The Tomb of Mr. Hawarden at Malmédy – Malmedy, Belgium - Atlas Obscura

The Tomb of Mr. Hawarden at Malmédy

Malmedy, Belgium

A gender-bending antihero's grave, where lies the inspiration for both book and film. 


When visiting the beautiful town of Malmedy, a detour to the cemetery Ligneuville will reveal a local legend and intriguing story to grave hunters looking for something a little off the usual celebrity list. You will have located one of Belgiums more riveting deceased when you’ve located the tomb of Mr. Hawarden.

This simple grave seems to be no different from the tens of thousands of others just like it, but it stands in remembrance of a man whose life was so fascinating, it inspired a novel and subsequent film.

Flemish writer Filip Pillecyn published ” Dr. Hawarden”in 1935. The Belgian film “Monsieur Hawarden” debuted in 1969 with a young Rutger Hauer in his first role, which ended up on the cutting room floor. What was so tantalizing about Mr. Hawarden that he inspired so much interest and curiosity?

He was actually a she, a woman who lived as a man, dressed in men’s clothing, and fearlessly called herself “Sir”.

While truth and fiction have undeniably melded into a pool of half-truths, creative license and legend, the story goes that Arthur Hawarden was actually Meriora Gillibrand, a rough and tumble Havana smoking blood-spitting-hellion. Mr. Hawarden’s reason for the constant and intimidating blood on her lips was said to be caused by a shot to the chest during a duel with an ex-lover that she, in the end won. Of course the more likely cause was consumption.

Mr. Hawarden had always preferred men’s clothing, as they lent better to her love of brawling, drinking, and whatever other trouble she was up to, but after a would-be suitor ended up dead by her hand, Meriora was forced to become Arthur Hawarden to evade police, and lived out the rest of her days as a man.

Know Before You Go

The grave is located on the cemetery in Ligneuville, a small town next to Malmedy. It is on the Grand Rue (N62), about 1,640 feet (500 meters) uphill from the church. The cemetery is located across the street called Pré Lorette.

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April 10, 2012

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