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Sticky Topic Topic: Interesting Women of the Nobility  (Read 47811 times)
« on: February 10, 2007, 04:06:30 PM »
James_Davidov Offline
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The Marchesa Luisa Casati was a legend of her time, she was one of the greatest hostesses in Europe and would find fame and infamy as a muse for some of the finest artists of the day.  Word of mouth did not do her extravagance credit, nor did the eccentricity of this woman.  Luisa was a egocentric who found that in the role of ‘muse’ she could have an eternal presence in art, her popularity as a subject form lay with her successful attempts to distinguish her very own life as a forrm of art.

She was a Milanese heiress, born in 1881 and dying in 1957.  She would contribute much of her drive for glamour and extravagance to the stories of Europe’s courts, which her mother would relay to her, filling her head with icons such as ‘Sissi and ‘Eugenie of France’.

Here is a summery from wikipedia (I know…but I had a big night last night!)

International Italian society figure, beauty, and eccentric, she was born in Milan, Lombardy, the younger daughter of Conte Alberto Amman, and his Austrian wife Lucia Bressi. She was married (1900) to the Marchese Camillo Casati Stampa di Soncino (1877 - 1946).
A famous celebrity and femme fatale, the marchesa's famous eccentricities dominated and delighted European society for nearly three decades. She captivated artists and literati figures such as Gabriele D'Annunzio, Augustus John, Erté, Jean Cocteau, Cecil Beaton, and Jack Kerouac. The character of Isabella Inghirami from d'Annunzio's Forse che si forse che no (1910) was said to have been inspired by her, as well as the character of La Casinelle, who appeared in two novels by Michel Georges-Michel, Dans la fete de Venise (1922) and Nouvelle Riviera (1924).
Casati collected a menagerie of exotic animals, and fashion designers vied for her patronage. Later, when she had lost her immense wealth, the marchesa retired to England, spending her last years in London, where she died at the age of seventy-six. She was portrayed on the stage by Vivien Leigh in La Contessa (1965) and by Ingrid Bergman in the movie A Matter of Time (1976).
The beautiful and extravagant hostess to the Ballets Russes was something of a legend among her contemporaries. She astonished Venetian society by parading with a pair of leashed cheetahs and wearing live snakes as jewellery. Her numerous portraits were painted and sculpted by artists as various as Giovanni Boldini, Paolo Troubetzkoy, Romaine Brooks, Kees van Dongen, Man Ray and Augustus John; many of them she paid for, as a wish to "commission her own immortality".
She lived in the unfinished pink marble palace, Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, Venice, (now the home of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection) around 1910 and 1924.
She was muse to F. T. Marinetti, Fortunato Depero, Umberto Boccioni and, more recently, to Dita Von Teese. John Galliano based the 1998 Spring/Summer Christian Dior collection on her. Gowns from this collection have been displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Fashion Institute.
As the concept of dandy was expanded in the twentieth century to include women, the marchesa Casati fitted the utmost female example by saying: "I want to be a living work of art".
[edit] Debt and flight
By 1930, Casati had amassed a personal debt of twenty-five million dollars. Unable to satisfy her creditors, her personal possessions were auctioned off. Rumour has it that among the bidders was Coco Chanel.
Luisa fled to London, where she lived in comparative poverty. She was rumoured to be seen rummaging in bins searching for feathers to decorate her hair. She died on 1 June 1957, and was interred in Brompton Cemetery. The quote "Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety" from Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra was inscribed on her tombstone.

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Reply #1
« on: March 08, 2007, 04:54:07 AM »
scarlett_riviera Offline
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omg luisa casati is FIERCE. imagine wearing real live snakes as a necklace! adore her.
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In memory of Grand Duke Dimitri! The man had style.
Reply #2
« on: March 11, 2007, 10:07:37 AM »
CountessKate Offline
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I've always liked this portrait of Casati by Augustus John - I saw it many years ago at an exhibition of his paintings and thought it was the best thing there.
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« on: March 11, 2007, 10:12:34 AM »
CountessKate Offline
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I also like the Boldini portrait, though of course it's a fairly standard swagger Edwardian painting, with Boldini pretending to be daring and unconventional.
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« on: March 12, 2007, 12:43:27 AM »
scarlett_riviera Offline
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I love that second portrait! I saw it on a site sometime ago and fell in love with it. I also love her less-daring portrait from 1905: http://www.style.com/slideshows/standalone/beauty/icon/100604ICON/01f.jpg
She's very beautiful there. Does she have any living descendants?
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In memory of Grand Duke Dimitri! The man had style.
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« on: March 12, 2007, 12:50:18 PM »
CountessKate Offline
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The Marchesa had one daughter, Cristina Casati Stampa di Soncino (1901-1955), who had a daughter by her first husband, Francis Hastings, Earl of Huntingdon - Lady Moorea Hastings who I gather is still alive.  Lady Moorea married firstly Woodrow Wyatt, the diarist, and has a son, Pericles Wyatt, while by her second husband, Brinsley Graham Black, she has another son, Octavious Black.  Neither sons have any children to date.
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« on: March 13, 2007, 12:32:02 AM »
scarlett_riviera Offline
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Thanks for the info! I hope they're family line won't die out. :\
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In memory of Grand Duke Dimitri! The man had style.
Reply #7
« on: May 11, 2007, 07:22:05 PM »
grandduchessella Offline
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There has been interest expressed on various threads (and in PMs) about a place to discuss some of the fascinating women of the nobility in various countries. So for anyone who'd like to discuss, here's the thread.  Smiley
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« on: May 11, 2007, 07:52:13 PM »
Speedycat Offline
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Thanks grandduchessella for starting this thread Grin.There are two in particular that I am interested in:

