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

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

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Anita Rhinelander Stewart, daughter of William Rhinelander Stewart and Annie Armstrong Stewart, was born at Elberon, NJ, on 7 August 1886, and died at Newport, RI, on 15 September 1977. Her father, although trained as an attorney, managed several trusts established by his old and socially prominent family. Mrs. Stewart’s sister was Mrs. Anthony J. Drexel whose daughter later married the 14th Earl of Winchilsea and Nottingham.

The Stewarts were divorced in 1906 and she married a few months later James Henry “Silent” Smith who had unexpectedly inherited fifty million dollars from an unmarried uncle, becoming overnight one of the wealthiest men in America. Silent Smith was then more than 50, had never been married, and lived in a modest apartment while working as a stockbroker. After his inheritance he was immediately taken up by the very social Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish. After he married Annie Armstrong Stewart he settled one million dollars on her beautiful daughter, Anita, as she entered the marriage market (Anita’s mother would add another one million dollars at her daughter’s wedding). Smith bought the palatial New York residence of the late William C. Whitney at the corner of Sixty-eighth Street and Fifth Avenue, opposite Central Park. The $2,000,000 purchase price was considered a bargain.

Annie Armstrong Stewart preferred a high social profile to her first husband’s fondness for quiet evenings at home and she soon became one of Silent Smith’s favorite hostesses. Within a month of her divorce she and Anita sailed for Scotland where Annie married Silent Smith. The Smiths then took a world cruise honeymoon on the Drexel yacht accompanied by Anita as well as the Duke and Duchess of Manchester (she was the American-born Helena Zimmerman). The groom, who had been married only months, died of a heart attack in Kyoto, Japan, on 27 March 1907. Although he was required to leave the bulk of his estate to two nephews, his widow received what was reported to be as low as $3,000,000 and as high as $30,000,000 while her daughter, Anita, was given an additional half-million trust fund. Silent Smith’s sister, who was married to a baronet, Sir George Cooper, was left $3,000,000.

Anita met in Paris in April of 1909 Prince Miguel de Braganza whose father, the Duke of Braganza (usually referred to as the Pretender to the Portugese throne), was a son of the de facto King of Portugal from 1828-1834 and a grandson of Joao VI, King of Portugal and Emperor of Brazil. Miguel’s family lived in exile in Austria where Emperor Franz Joseph was generous to them. Only three months after their meeting, the engagement of Anita Stewart to Prince Miguel was announced at a concert dance in London where her mother had leased the Berkeley Square home of the Duchess of Somerset. From his summer home in Bar Harbour the bride’s father declined to comment about his daughter’s engagement. At first it was announced that the marriage would be morganatic but Anita refused to accept anything less than a title of princess.

On September 6th the generous Austrian Emperor, Franz Joseph, announced that he had created Anita a Princess in her own right. The New York Times wrote, “It seems easier than we thought for an emperor to transform a plain American Miss into a Princess, when no principality goes with the title and no pecuniary endowment. Miss Stewart is buying her own principality, and is expected to endow rather than be endowed.” Then it was learned that the groom was to renounce his inheritance rights as Portugal’s then-King was unmarried as was his heir, his uncle the Duke of Oporto (who in 1917 would marry American Nevada Stoody). Again Anita refused to consent to the marriage on those terms. So, on the eve of the marriage, Anita’s mother paid all the groom’s substantial gambling debts in exchange for his not renouncing his succession rights and for Anita’s refusal to convert to the Catholic faith. The groom’s father then created his son the Duke of Vizeu.

After all the necessary negotiations, Anita Rhinelander Stewart married at a small Catholic church near Tulloch Castle (which her mother had leased for the season) outside Dingwall, Scotland, on 15 September 1909, Prince Miguel de Braganza, Duke of Vizeu (ad personam by his father 1909), born Reichenau 22 September 1878, died NYC 21 February 1923. Anita was given away by her brother who wore the Stewart tartan and the event was a high-profile social gathering for the American expatriate community, including the Bradley Martins who attended with a house full of guests (including their daughter, the Countess of Craven) from their nearby shooting estate. A Catholic bishop, who said daily mass for the visiting King and Queen of Spain when they were visiting in the area, pronounced the Pope’s personal blessing at the end of the ceremony.

The first stop on their honeymoon was to visit the generous Franz Joseph in Austria where Anita was formally presented to court. While they were away creditors searched the Prince’s home in an effort to confiscate anything that could be sold to settle his considerable debts. At the time it was reported that one-fifth of the dowry was to be committed to creditors. Anita had a daughter and two sons but the marriage was not happy. At the outbreak of war Prince Miguel joined the Kaiser’s army. Anita sailed with her children for New York City where she was met at the pier by her father whom she had not seen in eleven years (at his death he would leave the largest portion of an estate worth more than two million dollars to Anita).

A revolution in Portugal in 1910 ended that country’s monarchy and its King fled to England. In 1920 Prince Miguel, Duke of Vizeu, renounced his claims to the Portugese throne one week before his elderly father renounced his own rights in favor of his third son, Dom Duarte. Although Prince Miguel’s renouncement was supposedly a retroactive one that included his children, there has always been a question whether he could renounce his children’s rights. His American descendants have wisely never pressed the claim and have lived productive lives free of any royal intrigue. Dom Duarte’s son is the current Duke of Braganza and pretender to the Portugese throne.

After the war Prince Miguel joined his family in America where he became an insurance salesman in the firm of his brother-in-law in 1922. The next year Prince Miguel died of influenza at the age of 44. In 1926 Anita renounced her titles and regained her American citizenship. She opened a photographic studio in New York City and remained friendly with her husband’s family, announcing in 1934 the engagement of her sister-in-law, Princess Maria Antonia, to Ashley Chanler, nephew of the first husband of Amelie Rives, Princess Troubetskoy.

Anita married second, on 2 April 1946 (the same year in which her only daughter committed suicide), Lewis Gouverneur Morris of Newport, RI, scion of several early American colonial families. He had served five months in prison in 1921 as a result of the financial failure of his brokerage firm. He died in 1967. Anita’s mother married in 1915 a man who was younger than Anita, Jean H. E. St. Cyr, whose much older wife had died four months earlier leaving him one million dollars. At one time it was alleged that he had been born Jack Thompson and was a bellboy before adopting a French name in order to enter society.

When Anita’s mother died in 1925 at El Cerrito, her California home, her estate was said to be $40,000,000 and her young husband received one-third interest. At the time of her death it was disclosed that Prince Alexander von Thurn und Taxis, a cousin of Prince Miguel de Braganza, received almost one-quarter of a million dollars from the estate as payment for an outstanding debt. In 1914 Anita had assigned her future interest in that portion of her mother’s estate to satisfy a court-ordered judgment for her husband’s substantial debt to his cousin. Anita, formerly Duchess de Vizeu, died on 15 September 1977 at her home in Newport, RI. She was 91 and died on the 60th anniversary of her wedding to Prince Miguel de Braganza.


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