Gloria Vanderbilt and the Széchenyi family

Gloria Vanderbilt, the American fashion icon died on June 17th in New York. She was 95. She was born wealthy; her father Reginald was an heir to the Vanderbilt railroad fortune. Gloria, a talented painter, writer and fashion designer, was related (by her aunt’s marriage) to the Széchenyi family, and also to “the greatest Hungarian,” István Széchenyi.

In 1945 she took control of a $4.3 million (about $60 million today) trust left by her late father and made it into a bigger fortune as a fashion designer. Millions of jeans bear the Vanderbilt swan logo worldwide.

Gloria Vanderbilt and her jeans

In 1941 she was 17 when she married a man with mob ties, Mr. Pat DiCicco. At 21 she married her second husband, conductor Leopold Stokowski, who was 63 at the time. Film director Sidney Lumet was next in 1956, both were 32. Vanderbilt is the mother of CNN anchor, Anderson Cooper, a son with her fourth husband, writer Wyatt Emory Cooper.

And how about her connection to the Hungarian noble family? In 1908, her aunt Gladys Vanderbilt, the youngest child of railroad magnate Cornelius, married Count László Széchenyi. Széchenyi presented himself as a super wealthy, sophisticated European groom. Some accused him of being a “cheap Italian count” trying to gain access to the Vanderbilt wealth.

Newspaper article about Széchenyi’s wedding.

Széchenyi was a gambler who made some risky investments. He lost most of his wife’s dowry and Gladys even contemplated divorce. After World War I the Count became a Horthy loyalist and served as Hungary’s ambassador in Washington DC. Gladys spent time in Budapest and some of their children married Hungarian and Austrian nobility.

Gladys and László Széchenyi

In the 1920s László Széchenyi was not particularly popular with anti-Horthy Hungarian Americans who supported another Hungarian aristocrat, Count Mihály Károlyi.

György Lázár

2 Comments

  1. András B. Göllner says:

    Ah, butt for those genes…..

  2. Thank you for the article. It is very interesting. This part of the Vanderbilt family is rarely spoken of. I am a great fan of Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt (RIP) but I didn’t know anything about these amazing connections. Thanks again, please keep us informed.

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