I would love to chat and get information and photos of Lady Randolph Churchill (nee Jenny Jerome) and Viscountess Curzon (nee Mary Victoria Lieter).  They were contemporaries and friends, both being American heiresses who married into the English aristocracy.

I've researched Lady Curzon a bit and her husband seems rather an odd one.  Quite obsessed with having that all-important son and heir.  It seems Lady Curzon died rather young (age 36) after a miscarriage and surgeries/treaments for fertility.  She did have 3 daughters, so I suppose she was sufficiently "fertile", just did not have a son.  Oddly enough Lord Curzon's second wife, Grace, also underwent fertility treatments in an attempt to have a son (they had one daughter).  The failure to produce a son is sighted as the cause of their seperation, although they never divorced.
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« on: May 11, 2007, 08:43:14 PM »
grandduchessella Offline
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In the Windsors, under Friends and Confidantes, there's some on Jennie's sister Leonie Leslie which includes some photos of Jennie.
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Reply #10
« on: May 11, 2007, 08:50:28 PM »
grandduchessella Offline
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Some photos:

Grace Curzon



Daisy Leiter, later Countess of Suffolk



Mary Leiter by von Lenbach



Mary Leiter:

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Reply #11
« on: May 11, 2007, 09:00:53 PM »
grandduchessella Offline
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Mary Leiter was the daughter of Levi Leiter, a dry goods millionaire who co-founded Leiter & Field, now known as Marshall Field's department store, and also served briefly as president of the fledgling Art Institute of Chicago. Her portrait was painted when she was a debutante and aspiring to be socially prominent. Leiter and her mother sat for Alexander Cabanel on a trip to Paris in 1887, and Mary's portrait was exhibited at the Salon the following year, where it attracted favorable attention. She was known for her beauty and sophisticated demeanor, two of her most praised social assets, which are clearly reflected in her portrait. Shortly after her successful society debut in Washington D.C.— closely followed by the exhibition of her portrait—Leiter's mother was anxious for her to marry, and after several disappointing trips to Europe, the Leiters traveled to England where Mary won the heart of George Nathaniel Curzon, later Marquess of Kedleston, in 1890. They married in 1895, and Mary Curzon became the vicereine of India from 1899 to 1905, the highest political position held by an American woman of the time.

Mary by Cabanel


Mary in 1904



They had three daughters: Mary Irene (who inherited her father's Barony of Ravensdale and was created a life peer in her own right), Cynthia (first wife of Sir Oswald Mosley), and Alexandra Naldera (wife of Edward "Fruity" Metcalfe, the best friend of Edward VIII; best known as Baba Metcalfe, she later became a mistress of her brother-in-law Oswald Mosley, as did her stepmother, Grace). [There's some on this in the Mitfords thread in the Windsors]

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« on: May 11, 2007, 09:01:18 PM »
grandduchessella Offline
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Here's what a review of The Viceroy's Daughters says:

"The story begins with their father. In the post-Victorian era, Viceroy to India was one of the choicer appointments Mother England had to offer, and Lord Curzon's title helped his cause when he courted Mary Leiter, the much-pursued American Marshall Field's heiress eager to jump the pond. Between her deep pockets and his blue blood, their story had all the makings of an epic romance…but it wouldn't last long. Mary died only a few years after their marriage, leaving young daughters Irene, Cynthia, and Alexandra in the care of their inattentive father. Instead of spending time with his family in the wake of his wife's death, Lord Curzon was busy carousing around the chintz-draped bedrooms of many a country estate. (In a rare moment of indelicacy, de Courcy will later suggest Curzon's daughters inherited their vigorous libidos from their lusty papa.)

By the time the Curzon sisters were presented into society in their late teens, each had an inheritance worth millions of pounds. Needless to say, every aging dowager in aristocratic England had their eye on a Curzon girl as a possible bride for their son. Cynthia, known as "Cimmie," married first, to Lord Oswald Mosley. She quickly became the quintessential political wife, campaigning for her husband and presiding over a nearly nightly round of entertaining. Despite Mosley's flagrant philandering, Cimmie loyally did whatever she could to improve his career, even when his political leanings took a turn from Labor to deeply anti-Semitic Fascism.

