Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Last Duchess D'Avaray (Second Episode) )

Rose- Duchess D'Avaray

The Duchess of D'Avaray and her ladies maid Clothilde  traveled to Tunisia on the first leg of her pilgrimage to the Holy Land.Tunisia is the most northern country in Africa and closets to the European continent.



From there she sailed via Malta to Cairo. In Malta Rose bumped into an acquaintance from Paris. She knew that her sighting would be reported to her friends and foes in Paris.She wanted to get away and forget about her life in Paris. 

The Shepeard Hotel Cairo.

From the harbor in Egypt their coach was escorted  by running footman to clean the way to the famous Shepeard Hotel in Cairo. Here Rose relaxed in the luxurious hotel and enjoyed her visit .She visited the Sphinx and the Pyramids and enjoyed her freedom.

One evening Rose was sitting on her balcony enjoying the wonderful weather and listening to the band plating downstairs. She was ready for bed but decided to go down to the lounge. As she entered the foyer she saw  Prince Henri of  Orleans accompanied  by two men and a woman .One of the men  turned out to be Fitz-James.The other two were the Marquis and Marquise de Morales.  She was pleasantly surprised to see Fitz James as the trip ,with only her maid, was getting rather lonely and boring. She did not know if he planned this or that it was pure coincidence.

Prince Henri of Orleans.

Count Fitz-James.

As the Prince was a big opera fan -who was rather infatuated with Nellie Melba- they all went to the premier of "Thais"the Massenet opera at  the  Khedivial Opera House.Afterward they went to a Arab gambling den where they were  recognized by reporters from Paris. Once  Fitz-James and Rose were spotted  the tongues were wagging in Paris about the very much married Duchess D'Avaray -socializing with a very much married- Duke Fitz-James  in Cairo.

Khedivial Opera in Cairo.

 Prince Henri invited Rose to join their caravan on their expedition.It would consist of the Prince, Fitz- James, the Marquis and Marquise de Morales and Rose with two  caravan guides and the Princes companion Professor Doissy. Rose decided to join the Prince's caravan for the four weeks that the expedition would last. Rose also sent Clothilde back to Paris-in hindsight ,it was another stupid thing to do.The caravan left the next morning It was composed of forty Arabs ,twenty seven camels and a donkey .They would travel by night when it was cooler and rest during the heat of the day. They headed towards the Libyan dessert and  Medinet El Fayoum.

Medinet El Fayoum.

In Medinet el Fahoum they stayed in the Residency that was very luxurious.While the men went hunting and fishing Rose and the Marquise rested en enjoyed the luxury out of a tent.
When the mail  from Cairo arrived it was filled with bad news The Marquis's son was very ill and they had to return to Italy as soon as possible. Prince Henri had to meet his father further down the Nile and he left immediately. Fitz-James received two letters,one from his wife and one from his sister. Included where press cutting from "Le Figaro "describing the premier at the opera house and the reporting of some prominent figures that attended.filled with dark innuendos that showed both Fitz James and Rose in a bad light. He was thrilled as he wanted a divorce from his wife- Rose less so. She did not want to jeopardize the chances of her child being taken from her. She begged Fitz James to return to Paris while she set her sights on Jerusalem and the Holy land. 

When she landed in  Jaffa, Rose received a letter from the Duke demanding that she return to Paris immediately -repeating the story that she heard from Fitz James's wife .
"Your pilgrimage is a strange one.It is said that Fitz-James had joined you in Cairo and that you were with him in the dessert .His wife swears that she will name you in the divorce procedures. You better return immediately! "
The letter was firm and direct , and did not sound like Hubert at all- more like his mother . For a moment Rose wavered but Jerusalem tugged and her more. She wired her husband that she would be back in four weeks and he should laugh it off as a fabrication of the reporter.They went on horse back and the journey took forever and it was tedious. When she at last saw Jerusalem she wondered what this place would have in store for her. 

The Damascus Gate .Jerusalem.

