Leafing through local archives Mike Guilfoyle, vice-chair of the Friends of Brockley and Ladywell Cemeteries, discovered a tangled tale of two French aristocrats who lived in Chalsey Road, Ladywell, and married in a Brockley church.
Whilst leafing through some arcane ecclesial local archives, I stumbled upon a fascinating news clipping from 1901 (see below) centred on a widely reported marriage tangle with the curious heading: ‘Claimed by Two Wives’.
When reading further I discovered that the dispute involved two French aristocrats then resident in Chalsey road, Ladywell!
The Prince Francois Marie Constant Robert de Broglie, then aged 21, married at Brockley, Kent, on November 27, 1901, Baroness Madeleine Annet-te Edmee Angelique Deslandee.
The newly married couple, returned to France, where their parents had the marriage declared void. It was because of the difficulties they had faced in France, through opposition on the part of the family of the prince, that the couple originally came to England.
The marriage was solemnised on November 27, 1901, at St. Mary Magdalen Roman Catholic Church, Brockley, by Father Sprankling, a curate at St. George’s Cathedral, Southwark.
The furore arose, it appears, after the marriage had been annulled. The Prince remarried in Chicago in 1906. But the Baroness became alarmed when she found she had been confused with his new wife, who was appearing on the music hall stage!
Born in 1866, Madeleine Annette Edmé Angélique Vivier-Deslandes inherited her fathers title and was an accomplished writer and celebrity of the day, known under her literary pseudonym ‘Ossit’.
She published in Le Figaro an article devoted to the work of the well known artist and designer Edward Burne-Jones, who later agreed to paint her portrait, which was displayed in the 1896 Paris Salon at the Champ de Mars.
At the age of 18, in 1884, she had married the aristocratic historian and journalist le Comte Fleury and they had a son the following year, the marriage was annulled in 1894.
As noted above, her second marriage to the Prince Robert de Broglie in November 1901 lasted only four months before ending in divorce.
She pursued a glittering social life in Parisian literary and artistic circles and was celebrated as a hostess of a cultured salon that attracted the presence of renowned artists, poets and composers.
Among the famous attendees were James Tissot, Jean Lorrain, Count Robert de Montesquiou, Maurice Barrès and Oscar Wilde. She also wrote four novels : A quoi bon? (1892), Ilse (1894), Il n’y a plus d’îles bienheureuses (1898) and Cyrène (1908).
Madeleine Deslandes was noted for her eccentricity and once entered a Lion’s cage dressed as a priestess at a fair whilst reciting poetry by the French poet Jean Richepin.
She had a sentimental relationship with the popular French novelist and woman of letters, known mononymously as Colette (author of Gigi, which was made into the 1958 musical-romance film).
Her former spouse Prince Robert de Broglie, seems to have developed into something of a gigolo figure, according to this 1908 news story.
The American-born Princess Estelle de Broglie is seeking a divorce from her husband, Prince Robert, on the grounds of desertion, it reported.
The princess is “in straightened circumstances” and is supporting herself and her children by singing in “boulevard cafés, the round of which she makes every night, stating that she supported her husband in splendid idleness by her singing.”
He later married Helena Maria de Vasconcelos e Sousa ( she died in Paris in 1968 ) which nuptial union appears to have been his fifth marriage. He died in 1956.
Readers might be interested to know that Robert’s early family home, the Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire, France was believed to have been the inspiration for Walt Disney’s 1950 animated film ‘Cinderella’ which was based on the fairy tale of the same name by Charles Perrault.
Robert’s mother the Princess Amédée de Broglies was one of the wealthiest heiresses in France.
She was just 17 years old, when she became the owner of Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire (see photo ).
At one point in time when economies were needed at the chateau, she remarked that: “As we must tighten our belts, I have decided to do without foie-gras rolls at teatime”.