Alexandra, or "Baba," was the youngest, and in her coming out year she quickly became the star of London's debutante season with its endless dances, balls, and parties, attracting many enthusiastic suitors within the Prince of Wales' playboy set. Partying with this international crowd, which included Lord Mountbatten and a young Winston Churchill, Baba caught the eye of (unfortunately nicknamed) Fruity Metcalf, the Prince's well-meaning if rather dull aide-de-camp. Baba loved the idea of marrying a penniless man against her father's wishes. Although she knew they were ill matched, she married him anyway just to spite the grouchy old Viceroy. Poor Fruity --- boring, loyal and mostly uncomplaining --- tolerated Baba's extramarital promiscuity for the whole of their long, tortured marriage. Baba even carried on a protracted affair with her sister's husband, Lord Mosley, until he threw her over for the dangerous and Nazi-connected Diana Mitford. (Big sis Irene also had a crack at Lord Mosley; they had a drunken one-night romp that must not have proven memorable as neither of them pursued the liaison further.)

Irene rapidly emerges as the heroine of THE VICEROY'S DAUGHTERS. Irene fought for --- and won --- her financial independence from her dictatorial father, and built a jet-setting life for herself with the trendy Melton Mowbray hunting set, complete with her own country estate and a stable full of thoroughbreds. While most women her age worried about finding the right husband, Irene embarked on a long string of affairs with her aristocratic playmates. Throughout her life Irene turned down every single marriage proposal volleyed her way (I lost count somewhere after 10), and she reserved her affections for married men who couldn't run her life like her father had.

THE VICEROY'S DAUGHTERS also draws upon decades of previously unpublished letters and diaries that give rare personal insight into the very public drama that led to King Edwards' abdication to marry the twice-divorced "woman he loved." Baba's correspondence with Mrs. Simpson reveals that Wallis was a naïve woman, unable to grasp the enormity of what she'd signed on for. Many of the anecdotes de Courcy includes about Edward --- now reduced to a mere Duke --- present him as excessively self-absorbed. For an epic example of this selfishness, de Courcy includes an account that occurred during the war. Hearing news of a German advance, the Duke abandoned his French chateau in the middle of the night, leaving his best friend behind. He didn't even pause to secure safe passage for the still-slumbering Fruity."
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« on: May 11, 2007, 09:17:48 PM »
grandduchessella Offline
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Mary was a striking six feet tall presence with a slim buxom figure. She had large grey eyes set in a pleasing oval face, glossy chestnut-brown hair drawn back into a loose knot at the nape of her neck, and small pretty hands and feet.

The Curzons arrived in India in Dec 1898. The Indian poet, Ram Sharma referred to her in his welcome address to Lord Curzon of Kedleston, as:

"A rose of roses bright
A vision of embodied light."
Another declared her to be:

"Like a diamond set in gold
the full moon in a clear autumnal sky."

In 1902 Lord Curzon organized the Delhi Durbar to celebrate the coronation of King Edward VII, "the grandest pageant in history", which created a tremendous sensation. At the state ball Mary wore an extravagant coronation gown, by the House of Worth of Paris, known as the peacock dress, stitched of gold cloth embroidered with peacock feathers with an emerald in each eye and many precious and semi-precious stones sewn into the fabric. The skirt was trimmed with white roses and the bodice with lace. She glittered with diamonds, pearls and precious stones: a huge diamond necklace and a large broach of diamonds and pearls. She wore a tiara crown with a pearl tipping each of it's high diamond points. As she walked through the hall the croud was breathless. This dress is now on display at the Curzon estate, Kedleston Hall.

Lady Curzon designed the exquisetly rich and beautiful coronation robe of Queen Alexandra of England, from gold fabric woven and embroidered in the same factory in Chandni Chauk Delhi where she ordered all the material for her own state gowns. The factory owner said that she had the rarest taste of any woman he knew, and that she was the best dressed woman in the world--an opinion shared by other good judges.

Lady curzon was tutored in Urdu by the Mohyal patriarch Bakhshi Ram Dass Chhibber.

Progressive medical reforms were initiated by English women in India under the leadership of the Marchioness of Dufferin and Lady Curzon by supplying women doctors and hospitals for women. There is a Lady Curzon Hospital in Bangalore.

Lady Curzon was never able to give Curzon the son and heir he desperately desired. Her demanding social responsibilities, tropical climate, a prolonged near fatal infection following miscarriage, and fertility-related surgery eroded her health. Convalescent trips to England failed to heal her. When they returned to England after Curzon's resignation in August 1905, her health was failing. She died July 18, 1906 at home in Carlton House Terrace #1, Westminster, London, 36 years old.

[info courtesy of wikipedia]

The Peacock Dress


« Last Edit: May 11, 2007, 09:20:46 PM by grandduchessella » Logged

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Reply #14
« on: May 11, 2007, 09:24:40 PM »
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Grace Curzon by Sargent [1925, this was Sargent's last oil portrait]



Daughter of J. Monroe Hinds, United States Minister to Brazil, Grace Elvina was married firstly to Alfred Duggan of Buenos Aires. Widowed by Duggan, she then married secondly on 2 January 1917 to George Nathaniel Curzon, 1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston (1859 -1925).  Grace was the authoress of a book of Reminiscences.   

« Last Edit: May 11, 2007, 09:27:17 PM by grandduchessella » Logged

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