With her beauty and high social standing, Madeleine Talmage Force Astor had an ideal life. While on Titanic, she was on her honeymoon with her husband, John Jacob Astor IV, one of the richest men in the world during that era. Before boarding the Titanic, they celebrated their nuptials by visiting the mysterious country of Egypt as well as Paris, one of the most romantic cities in the world. Now they were both on the Titanic, two newlyweds, on one of the grandest ships in the world.
As their honeymoon was ending, they were heading back to America on the Titanic. When Titanic struck on iceberg on April 15, 1912, their marital bliss drew to a premature close. At first, Astor IV was not worried when the Titanic hit an iceberg because he believed that it was the unsinkable ship. When he helped Mrs. Astor get on lifeboat number 4, he asked Officer Charles Lightoller if he could join her. As a concerned husband, he did not want to leave his young and pregnant wife on the boat all by herself. However, Officer Charles Lightoller did not allow Astor IV to go on the lifeboat because he followed the order of Captain Smith: “Women and children first.”
Still Astor IV thought that he would be able to board another lifeboat and meet his wife later on. Unfortunately, the two newlyweds would never meet again. Astor IV drowned on the Titanic on April 15, 1912. He would never see his newborn son who Madeleine Astor named John Jacob Astor VI to honor the memory of his late father.
Even before meeting John Jacob Astor IV, Madeleine Astor already came from a privileged family. Born in Brooklyn, New York on June 19, 1893, Madeleine was already destined to become a New Yorker of high society. Madeleine’s father, William Hurlbert Force owned a successful shipping firm called, William H. Force and Co. Katherine Arnella, Madeleine’s mom, was an educated socialite. As well as being a socialite, Madeleine’s sister was a real estate businesswoman.
More than just a pretty face, Madeleine already showed great intelligence as a young girl. She stood out above all the others when she was a student at Miss Ely’s School and Miss Spencer’s School, which was located at West 48th Street in Manhattan.
As a debutante, she participated in all of the social events of elite young ladies. As she engaged in New York performances, she drew large audiences. Much more than just a debutante, she was an avid equestrian. She also had a passion for yachting.
When Astor IV first began his courtship with Madeleine, they took automobile rides and yacht excursions. Similar to a celebrity couple, they were followed by the media.
In August 1911, they both became engaged. Among many social circles, their betrothal caused a controversy. There was a huge gap in their ages. Madeleine was just 18 years old. Astor IV was 47 years old. In addition to being much older than Madeleine, Astor was a divorced man. During that time, the majority thought that divorced people should never get married again.
Even though Madeleine and Astor IV shared the same Episcopalian faith, many Episcopal ministers did not want them to get married. Despite all of the opposition, they wed at Astor IV’s Birchwood residence in Newport. A reverend of the Congregational Church performed the ceremony.
Due to the Titanic disaster, the marriage of Astor IV and Madeleine was short-lived. However, Madeleine would always have something precious that would always make her remember Astor IV, their baby, John Jacob Astor VI, who was born on August 14, 1912 after the Titanic shipwreck.
As a result of the Titanic tragedy, Madeleine was now a widow and a single mother. Since she inherited income from Astor IV’s five-million dollar trust fund as well as use of his home on Fifth Avenue and in Newport, Madeleine was set for life without any financial worries. However, she was hurting emotionally. Now she had to raise her son, Astor VI, without his father. At any age, it is difficult for any single parent to raise their child. Can you imagine how hard it was for Madeleine to parent a child by herself at the tender age of 19?
Astor IV’s will did contain a provision. Madeleine would only be able to keep the inheritance if she never married again. Choosing love over money, Madeleine married William K. Dick, during World War I, and lost the fortune that Astor IV left her. When she was married to William K. Dick, she had two more sons, William F. and John H. Dick. Like Astor IV, Mr. Dick was a wealthy man. He was a corporate official in the following companies: St. Regis Paper Company, Best Ford Inc., Irving Trust Company and St. Regis Timber Company. Unfortunately, their union did not last. In 1933, William and Madeleine divorced in Reno, Nevada.
Deciding to give love a second try, Madeleine married Enzo Fiermonte, a prize winning boxer and actor. During his boxing career, he had an impressive 47 wins. They were married on November 27, 1933. Their marriage also ended in divorce in 1938.
On March 27, 1940, Madeleine Astor passed away in Palm Beach, Florida at the age of 47. John Jacob Astor IV, her first husband, was also 47 years old when he died. As a classy and distinguished lady, she will always hold her place in history as a Titanic survivor.