Astors boarding Titanic

Arun Vajpey

Jul 8, 1999
It now appears to be universally accepted that Colonel JJ Astor and his young wife Madeline got on board the Titanic at Cherbourg, France and not at Southampton as was originally supposed. But did they? The original Southampton supposition was largely accepted on the 'evidence' of the famous Popper photo supposedly of JJ Astor waiting for the boat train on the platform of Waterloo station. But that photo of a distinguished looking gentleman has been since shown NOT to be that of Astor; moreover, there is evidence that the Astors were still registered at Hotel Ritz in Paris until the day of Titanic's departure.

But were they actually there? Throughout this supposed honeymoon, the Astors were travelling incognito to avoid the inquisitive press. So, there is some weight to the argument that the Astors' were actually in England just before the sailing day while their names continued to show on the Paris Ritz register. In November 1992, my family and I were visiting a picturesque little Devonshire fishing village called Clovelly. Following the regular tourist film show, the projectionist showed us some very old slides from his personal collection. One of them was dated 5th April 1912 and showed the local dignitaries posing with a visiting American couple named the Astors. I recall very clearly that the man and wife were splitting images of Colonel JJ Astor and Madeline. The projectionist knew little about the Titanic and was unable to throw any light on how his family came to get that picture.

A few years later, when I realised that there was a bit of controversy on where the Astors got on board, I tried to track down the projectionist. But it turned out that no one was sure who exactly he was since several local people look after the visitors and it had been a few years since our visit. No one could recall the particular photo and therefore, I was unable to pin the exact person down and so had to leave it at that.

But if the Astors were indeed in England 5 days before the Titanic sailed, it would seem logical to assume that they, in fact, got on board the ship at Southampton.

John Clifford

Mar 30, 1997
One of the explanations for the Waterloo Station picture is that the person shown was Wiliiam Waldorf Astor, one of John Jacob's cousins. He may have brought some of the Astors' luggage down to Southampton, which is about a 75 minute to 2 hour train ride from London's Waterloo Station.

In fact Wiliiam Waldorf Astor was the person whose wife, Nancy, was the American woman who became an MP, and who had the infamous exchange (yes, I also heard about Churchill's exchanges with Lady Asquith and George Bernard Shaw) with Winston Churchill:
MRS ASTOR: "Sir, if I was your wife, I'd put poison in your tea";
WINSTON CHURCHILL (in reply): "Madam, if you were my wife, I'd drink it".

My own thought was that, although the Astors may have been traveling as a way to "lay low" during the months leading up to April 1912, enough people would have recognized them at whichever port they embarked at; think of Bill Gates, or Michael Douglas & Catherine Zeta Jones traveling today: someone, somewhere, would be sure to recognize them.
Therefore, I think the Astors did, indeed, board at Cherbourg.

Dave Gittins

Mar 16, 2000
Unless we assume some sort of skullduggery, it's quite simple. The Astors are not on the list of passengers embarking at Southampton. Nor are they on the list of those embarking at Queenstown. There is no list of those who embarked at Cherbourg but if they are not on the other lists, they must have embarked at Cherbourg. The photo of William Astor might signify anything. Maybe he was just seeing a friend off.

I rather think that the Astors could have travelled Europe without much fuss. Their faces were known to those who bought US papers but I suspect few Europeans would have recognised them.
Jul 20, 2000
In a magazine article Edith Russell claims that she sat next to the Astors on the Cherbourg tender.

Dave, I am open to correction on this; but my understanding of the 1st Class Southampton List is that it omits names and may have included some in error.

Kyrila Scully

Apr 15, 2001
South Florida
Mrs. Margaret Tobin Brown traveled with the Astors throughout Egypt and into Paris. It was the Astors who invited her to join them on the Titanic in Cherbourg. She declined until she learned her grandson was ill, then joined them.


Senan Molony

Jun 28, 1998

I have been doing some separate research into William Waldorf Astor, JJ's cousin.


The man on the left bears a similarity, but is NOT William Walfdorf Astor. I have checked a number of photographs.

As far as I am concerned it is a theory created to fit the use of the word "Astor" in the original Fr Browne album caption, based on the realisation that W.W. Astor was resident in Britain.

But cute as this theory is, where is the evidence for it?

I don't know who the man on the left is, but it is NOT any Astor.

I am starting a separate threat in the Titanic Photography section called "Fr Browne Astor Photo is Actually Ismay."

I am arguing the case that Fr Browne photographed Joseph Bruce Ismay at the train station, possibly with his wife.

There is some evidence that Ismay took the Waterloo train. I could be wrong, of course, but see what you think!

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