December 06: America’s First Duchess

2016/12/06 § Leave a comment

Consuelo Vanderbilt

On this day in 1964 Consuelo Vanderbilt died.

Consuelo was an intelligent and pretty lady, but hardly needed to be, seeing how she was born a Vanderbilt with a main purpose in life to marry well.  That part was managed by her force-of-nature mother,  Alva Erskine Smith Vanderbilt, who arranged Consuelo’s marriage to the 9th Duke of Marlborough in 1895.  So, at the age of eighteen, Consuelo became the Duchess of Marlborough, reigning over the not-shabby digs at Blenheim Palace.  The fulfillment of the contract accomplished Gilded Age America’s highest aspiration: a legitimate aristocratic title bestowed upon an American, who up to that point, might only achieve the trappings of such status by building luxurious and monumental architecture that aspired to the traditions set down at a place like Blenheim.  (The Brits, in return, got access to a significant dowry that allowed them to maintain the house.)  Although her marriage to the Duke was later annulled, Consuelo remained friendly with her English family, including a certain Winston, who is shown with her in the picture above.

Image: Consuelo Vanderbilt and Winston Churchill at Blenheim Palace, 1902 (from this source)


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