Consuelo Vanderbilt, Duchess of Marlborough ( March 2, 1877 , New York - December 6, 1964 , New York ) - the famous beauty, a representative of the family of American millionaires Vanderbilts , who married the 9th Duke of Marlborough. The richest bride of the Victorian time , her wedding has become an international symbol of a marriage advantageous for both parties.
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Born in New York . Was the only daughter of William Kissam Vanderbilt , American millionaire and railway magnate, and his first wife, Alabama beauty, and then suffragist Alva Erskine Smith ( 1853 - 1933 ). Consuelo owes her exotic Spanish name to her godmother, Maria Consuelo Isnage del Valle ( 1858 - 1909 ), half Cuban. (At one time, Maria was amazed at the fact that she married the dowry seeker George Victor Montague, Viscount Mandeville. This union of the Old and New World forced the father of the groom, the 7th Duke of Manchester , to declare openly that his son was married to ").
Since childhood, Consuelo Vanderbilt was strongly pressured by her mother, Alva, who presumed that her daughter would marry just as well as her namesake and godmother, whose husband had already inherited the ducal title. In his biography, Consuelo tells how she was forced to wear a metal corset to correct her posture. The girl studied at home as governess and visiting teachers, from a young age she studied languages.
Like her godmother, Consuelo attracted the attention of many title holders who wanted to combine their noble birth with her fortune. Mother received at least five proposals of the hand and heart, but approved only one - Prince Franz Joseph Battenberg . In turn, Consuelo refused to marry with this unpleasant for her aristocrat . Others did not meet the requirements of Alva. Fortunately, unlike most other rich brides, Consuelo was extremely attractive and sweet. Her beauty was so great that Sir James Barry wrote about her: "I could have waited all night in the rain in order to see Consuelo Marborough getting into the carriage . " She was described in such words: “a spicy face oval, a long beautiful neck, huge dark eyes with curved eyelashes” . The appearance of Consuelo perfectly matched the “slim, tight look” , which became fashionable in the Edwardian era .
Thanks to the efforts of Lady Paze (née American “Minnie” Stevens ), who became a kind of marriage agent for wealthy American heirs and British aristocrats, Alva introduced her daughter to Charles Spencer-Churchill, 9th Duke of Marlborough ( 1871 - 1934 ), nicknamed Sunny (Sunny) , cousin of the future British Prime Minister Winston Churchill . But Consuelo did not pay attention to the duke, being already secretly engaged to an American named Winthrop Rutherford . Upon learning of this, Alva attacked her daughter, ordered her to marry Marlborough, locked the girl in the room, accompanying her with threats to kill Rutherford. When this did not help, Alva pretended to be dying because of disobedience of her daughter and, eventually, 18-year-old Consuelo agreed to the wedding.
The dowry received by the duke amounted to 2.5 million dollars (about 75 million today, taking into account inflation ). These funds allowed the Duke to restore the famous Blenheim Palace . The wedding took place on November 6, 1895 in the Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in New York. Children from this marriage:
- John Albert William Spencer-Churchill, Marquis Blandford , the future 10th Duke ( September 18, 1897 - March 11, 1972 )
- Lord Ivor Spencer-Churchill ( October 14, 1898 - September 17, 1956 )
The birth of these children deprived Winston Churchill of the title, who would become the next duke if his cousin Charles had died without leaving any descendants. The first thing the young daughter-in-law, the duchess Fanny, said: “Your first duty is to have a child, and this must be a son, because it is unbearable for me to even think that this upstart Winston will become a duke.” “Perhaps you are already pregnant?” She was interested further  . Consuelo called her children the Heir and the Spare.
|1877–1895||Miss Consuelo Vanderbilt|
|1895-1921||Her Serene Duchess Marlborough|
|1921||Consuelo, Duchess of Marlborough|
|1921-1964||Madame Jacques Balzan|
The poverty of the people who lived on the lands of her husband made a strong impression on the newly-made duchess, and she began to help them. She then also became involved in other philanthropic projects. Consuelo expected deafening success in the secular society of Great Britain. In 1902, together with her husband, she visited Russia. In St. Petersburg, the couple was adopted by the widowed empress Maria Feodorovna . Probably it was then that Faberge ordered the production of the Marlboro Egg (now the jewelery egg is in the Faberge Museum in St. Petersburg ).
