Thursday, September 1, 2011
Nancy Langhorne Astor was the third oldest of the five Langhorne sisters (Lizzie and Irene being the older two and Phyllis and Nora the younger two). They grew up in Virginia, first in relative poverty in Danville, and then once their father made his mark in the railroad business, at the wonderful house outside of Charlottesville called Mirador.
Nancy first married Robert Shaw in 1897, but they divorced in four years. She then returned to Mirador for a short time. While traveling in England she met Waldorf Astor, whom she married. The Astors were one of the wealthiest American families of the time. They had moved to England to live. Waldorf's father, William Waldorf Astor, gave his estate, Cliveden, to Nancy and Waldorf in 1893 and this is where they lived and raised their children.
Cliveden is a massive house and estate, in contrast to her sister Phyllis' Eydon Hall . The house was built in 1851 and was designed by architect Charles Barry in the Italianate style. There have been several houses on the Buckinghamshire estate, which sits above the River Thames. The first was built in 1500's and was a hunting lodge. In 1666 William Winde designed this house below for the Duke of Villiers. Today only the arcade remains, the rest was burned by fire in 1795. The house was in ruins until it was purchased by the Duke of Sutherland who rebuilt the house in 1851. Today it looks largely as did in the late 1800's and is a hotel.
Nancy Astor is remembered not only for her beauty and fiesty personality, but also because she was the first female member of the House of Commons, representing Plymouth.
Nancy Astor, by John Singer Sargent