Madeleine Astor Biography

Madeleine Astor, a socialite and the wife of millionaire John Jacob Astor, is best known for her survival of the tragic sinking of the RMS Titanic. Despite losing her husband in the disaster, Madeleine inherited a substantial fortune and went on to marry twice more. Her life was filled with both triumph and tragedy, and she passed away at a relatively young age in Palm Beach, Florida.

Quick Facts

  • Also Known As: Madeleine Talmage Force Fiermonte
  • Died At Age: 46
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Enzo Fiermonte, John Jacob Astor IV, Enzo Fiermonte (m. 1933 – div. 1938), William Karl Dick (m. 1916 – div. 1933)
    • Father: William Hurlbut Force
    • Mother: Katherine Arvilla Talmage
    • Siblings: Katherine Emmons Force
    • Children: John Henry Dick, John Jacob Astor VI, William Karl Dick Jr.
  • Born Country: United States
  • Socialites
  • American Women
  • Died on: March 27, 1940
  • Place of death: Palm Beach, Florida, United States
  • Cause of Death: Cardiovascular Disease
  • U.S. State: New Yorkers
  • More Facts
  • Education: The Spence School

Childhood & Early Life

Madeleine Force was born on 19th June 1893, in Brooklyn, New York. She was the younger daughter of William Hurlbut Force and Katherine Arvilla Talmage. She had an elder sister named Katherine Emmons Force, who became a real estate businesswoman. She was French from her father’s side, and from her mother’s side, she was Dutch.

She first studied at Miss Ely’s School, and later at Miss Spence’s School. She was known to be a bright student as a child. From an early age, she also appeared in New York society plays. She was a competent horsewoman as well.

Marriage with Colonel Astor

Madeleine met Colonel John Jacob Astor when she was a young woman. He was the only son of William Backhouse, a famous businessman, and socialite Caroline Webster Schermerhorn. During their courtship, Astor took her on automobile drives as well as yacht trips. The duo got engaged in August 1911, and got married the next month. There was much opposition to the marriage, mainly due to their age difference and the fact that Astor was a divorcee. But they were eventually married by a Congregationalist minister. Colonel Astor’s son from his first marriage, William Vincent Astor, served as the best man.

They had an extended honeymoon shortly after their marriage. They visited many local places first, after which they took a sailing trip from New York on the Olympic. After their return, they booked another trip on the Titanic.

The Sinking of the Titanic

Along with Colonel Astor, Madeleine Astor boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg. They were accompanied by her private nurse, Miss Caroline Louise Endres, as Madeleine was pregnant at that time. Their manservant, Victor Robbin, and a maid were also with them.

When the Titanic hit the iceberg, Astor reassured his wife that the damage was not serious. However, as the situation grew worse, Madeleine Astor, her maid and her nurse crawled through the first-class promenade window into the tilting lifeboat no. 4, which was lowered down to a deck to take on more passengers. Though Colonel Astor requested if he could accompany her as she was in a very delicate condition, his request was denied. Astor and his valet died in the sinking and Astor’s body was recovered on 22nd April.

In his will, Colonel Astor left his wife an outright sum of $100,000 and the income from a trust fund of $5 million. He also left a fund of $3 million for his unborn child, John Jacob “Jakey” Astor VI. Madeleine did not appear very often in the public until the end of 1913.

Later Years

Four years after Colonel Astor’s death, Madeleine Astor married her childhood friend, William Karl Dick, in Bar Harbor, Maine. He was the vice president of the Manufacturers Trust Company of New York, and also part owner and director of the Brooklyn Times. They had two sons named William Force Dick and John Henry Dick II. They divorced on 21st July 1933, in Reno, Nevada.

On 27th November 1933, Madeleine Astor married Italian actor/boxer Enzo Fiermonte in New York City, in a civil ceremony. They had their honeymoon in Palm Beach, Florida. They eventually divorced on 11th June 1938.

She reportedly died due to heart disease at her mansion in Palm Beach on 27th March 1940. She was buried at Trinity Church Cemetery in New York City.

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