Thursday, November 8, 2018

DAY 75: The Original Consuelo

Consuelo, Viscountess Mandeville, Duchess of Manchester.
Notice the diamond star brooch on her bodice.
The name means consolation in Spanish. Consuelo Yznaga del Valle y Clemens, one of Jennie Churchill's closest friends from girlhood (and a character in That Churchill Woman), must often have felt in need of consolation after her marriage to George, Viscount Mandeville, in Manhattan's Grace Church in 1876. 

George Victor Drogo Montagu, whom everyone called Kim, was the Duke of Manchester's heir, but his life was anything but glittering. Although he and Connie had three children within as many years of their marriage--a boy they called Little Kim and twin daughters, Nell and May--George deserted his family, preferring to live in hired lodgings with a music hall singer and male impersonator named Bessie Bellwood. (Women who dressed like boys in Eton uniforms were highly popular on the Victorian stage, and among the men who patronized them.)

Consuelo wrote despairing letters to George throughout her marriage, begging him to return to his family, in part because her financial situation was dreadful. She seems to have lived on gifts from her American relations and had the support of her mother-in-law, Louise, Duchess of Manchester, who like Consuelo was a member of the Prince of Wales's Marlborough House Set. George quickly ran through his wife's dowry and declared bankruptcy at age 36, right after acceding to the title of Duke of Manchester. He died of alcoholism at age 39.
Lady May and Lady Nell, the Montagu Twins

It was not the last period of mourning Consuelo would endure. Her daughter May died of tuberculosis at age sixteen in 1895, followed by Nell, of the same disease, five years later. May's death caused an unfortunate rift with Consuelo's lifelong friend, Alva Smith Vanderbilt, who had named her only daughter after Connie. Consuelo, then Duchess of Manchester, and her twin daughters were in Italy when May died. Alva's former husband, William K Vanderbilt, brought the young girl's body back to England in his yacht for burial . Alva seems to have suspected the widowed Consuelo of engaging in an affair with her ex-husband, and treated it as an act of disloyalty.   

Some "consolation" in the form of cash came to Connie at her younger brother's death in 1901: Fernando Yznaga left her two million dollars. The fortune gave Consuelo some peace of mind in the final years of her life--as did, one hopes, the friends she had cultivated on both sides of the Atlantic.

For more images from THAT CHURCHILL WOMAN, visit the  Pinterest board behind the novel.  

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