Nancy Oakes von Hoyningen-Huene (1924-2005)
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Michael Rhodes
2005-01-21 10:57:40 UTC
Nancy Oakes von Hoyningen-Huene, heiress, daughter of Sir Harry Oakes,
1st baronet, died 16 January, 2005. She was 80.

Nancy Oakes was born 17 May, 1924, daughter of the millionaire Sir
Harry Oakes a member of the Bahamas Legislative Council (d.

She married firstly, 1942 (marriage annulled 1949), Alfred de Marigny;
married secondly, 1952 (divorced 1956), Baron Ernst Lyssardt von
Hoyingen-Huene; married thirdly, 1962, , Patrick Claude Henry Tritton.

She had a son from her second marriage, Baron Alexander George
Lyssardt, b. 1955.
From The Times, 21 Jan, 2005:-
<<Nancy Oakes von Hoyningen-Huene>>

<<Wilful heiress catapulted into a colourful life of glamorous
celebrity by the mysterious murder of her plutocratic father>>

IF EVER proof were wanted that money cannot guarantee happiness, it
could be found in abundance in the life of Nancy Oakes von
Hoyningen-Huene, who, as a 19-year-old heiress, was a central figure in
what Erle Stanley Gardner, the creator of Perry Mason, called "the
greatest murder mystery of all time".
The whirlwind of publicity, gossip, mental torment and tragedy in which
she found herself caught up began on July 8, 1943, with the discovery
of the body of her father, Sir Harry Oakes, Bt, in his beachfront house
outside Nassau, in the Bahamas. Oakes, the owner of the largest
goldmine in the Western hemisphere, had been battered to death, his
corpse partially incinerated and strewn with feathers.

The killing of its most prominent private citizen presented the
islands' Governor, the Duke of Windsor, with a considerable problem.
He believed that the local police lacked the expertise to investigate
the crime and, it being wartime and thus difficult to bring detectives
across the Atlantic from London, he turned instead to two American
policemen he knew in the Miami force. It was to prove a fateful

Within a day and a half of their arrival, Captains Melchen and Barker
had arrested Oakes's son-in-law, Count Alfred de Marigny, a tall,
amusing Mauritian. Already twice divorced, he had eloped with Oakes's
eldest child, Nancy, some 14 years his junior, in May the previous year
and had married her - without previously informing her parents -
the day after she attained her majority. De Marigny, who had admitted
to being near Oakes's house on the night of the murder, was known to
be on bad terms with the multimillionaire and was said to be short of
money. All Nassau was convinced of his guilt. He was committed for
trial, and a rope was ordered for his hanging.

When her husband was arrested, Nancy de Marigny was in Vermont. She
returned to Nassau and began to help to organise his defence and to
sustain his morale while he remained on remand in prison. With her
auburn hair, deep-set eyes, fine figure and mild resemblance to
Katharine Hepburn, the young countess soon became a favourite of the
dozens of reporters sent to cover the case. Newspapers in Europe and
America vied to break fresh developments in the story, which provided
exciting headlines for readers weary of the war.

At the trial itself, the chief piece of evidence against de Marigny was
a fingerprint of his which Barker claimed to have found on a screen
near the bed where Oakes had been killed. Since de Marigny had not been
to the house for many months, and prints deteriorated quickly in
Nassau's humidity, this promised to be conclusive evidence against
him. But in cross-examination, de Marigny's counsel, Godfrey Higgs,
gradually prised apart the Crown's case that his client had killed to
get his hands on Nancy's vast inheritance.

In particular, it transpired that the print produced in court had,
claimed Barker, been lifted clean off the screen by him so that no
trace of the powdered original remained. Nor could he show convincingly
where on the screen it might have been. This lent force to the
defence's suggestion that Barker had framed de Marigny with a print
of his taken from a glass.

Though de Marigny's alibi and witnesses also proved shaky, his wife
Nancy did not, braving a fever and the opprobrium of her mother (who
believed de Marigny guilty) to testify for him. As the last person to
be called, she made a considerable impact on the jury (as had her
well-chosen selection of dresses throughout the trial). With a finely
honed sense of the dramatic, she appeared almost to faint while giving
evidence, and later walked out during the Attorney- General's closing
speech, claiming she could not bear to hear "such filthy things"
said against her husband.

