Mystery Monday...not much murder and mayhem to report...

The subject for today's post is Huguette Clark. A reclusive heiress who recently died at the age of 104, her life is as big of a mystery today as it was while she was living it. The mystery: was she mentally ill? I do not make light of this at all, as I have seen some journalists do over the last few months. If she was indeed mentally ill or unfit to make decisions, as I suspect she was, then this is one more case of gross abuse of someone vulnerable to everyone around her.

I really don't know what to make of this woman. For a great overview (what we know if it, anyway) of her life, see this New York Times article. She grew up in a wealthy home and, though devastated by the loss of her older sister, she seemed to be fairly socially active. After her brief marriage during her twenties, however, she lived in seclusion, rarely being seen by anyone.
Here are the basics of what happened from her marriage and after (from NYT article):

In 1928, at 22, she married William MacDonald Gower, the son of a business associate of her father’s. The union lasted nine months: she charged desertion; he maintained the marriage was unconsummated, according to a 1941 biography of the family, “The Clarks, an American Phenomenon,” by William D. Mangam.

The couple were formally divorced in 1930; she chose to be known afterward as Mrs. Huguette Clark.

By the late 1930s, Mrs. Clark had disappeared from the society pages. Most if not all of her siblings had died; she lived with her mother at 907 Fifth Avenue, painting and playing the harp. Her mother died there in 1963.

For the quarter-century that followed, Mrs. Clark lived in the apartment in near solitude, amid a profusion of dollhouses and their occupants. She ate austere lunches of crackers and sardines and watched television, most avidly “The Flintstones.” A housekeeper kept the dolls’ dresses impeccably ironed.

Once her mother died, Clark became sole owner of estates across the country, maintained staff in each, but never lived in them. She also became the only inheritor of the incredible fortune her father gained in copper. She said that her "fondest wish [was] simply to vanish." I find that incredibly sad.

In the end, she left millions to her nurse and to charities. She also donated priceless works of art to museums.

I am sure that someone really wants to write her biography, it would be difficult to do so. Probably the best way to write a biography of her would be to contact her nurse--if the woman would talk. But the real mystery her is just what to make of her.

One journalist, who claims to have tracked her down to the hospital room she lived in for years, said that she wasn't mad. But, obviously, there has to be more to this story.

The thing is: her lawyers are under investigation for mishandling her money. There are many people invested in stating that she wasn't mentally ill, because if that was proven then financial decisions made "on her behalf" would be cleared.

In any case, it is all very sad to me. I hope that those around her were kind to her. I am not sure that we will ever find out the true story of her life.


Amy said…
Very interesting! And I agree, very sad. Even if she wasn't mentally ill, I wonder what happened in her life to make her choose absolute seclusion.
Susie said…
Exactly! It is such a strange story. I wish that someone could tell it well (and still give her the dignity she deserves).

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