Archie Christie

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Archie Christie, 1915.

Archibald (Archie) Christie was the first husband of Agatha Christie. They were married in 1914 and divorced in 1928. During that period they shared many happy times and Agatha wrote some of her best detective novels. They separated in 1927 after a major rift and obtained a divorce the following year. Shortly after this Christie married Nancy Neele and the couple lived quietly for the rest of their lives. Christie became a successful businessman and was invited to be a director on the boards of several major companies.

Early life[edit]

Archie Christie, 1909 after graduating from the Royal Military Academy.

Archibald Christie was born in 1889 in India. His father also called Archibald Christie was in the Indian Civil Service. It is said that he was a judge however his death notice in the journal called "The Law Times" states that he was a barrister.[1] Christie’s mother was Ellen Ruth Coates (called Peg) who is often mentioned in Agatha Christie’s autobiography.

Peg was born in Portumna, Galway, Ireland in 1862.[2] Her father was Dr. Samuel Coates who died in 1879.[3] Her brother was in the Indian Medical Service and she was staying with him when she met Christie's father[4] who was thirteen years her senior. In 1888 at the age of 26 she married him.[5] The couple had two sons, Archie and Campbell.

Christie was sent to England at a young age to be educated. He was a boarder at Hillside Boys School in Godalming[6] for some years. However in 1901 when Christie was 11 his father died. Two years later Peg, his mother, married William Hemsley,[7] a schoolteacher at Clifton School in Bristol and Christie moved here to complete his education.

After he left school he passed the entrance exam to the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich and in 1909 graduated as a Second Lieutenant. He then joined the 138th Battery Royal Field Artillery. He wanted to be a pilot so he paid his tuition fees for private lessons in a Bristol Flying School in 1912 and gained his Certificate. It was at this stage that he met Agatha Miller.

Ugbrooke House at about the time that the ball was held.

He was invited to a ball on 12 October 1912 by Lady Clifford to be held at her grand home Ugbrooke House in Chudleigh. A description of her meeting with Christie is given by Agatha in her Autobiography.

“Christie came my way quite soon in the dance. He was a tall, fair young man, with crisp curly hair, a rather interesting nose, turned up not down, and a great air of careless confidence about him. He was introduced to me, asked for a couple of dances, and said that his friend Griffiths had told him to look out for me. We got on together very well; he danced splendidly and I danced again several more times with him. I enjoyed the evening thoroughly."[8]

In 1913 Christie obtained a transfer to the Royal Flying Corps and he became a Flying Officer with No. 3 Squadron based at Larkhill. However because he suffered from sinus problems he was unable to continue flying so he became a transport officer in the Royal Flying Corps[9]

Christie and Agatha were married on Christmas Eve 1914 shortly after the outbreak of the war. They did not see very much of each other during the war. Christie was progressively promoted during this time until he became Colonel. He was mentioned in dispatches five times and at the end of the war he received a DSO and a CMG.

Life with Agatha Christie[edit]

The British Empire Exhibition Tour. From left to right – Archie Christie, Major Belcher, Mr Bates (secretary) and Agatha.
The Committee on which Agatha and Nancy Neele were both members.
The Treasure Island Exhibit that was organised by Agatha and Nancy Neele.

After the war Christie and Agatha took a flat in Northwick Terrace in London for a short time. Their only child Rosalind was born in Agatha's childhood home, Ashfield in Torquay in 1919. Soon after this they found a larger flat in London in a building called Addison Mansions.[10]

Headline about Agatha's discovery 1926.

Christie left the military and sought work in the financial world. He found a job in the Imperial and Foreign Corporation.[11] He remained here until 1922 when he was offered a position by Major Ernest Albert Belcher as financial adviser in the British Empire Exhibition Tour.

The purpose of the Tour was to promote the forthcoming British Empire Exhibition which was to be held at Wembley in 1924 and 1925. The Tour departed in January 1922 and returned ten months later. During that time Christie and Agatha visited many places around the world and came to know well the rather eccentric Major Belcher. Belcher led the Tour and subsequently organised many parts of the Wembley Exhibition.[12]

After they returned from the tour Christie found a job in the city and later moved to Austral Development which firmly established him in the world of finance.[13] He started to play golf and was elected to the Sunningdale Golf Club. He spent many of his weekends there while Agatha worked on her novels in their London flat. Christie wanted to live in Sunningdale so in 1924 they moved to a flat called Scotswood where they lived for two years.

It appears that Agatha kept in contact with Major Belcher during this time because at the beginning of 1925 she was invited to participate in a Committee to design and organise a children's section of the 1925 British Empire Exhibition in Wembley. Another friend of Belcher's was also invited to be a member of the Committee – this was Nancy Neele, Christie's future wife. It is possible that it was Agatha who first introduced Christie to Nancy as she mentions in her autobiography that Belcher and Nancy once came to their home early in 1925.

The Committee on which Agatha and Nancy sat designed and organised the Children's Paradise section of the Wembley Exhibition which contained Treasure Island as its' centerpiece. It was a substantial contribution to the event as The Times[14] outlined its features in depth and also gave the names of the Committee. It was a very successful part of the Exhibition as in the following year the Treasure Island feature was exported to the United States where it was lauded as “the greatest amusement feature at the Sesquicentennial Exposition in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.[15]

At the beginning of 1926 Christie and Agatha jointly bought a large house in Sunningdale which they called "Styles". In April of that year, Agatha's mother died and for several months she moved back to her childhood home "Ashfield" to sort and pack her mother's belongings. In August Christie came to see her at "Ashfield" and told her he wanted a divorce as he had fallen in love with Nancy Neele.