Within two hours of being sent out, the jury returned their verdict -
a sensational one that acquitted de Marigny by a majority. There were
wild celebrations outside the courthouse, and he was chaired aloft by
the largely black crowd.

The uproar that greeted the decision had drowned out a rider added by
the all-white jury which recommended that de Marigny and a friend, the
Marquis de Visdelou, should be deported from the Bahamas. De Marigny
had alienated the colony's officials and mercantile class with his
contempt for their conventionality - less than tactfully he described
the Duke as "a pimple on the arse of the Empire" - and four days
after his acquittal the Governor's executive council (with doubtful
legitimacy) approved his deportation. Nancy de Marigny followed him
into exile, their first stop being the Cuban home of his friend Ernest

The murder of Sir Harry Oakes has never been solved, although it has
given rise to theories embracing Mafia hitmen, black magic and Nazi
gold. The crime inevitably remained the dominant event of the life of
Oakes's daughter, which, even after de Marigny's acquittal,
continued to be a troubled one.

Nancy Oakes was born in Toronto in 1924, the eldest of five children,
three of whom would meet untimely deaths. Her oldest brother, Sydney,
who inherited the baronetcy after their father's murder, was killed
in a car accident aged 39. Another brother, Pitt, died of an overdose
at the age of 28 after several years of mental instability. Nancy's
only sister, Shirley, was also involved in a crash in middle age that
left her in an irreversible coma.

Only Nancy's youngest brother, Harry, was not the victim of such a
fate, although because of disagreements about the administration of the
family's assets the pair were barely on speaking terms for much of
their later lives.

Nancy spent her first years at The Chateau, Oakes's log cabin at
Kirkland Lake, northern Ontario, where the US-born prospector had
struck gold in the years before the First World War. By the late 1920s,
he had become the largest contributor to the Canadian revenue, and by
his death had taken some $45 million (around $500 million today) in
profit from the mine. Such wealth made him one of the richest people in
the Empire of which he became a citizen, and of which he was created a
baronet in 1939, principally for his gifts to charity.

In 1935, for tax reasons, he had moved to Nassau, then a backwater and
whose infrastructure and economy he did much to enhance. Nancy,
meanwhile, was schooled in England, Switzerland and New York, and also
travelled to South America, Australia (her mother's country) and
Indonesia with her parents. Nonetheless, she was not close to them -
both were rather domineering - and perhaps in de Marigny she saw her
chance to escape. Their bond was strengthened when he nursed her
through several life-threatening operations after she had contracted
trench mouth (acute necrotising ulcerative gingivitis) on honeymoon in

The gilt of their marriage, however, had begun to tarnish even before
her father's murder. Though she believed him innocent, and stood
loyally by him, it was already apparent that each wanted different
things. Somewhat surprisingly, he craved stability, while Nancy - who
rather had her head turned by her press coverage during the trial -
did not want to be fettered. They separated in 1945, and were divorced
in 1949, with her insisting on an annulment.
By then she was living in Hollywood, where she enjoyed romances with a
string of actors, most notably Richard Greene, the television star of
Robin Hood. Her wealth and temperament always made it easy for her to
attract admirers, rarely to her advantage. In 1952, she married Baron
Ernst von Hoyningen-Huene, but they were divorced in 1956. Six years
later she married Patrick Tritton and moved to Mexico, though when that
union was also dissolved she reverted to the von Hoyningen name and
style. Thereafter, "the Baroness", as she liked to be known,
divided her time between London and the Bahamas, where she still
retained considerable holdings.

Reckless, selfish and not a little vindictive, she consoled herself in
an old age increasingly blighted by frailty and blindness with an
occasional lawsuit. Sometimes she hinted darkly that family advisers
had been behind her father's murder, but since she drank more rum
than was good for her, and could perhaps no longer distinguish between
the truth and what she thought she remembered, such asides were of
dubious value. They were always delivered with charm, however,
especially if the recipient was a young man.

She is survived by a son and a daughter.
(Debrett doesn't mention a daughter)
2005-01-21 14:43:49 UTC
Fascinating. There is a wonderful book about the whole thing whose title I
cannot recall.

It seems clear that the Duke was somewhat involved in Sir Harry Oakes' murder
or at the very least in the cover-up that took place that pinned the blame on
de Marigny.