Cooks arranged the trip for Rose and she had a private guide who took her all over to see the sights. The Via Dolorosa, Gethsemane,The Church of the Ascension ,the Tomb of the Virgin-and the Church of the Sepulcher.She had a very disturbing experience in the Church of the Sepulcher. She arrived in the morning with the guide at 8:00 am and stayed there in a trance for the next 6 hours. It was so disturbing when she came to that she wanted to leave straight away. Her faith  in God had not forsaken her but the rapture that she had when she was a child was missing -and it was a great disappointment to her. She came all the way to find guidance but she felt even more helpless than before.All the creeds where represented here .She only found confusion with Jews ,Mohammedans Catholics, Protestants all in everlasting battle for supremacy each shouting his own claim and denying that of the the others. Her faith in her creed was dead but her faith in God still strong.
She canceled the rest of her trip after she visited Bethlehem and the Dead Sea .
On a small steamer she traveled from Beirut to Cairo. There she took the the big P&O liner from India to Plymouth. From Portsmouth Rose took a train to London where a letter was waiting for her from the Duke- informing her that his lawyers have instructions to transfer the separation into a divorce.He took their son to a aunt in Pau in the Pyrenees and would  not meet with Rose. 
( Pau was the capital of Bearn Where the Beziade family came from.)
Arriving in Paris Rose went straight to the Hotel D'Avaray and saw her mother-in-law. She informed her that she would be leaving for Argenteau to see her parents in the morning. 
Rose contacted a lawyer and he advised her to ignore the letter that she got in London and to tell her husband that she never got it.  The next morning she traveled to Pau instead and surprised them all while they were playing tennis He son ran up the her and her poor husband was dumbfounded. He did not really want a divorce, he told her- but his mother insisted. Rose told him that all the innuendos were lies and Hubert was quite relieved as he could not be bothered with a divorce. Rose knew this was not the end as her mother-in-law only cared about her grandson Antoine - and that she had a fight on her hands.

Paris Society 1884.

They returned to Paris as a family for the new year's celebration and Hubert did the rounds with her This was in January of 1884.They went to the opera where every lorgnette was focused on their box.
Rose's lawyer suggested she get a letter in writing from the Duke wherein he states that he "humbly begs her pardon for having permitted anyone to cast a blame, or doubt on her , as he has none". After an confrontation with a family member of Fitz James's wife, the duke agreed to write the note. 
Hubert continued his gambling loosing more and more money. Rose gave him an ultimatum which he ignored .She decided on a divorce. She heard from Fitz -James who told her  he planned to get a divorce as well ,so that they could get married.

She left Paris for Argenteau soon after as her father was very ill.Her mother refused to give her permission but she arrived on  her own and asked  Louis ,the butler, to let her into the house.When she tried to enter her father's bedroom ,her mother tried to block her way  but her father heard her voice and called for her. Rose locked the door to  keep her mother out and stayed with him .He  told her how unhappy his marriage was .He told her about an illegitimate son that he had in America and gave her a key to a private safe where she would find all the information about the child. She promised him that she would search for the boy and give him the money her father wanted him to have.  Her father died a few hours later. .Her embittered mother told her that she would stay in the west wing of the Chateau and that  she would not have contact with Rose after the funeral. It was the last time Rose saw her mother alive. Rose and her son were the only family that followed the funeral procession to the chapel on the grounds. Her husband- nor her mother- was there to pay their respects- Fitz James was.
In the will her mother and Rose shared  50/50 of the estate but her mother had the use of the chateau and contents until she died- and only then will the fortune reverse to Rose. 

Villa on the Seine River.

