|~An American and his wife bade farewell forever~ |
On a vessel flush with tycoons, New Yorker John Jacob Astor IV stood out as the richest. He boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg with an entourage that included his wife, Madeleine, a manservant, a maid, a nurse and his Airedale, Kitty. First-class staterooms like theirs- richly paneled suites with working fireplaces and separate quarters forservants- cost as much as $4,000 for the voyage, equivalent to a staggering $50,000 today.
But his second marriage, to Madeleine Force in 1911, caused a scandel. She was 18 at the time, and he was 46. To escape wagging tounges, the couple took an extended honeymoon in Europe and Egypt (where they joined his friend Molly Brown). By the time they boarded Titanic, Madeleine was 5 monthes pregnant. "They wanted the baby born in America" says historian Don Lynch.
Astor mentioned his wife's "delicate condition" when asking an officer if he could take one of several empty seats in her lifeboat, but the officer refused. Astor took it like a gentleman. He lit his cigarette and tossed his gloves to his wife. Several days later his partly crushed, sootstained body was found floating in the Atlantic with $2,500 in a pocket. Experts believe Astor mey have been hit by a falling smokestack.
In the years that followed, Mrs.Astor, who was twice remarried and died in 1940, rarely spoke of the tragedy, except to recall her final memory: Kitty, on deck, pacing frantically. On August, 14, 1912, she named her newborn son, a future playboy, John Jacob Astor V.