Did DuffGordons take their suitcases in a lifeboat


Vitezslav Ivicic

I read that few people have seen Duff-Gordons every day in other clothes aboard Carpathia. And somebody said that they took their suitcases. I was wondered about it - if it's true or lie. I think Randy can answer me.

Thank you
Regards Vitezslav
And if it is not true, what did they wear that night? I heard about Lucile's blue kimono. Any ideas?
'A handbag?', I hear some 'Lady Bracknell' ask. The answer is 'Yes!'. And, as we learned from many of the bodies recovered, pockets were stuffed. A pet dog or a teddy-bear under someone's arm? Yes. A crewman with a vicious cargo-hook hidden beneath his coat? Perhaps. But anyone lugging a suitcase? I suspect not.
I heard that they took auitcases in a lifeboat. Somebody saw them in other clothes every day.
Hi, Vitizslav:

The Duff Gordons did not carry suitcases into their lifeboat. That’s just a rumor, one of the many that dogged the couple in the wake of the disaster. Lucy Duff Gordon carried only a small velveteen jewelry bag, carrying what little jewelry she had with her in her cabin. Her most valuable items were in the ship’s safe, including a $50,000 (uninsured!) pearl necklace from her jewelers in Venice, which she had only "on approval" and did not actually own . She had to pay the sum out in installments after the loss of the necklace, so she eventually did own it. It must have been an aggravation to have to pay off a fabulous piece of jewelry that you’d never be able to wear! But at least she was alive and not at the bottom of the sea with the necklace.

As to the story that the Duff Gordons were seen in various changes of clothing on the Carpathia, I’m sure you have got that from Rene Harris’ account, published in the 1930s. Rene had been a friend of Lucy’s at the time of the disaster but in later years they quarreled. I believe Rene’s comments about the Duff Gordons in her article were colored by the spat she had had with Lucy.

The truth is that the Duff Gordons did have changes of clothing, but these were supplied by the Carpathia passengers who lent them the use of their stateroom. Many people were helped out in this way, so there’s nothing odd about it.

By the way, the kimono dressing gown Lucy wore off the ship was lavender with a mauve and silver Chinese floral print. It was incidentally not one of her own designs but was bought from artist Mariano Fortuny’s studio in Venice. (The Duff Gordons had spent Christmas 1911 in Italy)

Hi Randy!
Thank you very much. Yes, it was Rene Harris, I looked in the book where I read. Thank you very much fot informations! (book have not yet come)

Regards Vitezslav
And do you know, if they (Duff-Gordons and Lucile's secretary) were wearing life jackets? And what had Lucile wore that night under the kimono? In Discretions and Indiscretions I have read that she had warm clothes on already at dinner, but the kimono does not look warmly.
Vitezslav, like many other ladies, I think that Lady Duff-Gordon was wearing an heavy fur coat on the kimono, and I can assure that in the picture that shows the occupants of lifeboat 1 the Duff-Gordons have lifebelts in their hands. Moreover, there wasn't any reason for not wearing a lifebelt like mostly of other passengers.

Regards, João
Vitezslav, The Duff-Gordons did wear life jackets and in fact had them signed by the crew members in boat 1. Randy Bigham has related the story to this board throughout many threads. I also recall reading a post about her saving a squirrel skin fur coat, but it may have been another passenger.
Trevor is right that the Duff Gordons both saved their lifejackets but only Lucy’s was known to have been kept over the years. It was in her possession until she died in 1935 but the trail goes cold after that. Lucy didn’t leave a will, so friends and family basically picked over her belongings after her death. This understandably caused trouble when family members realized items were being taken by people they didn’t know. It’s believed the signed lifejacket (which would sure be worth a fortune today) went missing during this time.

Besides the kimono dressing gown that survives in a private collection, Lucy wore a second robe over her nightgown —— this according to a letter written by her secretary, Mabel "Franks" Francatelli. Over this Lucy wore a full-length fur cape, made either of squirrel (according to Lucy) or moleskin (according to Franks). I saw pieces of this old coat —— that’s all that is left of it since it wasn’t properly stored —— and I couldn’t tell you what kind of fur it was. It looked awful — like dried up bits of road kill.
And do you know why have Lucile and Rene Harris "in later years they quarreled"? I have heard that they quarreled aboard Carpathia, when they wanted to take a pictures, wearing lifejackets. Is it that?
They quarreled because Rene was offended by a criticism Lucile made about American women survivors in her autobiography. Lucile basically broad-brushed them as cavalier and submissive during the evacuation. The passage I think Rene objected to was this one:

"…Even in that terrible moment I was filled with wonder at nearly all the American wives who were leaving their husbands without a word of protest or regret, scarcely a farewell. They have brought the cult of chivalry to such a pitch in the States that it comes as second nature to men to sacrifice themselves and for women to let them do it…"

Lucile may not have been completely wrong in her opinion (I have a feeling she had particular women in mind) but it wasn’t fair to make such a broad characterization. I think the statement was her way of retaliating against some of the society gossip she fell victim to. Anyway, since Lucile was on good terms with Rene at the time of the sinking and remained so over the decades, one wonders why Rene took such umbrage. She should have known Lucile wasn’t referring to her, and likely knew whom Lucile was making a shot at.

"…I have heard that they quarreled aboard Carpathia, when they wanted to take a pictures, wearing lifejackets. Is it that?…"

No, there was no quarrel. Rene’s recounting of the photo incident on Carpathia was likely exaggerated in an effort to make a stab at Lucile for what she said in her memoir (which, by the way, had been serialized in the London Daily Sketch before it was published in book form).
The lavender kimono that Randy references in an above post is truly an amazing garment. My wife and I saw this at Titanic Branson this past Saturday, and to be able to actually closely examine the kimono was a rare treat.

Although it has some frayed areas and the overall color has faded somewhat, the silver gilding is quite remarkable -- it being applied directly over a scarlet red dye. For the printers out there, it is the shade of Van Son 877 Silver.

(It was stored folded for many years in a dresser drawer in the home of a descendent of Lady Duff Gordon.)

Just another advantage of having Titanic Branson in my own back yard.