Husband Henry Symes Lehr
Lucy D. Dahlgren house, 15 E 96th St, New York, NY 10128, Stati Uniti
The Elms, 367 Bellevue Ave, Newport, RI 02840, Stati Uniti
Champs Soleil, 601 Bellevue Ave, Newport, RI 02840, Stati Uniti
Georgetown University, 3700 O St NW, Washington, DC 20057, Stati Uniti
Elizabeth Wharton "Bessie" Drexel Hope de la Poer Beresford, Baroness Decies (April 22, 1868 – June 13, 1944) was an American author and Manhattan socialite.
She was born on April 22, 1868 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Lucy Wharton (1841–1912) and Joseph William Drexel. Joseph was the son of Francis Martin Drexel, the immigrant ancestor of the Drexel banking family in the United States.
Elizabeth was an author, who published two books, "King Lehr" and the Gilded Age (1935) and Turn of the World (1937). Her first novel, published after the death of her second husband, was described as follows in Time Magazine, "A bitter, disillusioned book, 'King Lehr' is memorable for the lurid light it throws on U. S. Society of the Gilded Age, may confidently be opened as one of the most startling and scandalously intimate records of life among the wealthy yet written by one of them." It tells the story of her unhappy marriage to Lehr, which was referred to as a "tragic farce" of a 28-year marriage.
As with her first book, her second, and first as Lady Decies, Turn of the World was a fascinating semi-autobiographical history of American high society during the Gay Nineties up through the first World War. Upon the book's publication, The Pittsburgh Press wrote, "The magnificent spectacle that went on behind the scenes in pre-war days of society's Gilded Age at Saratoga, Newport, New York and Paris is detailed by an insider, Elizabeth, Lady Decies, who was Miss Elizabeth Wharton Drexel interesting, amusing and sometimes revolting, as with evident nostalgia she tells of extravagant parties and fortunes spent for clothes and jewels."
On June 29, 1889, Elizabeth married John Vinton Dahlgren I (1869–1899), a graduate from Georgetown University and the son of Admiral John Adolph Dahlgren (1809–1870) at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. Together, they had two sons:
During this marriage, she made generous donations to Roman Catholic charities and to Georgetown University, including funds for the construction of Dahlgren Chapel, named for her first son. The latter asked for her portrait, which was painted in 1899 by the Swiss-born American artist Adolfo Müller-Ury (1862–1947). Dahlgren died August 11, 1899, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he had gone in hopes of recovering from an illness.
In June 1901, Elizabeth married Henry Symes Lehr (1869–1929), aka Harry Lehr. The marriage was never consummated. On her wedding night, she was informed by her husband that he loathed her and could not stand the thought of touching her ever, although he wanted her to understand she was to be cordial to him in public and he might in turn occasionally call her "darling". He had, he admitted, married her for her money because poverty terrified him.
In 1915, the Lehrs were in Paris, and Elizabeth worked for the Red Cross. They remained in Paris after World War I, where they bought in 1923 the Hôtel de Canvoie at 52, rue des Saints-Pères in the 7th arrondissement. Harry Lehr died on January 3, 1929 of a brain malady in Baltimore.
On May 25, 1936, she married John Beresford, 5th Baron Decies (1866–1944), a widower who had previously been married to Helen Vivien Gould (1893–1931). He died on January 31, 1944.
She died in 1944 at the Hotel Shelton. She was buried in the crypt below
Dahlgren Chapel at
Georgetown University, which she and her first husband had built as a
memorial to their son, Joseph Drexel Dahlgren, who died in infancy.
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