Marthe Richard French: from the notebooks of Farquhar McHarg (Pistoleros 1: 1918)

Marthe Richard, née Betenfeld (15 August 1889, Blâmont – 9 February 1982)

The following extract is from F.M’s notes on a conversation with the then Solidaridad Obrera editor (1917-1919) Ángel Pestaña: “‘Our information on the German special services, has been good —was good, I should say. Until last week a French compañera by the name of Marthe Richard French —or Marthe Regnier —was Von Krohn’s [Lieutenant Commander Hans von Krohn, German naval attaché in Madrid] mistress, and for a spymaster, Von Krohn was remarkably indiscreet, especially where Marthe was concerned.

“‘Marthe Richard’s story was extraordinary. As a child, Marthe ran away from her home in Lorraine to Paris where she was soon caught and taken back to her parents, and placed in a convent — from which she promptly escaped again and returned to Paris where, in 1900, she fell in with Alexandre Marius Jacob, a French anarchist burglar and his partner Rose Roux, who took it upon themselves to befriend and look after the rebel twelve-year old girl. This time she wasn’t caught, or perhaps even looked for. Unfortunately, in 1905 Jacob, Rose and most of the members of his gang were betrayed and arrested for a string of spectacular burglaries the length and breadth of France, and were sentenced to life imprisonment on Devil’s Island, leaving the sixteen year old Marthe to fend for herself. For a time she turned to prostitution, but then by chance she met and fell in love with — and married — an extremely rich patron who indulged her every whim.

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