Gladys Deacon is considered to be one of the most beautiful women in the world, getting married in a dream but ultimately living in seclusion.
Gladys Marie Deacon had a tragic childhood despite being born to a wealthy French-American family in Paris in 1881. Gladys's mother, Florence, communicated widely and knew many of the elite like the sculptor Auguste Rodin or art historian Bernard Berenson.
Gladys Marie Deacon. Image: Commons.
When the marriage between Florence and husband Edward Deacon cooled, she had an affair with a Frenchman named Emile Abeille. In 1892, when Gladys was 10 years old, Edward tracked and caught his wife and lover at the Splendide hotel in Cannes. In his anger, he fired three shots at Abeille, causing him to die the following day.
Deacon surrendered and was sentenced to 12 months in prison for intentionally causing injury. After being released from prison, Edward had a mental problem and had to be treated at McLean Hospital, eventually dying there in 1901.
At 14, Gladys admired the story of Lady Consuelo Vanderbilt of the American noble family engaged to Charles Spencer-Churchill, 24, Duke of Marlborough of England. She daydreamed about the day she would marry Duke Charles. "If I were a little older, I could have seduced him," Gladys wrote to his mother.
Gladys Marie Deacon in childhood. Image: news.com.au.
In 1897, when Gladys was 16, her mother took her to London, where she met the Duke of Marlborough that she had always wanted. Gladys was then invited to the Duke's home, Blenheim Palace. Princess Consuelo was just born and loved Gladys so she kept her in the palace for a while to be friends.
"She's beautiful, smart and good at communication. I was soon overpowered by her charm so we quickly made friends," Consuelo wrote.
While Gladys was staying at the palace, another guest also fell in love with her: the Prince of Prussia. The prince fell in love with Gladys as soon as he met. When they took the carriage to Oxford, he kept turning his head to see Deacon in the backseat. But Gladys did not like the Crown Prince, even when he gave her a diamond ring. She only noticed Duke Charles.
Many men have said they love Gladys or at least be charmed by her beauty, among them the philosopher Hermann von Keys Muff, Prince Roffredo Caetani, poet Robert Trevelyan, dukes of Camastra, Norfolk, Newcastle and Connaught.
"I have never seen a girl with such beauty, she is kind, has great intelligence and irresistible charm," wrote French novelist Marcel Proust.
Many people praised that her blue eyes were so beautiful that a single glance could make a man "fall". Gladys is also very proud of that "captivating weapon" so it keeps a lot of its eye-painting. Gladys has even stated that she spent the night with "all the prime ministers in Europe and many kings".
Gladys Marie Deacon and Duke Charles Spencer-Churchill at the wedding in 1921. Photo: Telegraph.
Four years after his first meeting with Duke Charles, Gladys was again invited to Blenheim Palace and kept for 6 months. Her love for the dream man begins.
Luckily for Gladys, the Duke's marriage to Consuelo has no love. Consuelo accepted the marriage because the Vanderbilt family liked the title of "duchess," while the Duke of Charles married her because of the enormous wealth of the Vanderbilt family. When the two separated, Gladys became the Duke's lover until he divorced Consuelo. In Paris in 1921, when she was 40 years old, Gladys' childhood dream finally came true, when she married Charles and became the Duchess.
But behind Gladys' veil on her wedding day was something she kept secret from everyone, except for some of her best friends: the aftermath of a beauty therapy. Famous for her outstanding appearance and also appearing in soap ads, Gladys has a great obsession with beauty. From a young age, she was worried about a fading beauty day.
Gladys paid special attention to his nose, complaining that it was not straight. When she was over 30 years old, she went to Paris to have a cosmetic procedure to inject paraffin wax into the nose and jawbone. A few days later, the wax melted, causing Gladys's chin to protrude. She was so disappointed that she ordered her servants to remove all mirrors in the room.
With low self-esteem, Gladys no longer wanted to interact with others. She is interested in breeding the Blenheim Spaniels. Dozens of dogs ran in the palace, destroying the precious rugs that made Duke Charles angry. Gladys also has a hot temper and refuses to placate her husband. The two people gradually separated.
Gladys confided to a guest that she had a pistol on the bedside table to prevent the Duke from entering the room. "I can shoot the Duke," said Gladys.
This threat reached Charles. In 1933, he fired Gladys employees and left Blenheim Palace, leaving Gladys to live alone at the palace for two years before sending her away. She moved into a London house of the Duke until he also chased her out of there.
The two were about to divorce but Charles died before that could happen. Gladys and her dogs live in seclusion on a farm in the remote village of Mixbury. Gladys called herself Mrs. Spencer and had only one faithful maid. He came to see her every day for several years, dropping the key from the upstairs window to let him in.
In 1962, Gladys had mental problems just like her father and was taken to St Andrew's mental hospital, where she stayed for 15 years. She died in 1977 at the age of 96.
When biographer Hugo Vickers visited Gladys in 1975 at the hospital, he found that she was still the most attractive woman she had ever met. The intelligence and sharpness used to make her famous when she was young.
"Despite living in seclusion, she reads newspapers, writes diaries, notices what is happening in the world and remains as sharp as before," Vickers wrote.
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