Rose returned with her son to Paris - not to the Hotel D'Avaray- but to a villa that she found on the Seine River. Clothilde ,her maid retrieved some of her clothes and other pieces from the Hotel D'Avaray and she furnished it with things she bought on her honeymoon .Her mother-in-law refused that she take anything else.She also started divorce proceedings straight away.It was settled soon after- and came through on May 13 1892. It provided that Antoine would be with his father and grandmother for one month, for every two months he spent with his mother.
Fitz James divorce was granted soon after so they were free to meet openly. They decided to get married as soon as possible  He stayed at the Jockey club but they spend most of the day at the villa. Clotilde had to go to Brittany where he brother had died and her mother was very ill. She brought a young girl over to help in the house while she was gone.Rose called her the Gamin as she was barely 16 years old.Three days before her marriage Rose returned earlier than planned  from Argenteau. She let herself into the dark house as the Gamin was asleep .As she entered her bedroom Rose saw two figures on her bed. It was the servant girl Gamin and the Count Fitz James.

Opium Den.

A devastated Rose left for London where she met some old friends- among them the Prince of Wales. He introduced her to some of his fast crowd and being in such a desolated  state she indulged in the sordid  nightlife of London. They visited brothels where all the on-goings were watched  through peeping holes -live sex shows and  the opium den of Li Sing Koo .Here the horrible surroundings were forgotten and the degraded people passed into the shadows, leaving her desolate soul in peace for a while. Alas then came the awakening that reality was the only truth.
They visited Cowes and she spent time with the Prince and Princess of Wales on their yacht. The Price asked Rose not to disclose her divorce as Queen Victoria did not allow divorced people at the court. Fitz-James came to Cowes as well to plead with her but she refused to see him .She never saw him again .She joined the Prince and Princess of Wales at Marienbad but found it boring so the went on to Vienna and then back to Argenteau.


Her life stretched blank and empty ahead of her..Her childhood was a misery,her married life a grotesque failure, her creed in ruin, her love and ugly wound and her own family was shifting sand.Her little boy was the only reason for living.

Antoine and Rose.

Her son Antoine's life was divided between his father and grandmother -and Rose. How could this not harm him ? He would be staying with Rose for four moths at Argenteau. When the boy arrived with his nurse Emilie ,he was afraid of Rose and would not come near her. He threw tantrums and cried constantly wanting to return.After a few days he relaxed and they enjoyed the country together Rose invited some friends with kids to stay so that he somebody to play with .Her mother on the other side of the Chateau ignored the little boy, and did not want to be bothered with her grandson. Soon she and her entourage left for Russia.where she promoted the music of Rimsky Korsakoff and Borodin.
After four months Antoine had to return to Paris and Rose was aware that he played the grandmother and the mother up against each other. Even Emilie would  transfer her loyalty between the Duchess and Rose .Rose went to court once again to get full custody of  her boy- but the court turned against her .The D'Avaray family was powerful and her mother-in-law very rich.
 Rose decided to get out of Paris and visit Asia.

What temple Bangkok. Thailand.

Royal Palace in Bangkok.

King Rama 11.
Arriving in Bangkok Rose was invited to the Palace by the king of Siam- King Rama 11.( He was the Prince of Siam who was educated by the English governess who wrote the book "Anna and the King of Siam" that later became the "The King  and I" )  
Here she met Price Henri of Orleans  again with whom she traveled in Egypt , He was on his way to Russia. Later they were joined by another acquaintance from Paris Maxime Groult. He was the black sheep  son of a immensely wealthy Parisian merchant .As he spent money like water his father was embarrassed by his spending and debt so he kept Maxime out of Paris. He was witty and amusing and he showed Rose.around Bangkok. She enjoyed his company very much but noticed his erratic behavior and mood swings.One day when Rose extinguished  her cigarette he offered her one from his own package. She realized it was a hashish cigarette and they enjoyed quit a few on the finale evening in Bangkok .Maxime was to leave the next day for the Philippines and Rose for Hanoi.

Maxime Groult.

When Rose got to the river boat for Saigon the next morning, Maxime was there to see her off. Her stateroom was filled with orchids and beautiful Malacca box filled with hashish cigarettes-as he knew "she liked them."Once she reached Saigon she decided to continue her trip along the Mekong river.
She was not feeling very well and the transition from the dry to the rainy season made the atmosphere thick and oppressing. Part of the way she was carried in a hammock by the natives but her fever was getting worse and worse. She visited the Great What temple of Angkor on the way. By the time they reached Hanoi she was so ill that she was carried to the hotel.