Three months later on 3 December 1926 Agatha disappeared from their home in Styles. A major police hunt was undertaken and Christie was questioned by the police. She was discovered ten days later in the Harrogate Hydro. Christie was asked to go to the hotel to identify his wife. She did not recognise him at first but later when she was recovering at her sister's house called Abney Hall she did know who he was. Christie issued a statement to the press saying that his wife was suffering from a nervous disorder and that she had complete loss of memory.[16]

After this the couple separated. Agatha went to live in a flat in London and Christie remained at Styles so that he could sell it.

In 1928 Christie married Nancy Neele in St George Hanover Square with just a few close friends present at the ceremony.

Life With Nancy Neele[edit]

Advertisement placed by Christie for the sale of Styles in 1927.
Advertisement placed by Christie for the sale of Styles in 1928.

Nancy Neele was ten years younger than Christie. She was born in 1899 to middle class parents in Stockport, Cheshire. Her father, Charles Woodward Neele was the Chief Electrical Engineer to the Great Central Railway.[17] Her mother, Mabel Lily Fraser, came from a cultured family where music dominated. She was one of five sisters who played orchestral music and they were described by one newspaper as showing "a proficiency in handling their instruments that enables them to perform with grace and ease the most exacting and high class music.[18]

During Nancy's childhood her family moved to a house called Rheola in Croxley Green. After she left school Nancy completed a course at the Triangle Secretarial College in London and obtained a position as a clerk in the Imperial Continental Gas Association. Soon after she started here her friend from the College Madge Fox joined her.[19] In 1925 Madge married Frank Henry James[20] whose nickname was “Sam”. The couple lived in a house called “Hurtmore Cottage” near Godalming. It was here that Christie saw Nancy at house parties on weekends before his divorce from Agatha.

After their marriage in 1928 Christie and Nancy lived in a flat in London at 84 Avenue Road (NW8). They had one son born in 1930 who was also called Archibald. Christie stayed in contact with Rosalind. In an interview that she held that was published in "The Times" Rosalind made the following comments about her father's marriage to Nancy.

"Eventually my father married Nancy Neele and they lived happily together until she died. I saw him quite often and we always liked and understood one another."[21]

Christie became a successful business man and was a director on the boards of several financial and investment companies.[22] In 1949 he was appointed to the Board of the Rank Organisation.[23]

The couple lived in their London flat until about 1939. They then moved to a large country house near Godalming called "Juniper Hill" on Hydon Heath.[24] Christie continued to play golf at Sunningdale Golf course. Nancy died in 1958 at the age of 58 and Christie died four years later in 1962.

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Law Times, 1901, Volume 110, p. 484. Online reference http://books.google.com.au/books?id=YmcvAQAAMAAJ&q=%22archibald+christie%22+%22indian+civil+service%22&dq=%22archibald+christie%22+%22indian+civil+service%22&hl=en&sa=X&ei=n0VXU--7LZCB8gXztoHACw&ved=0CCwQ6AEwADgK
  2. ^ England Census of 1911. She is listed here as Ellen R. Hemsley of Bistol.)
  3. ^ The Lancet, Vol 2, 1879, p. 857. Online reference http://books.google.com.au/books?ei=llRgU9HeKKaTigf2roH4CQ&id=0K81AQAAMAAJ&dq=%22samuel+coates%22+indian+medical&focus=searchwithinvolume&q=%22samuel+coates%22
  4. ^ Christie, Agatha (14 October 2010). An Autobiography (Kindle Locations 4227–4229). Harper Collins Publishers. Kindle Edition
  5. ^ India Select Marriages, FHL Film Number:510886
  6. ^ England Census of 1901.
  7. ^ Bristol Parish Registers 1903, FHL Film Number:4202183
  8. ^ Christie, Agatha (14 October 2010). An Autobiography (Kindle Locations 4085–4088). HarperCollins Publishers. Kindle Edition
  9. ^ Wright, Peter "The War Service of Archibald Christie" Cross and Cockade International, Autumn 2010, p.161
  10. ^ Morgan, Janet 1984 "Agatha Christie:A Biography” Fontana/Collins, p.81.
  11. ^ The Register (Adelaide, SA ) 20 April 1922, p. 7. Online reference http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/63583299
  12. ^ Prichard, Mathew and Christie, Agatha (17 January 2013). "The Grand Tour: Letters and photographs from the British Empire Expedition 1922” (Kindle Locations 257–258). HarperCollins Publishers. Kindle Edition.
  13. ^ Thompson, Laura 2007 “Agatha Chistie: An English Mystery”, p. 153.
  14. ^ The Times (London), 27 February 1925; pg. 9. Online reference https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Treasure_Island_The_Times_1925_no_2.jpg
  15. ^ Sarasota Herald, 27 May 1926, p. 2. Online reference http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1787&dat=19260527&id=0OIhAAAAIBAJ&sjid=GWQEAAAAIBAJ&pg=1391,482374
  16. ^ Morgan, Janet 1984 "Agatha Christie:A Biography” Fontana/Collins, p. 123ff
  17. ^ The Electrical Journal, Vol 92, 1924, p. 434.
  18. ^ Evening Telegraph – Friday 26 October 1888, p. 2.
  19. ^ Morgan, Janet 1984 "Agatha Christie:A Biography” Fontana/Collins, p. 132-3
  20. ^ Southampton Marriage Register 1925 vol 2C, page 195.
  21. ^ The Times (London, England), Saturday, 8 September 1990; pg. 16.
  22. ^ The Times (London, England), Tuesday, 18 December 1956; pg. 12.
  23. ^ The Times (London, England), Monday, 11 April 1960; pg. 15. Online reference https://www.flickr.com/photos/66984812@N02/14111271975/
  24. ^ Probate record for Archibald Christie, 1962.