However, the relationship between her and her spouse, which is already not very ardent, eventually began to fade away. Spouses began to live separately since 1907 . While the duke eventually fell under the spell of Gladys Mary Deacon, a poor charismatic American woman whom he later married, they began to associate the name of the duchess with her husband's cousin, attractive Hon. Reginald Fellow, and also with Grand Duke Dmitry Pavlovich and some others.
Consuelo and the duke divorced in 1921 after 26 years of marriage. On August 19, 1926, at the request of the duke who had converted to Catholicism , and with the consent of Consuelo, the wedding was canceled by the Vatican , which facilitated the duke’s transition to a new faith. The divorce, to the surprise of many, was supported by Consuelo's mother, who openly stated that it was an act of erroneous coercion: “I forced my daughter to marry the duke,” Alva told the interviewer, “I had absolute power over my daughter.” It should be noted that by that time, Alva herself divorced her husband ( 1895 ), shocking the highest American society, and combining a second marriage with the son of a Jewish banker, was actively engaged in suffrageist activities. In subsequent years, the mother and the grown-up daughter were able to establish a closer and warm relationship.
Immediately after the divorce, July 4, 1921, Consuelo entered into a second marriage with Lieutenant Colonel Jacques Balsan ( 1868 - 1956 ), a pioneer of French aeronautics , aviation and hydro-aviation , who was also the heir of the textile manufacturer. His brother, Etienne , was Coco Chanel's lover. Balzan, as indicated, got acquainted with Consuelo back in New York when she was 17 years old, and all this time kept affection for her. It was a happy marriage.
Despite her divorce, Consuelo retained ties with the Churchill clan, especially with Sir Winston, who was a frequent guest at her chateau Saint-Georges-Motel near Dreux, 50 miles from Paris. It was there that he painted his last paintings before the war. Jacques and Consuelo Balzan lived in their mansion in Paris, rue Charles-Floquet.
During the Second World War, Balzan was in the ranks of the French Resistance . Then, through Spain and Portugal, the couple were able to escape from Nazi Europe to the United States, where they lived until the end of the war. Consuelo was awarded the Legion of Honor for philanthropic activities and the opening of a children's hospital in Paris. In 1953, she published an autobiography in which she writes a lot about the epoch and contemporaries, but avoids details of her intimate life.
She died in Southampton on Long Island , New York, on December 6, 1964 at the age of 87, having survived her beloved husband for 8 years. She was buried next to her youngest son, Lord Ivor, and Sir Winston, in the cemetery of St. Martin's Church (Blaydon) in Oxfordshire , near her former residence - Blenheim Palace .
Other Consuelo Vanderbilt
- The Duchess's brother, William Kissam Vanderbilt II, named his daughter, born in 1903, after his sister.
- Autobiography: Consuelo Balsan. "The Glitter and the Gold", 1953. (Literary processing of journalist Stuart Preston). Critics have called it "the perfect epitaph of an era of elegance."
- Some of Consuelo’s traits served as a model for the creation of Conchita Klosson’s character in the novel “The Buccaneers” (literally “Pirate”, in the Russian translation of the television movie “Pretty Women”) about American women who conquer the light of London. In the screen version of the novel in 1995 , this role was played by Mira Sorvino . But the main difference is that Conchita Klosson is a beautiful but not rich American woman who marries not his duke, but his ruined relative, who eventually falls ill with syphilis because of his wild life. These features are borrowed by a writer, rather, from the history of the marriage of another American woman, who had been married in a similar way to a generation earlier - Lady Randolph Churchill (Winston's mother). The elements of Consuelo's story are also used in describing the life of the main character of the novel, Nan Saint George, who, although he does not have an exotic Spanish name and elegant beauty, but unlike Conchita, marries the duke, then breaks up with him to finally reunite with a man who loved her before the wedding.
- Amanda Mackenzie Stuart. Consuelo and the Mother of the Gilded Age.