What temple of Angkor.

When she became conscious of her surrounding once again, she was laying weak and dazed on a balcony overlooking a body of water. Soon a doctor appeared who told her how pleased he was that she was awake. Soon she realized that she met this English doctor at one of the Prince of Wales's soirees in England .He happened to be at the hotel in Hanoi, when she was brought in close to death.
He  got the necessary documentation in Hanoi from the French Embassy and he and his wife brought Rose with them to Hong Kong. He had been treating Rose with morphine and opium and what has brought death to many -saved her life.She had been ill for more than eight weeks.They stayed in Hong Kong for another two weeks, but then she decided to return to Europe on a steamer from Java that was on its way via Singapore  to Liverpool .
The doctor was weaning Rose with smaller and smaller dosses of morphine and opium but as she was hooked , so she arranged for a dealer to forward the drugs to her in France .She then bought a supply that would last until she was back home.When the doctor and his wife left the ship at Singapore for Calcutta, Rose was on her own and used the drugs whenever she needed it. Laying half asleep on the deck soon after the ship left the harbor she was aware that Maxime slipped into the chair next to her. Recognizing in each other the truth about their addiction it made it so much easier and all pretense was dropped.The drugs reduced both of them to  indifference to anything- but to have their drug needs met. She left Maxime in Liverpool once the boat docked.

Arriving back in Paris on her way to Argenteau -Rose heard the news that her father-in-law had died and that Hubert was now the head of the Beziade family and the Duke of D'Avaray. She approached Hubert one again to get Antoine away from her mother-in -law and so that Rose would be able to get more control over his education and upbringing.His reply was curt and she was told to direct any further correspondence to his lawyers.This was the last straw. Rose returned to Argenteau and gave herself over to self pity .Her only salvation was the needle that brought relief. For a year Rose drifted between consciousness and unconsciousness with the monthly supply of drugs arriving regularly from Hong Kong. 
One morning as she was drifting she heard her maid discussing Rose's state with the butler and she realized that they were stealing from her, while she had no control in her life. Soon the maid walked in with the new parcel from Hong Kong .In front of her Rose emptied the bottles in the drain and told her that she and the butler must be out of the house that same day. She drove to Liege where she gave her lawyers instructions to replace all the staff in the chateau  that same day .She recalled Louis, her parent's trusted butler who retired with his Belgian wife ,and they were to happy to come back.
It was not easy -but slowly and surely she cured herself from the dependency on the drugs and started to take control of herself and her life again.
Rose was at the Ritz Hotel in Paris where she received a telegram ,forwarded to her from Argenteau- Her mother had died on November 8 1890 in St. Petersburg Russia. 
The body was put on a train and Rose went with her uncle to Cologne to retrieve it. The great beauty has been dead for eleven  days and the ravages of time was not pleasant to behold . Rose bought all the flowers that was available in Cologne and covered the bare wooden coffin for the remainder of the trip to Argentau. Rose and her uncle had to identify the body and Louise Mercy de Argentaue was laid  to rest next to her husband in the chapel at the chateau .There was one spot left in the mausoleum - for Rose.

Chapel at Argenteau.


Painting of her Collies..


White Symoyed.

Rose always loved dogs and had some collies that she showed all over Europe.Whenever she could she would drive herself and the dogs there and back. At a dog show in Russia  the Grand Duke Nicolas  gave Rose a magnificent animal, Moustan. He was a white Symoyed.

Rose and Antoine.

