|Biltmore, ca. 1900|
The house today remains intact and owned by Vanderbilt's grandsons. It is also the largest privately owned residence in the US and I am always marveled by how the family has turned such a palatial estate into a million dollar business.
|Lovely family portrait of the Marlboroughs |
by John Singer Sargent
As I grew older and my interests began to extend to all things British, I became fascinated by another Vanderbilt--Consuelo, the Duchess of Marlborough. She was George's niece, the daughter of his brother William Kissam Vanderbilt and the pugnacious Alva Erskine Smith, who from all accounts was someone you did not want to cross. I've been reading To Marry An English Lord: Or How Anglomania Really Got Started and it details all of Alva's machinations to obtain entree into New York society (it's a tongue and cheek account of the time period...very funny). Consuelo was named after her mother's BFF, Consuelo Iznaga, who was one of the original "Buccaneers" -- she married the Viscount Mandeville who eventually became the 8th Duke of Manchester.
It was fitting that Consuelo Vanderbilt became one of the second generation "Buccaneers". She married Charles, the 9th Duke of Marlborough, though sadly, their marriage was loveless at best. She gave him "the heir and the spare" and checked out around 1906 with their divorce being finalized in 1921. She went on to marry the French aviator Jacques Balsan, who incidentally, was the brother of Etinenne Balsan (one of Coco Chanel's early lovers). Small world!
Consuelo was recently used as a model for Cora Cash in Daisy Goodwin's novel "The American Heiress". Many of the incidents (domineering mother, a secret engagement) in the book were ripped from Conseulo's own autobiography "The Glitter and the Gold".
That's enough for today. I might detail more on the other Buccaneers (including Consuelo's aunt-in-law Jennie Randolph, mother of Winston Churchill) at a later date.