I'm assuming he's dead although there is not mention of it in the obit of Nancy

Terry Ellsworth
2005-01-21 16:29:47 UTC
A 1989 MOW (made-for-tv) re-examines the still unsoved murder case and
offers up some interesting theories on the guilty parties.

imdb.com notes: "The acting and characterizations are brilliant,
especially Kevin McCarthy as one of Harry's so-called friends. Garry
Moore, host of "I've Got A Secret", had a summer place where the murder
happened, and in interviews said that after thirty years, the locals
refused to discuss Sir Harry's murder. I won't spoil anything by giving
away what the writers speculate; rather, watch for yourself, as the
acting and screenplay are excellent."

I agree, great character actors going to town with a wonderfully oily
performance by Armand Assante as Count Alfred de Marigny.
A guilty pleasure!!
2005-01-21 16:39:11 UTC
Oops! Sorry, I'm still learning to navigate this site.
"Passion and Paradise" is the name of the film.
2005-01-21 17:10:56 UTC
Post by Michael Rhodes
He was committed for
trial, and a rope was ordered for his hanging.
Not wasting any time there.

2005-01-21 22:10:30 UTC
Does anybody know if de Marigny is still alive?
2005-01-21 23:18:05 UTC
Post by MadCow57
Does anybody know if de Marigny is still alive?
I've asked the question several times without an answer. He'd be 94 if he is
which seems unlikely. On the other hand he was the central figure in one of the
most sensational murder cases of the 20th century and I cannot recall ever
seeing a report of his death.

Terry Ellsworth
2005-01-22 01:26:07 UTC
from something called the Abaco Journal (from quick google)

Count Alfred de Marigny died in his home in Houston TX on 28th January.
In 1943, Count de Marigny was tried and found not guilty of the murder
of his father-in-law Sir Harry Oakes, one of the most famous murders
trials of the Twentieth Century.

2005-01-22 04:08:51 UTC
Post by m***@aol.com
Count Alfred de Marigny died in his home in Houston TX on 28th January.
In 1943, Count de Marigny was tried and found not guilty of the murder
of his father-in-law Sir Harry Oakes, one of the most famous murders
trials of the Twentieth Century.
So you're saying he died in about 7 days?

Terry Ellsworth
2005-01-22 14:58:30 UTC
sorry about that -- that was a citation from the Abaco (Bahamas)
Journal in 1998, but it's wrong. I looked a number of places, but
couldn't find an obit of de Marigny; on the contrary, he seems to be
living in Houston with his wife Mary. He's in his 90s. Here's a review
of his book:

Sunday Times (London, England), July 1, 1990 pNA

Duke of Deception; Books. (Features)

Full Text: COPYRIGHT 1990 Sunday Times

Byline: Philip Kerr

A CONSPIRACY OF CROWNS by Alfred de Marigny. Bantam Press Pounds 14.95

At 7 am on the morning of July 8, 1943, the Duke of Windsor, ex-king of
England and then governor of the Bahamas, took a telephone call from a
friend and local businessman, Harold Christie. He was shocked to learn
that Sir Harry Oakes, one of the British empire's richest men, had been
brutally murdered in his bed. Christie, who was Sir Harry's business
agent, later said that he had spent an undisturbed night at the
multi-millionaire's luxury Bahamian home after a dinner party there,
and claimed to have discovered Sir Harry's battered and partly burnt
body not long after daybreak.

As governor the Duke took personal charge of the investigation, and
called in the police but not the local police; nor indeed Scotland
Yard; nor for that matter, the FBI, which, as a federal agency, might
have been the more logical choice. Instead the Duke chose to telephone
the Miami police department and asked specifically for the services of
Captains Barker and Melchan. Ed Melchan had twice guarded the Duke on
some dubious trips to Florida. He had a long history of criminal
associations, and the FBI director, JEdgar Hoover (who had for a long
time been monitoring the Duke's pro-Nazi activities) had had Melchan on
his suspect list for some years. Melchan was also in the pocket of
Florida's mafia godfather, Meyer Lansky, himself acquainted with Sir
Harry Oakes, Christie and, almost certainly, the Duke.

The Miami police investigation was a sham. They left their fingerprint
camera at home and in its place they bought a cheap, easy frame-kit.
Ignoring, in Harold Christie, an obvious suspect, the police charged
Sir Harry's son-in-law, Alfred de Marigny, with the murder, on no more
evidence than the fact that the hair on his forearms was singed. The
police also took the extra precaution of planting a fingerprint on a
Chinese screen near Sir Harry's body.