A few moths before Rose got hold of Antoine and scolded him as he was playing his grandmother and father up against each other.She told him that he had become a spoiled brat.  If he did not get something from his father- his grandmother would give it to him -or vice versa.  She told him unless he took responsibility for his life he will never be a respected man. He despised her "little sermon" as he called it.It turned out that it found a way to his heart and common sense .One day he turned up at Argenteau and asked Rose if he could come and live with her and if she would help him to finish his studies.His tutor Mr. LeRoy turned up the next day to escort Antoine back to Paris but it was a no go. Rose offered him the job to stay on, but he refused as he had to discuss it with Madame la Duchess first .Rose wrote a letter to Mr. Richelle a chief professor at the Sorbonne to to recommend a married tutor for Antoine who would come to live at Argenteau and prepare him for his baccalaureate .
Mr Roussel- and his  wife -arrived soon and studies started in all earnest. Madame la Duchess threatened from Paris -but Antoine stayed in Belgium.

Antoine Marquis  D'Avaray. 

The Duchess did all in her power to get Antoine back to Paris .The Belgian Courts decided that Antoine must reside with his grandmother in Paris until his guardianship was legally transferred to Rose. Overnight they took the car and drove to Holland where Rose called the professor and wife to meet them .They settled in a small fishing village Katwyck near Scheviningen.Weekends they showed their dogs and both Rose and Antoine's dogs took first prizes at dog show in The Hague.Antoine also started to be interested in racing cars .How learned to drive and fix them.

San Remo 

As summer came Rose decided to go south and find some warmer weather. She found a sea side villa at San Raphael near San Remo. Antoine arrived with tutor and wife- to resume his studies. 
Here Antoine's friendship with his tutor and wife deepened and he spent less and less time with Rose.
Rose's every gesture of kindness was rebuffed and he treated her with cold courtesy.
At at restaurant in San Remo Rose encountered the son of a Paris noble man who was working there as a waiter. Rose knew his family .It impressed her very much that a young man of his standing was working and not relying on his father's money. When Antoine saw her having a conversation with a waiter in public, he was outraged and told her so. This widened the gap between them even more .
One evening just before Rose went to bed she realized she forgot her book downstairs. As she loved to read before bed she took her torch and went downstairs to retrieve it. As she entered the drawing room she saw two figures on the sofa.It was Antoine and his tutor's wife. Antoine went white as Rose told the wife that she and her husband must be out by the next morning.
At six the next morning the tutor came for his money and left with his wife as well as Antoine.When Rose called out to Antoine .He told her that he was leaving with those that loved him and if she loved him she would accept them as well.If not -he was leaving.Later Rose heard that when the three arrived in Paris, they went to the Hotel D'Avaray where Madame la Duchess received them with open arms.

New York.

 Rose sold her house in Paris and sailed with her maid and two dogs to New York around 1903 .She promised her father on his death bed that she would find his illegitimate son -her half brother- and give him the money their father left him.
She stayed in New York for a few days, bewildered at its strange sights and manners. The extremes of the city .The magnificent hotels, the high rising buildings.The elegance of Fifth Ave but then the sordidness of the side streets .It was fascinating and something like she never has never seen before.
The language was even strange -although she could speak English -it was like a foreign language to her. Rose then traveled to Washington DC where she visited President  Roosevelt at the White House and met his daughter  Alice.The White House and beautifully  kept gardens reminded her of the Trianon - Queen Marie Antoinette's little palace at Versailles.

President Theodore. Roosevelt .

After three weeks in Washington DC Rose went to Canada to find more leads on her long lost brother.The next city was Boston where she learned about the" horrible foreigner" who seduced the young girl .When she learned she was pregnant he told her that he was married. She refused to see him again or take money for the child from him.They never saw each other again.She married the doctor who helped her with the birth They moved to North Carolina where Rose went next.The track ended there.

JP Morgan.

Rose returned to New York where she met John Pierpoint  Morgan .He bought some dogs from her kennel. Rose started showing her dogs again and became very active in  judging dog shows.

John H Casey. Rose's brother.

In  Havana Cuba Rose at last found the man ,who she believed was her brother. He was called  John H Casey. She gave him the money their father willed to him and together they bought a farm where they grew fruit. They lived in two different homes on the same property but had their meals together. She does not say where this farm was but it seems to have been in California.
The book ends very abruptly as the First World War breaks out in Europe and Rose sees her future in the USA -and not in Europe anymore. The life she knew in Europe had come to an end. One takes it that she never saw her son  again.

