Encyclopedia Titanica

Lucy Christiana, Lady Duff Gordon

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'.

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

Label of Lucile Ltd.

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
Tea gowns and garden frocks, London Salon, 1912
Negligée and robe
Negligée and robe, 1910
Tea gowns
Tea gowns, 1910
Evening dress
Evening dress, 1912
Style Show, Paris Salon
Style Show, Paris Salon, 1914

Lady Duff GordonLady Duff GordonThe 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
22 Lennox Gardens, Knightsbridge
Duff-Gordon in garden
Sir Cosmo and Lady Duff-Gordon at Pavillon Mars in 1914
Pavillon Mars, Versailles
'Pavillon Mars' Versailles

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

Lifeboat 1 Occupants
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.

Duff Gordon Telegram
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.

Lady Duff Godon TestifiesIt 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
6 villas-on-the-Heath, Hampstead

From 1932 to 35 Lady Duff-Gordon, her business collapsed and living in straitened circumstances, resided 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.

Duff Gordon Grave Duff Gordon Grave


Portrait of Lady Duff Gordon © Lake, London 1932 (Courtesy of Alan Hustak)
Tea Gowns: (Victoria & Albert Museum London)
All other fashion and other photos courtesy of Randy Bryan Bigham

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

Research Articles

Randy Bryan Bigham Titanica! (2003) Madame Lucile: A Life in Style
Lady Duff Gordon Titanica! (2010) I was saved from the Titanic
A vivid eyewitness account of the legendary shipwreck and its aftermath. Edited by Randy Bryan Bigham
Titanica! (2017) Shipwrecked again!
Titanic passengers and crew that experienced shipwrecks either before or after the Titanic disaster.
Lady Duff Gordon Titanica! (2021) My Greatest Hour: Saved from the Titanic
Lady Duff Gordon's last account of the Titanic disaster

Newspaper Articles

New York Times Book Review (15 November 1902) BOOKS AND MEN
New York Times (11 December 1904) Between Sips of Tea
New York Times (4 August 1907) SOCIETY---HOME AND ABROAD
New York Times (21 November 1907) CONSULT BURKE'S PEERAGE
The Scotsman (14 December 1907) The Mauretania's Second Voyage
New York Times (21 December 1907) Social Notes
New York Times (23 December 1907) LADY DUFF GORDON SEES CHNIATOWN
New York Times (12 January 1908) SOCIETY AT HOME AND ABROAD
New York Times (11 January 1910) Lady Duff-Gordon to Open a Shop Here
New York Times (27 February 1910) LADY DUFF-GORDON SAILS
New York Times (5 March 1910) PUZZLED BY GAY MODELS
New York Times (24 May 1910) LEGAL NOTICE
New York Times (14 April 1911) LADY DUFF GORDON SUES
New York Times (28 May 1911) LUCILE GOWNS SEIZED
New York Times (6 June 1911) LADY DUFF-GORDON EXAMINED
New York Times (7 July 1911) Lucille, Limited, Manager Pleads
New York Times (17 September 1911) THE CRINOLINE QUESTION
New York Times (17 February 1912) DRESSMAKERS' QUICK FLIGHT
Chicago Evening Post (16 April 1912) AMERICANS IN PARIS MOURN LOST KINSMEN
New York Times (17 April 1912) The Duff Gordons
New York Herald (19 April 1912) Lady Duff Gordon Saw Men Shot by Captain Smith
A man made a rush to get aboard and was shot.
Daily Graphic (20 April 1912) SOME OF THE SAVED
Western Morning News (29 April 1912) Ugborough Man's Story
Chicago Examiner (16 December 1913) STEAD'S SPIRIT PICKS WRONG LADY GORDON
Message From Other World Upon Titanic Disaster Goes Astray at London Seance
New York Times (4 December 1917) FASHION DISPLAY AT PALACE
New York Times (31 January 1918) NEW INCORPORATIONS
New York Times (28 May 1918) Fashions at the Palace
New York Times (22 May 1919) MARY GARDEN'S SIDE IN SUIT
New York Times (21 March 1922) Lucile's Creditors Force Receivership
Dressmakers Established by Lady Duff Gordon Owe $175,000, Have $75,000
New York Times (21 April 1931) SIR COSMO DUFF-GORDON
New York American (22 April 1935) Death Closes Career of Lady Duff Gordon
Daily Sketch (22 April 1935) DEATH OF LUCILE
Dallas Times-Herald (22 April 1935) Lady Duff Gordon, Leading London Modiste, Is Dead
New York Times (22 April 1935) LADY DUFF GORDON, STYLE EXPERT, DIES
New York Sun (22 April 1935) Noted Stylist Dies in London
Lady Duff Gordon Designed Fashions for Royalty
Time Magazine (29 April 1935) Milestones (1)


British Inquiry (1912) British Inquiry Testimony of Lady Duff Gordon, Titanic Inquiry Project
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Titanic Passenger Summary

Name: Lucy Christiana, Lady Duff Gordon (Mrs Morgan) (née Sutherland)
Age: 48 years 10 months and 2 days (Female)
Nationality: English
Last Residence: in London, England
Embarked: Cherbourg on Wednesday 10th April 1912
Ticket No. 17485, £56 18s 7d
Cabin No. A20
Rescued (boat 1)  
Disembarked Carpathia: New York City on Thursday 18th April 1912
Died: Saturday 20th April 1935 aged 71 years
Cause of Death:
Buried: Brookwood Cemetery, London, England

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