Lucy Christiana, Lady Duff Gordon

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Lucy Christiana Duff-Gordon (Sutherland)

Also Known As: "Madame Lucile"
Birthdate: (71)
Birthplace: London, England
Death: April 20, 1935 (71)
Southfields (Pneumonia )
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Douglas Sutherland and Elinor Saunders
Wife of Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon, 5th Baronet
Ex-wife of James Stuart Wallace
Mother of Esme Giffard (Wallace), Countess of Halsbury
Sister of Elinor Glyn

Managed by: Ivor C-D
Last Updated:

About Lucy Christiana, Lady Duff Gordon

The high-society fashion designer Lady Duff Gordon, among the most famous survivors of the Titanic disaster, was booked on the Lusitania but canceled her trip, citing health reasons.

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Lady Duff-Gordon (Lucy Christiana Sutherland), was born on 13 June 1863 , 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. They were divorced in 1888 and she was left virtually penniless. 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. '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. 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). In 1910 she opened a branch of Lucile Ltd. in New York. A further salon was established in Paris in 1912, and in 1915 a branch in Chicago expanded the empire

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. Partly because 'Lucile' travelled so much, they rarely lived together. Between 1906 and 1914 they had a home at 22 Lennox Gardens, Knightsbridge. 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. She had no residence in the United Sates and usually stayed at the Waldorf-Astoria, the Ritz-Carlton or the Plaza. 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.

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. 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). Sir Cosmo occupied cabin A-16, Lady Duff-Gordon was in cabin A-20 and Ms Francatelli was in E-36. 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.

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

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

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.

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.

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

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

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Lucy Christiana, Lady Duff Gordon's Timeline

June 13, 1863
August 23, 1885
Age 22
April 20, 1935
Age 71