Antoine. Duke D'Avaray.

Antoine survived World War One .He was more wealthy than his father as his grandmother left him her fortune. His passion was racing cars  and he was  killed in a race car accident at Boulogne sur Mer on May 31 1921. As he never married and had no offspring, the title went to his cousin who died childless as well in 1941. So the blood line of the Beziade's D'Avaray ended there after almost 600 years. Rose was the last Duchess D'Avaray.
Rose -Princess Montglyon died on July 26 1925 at the age of 63 in Tampa Florida 
Duke Hubert D'Avaray- her ex husband died on  January 23 1930 in Paris.
Both parent survived their son's death.

Rose ends her book ; -

"As thus ends the story of the last of my race.The pity of it all! All told not even a happy life. Though I had everything the world could offer there was lacking one essential of happiness - love- love of parents, love of husband , love of child.
Reared as I have been , a boy to be a soldier, God permitted that most of my battles should be fought alone. I am still as on the field of honor, waiting alone however  unworthy , ready just the same awaiting the call."


John Frederick Genter-  (Captain Jack Bonavita)

Doing research there is more to the story of her life than what Rose wrote in her book.
 According to news paper clipping from Paris and the USA she married an American -Captain Jack Bonavita - in real life John Frederick Genter. on April 26 1905 in Paris  . He was a famous lion tamer They met at the Moulin Rough where he did a show in the night club with lions.

Captain Jack Bonavita with with 13 lions  at "Dreamland" in Coney Island. New York

John Frederick Genter was born in Philadelphia and traveled all over the USA and Europe with his  lion show. He worked in Coney Island 's"Dreamland" show with up to twenty seven  lions with him in the ring. His  military garb ,muscular frame and courage made him a big hit with the ladies. His show made such an impression on Mae West who saw him at age 11 -that she made a move thirty years later "I am not Angle " about a woman lion tamer. A lion took off his arm but he recovered,and all this helped to make him even more attractive .


Mae West " I am no Angel"

Rose and Jack's love for animals brought them together. They decided to immigrate to the USA after their marriage  They settled in Spring Harbor , Long Island. New York. She brought her dog kennels over from Argenteau and became a very famous breeder of collies as well as a judge. She showed her dogs all over the states as well as in England and they won prizes all over. They were a glamorous couple and newspaper stories appeared regularly about the lion tamer and his princess. 
The fashion pages wrote about the always elegant and extravagant Princess Montgyon who mostly dressed in white and her beautiful hats and fabulous jewelry.
After Rose and Jack's amicable divorce in 1912, Jack went to Hollywood where he became and stunt man ,actor and director in animal films. Two of the movies he appeared in was "The Woman , the Lion and the Man"and "The Avenger of Lions". In 1917 he was mauled to death by a bear who finished the job the lion started. He was 52 years old.

From letters that went up for auction it seems that Rose did have some contact with her son Antoine in later years and the last note found- from him to her -was in 1918 ,three years before his death. 
What is also known is that she went to live with her brother John H Casey in Belmont Heights on the south west corner of 30th street and Hargrove Avenue in Tampa St. Petersburg. Florida . She was never sure that he really was her brother.He robbed her several times and stole some money and jewelry from her which he gave to his girlfriend Mrs. Madeleine Gill.He asked Rose not to include anything about him in her book which she published in 1924 a year before her death,
She died there in 1925 and was buried in Myrtle Highway cemetery. As she had no will it went to her brother that died soon after. Mrs Gill opened  museum of  Rose's furnishings and jewelry, but it soon closed and she disappeared with all the Argenteau treasures. 
After Rose's death the Belgian government opened a enquiery into her, and her brother's sudden deaths not far apart.They also wanted to know what happened to her collection of jewels and furniture from Argenteau that she never wanted to part with.At the end the case was closed as there was not enough evidence. 

