About this Famous Person
Duchess of Marlborough
Source : Tim DOWLING
Born in New York City, she was the only daughter of William Kissam Vanderbilt, a New York railroad millionaire, and his first wife, a Mobile, Alabama belle and budding suffragist, Alva Erskine Smith (1853–1933, later Mrs. O. H. P. Belmont). Her Spanish name was in honor of her godmother, Maria Consuelo Iznaga Clement (1858–1909), a half-Cuban, half-American socialite who created a social stir a year earlier when she married the fortune-hunting George Montagu, Viscount Mandeville, a union of Old World and New World that caused the groom's father, the 7th Duke of Manchester, to openly wonder if his son and heir had married a "Red Indian." (Consuelo, Duchess of Manchester was also the basis of the character Conchita Closson in Edith Wharton's unfinished novel The Buccaneers.)
Consuelo Vanderbilt was largely dominated by her mother, Alva, who was determined that Consuelo would make a great marriage like that of her famous namesake, even though she lacked a good pedigree.
In those days, there were many weddings of European aristocrats with American heiresses. For the nobles of the Old World, such unions were shameful, but useful in financial terms; the nobility looked upon the Americans who married into their caste as intruders, unworthy of their new position.
In her biography, Consuelo Vanderbilt later described how she was required to wear a steel rod, which ran down her spine and fastened around her waist and over her shoulders, to improve her posture. She was educated entirely at home by governesses and tutors and learned foreign languages at an early age. Her mother was a strict disciplinarian and whipped her with a riding crop for minor infractions. When, as a teenager, Consuelo objected to the clothing her mother had selected for her, Alva Vanderbilt told her that "I do the thinking, you do as you are told."
Like her godmother, Consuelo Vanderbilt also attracted numerous title-bearing suitors anxious to trade social position for cash. Her mother reportedly received at least five proposals for her hand. Consuelo was allowed to consider the proposal of just one of the men, Prince Francis Joseph of Battenberg, but Consuelo developed an instant aversion to him. None of the others, however, was good enough for Alva Vanderbilt, herself a daughter of a mere merchant. Luckily, as opposed to more than a few contemporary heiresses in search of her particular prince charming, Consuelo Vanderbilt was a great beauty, with a face compelling enough to cause the playwright Sir James Barrie, author of Peter Pan, to write, "I would stand all day in the street to see Consuelo Marlborough get into her carriage." Oxford undergraduate Guy Fortescue later described how he and his friends were captivated by her "piquante oval face perched upon a long slender neck, her enormous dark eyes fringed with curling lashes, her dimples, and her tiny teeth when she smiled. She came to embody the "slim, tight look" that was in vogue during the Edwardian era.
Source : http://www.wikipedia.org/