Miss Laura Mabel Francatelli, was born in Lambeth, London, England on 21 April 1880. She generally preferred to be known as Mabel.
One of eight children, she was the daughter of "Charles Elmé Francatelli" (b. 1852) and Elizabeth Mary Ann Cornell (b. 1853) who had married in Kennington on 7 March 1875. Charles is believed to have been a great-nephew of his namesake, the famous Italian/British chef who for a time was maitre de hotel and chef to Queen Victoria and later her son Edward, Prince of Wales.
Both her parents hailed from Bermondsey, London and her father worked as a cuisinere (cook), as did his father before him.
Mabel's siblings were: Charles Elmé (1875-1876), Eliza Edith Florence (1876-1878), Jessie Maud (b. 1878), Ethel Louise (1882-1888), Violet Elizabeth (1883-1949), Amy Sophia1 (1886-1963), Charles Elmé William (1889-1942) and Dorothy Hilda (b. 1892).
She first appears on the 1881 census as an 11-month-old infant living with her family at 35 Holland Street, Lambeth and was still living there when, on 29 September 1884, she was enrolled at Stockwell College for her primary education. By the time of the 1891 census she was living with her family at 66 Hackford Road, Lambeth.
At the time of the 1901 census Mabel was still living with her parents but had no stated profession, by then at 38 Strathleven Road, Brixton. Her father died only a few months later on 27 May 1901 and the family moved to 46 Hayter Road, Brixton where her mother passed away on 24 September 1906. She and her siblings would continue to reside together and appeared on the 1911 census living at 20 Dulwich Road, Herne Hill, South East London. Laura was then described as a secretary.
It is believed she started working for couturiere Lady Duff-Gordon as a secretary and assistant around 1909. Lady Duff Gordon generally referred to her as "Franks". Her younger sister, Dorothy (known as Phyllis) became a model for Lucile Ltd, Duff Gordon's fashion business around the same time.
Miss Francatelli boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg (ticket number PC 17485) and occupied cabin E-36.
On the night of the sinking, she woke her employers after water seeped into her cabin following the collision.
"... A man came to me and put a life preserver on me assuring me it was only taking precautions and not to be alarmed... When we got on the top deck, the lifeboats were being lowered on the starboard side... I then noticed that the sea was nearer to us than during the day, and I said to Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon 'We are sinking' and he said 'Nonsense, come away'."
She and the Duff-Gordons were rescued in Emergency Lifeboat 1, later receiving the epithet in the press the "millionaires boat". On the Carpathia she and all but one of that lifeboat's occupants posed for a group portrait, she and Lady Duff-Gordon appearing slightly dishevelled.
Following the disaster Laura was married in Immanuel Parrish Church, Streatham, Surrey on 16 August 1913. Her new husband was Maximilian "Max" Alfred Haering (b. 10 November 1885), a Swiss-born hotel manager and son of hotel proprietor Emil Frederick Haering.
The couple, who remained childless, did not settle in Britain and in July 1916 Laura migrated to the USA aboard the Philadelphia; she listed her US contact as Lady Duff-Gordon at the Anchorage in Mamaroneck, New York. Max Haering made the same journey the following year.
The Haerings settled in Manahattan where Max managed a restaurant and Laura dabbled in dress-making and they appeared on the 1920 census as residents of East 56th Street. The pair became naturalised US citizens, Laura relinquishing her British citizenship on 17 April 1933, her then address being stated as the Gotham Hotel at 55th Street & 5th Avenue, New York which Mr Haering managed for several years. They went on to operate other hotels and in 1941 acquired the Amber Lantern in Flushing, Queens, New York, with Laura acting as her husband's secretary.
Laura and her husband made numerous trips back and forth across the Atlantic in later years. She was also joined in the USA by several of her siblings, including her brother Charles and sisters Jessie, Dorothy and Violet. Her husband Max died on 18 October 1951.2
With her last known New York address being listed as 58 East 74th Street, Manhattan, Laura seemingly made her last voyage across the Atlantic in 1954, arriving in Southampton on 27 September that year aboard Queen Mary. By then a widow, she spent the remainder of her life in London.
Laura died following a stroke at 20 Quex Road in Hampstead, London on 2 June 1967 aged 87. She was cremated at Golder's Green Crematorium three days later, and the ashes were returned to the USA and placed in the crypt with her husband Max Alfred Haering in Ferncliff cemetery and Mausoleum Hartsdale, Westchester County, New York, Mausoleum (MO1 COLBN -E-C2)
Does anyone know what became of Miss Francatelli, affectionately called Miss Franks by her mistress, Lady Duff Gordon? I have always been curious about what happened to her, and if anyone can help me, I would be greatly appreciative.
Lady Duff Gordon's "companion" Laura Francatelli was alternately employed as a business secretary and a social secretary, interchanging with another lady friend Ruby Sutton. Laura, who was actually called "Franks" or "Frankie" and not "Miss Franks," was the older sister of one of Lady Duff Gordon's models, Phyllis Francatelli, who was employed beginning in 1909-10. Laura came about the same time; the first mention of her is during Lady Duff Gordon's 1910 visit to New York to open a branch of her fashion salon "Lucile." After the "Titanic," she and "Madame," as she always called Lady Duff...