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Available on Amazon
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Hall, Sir Edward Marshall

Category: Business and political leaders

Sir Edward Marshall Hall, KC (16 September 1858 – 24 February 1927) was an English barrister, "The Great Defender",  who practised in the late Victorian and Edwardian eras.  Known as a very impressive orator, his closing speech for the defence of Harold Greenwood, for example, was described by Gerald Sparrow as "the finest ever heard at the English bar", the more impressive since he was seriously ill at the time.

As well as being elevated to King's Counsel, Marshall Hall served twice in Parliament as a Unionist Member of Parliament for Southport (1900–1906) and for Liverpool East Toxteth (1910-1916). He rarely spoke in the House of Commons, and such speeches as he did make did not compare with his courtroom oratory.

Why is he on the site? 

Because via the automatic writing of a medium called Miss Wingfield – a friend of his sister, he was forewarned of his alcoholic brother’s death in South Africa.

Personal life

Born in Brighton, the son of the eminent physician Alfred Hall, Marshall Hall was educated at Rugby School and St John's College, Cambridge.  He left Cambridge after his fourth term to embark on a tour of Paris and Australia, before returning to complete his law degree.

In 1882 he married Ethel Moon. The marriage was unhappy; the couple were never compatible and were frequently separated. They were legally separated in 1889. At the time of the observation below in 1894, he was living with his sister, and had an alcoholic brother, of whom he rarely spoke, living in South Africa.  He subsequently married Henriette "Hetty" Kroeger, with whom he had one daughter, Elna.

His private life appears to have been filled by sadness.  In 1890, Ethel became pregnant by a lover and died of a botched abortion; a seamy, very public lawsuit followed in which the lover, the abortionist, and several others were indicted for Ethel's murder.  Marshall Hall’s torment over Ethel's fate had a profound effect on his career and he became famous for the impassioned nature of his defences of women maltreated by men.

Brighton, the front and the chain pier seen in the distance 1840


Sir Edward Marshall Hall, successfully defended many people accused of notorious murders including:

  • Robert Wood, accused of killing Emily Dimmock.  Hall obtained an acquittal.  On 12 September 1907, Bertram Shaw returned home during the evening to the horrific sight of his fiancee Emily Dimmock lying naked on the bed, throat cut from ear to ear.
  • Ronald Light – was accused of murdering Bella Wright.  It became one of his most famous cases and was known as the ‘Green Bicycle Case’, the murder took place near Leicester in 1919. Hall obtained an acquittal, despite what seemed like overwhelming circumstantial evidence against the defendant.
  • Marie Hermann  - In 1894 he defended the Austrian-born prostitute Marie Hermann, charged with the murder of a client; Marshall Hall persuaded the jury that it was a case of manslaughter.
  •  Harold Greenwood  - he successfully defended solicitor Harold Greenwood at Carmarthen Assizes in 1920.  Greenwood had been accused of poisoning his wife with arsenic. Marshall Hall's skillful cross-examination of the medical witnesses raised, at least, the possibility that Mrs. Greenwood had died from an accidental overdose of morphine.
  • Madame (or Princess) Marguerite Fahmy -  was acquitted in 1923 for the shooting to death of her husband, Egyptian Prince Fahmy Bey at London's Savoy Hotel.


 In his 2013 book The Prince, The Princess and the Perfect Murder (published in the US as "The Woman Before Wallis") Andrew Rose revealed that Madame Fahmy, real name Marguerite Alibert, a Frenchwoman of modest birth, had an 18-month long affair with the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VIII, in Paris towards the end of World War I. Desperate efforts were made by the Royal Household to ensure that the Prince's name was not mentioned at her trial, which may have contributed to her acquittal.

In contrast, Sir Edward Marshall Hall, unsuccessfully defended people such as :

  • Herbert John Bennett  - In 1901 in the ‘Yarmouth Beach’ case. Bennett was charged with strangling his wife, Mary, in order to marry Alice Meadows.
  • Frederick Seddon - in a notorious poisoning case in 1912. Seddon was hanged in 1912 for murdering Elizabeth Mary Barrow by administering large quantities of arsenic.
  • George Joseph Smith  - the "Brides-in-the-Bath" murderer in 1915. Smith was tried for the first of three identical murders of his recent brides, all of whom were drowned while having baths. Smith was convicted and hanged

In July 1924, Marshall Hall made a rare appearance for the prosecution, with the Attorney General Sir Patrick Hastings leading at Guildford Assizes before Mr Justice Avory against Jean-Pierre Vaquier for poisoning his lover's husband.   Vaquier was found guilty and hanged.

Hall's career was dramatised in an 8-episode 1989 BBC Two television serial by Richard Cooper, Shadow of the Noose, starring Jonathan Hyde in the lead role and Terry Taplin as Arthur Newton, the leading solicitor who often secured Marshall Hall's services.  John Mortimer, creator of Rumpole of the Bailey, also presented some of Marshall Hall's cases in a 5-part 1996 radio series, starring Tom Baker as Marshall Hall.

Hall was a famous wit and became something of a celebrity in his day.   Wikipedia cites the case of the trial of an Irish labourer.  Hall, when asked by a rather pompous judge, "Is your client not familiar with the maxim res ipsa loquitur?” replied, "My lord, on the remote hillside in County Donegal where my client hails from, they talk of little else."

Wikipedia also state that “The widespread belief that he was a much better orator than lawyer may explain his failure to achieve elevation to the High Court ”.  Although this hardly seems to be born out from the evidence.


Edward Marshall Hall was born and lived at 30 Old Steine, Brighton where there is a commemorative stone plaque on the wall.

When he died, in 24th February 1927, he left a considerable sum of money in a trust to be administered by Inner Temple for the benefit of young barristers starting out on their careers and who were as impecunious as he had been from time to time. The fund continues to this day.



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