Lady Duff-Gordon


Nigel Bryant

Did she dine in the first-class Dining Saloon or the Restaurant?


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The Duff Gordons dined in the a la carte restaurant on April 14 but I have no idea if they dined in the saloon before that. It's possible, though I know Lucile hated English food; if the menu there was primarily English, then I doubt it.

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Judging from the April 14th menu from the Dining Saloon, the food was primarily French more than anything else. Cunard was more renown for its British cuisine. Were the Duff Gordans part of the Widener's group? If so, then they probably ate in the Dining Saloon usually.
As I recall, liners' restaurants of the time period were almost infamous for very rich dishes (although VERY good). People wouldn't normally dine there regularly (if only for the sake of their digestive system!)
If you read The Only Way to Cross, there are some interesting stories about passengers who tried discount their dining expenses by eating exclusively in liners' restaurants. By the time the crossing was over, they would be heavily medicated for the INTENSE consequences of rich, restaurant food.


Hi David,

The Duff Gordons were not dining with the Widener party. I recall, off hand, that they were either dining alone or with Edgar and Leila Meyer. Miss Francatelli would certainly have been with them.

If you're interested Mrs. Walter Douglas, in her account to the US Inquiry, provided a great description of the meal she had in the restaurant on the evening of April 14.

The “à la carte” restaurant mostly offered French and Italian meals.

Also, the Duff Gordons probably didn't dine with the Meyers, but merely encountered them in the A-deck lounge some time later.

Ben: I don't remember reading any detailed description of Mrs. Douglas' meal on April 14. Maybe I wasn't looking right. You'll have to fill me up.


Oh yes, Miss Francatelli DID dine with the Duff Gordons during the voyage.
Hi Charles,

My apologies. Mahala Douglas' reference to her meal did not appear in her accout at the inquiry. In "Titanic, Fortune & Fate" by Don Lynch, she is quoted on p.61:

"We dined the last night in the Ritz restaurant. It was the last word in luxury. The tables were gay with pink roses and white daisies, the women in their beautiful shimmering gowns, the men immaculate....The food was superb: caviar, lobster, quail from Egypt, plover's eggs, and hothouse grapes and fresh peaches."

I'm convinced, however, that I have, at some stage, seen this section worked into an account in some form...

You're probably right that the Duff Gordons met up with the Meyers *after* the meal rather than during. Incidentally, do you know where I might pick up a copy of the Titanic chapter of Lucile's biography, "Discretions and Indesretions"? I've been meaning to find a copy.

Best Regards,

Charles is right that the Duff Gordons met the Meyers after dinner, according to Lucile's autobiography. It is also true that Laura Francatelli dined with them; the impression that she was a maid or a servant in the traditional sense is mistaken. She was Lucile's business secretary at the time of the Titanic sinking, though later she worked as her social secretary, or what we'd call a personal assistant nowdays.

Here is the reference to the Meyers from p 167 of the US edition of "Discretions and Indiscretions:"

"...After dinner we went down into the lounge where we met Mr. and Mrs. Edgar Meyer. I had my little autograph book with me and got them to write in it. It was one of the "Confession" books which were so popular just then. Mr. Meyer filled in his "likes," "abominations," etc., and then came to the column marked "madnesses." He laughed as he said: "I have only one - to live," and wrote it down..."

There are actually three chapters (or 42 pages) devoted to the Titanic episode in her book, chapters 13-15, pp 162-204.

I've been meaning to transcribe these chapters for Phil to post here if he wants to. I hope to get around to it someday.

My Best,

Hi Ben, I'm not aware of any other concrete account written by Mahala Douglas, other than the affidavit she sent to Senator Smith.

Something that is worth mentionning, is that Mrs. Douglas sent a sketch of the restaurant along with her affidavit. On this sketch, Mahala wrote the names of the people she knew were dining in the restaurant on the last night, over the tables they were assigned to. Unfortunatly, this plan was lost, and I've never seen a copy myself. I sent a quick note to the webmaster of the Titanic Inquiry website, and he doesn't have a copy of the sketch either, but has made several attempts to find it. With no results. How wonderful would it be to have a look at that plan, though!

All the best,

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Hi Randy,

Thank you for sharing that fascinating extract, and for verifying that Miss Franks was more of a personal secretary than a "tie up my corset" maid.

What a discovery it would be if Lucile's book of confessions turned up!

Hi Charles,

I would be fascinated to see Mahala's sketch. The table occupancy of the room on that Sunday evening has always intrigued me. It could provide evidence for previously unknown acquaintances. It's a pity that nobody took it upon themselves to do similar justice to the smoking room for April 14th!

Best Regards,

I've been meaning to tell you but kept forgetting. Remember the discrepancy I had about Lucile and Franks NOT dressing for dinner on a SUNDAY to the RESTAURANT. Well I found a quote (although from a later account - of another person) that claims it wasn't really customary to dress for dinner on Sunday! Will let you have it once I find it.

Lucile, Cosmo and Miss Francatelli did not dress for the Sunday dinner simply because it was too cold, according to Lucile's book.

You are right that it was customary not to "dress" on Sunday evenings. I have read this elsewhere as well. It was considered bad taste by many to dress on the first night out, on a Sunday, and on the last night before docking. The actress Ruth Gordon in one of her memoirs (which draw on her diaries)made special mention of the dressing etiquette on shipboard.

This was obviously not strictly followed as Sunday April 14 on Titanic appears to have been rather festive. Wasn't there a concert that night? If so, this may be the reason for so many people dressing as was related in various accounts like Gracie's, Russell's, Candee's, etc. Also, if news of the Wideners' special dinner in honor of Captain Smith had made the rounds, it's possible that many dressed so as to fit in more with the party atmosphere that would have prevailed in the restaurant that night.

Still, Charles is right that Lucile claimed they did not dress because of the cold.

Daniel, etc,

Here's the excerpt from Ruth Gordon's autobiography "My Side" (NY. Harper & Row, 1976), relevant to "dressing etiquette" on board the Aquitania, May 1922:

"..My three evening dresses stood up to anybody's and just enough for the trip. First night, don't dress. Second night, cornflower Bendel's. Third night, cherry velvet from Chicago Blum's. Fourth night was Sunday and we knew not to dress. Fifth night, Captain's dinner, I wore the silver brocade. That was the last night to dress; we knew not to dress the night before docking..."

Ruth Gordon mentions she'd been advised on the etiquette on Aquitania by their older travelling companions. She states such formalities were not observed on smaller ships like the Carmania, which she'd sailed on before. She said on Carmania they only dressed up for the ship's concert.

Its possible White Star differed from Cunard on these rules. Does any one know for sure if the custom was peculiar to Cunard?

Just to tie this in with the subject of this thread, Ruth describes earlier in the book one her Lucile originals:

"...Yellow organza over cloth-of-gold, red satin ribbon worked into appliqued gold lace bands. Only Lucile could put stuff like that together..."

She also says at one point of Lucile gowns - "if you couldn't afford one, you copied it."

Several passengers chose not to dress for dinner on Sunday evening. In additon to the Duff Gordon party, William Sloper related that he "used Sunday as an excuse not to dress for dinner", reinforcing the notion that Sunday was "dress-free occasion." Mrs. Candee, in her acocunt, mentioned that several "Our Coterie" members didn't either. However, it appears the majority chose to dress anyway.