I put aside the book I was reading on Marie-Therese, France's last Madame Royale (or Princess Royal to the British monarchy) in favour of "Mrs Astor Regrets," by Meryl Gordon, the story of Brooke Astor, New York's last official queen of society and the last Mrs. Astor at least on the American side. (The Astors are like the Rothschilds who have family scattered all over Europe and/or America with members dominating and contributing positively into every society they settle into)
Last year I also read Frances Kiernan's "The Last Mrs. Astor" which was also very well-written and informative but 'Mrs. Astor Regrets' concentrates on the last few years of Astor's life and the public court battle that ensued (and still continues) after her death. Astor died on 13 August 2007 at the age of 105.
It all started when one of her grandson's Philip Marshall, one of the two sons of her only son Anthony Marshall, decided to take matters into his own hands by questioning the living conditions and medical care his multi-millionaire grandmother was getting from his father.
(The court heard every issue from medicines being replaced, the firing of her French chef to the quality and number of flower arrangements she required weekly and why the dogs were not walked regularly)
Not even his twin brother would support him in challenging their father. How did Philip Marshall think he will get support from New York society?
But here is where truth is better than fiction. David Rockefeller, Annette dela Renta and Henry Kissinger did.
In the last few days, I have realized that many times, when you blow the whistle or you unmask fraud, it usually just TAKES ONE. As they sang in Chorus Line, "One. Singualr sensation."
Harry Markopolos on Bernie Madoff (but the SEC didn't believe him in 2005), Oliver North and the Iran-Contra Affair, closer to home and my life, The Angel of Debt in Hong Kong and in the Philippines, Australian Brian Gorrell blogs it all on DJ Montano, the social swindler now on the run in America BECAUSE of Gorrell's blog!
Aside from being a major philantropist, flirt and best-dressed lister, Astor was a novelist and poet. "Mrs. Astor Regrets" quotes one of her poems, Discipline, which I think many of us can find inspiration whether under the drinking age or between 65 and death:
I am old and I have had
more than my share of good and bad
I've had love and sorrow, seen sudden death
and been left alone and of love bereft.
I thought I would never love again
and I thought my life was grief and pain.
The edge between life and death was thin,
but then I discovered discipline.
I learned to smile when I felt sad,
I learned to take the good and bad.
I learned to care a great deal more
for the world about me than before.
I began to forget the 'Me' and "I"
and joined in life as it rolled by:
this may not mean sheer ecstasy
but it is better by far than "I" and "Me."
It also helps to be left with USD 200 million, a huge Park Avenue flat, two country houses and full staff including a loyal butler who was a former footman at Buckingham Palace.
Now where are those dogs that need to be walked?