When wealthy American socialites Florence and Edward Deacon moved to the vibrant playground of Paris in 1879, they had come to join the artists and intellectuals of the haute bohème. Born into this world of decadence, their daughter Gladys would soon have her childhood shattered by a shocking scandal that pitted her mother and father against each other for the rest of their lives. Despite this, Gladys would go on to be educated in the best schools, growing into an intelligent, witty, and beautiful young woman. After reading about the marriage of an American railroad heiress to an English Duke, Gladys decided that she too should find herself such a man.
Across Europe, Gladys’s feminine wiles attracted the crème de la crème of society, from painters, sculptors and poets to princes and kings. In 1902, a shift to London serendipitously found her moving in the same circles as the English Duke of her childhood crush, and Gladys finally had the world in the palm of her hand. But when her desire to become even more beautiful led her to make a horrifying mistake, Gladys turned away from the limelight, and the once shining star retreated to the shadows.
So join us as we – yet again! – journey to the fabulous and frivolous world of the Belle Époque to examine the life of a woman who would eventually go from the dizzying glamour of high society to the quiet and solitary life of a recluse.
Michael Mosley: A History of Surgery – Fixing Faces. Season 1, Ep. 4, BBC, 2008.
Vickers, Hugh. ‘What happened to Gladys Deacon, Duchess of Marlborough?’ BBC Oxford. 17 February, 2011. http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/oxford/hi/people_and_places/history/newsid_9398000/9398406.stm
Vickers, Hugo. The Sphinx: The Life of Gladys Deacon – Duchess of Marlborough. Hachette, 2020.