Wednesday, 19 November 2008

The beautiful room is empty

Mrs. John C. Wilson (Princess Natalie Paley) wearing Mainbocher

The legendary beauty Natalia Pavlovna Paley (1905-1981) was the daughter of Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovitch of Russia and his morganatic wife Olga Valerianovna Karnovitch, who was created Countess von Hohenfelsen. She worked as a model in the 1920s and as an actress in the 30s. She became the second wife of the French couturier Lucien Lelong in 1927. And, for a brief time was Jean Cocteau's lover.

In 1935 Natalie Paley appeared in George Cukor's Sylvia Scarlett. In 1937 she divorced Lelong and moved to New York, where she started working for the couturier Mainbocher. That same year she met and married the theatre producer John Chapman Wilson.

When her husband died in 1961, Mrs. Wilson withdrew from the world. She refused to see even her sister and only spoke with her on the telephone. Several months after a fall in 1981 in which she broke her hip, she died at Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan. As she lay dying, she whispered, I want to die with dignity.

Now playing: Van Morrison - Too Long in Exile
via FoxyTunes


Pigtown-Design said...

love her jacket!

columnist said...

Interesting post title. I enjoyed the book, and his earlier one too.

An Aesthete's Lament said...

I have always found her fascinating. There was a wonderful biography published a few years ago about her in France. Husband #2 had been Noel Coward's lover prior to marrying Natalie. And she aborted Cocteau's child, thanks to machinations by a jealous Marie-Laure de Noailles. Paley really seemed to have a lousy life and endure many psychic bruises.

Easy and Elegant Life said...

What a photo. I love the composition. "Dignity: appears to have been her watchword.

Andrew said...

Princess Nathalies life & background is much detailed in the discussion groups on
Her mother Princess Olga was a great beauty while her father Grand Duke Paul who was shot in 1919 was the youngest son of Tsar Alexander II.
Natalie was a great friend of the jewelry designer Fulco Verdura and of Cole & Linda Porter from whom she inherited 2 braclets and a double clip among the most celebrated of Cartiers "tutti-fruiti" multi stone jewelry.

Toby Worthington said...

It was a sad life for Princess Natalie, but sadness is always easier to handle when you are dressed by Mainbocher.
Jack Wilson died in 1961 by the way, not 1958 as stated.

HOBAC said...

TW - Was it really a sad life ? Tragedy befell her, that is undeniable, but surely in her 76 years there was more happiness than tragedy ? I hope so, At the very least, I hope you know the answer. I cannot bear the thought of having to read another biography in French at the moment.

Toby Worthington said...

It's my understanding that the whole point of being Russian is living with an undercurrent of sadness. See Mrs Vreeland on the subject. I think she was right~as always.

An Aesthete's Lament said...

In my youth I went to Horst and Mr Lawford's house on Long Island for lunch. Both gentleman made it clear that Nathalie Paley was always and endlessly unhappy.