Consuelo, Duchess of Manchester,
née Yznaga del Valle (1858-1909),
Anne of Austria

Born in Louisiana to a wealthy family (daughter of Don Antonio Yznaga del Valle of Ravenswood, USA & Cuba), she came to Europe and finished her education at the court of the Empress Eugénie of France. She was one of the first of a wave of rich American heiresses marrying to the British aristocracy – a phenomenon termed "the dollar princesses." After her marriage in 1876 to the 8th Duke of Manchester, her intelligence and wit carried her into royal social circles and she even appears briefly as "Consuelo de Manchester" in Proust's À la Recherche du Temps Perdu.

The Duchess along with Lady Randolph Churchill and a few other great hostesses represented the American element of the social set of the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII). She also had a fine eye for jewels and in 1906 commissioned from Cartier a “flaming hearts” tiara with almost 100 carats of diamonds which has now passed into the possession of the Victoria & Albert museum.

Her death in 1909 was lamented in almost hyperbolic terms. The Times pointed out that over a period of 30 years during which she had “conquered” English society, she had enjoyed equally “the friendship of Royalty, the intimate confidence of statesmen, diplomatists, and men of letters, and the devoted attachment of almost innumerable friends.” The report of her death continued, pointing out that “No hostess in London or in the country dispensed a more profuse or coveted, but at the same time discriminating, hospitality.”

For the Devonshire House Ball of 1897, the Duchess’s costume was various described variously as that of Anne of Austria, Margaret of Orleans and a “Visitor to the Court of Savoia.” Her hair-style and costume appear to be closely based upon the van Dyck-style costume of the 1630s with slashed sleeves, falling lace collar and square neckline, which JP Worth had designed for the American soprano, Emma Eames, in Poznan-born composer Leonhard Emil Bach’s opera The Lady of Longford, produced at Covent Garden in 1894.

This image, made six weeks after the ball, was published in The Lady’s Pictorial.




Click on image to enlarge
copyright V&A. Lady Ashburton 1897V&A Lafayette Archive
Negative number: L1532


The soprano Emma Eames in JP Worth's costume as Eva for The Lady of Longford photographed by B.J. Falk in 1894.

Library of Congress, reference: LC-USZ62-103815

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All text copyright © Russell Harris 2011