Thelma, Viscountess Furness

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Thelma Converse Furness (Morgan)

Birthplace: Grand Hotel National, Lucerne, Lucerne District, LU, Switzerland
Death: January 29, 1970 (65)
Manhattan, New York City, New York County, New York, United States
Place of Burial: Culver City, California
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Harry Hays Morgan, Sr. and Laura Kilpatrick Valdivieso
Ex-wife of James Vail Converse and Marmaduke Furness, 1st Viscount Furness
Mother of William Anthony Furness, 2nd Viscount Furness
Sister of Harry Hays Morgan, Jr.; Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt; Laura Consuelo Kilpatrick Thaw and Henry Morgan

Occupation: socialite/ mistress
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Thelma, Viscountess Furness

Thelma,Viscountess Furness was the identical twin sister of Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt.

   She was the mistress of the future King Edward VIII while he was still the Prince of Wales; preceding Wallis Simpson, for whom Edward abdicated his crown to become the Duke of Windsor, relocating  to Paris France, where they both resided for the remainder of their lives.
   During most of her close relationship with the Prince, she was already married to British peer Marmaduke, 1st Viscount Furness. They divorced one year prior to the conclusion of her relationship with Prince Edward.

Thelma (pronounced in Spanish fashion:"TEL-ma") was the great-aunt of Anderson Cooper.

She was portrayed by actress Katie McGrath in W.E., the 2011 British romantic drama film about the love of Wallis and Edward co-written and directed by Madonna.

Early life

Born in Lucerne, Switzerland, she was a daughter of Harry Hays Morgan Sr, an American diplomat who was U.S. consul in Buenos Aires and in Brussels, and his half-Chilean, half-Irish-American wife, Laura Delphine Kilpatrick. Married in 1893, they were divorced in 1927.

Her maternal grandfather was a Union general, Hugh Judson Kilpatrick (1836–1881), who was also U.S. minister to Chile, and through her maternal grandmother Luisa Fernandez de Valdivieso, who was a niece of Crescente Errázuriz Valdivieso, Archbishop of Santiago, she reportedly was a descendant of Spain's Royal House of Navarre.

Thelma Morgan had two sisters: Gloria (her identical twin, the mother of Gloria Vanderbilt, the fashion designer and artist and mother of news anchor Anderson Cooper) and Laura Consuelo Morgan (aka Tamar), who was married to Count Jean de Maupas du Juglart (a French nobleman), to Benjamin Thaw, Jr. of Pittsburgh, and to Alfons B. Landa, president of Colonial Airlines and vice-chairman of the finance committee of the Democratic National Committee in 1948. She also had a brother, Harry Hays Morgan, Jr., who became a minor Hollywood actor in such films as Abie's Irish Rose (1946), Joan of Arc (1948), and others. Her half-siblings, from her father's first marriage, were Constance and Gladys Morgan.

Marriages and relationships

Her first husband was James Vail Converse, a grandson of Theodore N. Vail, former president of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T). They were married in Washington, D.C., on 16 February 1922 — she was 17-years-old, the divorcé groom was about a decade older — and they divorced in Los Angeles, California, on 10 April 1925. By this marriage she had one stepson, James Vail Converse, Jr (born 18 January 1918), her husband's son from his first marriage to Nadine Melbourne.

After the divorce, Thelma Morgan Converse was rumored to be engaged to the American actor Richard Bennett, the matinée-idol father of Hollywood film stars Constance Bennett, Joan Bennett, and Barbara Bennett (the third was the mother of talk-show host Morton Downey, Jr.).

Her second husband was Marmaduke Furness, 1st Viscount Furness (1883–1940), the chairman of Furness Shipping Company. She was his second wife. They were married on 27 June 1926, and divorced in 1933. They had one son, William Anthony Furness, 2nd Viscount Furness, and as the former wife of a British nobleman she was known as Thelma, Viscountess Furness. By this marriage she also had a stepson, Hon. Christopher Furness, and a stepdaughter, Hon. Averill Furness.

Lady Furness first met the Prince of Wales at a ball at Londonderry House in 1926 but they did not meet again until the Leicestershire Agricultural Show at Leicester on 14 June 1929. The Prince asked her to dine and they met regularly until she joined the Prince on safari in East Africa early in 1930, when a closer relationship developed. On the Prince's return to England in April 1930 she was his regular weekend companion at the newly acquired Fort Belvedere until January 1934. She also entertained the Prince at her London home, in Elsworthy Road, Primrose Hill, and the Furness country house, Burrough Court, in Leicestershire.

On 10 January 1931 at her country house Burrough Court, near Melton Mowbray, she introduced the Prince to her close friend Wallis Simpson and, whilst visiting her sister Gloria in America between January and March 1934, she was supplanted in the Prince's affection by Simpson. Reacting to the Prince's coldness later that year she threw herself into a short-lived affair with Prince Aly Khan.

Film career

For a very brief time, she was a motion picture producer and actress, after founding Thelma Morgan Pictures at the age of 17 in 1923. As she told Time magazine, "I am incorporating the Thelma Morgan Pictures, Inc., with $100,000 capital and will produce big, sane, and sound 'specials.' I will be my own star. Hitherto, my chief experience has been in Junior League shows." Her first starring role, in 1923, was the lead in a film Aphrodite, produced by her own company and filmed at Vitagraph Studios.

She described her leading role in Aphrodite to The New York Times as that of "an American girl, brought up under the sinister influence of an old Egyptian woman." She also had small parts in the films Enemies of Women (1923), a William Randolph Hearst production whose cast included Lionel Barrymore and Clara Bow, So This Is Marriage? (1924), and Any Woman (1925).

Final years

She and her sister Gloria wrote a memoir called Double Exposure (1959) cited below as 'Vanderbilt'.

Lady Furness died in New York City on 29 January 1970. As her niece, Gloria Vanderbilt, recalled, "She dropped dead on Seventy-third and Lexington on her way to see the doctor. In her bag was this miniature teddy bear that the Prince of Wales had given her, years before, when she came to be with my mother at the custody trial, and it was worn down to the nub".

She was buried next to her twin sister, Gloria, in Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.

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Thelma, Viscountess Furness's Timeline

August 23, 1904
Grand Hotel National, Lucerne, Lucerne District, LU, Switzerland
March 31, 1929
Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, England, United Kingdom
February 1969
Age 64
Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, California
January 29, 1970
Age 65
Manhattan, New York City, New York County, New York, United States