Newly-minted millions of dollars found their way across the Atlantic to impoverished titled families with the marriage of American heiresses to members of the nobility. Some were cynical exchanges of dollars for titles while others were true love matches. Mrs. Astor's own family had more than their share, although she looked down her aristocratic nose at many of the parvenues.

Name: Mrs. Astor

Wednesday, August 6, 2008






Clara Ward, born Detroit, MI, 17 June 1873, died Padua 9 December 1916, was a daughter of Captain Eber Brock Ward and his second wife, Catherine Lyons Ward. Manufacturer Eber Ward of Detroit, called “The King of the Lakes,” was reportedly the wealthiest man in Michigan. At his death in 1875, his property alone in Michigan was valued at more than $3 million and he served as the first president of the American Iron and Steel Association. He was largely responsible for having developed shipping lines across the Great Lakes and later built rolling mills in seven cities near Chicago, Detroit, and Milwaukee.

Clara met in Nice and was married by the Papal Nuncio at Paris 20 May 1890 Joseph de Riquet, 19th Prince de Chimay, Prince de Caraman, born Paris 4 July 1858 (he was 15 years her senior) died Chimay 25 July 1937, of a Franco-Belgian house. She was given a marriage settlement of $2.5 million by the estate of her father. Prince Joseph was a member of the Chamber of Representatives in Belgium.

Clara was supposedly bored by life in the little village of Chimay and was even reported to have thrown gold coins from the battlement of her castle to watch the villagers fight for them. He and Clara were divorced 19 January/20 June 1897 (annulled at St. Siege 28 June 1911) and she "enjoyed a gay and scandalous career which gossips compared to that of Lola Montez" according to the New York Times. They had a daughter, Countess Marie, born 1891, who married in 1918 Georges Albert Leon Decocq, and a son, Joseph, who would have succeeded his father but he died in 1920 at the age of 25 having never married. The father remarried in 1920 a French woman and had another son, Prince Joseph, born 1921, who succeeded his father as 20th Prince but renounced his titles upon becoming an American citizen when the titles passed to his next brother, Elie. Clara’s husband’s grandson is the current 22nd Prince de Chimay, Prince de Caraman.

Clara remarried in 1898 Rigo Janczi, a Hungarian violinist who referred to himself as a Gypsy prince. They became Hungary's beautiful couple in 1905, sometimes requiring police protection from the crowds who surrounded them. He told of their meeting by insisting that "the night I saw her first she turned from King Leopold to smile at me. Ten days later, like two gypsies, we stole from her palace in the dead of night" when he took her to his mother's hut in the mountains. To that mother Clara gave a pearl necklace with a diamond clasp which hung on a nail by the fire. Supposedly Clara then bought the mountain on which the hut sat and gave it to her new mother-in-law. They moved to Egypt and for her new husband she "built me a white marble palace on the Nile. An Italian architect designed the stables for the sixteen jet-black Arabian horses she bought for me. … She bought a menagerie of baby elephants, lions and tigers to amuse me. She gave me my $5,000 violin and caskets of jewels. Her allowance of $500 a month for me has not failed once since she started it twenty years ago." By the time he wrote that account Clara and Rigo had divorced and she pursued other loves.

As Cornelia Otis Skinner wrote of Paris in Elegant Wits and Grand Horizontals, “The midnight resort par excellence for the Horizontals was, of course, Maxim's….Few society ladies would have dared to be seen within the art nouveau interior of that naughty place, with some emancipated exceptions such as Princesse Caraman-Chimay, née Clara Ward from Detroit, Michigan, who eventually ran away with the violinist Rigo and appeared at the Folies Bergères in pink tights and a series of 'Plastic Poses.'” Clara was painted by Toulouse-Lautrec in “A Princely Idyl, Clara Ward,” now at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

After her 1911 divorce another American woman, Mrs. Casper E. Emerson, Jr., left her husband for Rigo and he played the violin in the Little Hungary Restaurant, a small tea room opened by his new wife, before dying near destitution in 1927. Rigo was buried in the National Vaudeville Association plot at Kensico Cemetery in Westchester County, NY. On a visit to Paris Clara deserted Rigo for a Spaniard. In the end, she married an Italian named Peppino Ricciardi who was a stationmaster on the Vesuvian Railway. She sued him for divorce after the court’s unsuccessful attempts to bring about their reconciliation.

In 1915 her mother, Catherine Lyons Ward Morrow, died leaving Clara only $1,000 of her own one million dollar estate. Clara, formerly Princess de Chimay, died at her villa in Padua 9 December 1916. Her estate of $1.2 million was divided into trust funds and left to her son, Joseph, her daughter, Marie, and her last husband (wth the corpus reverting to her children at his death), and a small bequest to a cousin in Chicago. There was a rumor that she died a pauper with nothing left except a few jewels, but the American Consul at Venice stated publicly that Clara “was in possession of a very large income and lived in a manner befitting its possessor. At the time of her death she occupied the best suite at the Hotel Stella d’Oro. During her sickness she had the assistance of expert physicians, and everything that money and medical science could do in her last illness was done. Her funeral was elaborate and costly.” Prince Joseph's brother, Prince Alexandre, married American Mathilde Lowenguth.

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