ABC: Agatha Before Christie (Part 2)

Frederick Alvah Miller, Agatha Christie's father. He died when she was only 11.

Frederick Alvah Miller. He died when she was only 11.

1910 BC:  The Victorian era is over and with it all the austerity of sort. Europe, and the rest of the world is on the brink of war. The 20th century began with new resolutions but unfortunately not all expectations for what the future might have brought went as planned. Agatha knew this well, because in 1901, when she was just 11, her father, Frederick Miller, died of heart complications.

“One picture remains etched in my mind. It was afternoon; I was standing on the half landing. Suddenly the door of father’s and mother’s bedroom opened. My mother came out in a kind of rush, her hands held to her head over her eyes. She rushed from there into the adjoining room and shut the door behind her. ” That’s how Agatha described the moment of her father’s departure in her biography. And with his death, another shadow fell over the Miller family. As many other gentlemen during that time, Frederick never worked and the family fortune was almost inexistent. To make up for this, Agatha’s mother, Clarissa decided to rent the family house in Torquay to make some money and move to Cairo, Egypt. Life was cheaper in Egypt and Agatha could made her societal debut.

Agatha posing for a picture with a theatrical company in Torquay.

Agatha posing for a picture with a theatrical company in Torquay.

Agatha’s experiences in Egypt, proved very significant for her. Cairo was where she attempted to write her first novel Snow Upon The Desert (does it sound familiar?) and where she had her first encounter with the opposite sex.  She wasn’t a child anymore, she was a lady, ready to be married. Long ginger hair, Roman nose, kindly manner and a lovely face made Agatha a very good looking lady. Her dance carnet was always full; young soldiers and many other young men of the British army were fascinated by her charming demeanour. Many proposed as well but she wasn’t ready to settle just yet; she was looking for her prince charming.

On her return to Britain, Agatha continued looking for a husband. She had four short lived relationships and almost married one of them. But then, one day, at a party organized at a house near Torquay, Agatha found her Prince Charming.

Archibald Christie was born in India, army officer and one of the first RAF Pilot.

Archibald Christie was born in India. He was ab army officer and one of the first RAF Pilots.

“He was a tall, fair young man, with crisp curly hair, a rather interesting nose and a great air of careless confidence about him”; Agatha described Archibald Christie as she met him at the party and ten days later he showed up on his motorbike at Ashfield, asking for her. This went on for a while,  and finally he asked her to marry him.

Unfortunately neither of them were wealthy, and his position in the Flying Corps was still not of relevance. Their engagement lasted for a year and a half. She said about Archie and herself:, “We looked at each other, we were young, desperate – and in love.”

The years passed and suddenly with the summer of 1914 came Archie’s departure for war. Agatha, a proud English girl, wanted to do her bit for the nation and so she joined the Voluntary Aid Detachment or V.A.D.

Agatha chrisite in her uniform during her period as a nurse in WW1

Agatha Christie in her uniform during her period as a nurse in WW1

War raged in the continent, but Archie managed to get permission to go see his beloved Agatha. They had only a few days together, and were conscious of the fact that they could also possibly be their last; so they decided to get married.

On 24th December of the same year, Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller became Agatha Christie. Her relationship with Archie took her around the world; she accompanied him on his expedition of commonwealth countries on behalf of the British Empire Exhibition Mission. It was one of the happiest periods in her life.

Unfortunately they were not meant for a happily ever after. But that is another story.

*All images in this post belong to the Agatha Christie Archive*

-MA-

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