From the internet 2007

By some quirk of fate I happened across the Princess de Mercy Argenteau's gowns
stacked in three piles to the ceiling of a small antique shop in NYC off of 3rd Ave in
the East Village.  When I entered the shop my heart nearly stopped as
 I saw the three mountains of the Princess' exquisite gowns that spanned the late
 Nineteenth century, along with hundreds of hats and shoes.  Princess de Mercy
Argenteau had somehow become stranded in the United States during WWI. 
The Princess remained in Tampa Florida  until her death in 1925 and a society
matron sealed her house and it remained sealed until the owner of the estate was
 institutionalized.  The entire contents of the home were then sold at auction
 and the owner of the antique store in New York City got everything ,
with the exception of the furnishings, paintings and jewelry, for $1200.  
The antique dealer didn't know anything about the Princess.  I immediately called
 my friend, Bill Cunningham, who was the fashion correspondent for the Chicago
 Tribune and who lived in one of the five apartments  at the top of
 Carnegie Hall and had a incredible collection period costumes which he later
 published in a book called, "Facades."He said that he would get a mutual friend to
 buy the gowns, as I was currently out of funds, but only if the famous
Worth creation  was among the Princess' gowns which he wanted.  What seemed
 like a minute later a taxis pulled up outside the little costume shop and Bill jumped
 out and was as excited by the find as I was.  Apparently the Worth's
 famous fancy dress costume for Princess de Mercy Argenteau was among
her gowns because Bill made the phone call and he talked our mutual friend
into buying the entire collection for $500.  Those were the days when $500 was as
inaccessibly to me as $5,000,000 would have been.  

 I was thrilled that the Princess' gowns were saved as a collection
and that Bill got his Worth costume and I got to act as "curator".
 Later the entire collection of the Princess's gowns disappeared during
 a mysterious fire in the building where they were being temporarily stored
.  I mourned their loss and to this day I am not all together convinced that they
 perished in the fire.  Non-the-less the collection was heavily insured
 along with the other contents that were being stored so my friend profited by the loss.
 The thing is that I am sure that I saw some of the Princess' capes years later in a
 very high end Vintage clothing shop in Soho.  You could not miss the
 quality of those gowns because
 they were all made by the finest fashion houses in Europe and just
stood out for their exquisite use of color and their
unique beauty and by their scale as the Princess,
like the young Empress Alexandra, 5' 8" tall.    

A brief footnote is that the little antique shop was also filled with the
 Princess's calling cards, stationary, bed linens, and boxes of letters signed, Louis.
  Since I owned both Princess de Mercy Argenteau autobiography and her mother,
  Countess Louise de Mercy Argenteau's autobiography, I knew that her mother
 had been the last mistress of Louis Napoleon and had even gone incognito on the train from Paris to Sedan where the Emperor was under arrest after the end of the Franco-Prussian War and during the early months of the Revolution of 1870.  I knew that those
letters had to have been part of the Countess's correspondence with the Emperor. 
When I told the shop owner my theory about the boxes of letters he became almost
 delirious with joy.  My hunch turned out to be right the the antique store owner effectually sold the correspondence at auction for a handsome sum. 


