Spencer-Churchill, Gladys, Duchess of Marlborough (1881 -1977)

Gladys Marie Deacon was born in Paris, the daughter of American citizens Edward Deacon, and his wife Florence, daughter of U.S. Admiral Charles H. Baldwin. She had three sisters, and a brother who died in infancy. Gladys’s parents were divorced in 1893, following a dramatic incident in which her father had shot her mother’s lover dead in a hotel room in Cannes in 1892. Custody of the three older children, including Gladys, was granted to Edward, who took the girls to the United States, where they remained for the next three years. Edward Deacon soon became mentally unstable and was hospitalised at McLean Hospital in Charlestown, Massachusetts, dying there in 1901. Gladys and her sisters returned to France to live with their mother. In the late 1890s, the Duke of Marlborough invited Gladys to Blenheim Palace, where she became friends with his wife Consuelo. In 1903, at the age of 22, Gladys underwent plastic surgery in which her nose was injected with paraffin wax to create the perfect Grecian profile. Later the wax slipped, destroying her legendary good looks. It was said that her beauty and fierce intelligence left Proust and Rodin obsessed. Gladys became the Duke's mistress soon after moving into the palace. As Consuelo and the Duke were unhappily married, they were eventually divorced in 1921. Later that year Gladys and the Duke of Marlborough were married in Paris. After the Duke converted to Roman Catholicism in 1927, he and Gladys grew apart. Finally, the Duke moved out of the palace, and two years later evicted her. She moved with her dogs, first to north Oxfordshire, and later to the Grange Farm at Chacombe. She started retreating from the world, and eventually became a complete recluse. By 1962, she had become mentally ill, much like her father and paternal grandmother, and was forcibly moved to St Andrew's Hospital in Northampton, where she died in 1977, aged 96.
Seat / Residence(s): Blenheim Palace
Stamp(s) Stamp Information
Spencer-Churchill, Gladys, Duchess of Marlborough (1881 - 1977) (Stamp 1) Monogram: G M
Coronet: Duchess