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Gloria Vanderbilt Custody Trial: 1934

"we Are Moving Again—oh What A Life"

For almost a decade, little Gloria sometimes did not see her mother for months on end. At other times, she and nurse Keislich lived in Paris or London with her mother, who was also living with Gottfried Hohenlohe Langenburg, a destitute German prince and a great-grandson of Queen Victoria. Langenburg wanted to marry Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt, but Surrogate Judge Foley had ruled, "No part of the infant's income can be used to finance a second marriage." Little Gloria feared and hated the prince, who never spoke to her. She sent post cards from Europe to her grandmother Morgan declaring that "My mother is so bad to me I wish I could run away to New York to you," that "my mother was in Paris enjoying herself while poor me was unhappy in England [sic]," and "We are moving again oh what a life."

In June 1932, little Gloria's tonsils were removed in New York. Sailing yet again for Europe, her mother welcomed the suggestion of her sister-in-law, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, that the 8-year-old recuperate over the summer at the Whitney home in Old Westbury, Long Island. That fall, the Whitney family doctor urged that she continue to live in Old Westbury. Her mother agreed. Surrogate Judge Foley, notified by Gertrude Whitney that her deceased brother's child was now living with her, cut Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt's allowance from $48,000 to $9,000 a year. Suddenly it dawned on the absent mother that, without little Gloria, she was practically a pauper.

Movie theatre magnate A. C. Blumenthal, Gloria's current lover, introduced her to lawyer Nathan Burkan. The attorney discovered that, since she was still a minor when husband Reggie Vanderbilt died, Gloria Vanderbilt had never been appointed guardian of her own child. He petitioned Surrogate Judge Foley to make her sole guardian. But a complainant appeared: Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt's mother, who said her daughter was unfit.

Lawyers and surrogate reached agreement: Little Gloria could live with Aunt Gertrude during the school year, and her mother could see her at any time. In September little Gloria went to New York City to visit with her mother. But when she arrived, Gloria Vanderbilt announced, "Little Gloria is not going back to Mrs. Whitney's."

The next morning, while her Aunt Gertrude, her Aunt Consuelo (sister of her mother) and her mother sipped sherry in the Whitney mansion, little Gloria was slipped out to the car by nurse Keislich and Gertrude Whitney's private maid. When her mother asked presently where her daughter was, Gertrude said, "Little Gloria is halfway to Westbury by now. I'm not going to let you have her."

In Old Westbury, little Gloria found guards posted throughout the house and the nurse or the maid always at her side. But that afternoon, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney was served court papers that commanded her to have "the body of Gloria Laura Morgan Vanderbilt by you imprisoned and detained" presented before Judge John F. Carew.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1918 to 1940Gloria Vanderbilt Custody Trial: 1934 - "we Are Moving Again—oh What A Life", "trial Of The Century", Suggestions For Further Reading