Gladys Vanderbilt Széchenyi

Gladys Vanderbilt Széchenyi
Count and Countess László Széchenyi.jpg
Countess and Count László Széchenyi, circa 1908.
Born Gladys Moore Vanderbilt
(1886-08-27)August 27, 1886
Newport, Rhode Island
Died January 29, 1965(1965-01-29) (aged 78)
Washington, D.C.
Title Countess Széchenyi
Spouse(s) Count László Széchenyi
(m. 1908; his death 1938)
Children 5
Parent(s) Cornelius Vanderbilt II
Alice Claypoole Gwynne
Relatives See Vanderbilt family

Gladys Moore Vanderbilt, Countess Széchenyi (August 27, 1886 – January 29, 1965) was an American heiress from the prominent American Vanderbilt family, and the wife of a Hungarian count, László Széchenyi.

Early life

Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt, II and her daughters, Gladys and Gertrude, having tea in the library at the Breakers Newport, Rhode Island, William Bruce Ellis Ranken, 1932

Countess Széchenyi was born Gladys Moore Vanderbilt in 1886, the seventh and youngest child of Alice Claypoole Gwynne and Cornelius Vanderbilt II, the president and chairman of the New York Central Railroad.

Gladys grew up in the family home on Fifth Avenue in New York City, and their summer "cottage," The Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island.[1] She attended Miss Chapin's School in New York.[2]

Her first cousin was Consuelo Vanderbilt, Duchess of Marlborough, who married Charles Spencer-Churchill, 9th Duke of Marlborough.[3]


She inherited about $25 million from her father's estate and a further $5 million from her mother's estate.[4] She also inherited The Breakers. In 1948, as a widow, she leased The Breakers to the Preservation Society of Newport County for $1 a year. She continued to maintain an apartment in The Breakers by agreement until her death.

In 1913, there were rumors that Vanderbilt was going to leave her husband due to his financial woes,[5] including gambling away all of her dowry.[6]

War aid

In 1914, during World War I, she placed her palace in Budapest at the disposal of the army. Shortly thereafter, 600 reservists were quartered there, and the Countess further intended to use the palace as a hospital.[7][8]

Personal life

Gladys Vanderbilt, John Singer Sargent, 1906

On January 27, 1908, Vanderbilt married Hungarian Count László Széchenyi (1879–1938) in New York City.[9][10] The couple visited Hungary[11] almost every summer with their five daughters:

Countess Széchenyi died in 1965. In 1972, the Preservation Society purchased The Breakers for $365,000 from Gladys' heirs.[14] Her daughter, Countess Sylvia Szapáry maintained a residence at her grandparents' summer "cottage",[15] on the third floor until her death on March 1, 1998.


Through her eldest daughter, Cornelia, she was the grandmother of three, Gladys Roberts (b. 1934), Cornelia Roberts (1936–1982), who married Count Hans-Heinrich von Coudenhove-Kalergi (1926–2004), and Eugene Bowie Roberts, Jr. (b. 1939). Through her daughter Alice, she was grandmother to Count László Hadik (1932–1973) and Count János Hadik (b. 1933). Through her daughter, Gladys, she was the grandmother of Christopher Denys Stormont Finch-Hatton, the 16th Earl of Winchilsea (1936–1999) and the Lord Robin Finch-Hatton (b. 1939). Through her daughter Sylvia, she was the grandmother of Count Pál László Szapáry (b. 1950) and Countess Gladys Vanderbilt Szapáry (b. 1952). Through her youngest child, Ferdinandine, she was the grandmother of Count Peter zu Eltz (b. 1948) and Count Nicholas zu Eltz (1950-2012).[16]


  1. ^ Vanderbilt, Arthur T., II (1989). Fortune's Children: The Fall of the House of Vanderbilt. New York: Morrow. ISBN 0-688-07279-8. 
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ a b Times, Special Cable To The New York (28 October 1908). "DAUGHTER TO SZECHENYIS.; Former Miss Gladys Vanderbilt Becomes a Mother at Her Castle". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 April 2017. 
  4. ^ "GLADYS VANDERBILT IS 21.; She Will Soon Receive $12,500,000 from Her Father's Estate". The New York Times. 25 August 1907. Retrieved 28 April 2017. 
  5. ^ Times, Special Cable To The New York (20 April 1913). "SZECHENYI SUFFERS FINANCIAL LOSSES; With His Wife, Formerly Gladys Vanderbilt, He May Leave Hungary for London". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 April 2017. 
  6. ^ Times, Special Cable To The New York (31 July 1913). "MAY BE SZECHENYI DIVORCE; Budapest Reports That the Former Gladys Vanderbilt Will Sue". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 April 2017. 
  7. ^ "COUNTESS SZECHENYI HELPS.; Former Gladys Vanderbilt Gives Use of Palace to Army". The New York Times. 3 August 1914. Retrieved 28 April 2017. 
  8. ^ Service, International Film (7 December 1919). "COUNTESS SZECHENYI'S STORY; Former Gladys Vanderbilt Describes Privations and Sufferings in Hungary, Where She Barely Escaped Russians Countess Szechenyi's Story". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 April 2017. 
  9. ^ "THE VANDERBILT WEDDING.; Miss Gladys to Become Count Szechenyi's Bride on Jan. 27". The New York Times. 7 January 1908. Retrieved 28 April 2017. 
  10. ^ "THE HOUSE OF SZECHENYI IN MAGYAR ANNALS; Long and Hungarian Family Into Which Miss Gladys Vanderbilt will be Married To-morrow". The New York Times. 26 January 1908. Retrieved 28 April 2017. 
  11. ^ "BALL FOR SZECHENYIS.; Former Miss Vanderbilt Meets the Magyar Aristocracy at Budapest". The New York Times. 10 May 1908. Retrieved 28 April 2017. 
  12. ^ "SZECHENYI'S SECOND CHILD.; Daughter Born to Him and the Countess -- Son to Viscountess Maidstone". The New York Times. 5 August 1911. Retrieved 28 April 2017. 
  13. ^ Times, Marconi Transatlantic Wireless Telegraph To The New York (16 August 1913). "DAUGHTER TO SZECHENYIS.; She Was Born at Her Parents' English Home on Thursday". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 April 2017. 
  14. ^
  15. ^ Times, Special To The New York (23 September 1947). "Countess Szechenyi a Citizen". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 April 2017. 
  16. ^ List of Dutch patrician families in the Nederland's Patriciaat 1910-2007/2008 (PDF). 

Gladys Vanderbilt Széchenyi

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