Suing her 12th husband for divorce

The photo page of the December 28 1926 edition of the Toronto Daily Star continues to be a source of blog material! Here’s a photograph of a woman who apparently had been married quite often.

To say that Aimée Crocker Gouraud (1864-1941) led an unusual life would be an understatement. Her birth name was Amy Crocker, and she was born into a prominent and wealthy California family. In 1875, she inherited $10 million when her father passed away. In 1880, her mother sent her to a finishing school in Germany, as apparently she was “boy-crazy”; while in Europe, she briefly became engaged to Prince Alexander of Saxe Weimar and had a fling with a Spanish bullfighter.

Returning to the United States, she eloped with her first husband, Richard Porter Ashe, whose family founded Asheville, North Carolina. The train on which the young couple was travelling crashed, killing 21 and seriously injuring 12; the young husband pulled several people from the wreckage.

The Ashes’ marriage fell apart shortly afterwards in spectacular fashion. He was awarded sole custody of their daughter despite being a compulsive gambler and despite having kidnapped the daughter while Ms. Crocker and her mother were at a wedding. The daughter was eventually raised by Ms. Crocker’s mother.

After divorcing Ashe, Ms. Gouraud went to Hawaii, where she got to know King Kalākaua; he was enchanted enough to give her a Hawaiian island and the title of Princess Palaikalani (Bliss of Heaven). She then married Henry Mansfield Gillig, who was a Commodore, a magician, and an amateur opera singer. While married to him, she had what Wikipedia refers to as “a number of affairs with powerful Asian men”. She also apparently escaped headhunters in Borneo, was poisoned in Hong Kong, avoided a murder attempt by knife-throwing servants in Shanghai, and spent a short period of time in the harem of Bhurlana. She also had an affair with writer Edgar Saltus.

Returning to New York, she married her third husband, songwriter Jackson Gouraud; her daughter married Gouraud’s brother. The Gourauds became prominent in the theatre world, regularly attending opening nights of shows, developing friendships with many famous people, and throwing lavish parties. He appears to have been the love of her life; she was devastated when he died of tonsillitis in 1910, and she kept his surname for the rest of her life.

After Gouraud’s death, she moved to Paris and continued throwing interesting parties. She had a number of famous suitors, including occultist Aleister Crowley, who frequently proposed marriage.

She married two more times for a total of five, though she claimed she had had 12 husbands, seven of whom were Asian and “not registered under the laws of the Occident”. Both husbands were Russian princes who were considerably younger than she; the caption above seems to have confused them. The first, Alexander Miskinoff, was accused of an affair with her underage daughter; the second, Prince Mstislav Galitzine, married her when she was 61 (not 50) and he was 26. In 1936, she wrote an autobiography, And I’d Do It Again.

For more information on Ms. Gouraud, you can go to a website about her, visit the Crocker Art Museum, or read this article in Outside magazine, among others.

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