So, last week, we established that you do not have a bad relationship with your mother.Â You may think you do. You may think that your mother is domineering or too intense or other not so flattering qualities that people label their mothers, but at least your momÂ didn’t sell you into a loveless 19th century marriage to a Duke so dour he was hilariously known as “Sunny.” She also didn’t make you wear a metal device fastened from your shoulders to your waist to improve your posture. Nor did you get whipped with a riding crop for misbehavior. At least I hope you didn’t.Â I mean,Â I don’t know your mom. But I sincerely hope she is a lovely person.
Most mothers are at least slightly better than Alva Vanderbilt. When last we left Shelved Dolls, her beautiful bookish daughter had spent her wedding day (November 6, 1895) prostrateÂ and sobbing, begging her father not to force her to marry Charles Spencer-Churchill, Duke of Marlborough. Unsucessfully. Our heroine, Consuelo, was in love with another man, but when they considered eloping, Alva threatened to kill him. Alva also stole all of the lover’s letters, which he kept writingÂ up to the wedding day. TheÂ plot of The Notebook probably owes a lot to this, but let’s not get carried away.
In her autobiography, Consuelo wrote, “Friends called but were told I was not at home. Locked behind those high wallsâ€”the porter had orders not to let me out unaccompaniedâ€”I had no chance of getting any word to my fiance.” Her mother justified the death threat claiming, â€śYou cannot help your children to advantages through sentimental romance but through money, which alone has power.” Alva probablyÂ thought she was making good decisions for her daughter; the arrangement and pressure tactics just seem absolutely foreign to anyone withÂ modern notions of love and marriage. Are you interested in her lover, whom she was hoping to marry instead of the Duke of Marlborough? I was! His name was WinthropÂ Rutherfurd. He was 33 years oldÂ (Consuelo was age 18 at the time), a member of the New York elite “The Four Hundred” and Edith Wharton said that he was the prototype for all of the heroes in her first novels. So, basically, he was Newland Archer, the most romantic personÂ humanly possible – way more romantic than whoever Ryan Gosling played in The Notebook.
God, I wish I could find a photo of him.
This also means that Consuelo was somewhat like Ellen Olenska in that she was swept away to Europe for an unhappy marriage with a Duke. After, apparently, a phenomenal and much-reported-on wedding. At the time, the magazine Town Topics poked fun at how much attention had been paid to what Consuelo would be wearing, and wrote:
“It is delightful to know that the clasps of Miss Vanderbilt’s stocking supporters are of gold, and that her corset-covers and chemises are embroidered with rosebuds in relief. If the present methods of reporting the movements and details of the life and clothes of these young people are pursued until the day of the wedding, I look for some revelations that would startle even a Parisian cafĂ© lounger.”