Joseph Bravo's solicitor. "I refuse to answer any more questions about Dr. Gully. This inquiry is about the death of my husband, and I appeal to the jury, as men and as Britons, to protect me." Gully too found the questions a bit much but he was better able to control himself. "I don't see the relevance of these questions," he said. Despite the testimony of Florence and Jane Cox, and their own suspicions, the jury had no hard evidence. On Friday, August 11, a verdict was reached. 'We find that Mr. Charles Delauney Turner Bravo did not commit sucide; that he did not meet his death by misadventure; that he was willfully murdered by the administration of tartar emetic; but there is not sufficient evidence to fix the guilt upon any person or persons.'

Florence and Jane Cox were free to go but the second inquest was devastating to Florence. With the press in attendance, there was no way to keep the news of her affair with Gully out of the papers. The public ate up every salacious word. The Saturday Review described it as 'one of the most disgusting public exhibitions which has been witnessed in this generation.' The Evening Standard complained that 'She was a miserable woman who indulged in a disgraceful connection.' And the venerable Times wrote 'She was an adulteress and an inebriate, selfish and self-willed, a a bad daughter and worse wife.' Not only her reputation was besmirched but Gully's as well. All his hard work was nothing compared to the sensationalist news that he had been sleeping with a woman young enough to be his granddaughter. After the inquest was over, Florence's brother William, the only one of her siblings to keep in touch after her family cut off ties with her after the revelation about her affair with Gully, begged her to join the family in Australia to get away, make a fresh start but Florence declined. Her father became ill, devastated by the press, and the effort to protect his daughter. The family business went bankrupt and Buscot Park and all their property abroad had to be sold to pay off the debts. Florence moved to Southsea on the coast, where she drank herself to death, at the age of 33 in 1878. Gully didn't live much longer, he lived with his widowed sisters, estranged from his only daughter, finally dying of in 1883. To this day, his descendants refuse to talk about that period in Gully's life. Mrs. Cox went back to Jamaica to claim the inheritance left to her and her sons by her husband's aunt. She eventually moved back to England, dying in 1913.

Who really did kill Bravo? Was it Florence? And if she did, why? Florence Bravo was unique in Victorian England in that she had more control over her life than most women. She had run her own household, managed her own money. It was she who chose the men in her life, not the other way around. Ricardo was her choice not her father's, and it was she who who initiated the relationship with Gully and then ended it when it suited her purpose. And she also chose to marry Bravo, instead of perhaps going abroad for a few years, until the scandal of her relationship with Gully had perhaps subsided. But even though she had more choices, it didn't necessarily mean that she had the tools to make the right ones. One could almost say that Florence Bravo could be the Victorian poster girl for Smart Women, Foolish Choices. Like Isabel Archer in Henry Jame's masterpiece, Portrait of a Lady, an independent fortune did not keep Florence from making a huge mistake. So is it so far-fetched to come to the conclusion that Florence would choose poison to get rid of her husband?

After one terrible and abusive marriage, Florence was now trapped in another. "I told him that he had no right to treat me in such a way," Florence said in her Treasury statement. Divorce was not an option, it would have effectively ruined her already damaged reputation. Although it no longer required a special act of Parliament, Florence would have had to proven that Bravo committed adultery, not just mental cruelty and abuse. Yes, seperation was a possibility but Florence had already gone through one seperation and Bravo would never have let her go. Her only other option would have been to find someone to act as her legal guardian, which Gully had done for her to facilitate her seperation from Ricardo, but there was no one to step up to the plate this time. Her relationship with her parents had already been damaged by her relationship with Gully, and her father had let her know that he would not support her decision to leave Bravo.

Still was that a reason for murder? Maybe not, but Florence had suffered two devastating miscarriages in five months of marriage, and Bravo was determined to have an heir. Chances were she would not have been able to put off for much longer, even though getting pregnant again could have killed her. Florence had been drinking, it is probable that she had just planned on making Bravo sick, but instead she ended up giving him too much of the antinomy. I don't think that she was thinking clearly at the time, she just wanted it to end. If women suffer from post-partum psychosis, it's not unreasonable to believe, that suffering two miscarriages back to back practically, might not have left her dealing with some form of it.

And perhaps she thought she would get away with it. Charles had hurt his back earlier in the day, how easy it would have been to suggest that he had mixed together too much medicine, claim it was an accident. If he had died quickly, instead of lingering, no one might ever have known. As far as Florence was concerned, it was a matter of either her survival or Bravo's and she chose to her life over his. Florence had the motive, and she had the means. She knew about antimony, and had the access to it. Tartar emetic had been known to be used by women who were trying to curb their husband's drinking. It was entirely possible that Florence had tried this method with her first husband, Alexander Ricardo.

And what of Jane Cox, Florence's devoted companion? Despite the fact that Bravo dearly wanted to fire her, would have that been a motive? James Ruddick suggests in his book Death at the Priory, that Jane Cox already knew that she was due to inherit a fortune from a relative. Why would she have risked killing Bravo when financial independence was right around the corner?

Still it is clear that Jane Cox's actions the night that Bravo took ill suggest that she suspected that Florence might have poisoned him, or Florence had confessed to her what she had done. She threw out the rest of the water in the jug and rinsed it out, she had the vomit on the roof cleaned up, had Bravo's bloodstained nightshirt removed and burned, it was she who told the Doctors and the police that Bravo had said that he had tried to commit suicide.

There are other theories, in the television program, A Most Mysterious Murder, writer and actor Julian Fellowes put forth the theory that Charles took the antimony by accident, that the bottles of laudanum and antimony looked a great deal alike. Other writers suspected that Gully was the culprit? But what would have been his motive? He was resigned to the fact that his relationship with Florence was over, she hadn't confided in him about her relationship with Bravo, and if he had poisoned Bravo, he wouldn't have chosen antimony. As a medical doctor, he would have known far more effective ways to poison Bravo.

The story of Florence Bravo and the Balham Mystery is another illustration of the constraints that Victorian women labored under. For many women, marriage turned into little better than a prison sentence. Women were expected to endure no matter what, whether the marriage was abusive, constant pregnancies year after year. Even upper class women had little recourse, there were no battered women's shelters, most Victorian fathers would have insisted like Florence's, that she make the best of it. Florence Bravo, if she indeed murdered Bravo, unlike her Victorian sisters was not about to stand by and let another man continue to abuse her. Her sex was also what saved her from being charged with murder. The police, the coroner, the lawyers, and the jury, despite feeling that Florence was perhaps guilty, were reluctant to condemn an upper class woman to the gallows or to long-term imprisonment. But Florence paid a heavy price for her actions. The years of abuse and guilt lead to her turning to drink, the same that killed her first husband, and her death.



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