It was the year of— Well, it was the year of the first celebrity wedding. That’s all you really need to know.
Consuelo [con-SWAY-lo] Vanderbilt was the bride.
And her mother was a blabber mouth. A big fat one.
On purpose, might I add! She leaked details of Consuelo’s trousseau to the press. But wait. There’s more.
You see, Alva Vanderbilt had arranged the marriage of her daughter to the Ninth Duke of Marlborough.
Many a noble had nearly run their grand estates into bankruptcy via extravagant living. Meanwhile, on the other side of the pond, American heiresses were being groomed as princesses, but lacked British titles and the influence that came with them. (Downton Abbey, anyone?)
Dowries were traded. According to the article The Dollar Princess and the Duke, Consuelo’s was “reputedly worth around $4 billion in today’s money.”
. . . You’d think with that kind of dough you could do anything you’d like.
Daisy Goodwin, author of The American Heiress, called Consuelo “the original poor little rich girl.”
Before her engagement to Marlborough, before Alva had escorted her oversees to promenade her in front of England’s high society, Consuelo had become secretly engaged. In her memoir The Glitter and the Gold, she referred to him as Mr. X. He promised to follow her during her European tour and write to her.
Alva interceded all of Mr. X’s attempts of contact. None of his letters reached his young fiancée. (It’s all very Noah and Allie from The Notebook.)
Finally, after many balls, Alva accepted a proposal from Marlborough on Consuelo’s behalf.
Mother and daughter returned to New York in preparation for the wedding. Alva was so busy planning and publicizing the event that a letter from Mr. X eluded her.
It was just the motivation Consuelo needed to stand up for herself.
Three days before her wedding, she locked herself in her room. Many hands knocked on her door. She was pleaded with. She was told how wretched she was. And then she was told Alva had suffered a heart attack due to her theatrics.
Alva’s health couldn’t bear anymore. If another episode occurred, it would be fatal, and it would be on Consuelo’s head.
This, of course, was all rubbish. But, at the end of the day, Consuelo loved her mother and wished her no bodily harm. She unlocked her door.
. . . With tears pooling in her eyes, nineteen-year-old Consuelo married Marlborough, a man who disliked Americans. Her humiliation was furthered when Marlborough informed her of his mistress during their honeymoon.
Her marriage only deteriorated from there.
Despite life at home, Consuelo found her footing in society. She was a cherished confidant to Winston Churchill. She was a great advocate to the war relief effort and donated her home to the cause. She was a highly respected lady. Period.
When I began listening to her “tell-all” book The Glitter and The Gold, I was looking forward to Consuelo giving a written dressing down to Alva and Marlborough.
I was pleasantly disappointed.
Great women don’t speak poorly about others. . .
Throughout the book, Consuelo kept a cool tone in her retelling. She didn’t shy from facts. She shared her story rather objectively, as if she’s pondered on it for some time and had elected to forgive.
I’m happy to report that she reconciled with her mother.
The same cannot be said of her and Marlborough. As Consuelo spoke about pursuing divorce, there was hesitancy. For a case to be made on her behalf, Alva’s manipulation had be made public. I’m confident it was with a heavy heart Consuelo asked Alva’s permission to open old wounds.
Alva gave her blessing, hoping her daughter would be free to find happiness.
Especially their spouses.
The title The Glitter and the Gold supposedly referred to Consuelo’s first and second marriage. In anecdotes about Marlborough, she was very controlled in her wording. She was factual about their interactions.
In anecdotes about hubby Jacques Balsan, she almost gushed about him at times.
I had even more respect for Consuelo after learning what she could say and didn’t. She didn’t vent. (As I’m so prone to do!) She didn’t waste words on downtrodding others. (As much as I think they had it coming.)
She understood the integrity of silence. . .
Your words reflect on your character. What do they say about you?
Proverbs 29:11 (King James)
“A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.”