Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 53

This portrait of John Francis
Amherst Cecil is dated 1923.

The article notes: "Before marriage her days had been so full of
the detail of managing the estate
that she had hardly had time to
think; but with Mr. Cecil taking
over the cows and employees the
usual outlet for her energy was
abruptly cut off."
Newspaper reports of the time
reveal hints of her Bohemian spirit.
She apparently left Biltmore to
study art in New York City while
living in Greenwich Village. One
newspaper report noted: "She dyed
her hair a bright pink, explaining
that that was her proper color aura
according to the findings of numerology. Also for numerology's sake,
she changed her name to Nilcha."
After a time in New York City,
she traveled to Europe and reportedly engaged in a lengthy, complicated romance with a Swiss artist

named Guy Baer.
After her relationship with Baer
ended, she enjoyed the interest of
Captain Vivian Francis BulkeleyJohnson. He was 58 and she was 49
when they tied the knot on October
13, 1949, in a brief ceremony at the
Kensington registry office in London,
with only four witnesses present.
Their entry into married life was
a stark contrast to her all-the-frills
first wedding to John Cecil. They reportedly lived a quiet life-she went
by Mary-until his death on February 14, 1968.
In 1972, she married her third
husband, William "Bill" Goodsir. This time, she had fallen for a
younger man. She was 26 years his
senior.
Cornelia died on February 7,
1976, at age 75, in England, just four
years into her last marriage. 

Cornelia Vanderbilt's Brushes
with Death
Cornelia Vanderbilt's life contains two fortuitous
changes in travel plans that led her and her family
to escape tragedy. The first involved a trip she took
with her parents, George and Edith.
In 1912, George, Edith and Cornelia were booked on
the maiden voyage of the Titanic. But a week before
they were set to leave, George abruptly canceled
their trip and rebooked for passage on the Olympic,
which was departing Southampton a week earlier.
Billed as "the ship that couldn't sink," the Titanic
sunk into the icy waters of the North Atlantic on
April 15, 1912, after crashing into an iceberg. Of the
2,224 people on board, 1,514 died. Statistics reveal
that almost 70 percent of the men traveling in first
class perished in the sinking. Because of this, it can
be speculated that if George Vanderbilt had been
on board, he very likely would have died. The estate
did suffer a loss in the Titanic tragedy, though: Mr.
Vanderbilt's personal valet, Edwin Charles Wheeler
(aka Fred), was on board the ill-fated ship as a
second-class passenger.
The reason for the Vanderbilts' abrupt change
from the Titanic to the Olympic is up for speculation.
The New York Times published an article on April
30, 1912, claiming that Edith Vanderbilt's mother,
Susan Dresser, persuaded the couple not to sail on
a maiden voyage. This was debunked, however,
because Mrs. Dresser died in 1883. Two other possible theories: George may have decided to sail on
the Olympic to join his niece, Edith Shepard Fabbri,
and her family, who were booked on the ship. Or the
Vanderbilts may have worried about being delayed
in the United Kingdom because of a continuing
coal strike that was blamed for preventing some
ships from sailing. Whatever the reason, it proved a
stroke of good luck.
The second brush involved a flight her two sons,
George and William, were to take in 1943. Cornelia's
two sons were fortunately bumped off a plane
flight. At the time, the Cecil brothers were headed
back to England from their Swiss boarding school,
but the VIP status of a movie star changed the
plans. The star was Leslie Howard, who played Ashley Wilkes in "Gone with the Wind." He was traveling with his manager, Alfred T. Chenhalls, and they
took over the seats previously held by the Cecils.
British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) Flight
777-A took off from Portela Airport in Lisbon on its
way to Whitchurch Airport near Bristol, England. It
never made it. German forces shot down the plane
over the Bay of Biscay. -MHM

July/August 2017 53



Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017

July/August 2017 - Cover
Table of Contents
Letters / Worth a Click
Contributors
From the Editor
Mill Creek Stories
Creature Feature
The Good Walk
Mountain Report
Country Roads
Eclipse!
Saluting the Blue Ridge Parkway: A Photo Essay
Mountain High Life: Explorations for Summer
‘Swiss’ Towns in the Mountains
The Strange Post-Biltmore Life of Cornelia Vanderbilt
The Almost-Happened Lost States of the Mountains
Farm-to-Table in Upcountry South Carolina
Festivals & Events
Singing in the Garden
Guest Column
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - Intro
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - July/August 2017 - Cover
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - Cover2
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 3
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - Table of Contents
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 5
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - Letters / Worth a Click
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - Contributors
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - From the Editor
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 9
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - Mill Creek Stories
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 11
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - Creature Feature
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 13
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - The Good Walk
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 15
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - Mountain Report
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 17
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - Country Roads
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 19
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 20
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 21
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - Eclipse!
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 23
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 24
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 25
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 26
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 27
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - Saluting the Blue Ridge Parkway: A Photo Essay
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 29
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 30
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 31
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 32
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 33
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 34
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - Mountain High Life: Explorations for Summer
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 36
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 37
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 38
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 39
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 40
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 41
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - ‘Swiss’ Towns in the Mountains
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 43
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 44
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 45
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 46
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 47
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - The Strange Post-Biltmore Life of Cornelia Vanderbilt
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 49
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 50
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 51
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 52
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 53
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - The Almost-Happened Lost States of the Mountains
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 55
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 56
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - Farm-to-Table in Upcountry South Carolina
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 58
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 59
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 60
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 61
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - Festivals & Events
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 63
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - Singing in the Garden
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - 65
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - Guest Column
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - Cover3
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2017 - Cover4
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