A fabulously wealthy New York beauty marries a cold-hearted British aristocrat at the behest of her Machiavellian mother - then leaves him to become a prominent Suffragette.
On November 6,1895, crowds of curious sightseers gathered outside the Church of St Thomas on Fifth Avenue in New York. Those who had arrived early enough to peep inside the church saw that it had been decorated with thousands of white flowers at eye-watering expense. Even a casual reader of local newspapers would have known that the small, dapper bridegroom with his best man was a great English aristocrat. An audible shiver of schadenfreude went through the crowd at the arrival of the bride. She was twenty minutes late and anyone who caught a glimpse beneath her veil could see that her face was swollen with crying.
On the day Consuelo's grandfather died he was the richest man in America; the Vanderbilt fortune stood at $200 million. Her father, Willie K, started to spend it, being the first generation of 'social Vanderbilts'. In this he was enthusiastically assisted by Consuelo's mother, a force of nature called Alva Erskine Smith, who was determined to take the family to the top of New York society. And like many other American plutocrats, a chronically underfunded English aristocrat was just the thing. It didn't matter that Consuelo loved someone else; as Alva once told her, 'I don't ask you to think, I do the thinking, you do as you are told.' But like many a woman before and since who has been coerced into marriage, Consuelo threw herself into children and good works; Winston Churchill encouraged her to make her first public speech, and increasingly an interest in social and political matters became a way of dealing with loneliness.
This captivating biography tells of the life of mother and daughter: the story of the fairytale wedding and its nightmarish aftermath, and an account of how both women went on to dedicate their lives to philanthropic causes, and the dramatic fight for women's suffrage, in the light of their own suffering.
- Publication Date:
- 25 / 10 / 2006
- 130 x 197mm