Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Princess Who Ran Away With A Gypsy

Beautiful Clara Ward had an interesting and tempestuous life. She married four times - her husbands included a prince. She was also reportedly the mistress of King Leopold of Belgium. Ward once wrote in her diary that she'd rather marry a murderer than live a boring life - she didn't want to be ordinary and she certainly wasn't!

Ward was the daughter of a millionaire lumberman with holdings in steel and silver mines and steamships. He was the wealthiest man in Michigan. Her father died when she was only 2, leaving her brother in charge of the family's inheritance.

The lovely heiress met the Prince de Caraman-Chimay in France when she was quite young. He was fifteen years older, not very handsome, and not very wealthy. But perhaps that doesn't matter if you're a prince! She charmed the older man and the couple married in Paris when Ward was only 17.

She was the toast of Paris, although she shocked society with her unconventional ways. The princess also liked to spend her money - she had an annual income of $50,000.00 and she reportedly spent it all!

Although the couple had two children, Ward remained restless. She caught the eye of King Leopold of Belgium, who 'showered her with attentions.' When she ordered him to bring her an ice, he immediately obeyed!

Clara Meets Her Gypsy

The princess liked to dine at elegant restaurants in Paris with her husband. She became mesmerized by a young Hungarian gypsy who played the violin at one of these restaurants. The princess ran away with the rather poor Hungarian gypsy, whose name was Rigo Jancsi. They married in 1904.

There was great interest in this 'beautiful couple' by the media. Unfortunately, the princess's husband was an opportunist. She spent bucketloads of money on her gypsy. She built him a white marble palace in Egypt, a $5,000.00 violin, and lots of jewels.

Clara eventually had to obtain money by desperate means. She appeared at the Folies Bergere and the Moulin Rouge in skin-tight costumes. She called these her 'poses plastiques.' Toulouse-Lautrec even painted the couple.

Jancsi was unfaithful so the princess eventually divorced him. Her last two husbands were Italian, Peppino Ricciardo, and a station-master. She met the station-master when she travelled on one of the trains that passed through the station.

The princess died at only 43 in 1916.


Matterhorn said...

You mean Leopold II, I guess? She could have been his mistress, he led quite a irregular life, unfortunately. But then, there were also plenty of false rumors and exaggerations, so sometimes it is hard to separate fact from fiction.

Cheryl Anderson Brown said...

Hmmm. Are you sure she's not related to Princess Stephanie of Monaco? They sound like twins...

Kittie Howard said...

I thought of Princess Stephanie, too...all those palaces and no home life....

Alain Espourteille said...

In truth, Clara Ward only married twice. She married Prince Joseph and in later years married Guiseppe Riccardi. She had moved to Padua to be closer to her new love Mr. Cassolotta whom she had recently met and who was a soldier in the Italian army. It was during her visit to see him that she contracted the flu and died in her hotel room, attended to by her devoted maid and friend. She was never a courtesan. According to her own diary, she had never been unfaithful to her husband. It was only after his disinterest in her and extended absences that she moved to Paris. Clara defied how others had thought she should behave and in return her reputation had been defiled by angry members of her husband's family. This anger was shared by her mother who had sided with her son-in-law and refused to ever again see Clara.

Viola said...

Thank you, Alain, for providing such interesting information about Clara.

I don't think that I accused her of being a courtesan. I am glad that she wasn't unfaithful to her husband.

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