Thanhouser Career Synopsis: Captain Jack Bonavita, an animal trainer, worked with Thanhouser in the production of The Woman and the Beast.
Biographical Notes: Captain Jack Bonavita, born John F. Gentner in Philadelphia in 1866, was educated in the same city. Early in his career he was a circus acrobat, after which he became an animal trainer with the O'Brien Shows. Later, Bonavita traveled all over the world with the Frank C. Bostock Animal Shows. In his motion picture career he was with various companies, including Jungle Film and Tampa Film, for whom he played in The Wizard of the Jungle, Diamond Smugglers, and other productions.
In 1915 and 1916 he was with David Horsley, for whom he trained animals and appeared with them in The Rajah's Sacrifice, The Bogy Man, The Vindication, When Avarice Rules, Stanley in Africa, and, among others, The Lion, the Woman, and the Man. His motion picture career included work as an actor, animal trainer, and director.
For Thanhouser in 1916 he doubled for an actor in a dangerous scene with a lion in The Woman and the Beast, a film released in 1917. His name was not mentioned in advance publicity, and only after Bonavita's death, which occurred later in an unrelated accident, was the motion picture community told that he had worked in the Thanhouser picture.
A 1916 directory noted that he was 5'11" tall, weighed 170 pounds, had dark brown hair and hazel eyes, and was an all-around athlete. He met his death on March 19, 1917, from an attack by one of the animals he was training.
The following obituary, datelined Los Angeles, March 21, appeared in the March 23, 1917 issue of Variety: "POLAR BEAR KILLS BONAVITA: Capt. Jack Bonavita, the animal trainer, was clawed to death at the Bostock animal farm Monday. He was training a vicious polar bear when the animal turned and attacked him. A fellow trainer ran two blocks for a policeman, who fired three shots at the bear, killing him. Bonavita was rushed to the hospital, but died on the operating table. Bonavita was one of the most famous animal trainers in the world. A few years ago he lost an arm when attacked by a lion at Coney Island. The fact that he had only one arm was, in a measure, responsible for the Monday tragedy."
An obituary in The Moving Picture World, April 7, 1917, told more: "Captain Jack Bonavita died on Monday, March 19, following a short and fierce fight with a polar bear at the menagerie in Los Angeles, where for more than two years he has been pursuing his dangerous occupation of animal training. Captain Bonavita had become well-known to photoplaygoers by reason of his appearances in pictures produced by David Horsley, who two years ago bought out the Bostock Animal Show and built a large studio on the plot containing the buildings in which the animals were housed. The trainer had been putting the bear through his customary performance when the beast became enraged and attacked him. A policeman killed the bear by putting six bullets into him. Captain Bonavita sustained a fractured jaw and was badly lacerated about the face and body.
"Captain Bonavita was one of the best known animal trainers in the country and his exhibitions have never been equalled for their daring and skill. Before he lost his arm, as a result of his encounter with the lion 'Baltimore' at Coney Island in 1904, Captain Bonavita appeared in the arena with 27 lions, a performance which no other trainer had ever attempted. Baltimore was an untrained and particularly vicious animal. The trainer was attempting to put him through the first 'stunt,' that of mounting a chair. The captain took his eyes off the animal and Baltimore bore him to the ground. For eight months the trainer fought against the amputation of his arm, but was compelled to submit in February 1905. Even the loss of his right arm could not stop him from continuing his chosen work. Captain Bonavita was married in 1905 to Princess Mercy d'Argenteau de Montglyon of Belgium. In private life the captain was John F. Gentner."
Thanhouser Filmography:
1917: The Woman and the Beast (Graphic Features 4-17-1917)


  1. Hello,
    My name is Martine Bosak, I am living in Belgium (Argenteau). Could you please tell me if is Rose close yo the tom stone.
    Many thanks
    Email :

    1. Martine. I live in New York and she is buried in Tampa. St. Petersburg . In the state of Florida. It is more than 1000 kilometers from New York. Hope this helps. Hank

  2. Dear Hank,
    Thank you for your message, you wrote a good story about Rose Mercy Argenteau. I am living close to her castle in Belgium at Argenteau. I wrote a book on her in french " L'étrange fin de vie de la Comtesse Rose De Mercy Argenteau ". I would like to known in you article a woman close a stom stone in a wood, if is Rose.
    Many thanks

  3. Martine- Sorry I misunderstood. No that is not Rose I just wanted to show a woman of that period in mourning.
    Pity I don't read French- I would have love to have read your book.Thanks for your interest.

  4. Dear Hank, thank you for the information. I received some help from Tampa and sent my book to Bridgett McCormick Executive Assistant to the Mayor Bob Buckhorn
    and Tampa Bay History Center.
    Best regards,