Lucy Christiana, Lady Duff Gordon

Lucy Christiana, Lady Duff Gordon

Lady Duff-Gordon (Lucy Christiana Sutherland), 48, was born on 13 June 1863 1, the daughter of Douglas Sutherland, a Toronto engineer. Her sister was Elinor Glyn, the writer. She would later write that she had been christened 'Lucy Christiana' but that 'all my intimate friends have known me as Christiana'. 2

(© Lake, London 1932 / Courtesy of Alan Hustak, Canada)

She was first married, at age 18, to James Stuart Wallace by whom she had a child. 3 They were divorced in 1888 4 and she was left virtually penniless. 5 In order to make some money to support herself and her child she set up a dressmaking business. In 1894 she rented a shop and workspace at 24 Old Burlington Street, London, between Bond Street and Regent Street. 6 'Maison Lucile' was a success and the 'personality' dresses of 'Lucile' were immediately popular. Each design was unique which enhanced their appeal. In 1897 new, larger premises were purchased at 17 Hanover Square. 7 By 1900 the firm had become one of the great couture houses of London under the name 'The Maison Lucile.' Her clientele included Margot Asquith and the Duchess of York (later Queen Mary). 8 In 1910 she opened a branch of Lucile Ltd. in New York. A further salon was established in Paris in 1912 9, and in 1915 a branch in Chicago expanded the empire. 10

Tea gowns and garden frocks, London Salon, 1912

Negligée and robe, 1910

Tea gowns, 1910
(Victoria & Albert Museum London)

Evening dress, 1912

Style Show, Paris Salon, 1914

Courtesy of Randy Bryan Bigham, USA

The business was a success but feeling she was not skilled in financial matters, Lucy took on Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon as a partner in a shrewd business move. In 1900 they were married. 11 Partly because 'Lucile' travelled so much, they rarely lived together. Between 1906 and 1914 they had a home at 22 Lennox Gardens, Knightsbridge. 12 Lucile's Paris address was 14 Avenue du Bois de Boulogne while she also had a summer villa, 'Pavillon Mars' at 4 rue d'Angivillers, Versailles, only about half a mile from the palace. 13 She had no residence in the United Sates and usually stayed at the Waldorf-Astoria, the Ritz-Carlton or the Plaza. 14 Aside from the financial security her husband gave her, Lady Duff-Gordon would later explain how her aristocratic connections would prove more acceptable at Court (i.e. before the Queen) than before when she was merely a dressmaker, although she was never really accepted at Court because of her divorce. 15

22 Lennox Gardens, Knightsbridge

Sir Cosmo and Lady Duff-Gordon at Pavillon Mars in 1914

'Pavillon Mars' Versailles

Courtesy of Randy Bryan Bigham, USA

In her autobiography she related how she had not planned to sail on the Titanic but urgent business in New York forced her to take the first available ship.16 The Duff-Gordons boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg. Accompanying them was Lady Duff-Gordon's maid, Laura Mabel Francatelli. Lady Duff-Gordon and Ms Francatelli travelled first class under the same ticket (#17485 which cost £56 18s 7d), 17. Sir Cosmo occupied cabin A-16, Lady Duff-Gordon was in cabin A-20 and Ms Francatelli was in E-36. 18 For some reason the Duff-Gordons signed onto the ship as Mr and Mrs Morgan.

The first days of the crossing were uneventful. Like everyone else I was entranced by the beauty of the liner. I had never dreamed of sailing in such luxury ... my pretty little cabin, with its electric heater and pink curtains, delighted me, so that it was a pleasure to go to bed. Everything about this lovely ship reassured me.

I remember that last meal on Titanic very well. We had a big vase of beautiful daffodils on the table, which were as fresh as if they had just been picked. Everyone was very gay, and at a neighbouring table people were making bets on the probable time of this record breaking run. Various opinions were put forward, but none dreamed that Titanic would make her harbour that night ...

