Spencer-Churchill, Consuelo, Duchess of Marlborough (1877 -1964)

Born in New York City, Consuelo Vanderbilt was the only daughter and eldest child of William Kissam Vanderbilt (1849-1920), a New York railroad millionaire, and his first wife, Alva Erskine Smith (1853–1933), a belle and budding suffragist from Mobile, Alabama. Her Spanish name was in honour of her godmother, Consuelo Yznaga(1853–1909), a half-Cuban, half-American socialite. Consuelo was dominated by her mother, who was determined that her daughter would make a great marriage. A great beauty, Consuelo came to embody the "slim, tight look" that was in vogue during the Edwardian era. Alva Vanderbilt engineered a meeting between Consuelo and the indebted, titled Charles Spencer-Churchill, 9th Duke of Marlborough. Unfortunately Consuelo had no interest in the Duke, being secretly engaged to an American, Winthrop Rutherfurd, but her mother insisted, and ordered her daughter to marry Marlborough. Consuelo planned to elope, but she was locked in her room as her mother threatened to murder Rutherfurd. The Duke, for his part, gave up the woman he reportedly loved back in England, and collected $2.5 million in railroad stock as a marriage settlement. Consuelo's father built a mansion for her in London, Sunderland House in Curzon Street. They were married in New York City, on 6 November 1895. In 1906 the Marlboroughs separated, and were divorced in 1921. The marriage was annulled, at the Duke's request and with Consuelo's assent, on 19 August 1926. Consuelo's second marriage, on 4 July 1921, was to Lt. Col. Jacques Balsan (1868-1956), a pioneer French balloonist, aircraft, and hydroplane pilot. After the annulment with the Duke of Marlborough, she maintained ties with favourite Churchill relatives, particularly Winston Churchill. He was a frequent visitor to her château, in St. Georges Motel, a small commune near Dreux about 50 miles from Paris. In 1953 Consuelo published her autobiography, The Glitter and the Gold. She died at Southampton, Long Island, New York on 6 December 1964. She was brought back to England, and was buried alongside her younger son, Lord Ivor Spencer-Churchill, in the churchyard at St Martin's Church, Bladon, Oxfordshire, near her former home, Blenheim Palace.
Seat / Residence(s): Blenheim Palace
Stamp(s) Stamp Information
Spencer-Churchill, Consuelo, Duchess of Marlborough (1877 - 1964) (Stamp 1) Monogram: C M
Coronet: Duchess