Eugénie Elise Lurette


Claude Roulet

Born in Hermonville (France) on 16th November 1852, decreased in Fontenay-aux-Roses France) on 31st January 1940

She was one of the 3 daughters of Louis Nicolas Lurette and Marianne Gervais. The three sisters were curiously named Euphrasie, Eulalie and Eugénie. The oldest one, Euphrasie married Jean Nanet in Trigny (France). The second one, Eulalie married my grand-grand father Félix Roulet in Fontaines (Switzerland). The youngest one, Eugénie didn't like her forename so she decided to be called Elise. She never married and worked for the Spencer family.

The Spencer family was fabulously rich. Elise told to my grand father that in the turn of the century Mrs Spencer had a monthly revenue of 10 000 Swiss francs (corresponding today at approximately 150 000 US dollars). She didn't speak about Mr. Spencer's revenue…

In the middle of the 19th century, the Spencer bought a huge land piece on a hill in Luzern (Switzerland) which was one of the wealthiest city at the time. There they built a castle which was named Drei Linden (this house is now the music conservatory of the city of Luzern) where they lived during the summer season. Mrs Lorillard Spencer Senior gave a part of this land piece to her daughter Eleonora when she married the Italian Prince Vicovaro-Cenci.

The Spencer had also an apartment in Paris as well ownerships in New York and USA where from they were originally.

As live-in companion Elise Lurette travelled through all the world with the Spencer. She never spoke correctly English but due to her position she was able to hold a dialogue in English (with a horrible French accent said my aunt !)

The Spencer were very generous with their staff. As soon as something didn't please them anymore, they gave it to the staff members. So Elise got a lot of items and silverware engraved or marked with the Spencer monogram 'LLSS" which was apparently the one of Lorillard Spencer Senior. She also collected old china, valuable books, paintings, aso.

Elise wanted to retire after Mrs. Spencer's death so she rented a flat at the 98, rue Ballard in Paris. In March 1912 Elise Lurette was in her 60th year when William A. Spencer asked her to travel with him and his wife to New-York. It was said in our family that Mrs. Spencer was morphine addicted. This was the reason why Mr. William wanted Elise to accompany them to New York. Elise Lurette appreciated very much William A. Spencer so she accepted.

They went on board in Cherbourg on April 10th. The next day she sent a post card to my grand father from Queenstown, saying : "Many kisses to you all. Splendid, dazzling luxury, delighted by comfort unknown until this day. Your affectionate aunt."

She was in her cabin when the staff knocked at her door asking to evacuate the Titanic. She put her coat over her night dresses and took Mrs. Spencer with her to go on the deck. In this coat was a map of the first class accommodation and a menu card of April 12th together with a coin of 5 US dollars.

She explained that when they were in the rescue boat she saw the people who dived from the Titanic freezing in a short period of time. She remembered the screams in the darkness and the people who tried to climb in the rescue boat and were pushed back in the water by the people who were afraid that their rescue boat were overloaded. She rowed the whole night with other people until they have been rescued by the Carpatia. She said that it was the best way not to freeze in the very cold air.

Elise Lurette was very affected by the death of William A. Spencer. After having tried to recognize his body in Halifax, she returned to France where she had lots of difficulties to obtain new ID documents.

During the first World War she went to my grand father's house in Switzerland. Her sister Eulalie was widow since 1902 and three of her five children died shortly after their birth. My grand father was the youngest one and he took his mother with him. In order to "pay" for her stay, Elise Lurette enlarged my grand-father's house in 1917.

After the war, she continued to live like she did with the Spencer. So she stayed a half year in her flat in Paris and the other half in my grand father's house in Switzerland. In a funny way she always travelled with most of her furniture and bibelots.

According to the will of Mr. Lorillard Spencer 2nd she got for the rest of her life a yearly pension of USD 200 form the Spencer trust and paid by Barr, Robin & Palmer in New-York. But she never more heard from the Spencer family.

In summer 1938, she became seriously sick from the Alzheimer disease. My grand father placed her in a family in Fontenay-aux-Roses, close to Paris. They cared for her until her death in January 1940.

Now we have in our family lots of items marked with the Spencer's monogram, some photography of Spencer women, and of course the items she had in her coat when she left the Titanic as well as the post card she sent to my grand father. These are souvenirs we always keep and transmit from parents to children.
Jason D. Tiller

Jason D. Tiller

Staff member
Hello Claude,

That's great information. Thanks for sharing it.

Ben Holme

Excellent information there, Claude. That's the first account I've ever seen from Miss Lurette.