More than a century ago, Hercule Poirot was born in "The Mysterious Affair At Styles." Agatha Christie once revealed that Poirot was inspired by a retired Belgian soldier. But who was this mysterious figure?
Agatha Christie went on to write 33 novels featuring Poirot, along with two plays and over 50 short stories. Poirot has been portrayed by some of the world's greatest actors in films and TV series, including Peter Ustinov, Orson Welles, David Suchet, and John Malkovich.
Over the years, Poirot has often been hailed as the most famous Belgian of all time. The town of Ellezelles in Wallonia claims to be his birthplace. In August 1975, after Agatha Christie published her final Poirot novel, The New York Times ran an obituary for the Belgian detective on its front page.
In 2020, a Belgian researcher claimed to have discovered the real Hercule Poirot. His name was Jacques Joseph Hamoir, a former police officer from Herstal who fled to Great Britain when the war broke out. A social worker from Libramont in the Luxembourg province also spent five years combing through various archives and is confident that she, too, has found the real Hercule Poirot—or at least the man on whom Agatha Christie based her character.
|Jacques Joseph Hamoir
While she asserts this discovery, the story has been known for a while. During the war, a woman in southern England named Alice Graham Clapp hosted several Belgian refugees and kept a list of about 500 people under her care. Among them was a certain Jacques Joseph Hornais, but Clapp's grandson later discovered that this was an administrative error and that it was Jacques Joseph Hamoir. On January 18, 1915, Hamoir moved with his 17-year-old son Lucien to southern England, leaving his wife and daughter behind.
On January 6, 1915, Clapp supposedly held a reception where people could donate clothing for the refugees. Agatha Miller played the piano at this charity event. Agatha Miller later became Agatha Christie after marrying Archie Christie a year later. This establishes that Jacques Joseph Hamoir and Agatha Christie lived nearby.
At that time, Agatha Christie was 24 and working as an assistant nurse. It's plausible that they may have crossed paths, though there is no concrete evidence. Christie never explicitly stated that Poirot was based on a single person, but she did mention turning him into a Belgian character. Allegedly, she derived the name Hercules Poirot from two detectives who were popular in long-forgotten books.
The lingering question remains: did Jacques Joseph Hamoir have a mustache? Yes, and his hair was also meticulously combed back. However, the extent of their acquaintance is unclear—he was 57 at the time, and she was 24 and engaged. The connection between them will remain a mystery.