December 29, 2011 by staff
Madeline Astor, ‘Madeleine Astor (née Talmage-Force, formerly Fiermonte) (June 19, 1893 – March 27, 1940) was the second wife and widow of millionaire John Jacob Astor IV and a survivor of RMS Titanic.
She was born as Madeleine Talmage Force on June 19, 1893, in Brooklyn, New York to William Hurlbut Force and Katherine Arvilla Talmage (1863-c.1930). She had a sister, Katherine Emmons Force.
She first met John Jacob Astor IV in Bar Harbor, Maine the August after finishing Miss Spencer school. On September 9, 1911, the eighteen-year-old Madeleine married the forty-seven year old John Jacob Astor at the Beechwood, the Astor family’s Newport, Rhode Island home.
Madeleine boarded the Titanic as a first class passenger in Cherbourg, France, with her husband John Jacob Astor, her husband’s valet Victor Robbins, her maid Rosalie Bidois and her nurse Caroline Endres. They also took Kitty, Astor’s pet dog, and occupied one of the parlor suites.
On the night of April 14, 1912, Colonel Astor reported to Madeleine that the ship had hit an iceberg. He reassured her that the damage did not appear serious though he helped her strap on her lifebelt. While they were waiting on the boat-deck, Mrs. Astor lent Leah Aks, a third class passenger, her fur shawl to keep her son, Filly, warm. At one point, the Astors retired to the gymnasium and sat on the mechanical horses in their lifebelts. Colonel Astor found another lifebelt which he reportedly cut with a pen knife to show Madeleine what it was made of. When it was time to board a life boat, Madeleine, her maid, and her nurse had to crawl through the first class promenade window into the tilting lifeboat 4 (which had been lowered down to A deck to take on more passengers). Mr. Astor had helped Madeleine to climb through the window and asked if he could accompany her as she was ‘in a delicate condition’. The request was denied and Mr. Astor stood back. Mrs. Astor would never see her husband again.
John Jacob Astor and his valet perished in the sinking. John Jacob Astor’s body was recovered on April 22nd. He was found to be carrying several thousand dollars in cash on him, brought with him from his cabin. Madeleine and the other survivors were rescued by the RMS Carpathia and afterward Madeleine did not talk about the disaster except to mention her last memory of the sinking was seeing John Jacob Astor’s pet Airedale, Kitty, pacing on the deck. Madeleine was only 19 years of age and had been married to Astor for only seven months.
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