The 35-year-old de Marigny, a twice-divorced French Mauritian playboy,
was generally disliked by Bahamian high society, which assumed that he
had married the 18-year-old Nancy Oakes for her money. From the
evidence of his book, which recalls the attempt to frame him half a
century ago, de Marigny seems to have been no less arrogant and vain a
man than the Duke. How many people, for example, would have the conceit
to include photographs of themselves with captions like ``A very
handsome de Marigny in Nassau, 1943'', and ``Having aged gracefully,
Alfred de Marigny as he looks today''?

It was perhaps inevitable therefore that de Marigny should have made
such an enemy of the Duke, and there were several occasions on which
the two men crossed swords. He describes one particular disagreement
which resulted in him telling the former king to his face that he was
``nothing more than a pimple on the ass of the British empire''. It was
incidents like that, as well as several violent and well-publicised
arguments with Sir Harry Oakes, which made de Marigny the perfect fall

Whereas the author suspects only that it was the Duke who first
suggested him to the Miami police as a ``despicable character'' worthy
of investigation, he is certain that the Duke had plenty of motive to
wish to see the real murderer get away with it.

In contravention of British currency laws, Christie had helped Sir
Harry and others to smuggle millions of dollars to a Mexican bank which
was laundering money that the Nazis had looted from occupied Europe.
Those others included a wealthy Nazi called Axel Wenner-Gren and his
close friend the Duke. While Christie probably arranged to have Sir
Harry killed when the millionaire learned of his many deceptions in
another business deal, there was still the possibility that any
efficient investigation of Christie might have uncovered the Duke's
dealings with the Nazis and the Mexican bank.

That the Duke did at least participate in the framing of de Marigny
seems certain. But the author's thesis that he was ``a willing
conspirator'' that Christie would not have perjured himself without the
Duke's encouragement seems less than astute. He fails to put the most
obvious construction on Christie's telephone call to the Duke on the
morning of the murder, which is that he blackmailed the royal governor.
What could be more probable than that Christie told the still highly
influential Duke that if he were ever charged with the murder of Sir
Harry Oakes he would make sure that the whole world knew of the Duke's
illegal, arguably treasonable connection with the Mexican bank? Who can
doubt that this pliable, wretched little man would reluctantly have
agreed to divert the blame?

This would surely explain why the Duke, who surely baulked at the
hanging of an

innocent man, detested or not, later enquired rather hopelessly of the
Miami policemen if suicide was not a possibility. Doubtless they would
have gently explained that men who have bludgeoned themselves to death
seldom then proceed to set fire to their own corpses. It would explain
why the Duke was absent from the islands during the course of the
trial: he was too ashamed to stay. It would also explain why, as long
as Christie and the Duke remained alive (they died within a year of
each other) all subsequent attempts to reopen the case were blocked by
a succession of Bahamian governors. Harold Christie, knighted in 1964
``for services to the Crown'' was in possession of evidence gravely
compromising to the Queen's uncle.

That much of this was known soon enough by the British government is
generally accepted. Given the Duke's poor judgment as the Bahamian
Governor, it is hardly surprising that the British government never
found for him the substantial position he had always sought and felt
was his due. How ironic that the very island to which the Duke was
sent, effectively to keep him out of trouble, should have been the
location of his greatest scandal of all.

It is a pity, but an understandable one, that de Marigny's otherwise
excellent and highly readable account of his part in the Sir Harry
Oakes affair, reveals itself to be clouded by undimmed animosity
towards a man who has been dead for nearly 20 years. In this respect it
demonstrates a judgment almost as poor as that possessed by the Duke of
Windsor himself.

Copyright (C) The Sunday Times, 1990
2015-12-27 03:15:15 UTC
Post by m***@aol.com
from something called the Abaco Journal (from quick google)
Count Alfred de Marigny died in his home in Houston TX on 28th January.
In 1943, Count de Marigny was tried and found not guilty of the murder
of his father-in-law Sir Harry Oakes, one of the most famous murders
trials of the Twentieth Century.
he actually died January 1, 1998
2019-05-05 04:00:04 UTC
I had a friend who was a tour guide who took care of the Baroness London résidence while she travelled, which was a good deal of the time. I stayed there once while in London. He told me she was a very heavy drinker and spent a lot time jetting around with no real itinerary.
I remember dining in a rather small salon done up with a lot of Venetian furniture. The place was rather faded and and cheerless.