Duke sought U.S. heiress

The October 14 1936 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained this article about an Irish peer who was in debt in 1928 and tried to solve the problem by finding a rich American woman to marry.

The Duke’s attempt to marry his way out of his financial difficulties didn’t work, but I guess there’s no harm in trying.

Leinster is the premier dukedom of Ireland, and was created in 1766 for a family named FitzGerald. Before the dukedom was created, the head of the family had been the Earl of Kildare since 1316.

Edward FitzGerald (1892-1976), the 7th Duke, had not expected to inherit the title, as he was the youngest of three sons. But when the 6th Duke’s second son went missing in action in World War I, and the first-born son died childless in a mental institution in 1922, Edward became the Duke, despite having signed his rights away due to gambling debts. He wound up marrying four times, two of which are mentioned in this article:

  • His first wife was May Juanita Etheridge, a chorus girl known as the Pink Pajama Girl. She and the duke divorced in 1930, and she passed away from an overdose of sleeping pills in 1935. The Footlight Notes blog has an entry for her.
  • At the time of this article, the duke was married to Raffaelle van Neck, an American. They divorced in 1946; the duke was quoted as saying, “She said she could not live with black-faced sheep and lochs, and I saw a certain amount of truth in that”.
  • The duke’s third marriage was to Jessie Wessel, a music hall singer and actress whose stage name was Denise Orme. Ms. Wessel had given birth to seven children in her two previous marriages; one of the seven became the mother of Aga Khan IV. This marriage ended when she passed away in 1960.
  • The duke’s final marriage was to Vivien Conner, a waitress. They remained married until the duke committed suicide by overdose in 1976. He never did discharge all of his debts.

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