I had been in bed for about an hour and the lights were all out, when I was awakened by a funny, rumbling noise. It was like nothing I had ever heard before. It seemed as if some giant hand had been playing bowls, rolling the great balls along. Then the boat stopped. 19

Lady Duff-Gordon and her husband were rescued in lifeboat 1 which carried only 12 people despite having a capacity of 40. 20

Photograph from the Frank Blackmarr collection, unfortunately it is blurred, of the occupants of Emergency Lifeboat 1. Left to Right, Standing: George Symonds, Laura Francatelli, Lucy Duff Gordon, Cosmo Duff Gordon, Abraham Salomon, Charles Hendrickson, Henry Stengel.
Left to right Seateed: Robert Pusey (?), Edward Horswell, Samuel Collins, James Taylor (?), Frederick Sheath (?).
Courtesy of Randy Bryan Bigham, USA

On 22 April Lady Duff-Gordon sent a telegram to her family to tell them she was safe.

Courtesy of Estate of Earl Halsbury

The couple subsequently testified at the British Inquiry into the sinking; they were the only passengers who were called to testify.

It was Ladies' Day at the Titanic inquiry yesterday. Expectations of hearing more about the strange tales of 'the Money Boat' had excited keen interest in the day's proceedings, and the prospect of seeing Sir Cosmo and Lady Duff-Gordon in Court relating their version of the incidents of that tragic vigil in mid-ocean was a compelling attraction to the fair and always curious sex. From floor to topmost gallery the Scottish Hall was thronged. Mrs Asquith was an early comer, Miss Ismay, sister of the much-talked of chairman of the White Star Line, was an interested auditor. The Duff-Gordons were in court at 10.30 a.m., and took their seats at the outer end of the first row of advocates. Sir Cosmo was wearing a black frock coat and light striped trousers, and Lady Duff-Gordon, who is, of course, familiar to the West End as Mme Lucille, the Court costumier, was in black with a cloak faced with purple. 21

Following the Inquiry the couple returned to their business. Sir Cosmo died in 1931 and in 1932 Lady Duff-Gordon published her memoirs, Discretions and Indiscretions.

6 villas-on-the-Heath, Hampstead
Courtesy of Randy Bryan Bigham, USA

From 1932?35 Lady Duff-Gordon, her business collapsed and living in straitened circumstances, lived at 6 villas-on-the-Heath, Hampstead, London. 22 At the time of her death in April 1935, aged 71, she was living in a nursing home in Putney, London. 23

She and her husband were buried at Brookwood Cemetery, near London.

Courtesy of Randy Bryan Bigham, USA



Portrait of Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon at work in her New York salon, by Arnold Genthe
Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon, photographed by Campbell, New York
Lucy Duff Gordon, portrait by Rita Martin, London
Lucy Duff Gordon, photo by Martin
Portrait of Lucy Duff Gordon by Marceau, New York
Lucy Duff Gordon and her Pekingese, 'Fleurette,' photographed by Genthe
Elinor Glyn, sister of Lucy Duff Gordon
Lucile evening gown : 1912 couture
Lucile afternoon dress
Lucile reception gown
Lucile evening gown
Discretions and Indiscretions
Lucy Duff Gordon in 1915
Lucy Duff Gordon in 1910
Elinor Glin on her sister Lady Duff Gordon's Titanic ordeal
Sir Cosmo and Lady Duff Gordon
Lady Duff Gordon
Lucile frocks
Lucile tea gowns
Lady Duff Gordon Crochet Book

