Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Consuelo Duchess of Marlborough, née Vanderbilt

One of the last places my London program visited last spring was Blenheim Palace, the seat of the Duke of Marlborough. We had a tour and our guide told us about Consuelo Vanderbilt, wife of the 9th Duke. This portrait is in Blenheim and we were told it was commissioned as sort of bait for the aristocracy. She married the Duke when she was 18 and had two sons.

Isn't she gorgeous? I've been fascinated with her since I heard about her at Blenheim. Her mother arranged her marriage to the Duke, making her one of many (one source says 200) Anglo-American marriages during the Edwardian period that combined American money with English titles.

Winston Churchill's American mother was another such American heiress that married Consuelo's husband's uncle, making Churchill and Consuelo cousins by marriage. I LOVE this photo because it's so casual and I can't get enough of young Churchill, so great!

Consuelo and her husband didn't love each other, so after giving the duke an heir and a spare they separated in 1906 and were divorced in 1920. Her money helped restored Blenheim, and she dedicated herself to charitable work in London.

Awesome book you should read: High Society: Photographs 1897-1914 by Terence Pepper with 107 society photographs, including excellent captions.

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