Consuelo, Duchess of Marlborough


Consuelo Vanderbilt was the Godmother of George Winthrop Sands, (1908-1986). She was the daughter of William K. Vanderbilt and Alva Smith Vanderbilt who was WK's first wife until their divorce in 1895. WK married Granny, Anne Harriman Sands Rutherfurd, shortly thereafter.

Consuelo was forced into the marriage to the Duke of Marlborough by her pushy, avaricious mother Alva. He was broke and keeping up Blenheim Palace and getting an heir were important reasons to find an American heiress. Who better than the daughter of one of the richest men alive.

Unfortunately for Consuelo, she was already in love with someone else. Winthrop Rutherfurd was the son of Lewis M. Rutherfurd, the distinguished astonomer, who had been Granny's husband before she married Consuelo's father, WK. The Rutherfurds were "old New York", quite rich and moved in circles in which the Vanderbilts were latecomers.

Nonetheless, Winthrop did not meet Alva's expectations for her daughter. In the contest between more money and a title, the title won hands down and Vanderbilt paid the Duke of Marlborough some 50,000 shares of one of his railroad companies worth some $2.5 million as a marriage settlement.

Consuelo's marriage was unhappy from the start. She was treated very coldly by her husband's family and she writes movingly of these experiences in her book, ALL THAT GLITTERS IS NOT GOLD.

Luckily for her, her father had found happiness with Granny in Paris and Consuelo visited them frequently both in Paris and at Poissy. She had attended their marriage in London with the Duke and frequently found respite from the pain of her marriage by crossing the Channel. On one such visit, she was happy to become the Godmother to Babu, who had been born to her step-mother's daughter.

Consuelo at the Races in Paris with her father

She finally met her future husband in France, Col. Jacques Balsan, a prominent French aviator and she divorced the Duke in 1921.