Articles and Stories

Titanica! (2017) 
Titanica! (2017) 
Titanica! (2010) 
Titanica! (2003) 
Time Magazine (1935) 
New York Sun (1935) 
Dallas Times-Herald (1935) 
New York Times (1935) 
New York American (1935) 
Daily Sketch (1935) 
New York Times (1931) 
New York Times (1922) 
New York Times (1919) 
New York Times (1918) 
New York Times (1918) 
New York Times (1917) 
Chicago Examiner (1913) 
The Times (1912) 
Western Morning News (1912) 
Newark Star (1912) 
Daily Graphic (1912) 
New York Herald (1912) 
Newark Star (1912) 
Denver Post (1912) 
New York Times (1912) 
Denver Post (1912) 
Chicago Evening Post (1912) 
Associated Press (1912) 
New York Times (1912) 
New York Times (1911) 
New York Times (1911) 
New York Times (1911) 
New York Times (1911) 
New York Times (1911) 
New York Times (1911) 
New York Times (1911) 
New York Times (1911) 
New York Times (1910) 
New York Times (1910) 
New York Times (1910) 
New York Times (1910) 
New York Times (1908) 
New York Times (1907) 
New York Times (1907) 
The Scotsman (1907) 
New York Times (1907) 
New York Times (1907) 
New York Times (1904) 
New York Times Book Review (1902) 


Randy Bryan Bigham, USA
Vera R. Gillespie, USA
Phillip Gowan, USA
Alan Hustak, Canada

References and Sources

1. Lord Halsbury''s papers (originally belonging to Esme, Viscountess Tiverton, LDG's daughter, & written in her hand).
2. Caroline Reynolds Millbank: (1985) Couture: The Great Designers. Stewart, Tabori and Chang, New York
3. Daily Sketch, 22 April 1935
4. Lady Duff-Gordon (1932) Discretions and Indiscretions. Frederick A. Stokes and Company., New York
5. Caroline Reynolds Millbank (1985) op.cit.
6. ibid.
7. Jane Ashelford (1996) The Art of Dress. The National Trust
8. Caroline Reynolds Millbank (1985) op.cit.
9. Randy Bryan Bigham, Correspondence with Editor
10. The firm later relocated to 23 Hanover Square, London
11. Jane Ashelford (1996) op. cit.
12. Caroline Reynolds Millbank (1985) op.cit.
13. Randy Bryan Bigham, op.cit.
14. The New York salon was based at 17 W. 36th St. (later 39 W. 57th St.), New York
15. The Paris Salon was situated on rue de Penthièvres
16. Randy Bryan Bigham, op. cit.
17. Caroline Reynolds Millbank (1985) op.cit.
18. Randy Bryan Bigham, op. cit.
19. Sir Cosmo sold the house in 1916.
20. Randy Bryan Bigham, ibid.
21. Pavillon Mars, Versailles was owned between 1912 and 1920
22. Randy Bryan Bigham, ibid.
23. Source not identified
24. Randy Bryan Bigham, op. cit.
25. Her New York premises were moving to 39 W. 57th St. The establishment opened on 8 May 1912.
26. Contract Ticket List, White Star Line 1912 (National Archives, New York; NRAN-21-SDNYCIVCAS-55[279])
27. First Class Passenger List S.S. Titanic ("3rd Proof") ["Cave List"], Public Archives of Nova Scotia
28. Lady Duff-Gordon (1932) op. cit.
29. Lady Duff-Gordon''s account was written three days after she landed from the Carpathia in New York, but not published until 1932.
30. Peter Engberg-Klarström, Sweden, Correspondence with Editor
31. Daily Sketch, 17 April 1912
32. Randy Bryan Bigham, op. cit.
33. General Register Office Entry of Death
34. Daily Sketch (London), 22 April 1935Daily Sketch, 17 April 1912
35. Walter Lord (1976) A Night to Remember. London, Penguin. ISBN 0 14 004757 3
36. Wreck Commissioners'' Court, Proceedings before the Right Hon. Lord Mersey on a Formal Investigation Ordered by the Board of Trade into the Loss of the S.S. Titanic
37. General Register Office Entry of Death
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(2018) Lucy Christiana, Lady Duff Gordon Encyclopedia Titanica (ref: #101, updated 21st September 2018 06:07:34 AM)

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