Posts Tagged ‘divorce’

pop goes the world: women’s reproductive rights

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  10 January 2013, Thursday

Women’s Reproductive Rights 

There’s a helpful flowchart on the Internet on “how to have an opinion on women’s reproductive rights”:

“Do you have a vagina?” “Yes.” “You may express your opinion.” If “no,” then “Shut up.”

women's reproductive rights meme

Image from Facebook here.

Too many men without vaginas have been controlling women’s reproductive rights throughout history, and one would think that in these technologically advanced times decisions that impact an individual woman would be left to her alone, and not meddled in by other people or groups.

For instance, with the recent signing by the President of the Reproductive Health Bill, which has already been published in the Official Gazette and will officially become a law a couple of weeks after, the Roman Catholic Church as represented by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has said that they will continue to fight against it by exploring options such as filing a case in the Supreme Court.

This was done recently by lawyers James and Lovely Ann Imbong, who are seeking to have the measure declared “null and void.”

The overpopulation of the Philippines is in fact beneficial to the country, at least according to Bishop Gilbert Garcera of the Diocese of Daet, Camarines Norte.

He said that the great number of Filipinos contribute to the influx of remittances from abroad, while caring for the elderly of other countries and spreading the Catholic faith, adding that Filipino women “would make good wives” for foreigners in low-population growth nations.

This is the thinking of the Church, at least of some prelates: that women are brood animals, and that Filipinos are fodder for the world’s economic mill. The OFW phenomenon is an artificial boost to the economy that sags when recession hits, and has brought many social ills besides, such as children growing up without one or both parents.

Here’s another example: Senator Juan Ponce Enrile was revealed to have granted P1.6 million in year-end bonuses to most of his fellow senators but only P250,000 to Senators Miriam Santiago, Pia Cayetano, Alan Peter Cayetano, and Antonio Trillanes IV.

Enrile had a spat with Trillanes over a bill to divide Camarines Sur province, while the other three are strongly identified for their support of the RH Bill, which Enrile fought against.

The passage of the Reproductive Health bill allows the state to grant women, who cannot afford contraceptives on their own, access to such means and methods that will permit them to limit the number of children they bear, if they so wish.

It is the individual woman who will become pregnant and carry the baby for nine months, with the responsibility of eating the right foods and taking the right supplements to ensure the health of the baby. Once it is born, she has to take care of her child’s basic needs and education until it is an adult, and, in our culture, even beyond. If the woman’s husband or domestic partner should leave her without support or be unable to support her, she shall have to find the ways and means to care for her child in all aspects.

mothers in the philippines

Mothers in the Philippines. Image here.

If a woman, after careful consideration of her resources and situation, deems that she can comfortably take care of only a certain number of offspring, or even none at all, is that not her choice? Not even her husband has a say, because she is not his property, and she is not livestock like a bitch dog or thoroughbred mare. Naturally, a couple must discuss this issue, with honesty and candor, before they enter into a permanent domestic relationship such as marriage.

So why do men of the church and men of politics still insist on controlling women’s reproduction, even their right to “safe and satisfying sex”? Why should only men be able to enjoy this?

Anyway, despite Church strictures against premarital sex and adultery, Filipinos still have a swinging good time, and have learned to cloak their sexual behavior with hypocrisy and various forms of compensatory social norms, cognitive dissonance be hanged.

Not only is the Church against contraception, it is also against divorce, and has vowed to combat any divorce bill that comes up for consideration. Being guided by blind faith, it is blind to the plight of desperately unhappy couples who have resorted tocohabiting with new partners because they do not have the chance of being able to legally cut ties and move on, hopefully to better and happier lives.

Life is too short to spend with the wrong person, and it will not do anyone any good who is forced to live in untenable situations that are for some marred by infidelity, violence, and abuse.

(To be fair, not all who belong to the Church think like this. A priest-psychologist who gave me counseling in a therapy session was actually the influence for my filing a marriage annulment.)

In 1993, during her confirmation hearing, the Senate Judiciary Committee asked United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg justice ruth bader ginsburgabout her “thinking on equal protection versus individual autonomy, in relation to the issue of abortion:

“My answer is that both are implicated,” she said. “The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her well-being and dignity. It is a decision she must make for herself.”

Let the ones with vaginas decide on matters that concern them.  ***

Justice Ginsburg portrait here.

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pop goes the world: moving on

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  20 December 2012, Thursday

Moving On

“Divorce Next – Belmonte” blared the front page of another broadsheet in 70-point black type, signaling renewed interest in the topic after the recent landmark passage of the reproductive health bill.

PDI divorce next

Image here. Photo of House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte on the left.

The news article accompanying that headline cited House of Representatives Speaker Feliciano Belmonte as saying that he supports the divorce bill and thinks it possible that such a law could be passed by the next Congress.

The Philippines is the only country in the world that does not have a divorce law, an effect of prevailing cultural norms instilled during the Spanish colonial period and perpetuated by the Roman Catholic majority. Roman Catholicism forbids divorce but allows marriage annulment in a process governed by strict criteria.

However, divorce is available to Muslim Filipinos under Presidential Decree No. 1083, the “Code of Muslim Personal Laws of the Philippines.” Under its Chapter III, divorce is recognized between Muslims and a Muslim man and his non-Muslim wife if married under Muslim law or this particular code, which “recognizes the legal system of the Muslims in the Philippines as part of the law of the land…”

Historically, divorce was widely practiced during pre-colonial times, according to an interesting blog post dated 5 August 2008 at the website Philippine e-Legal Forum of Jaromay Laurente Pamaos (JLP) Law Offices.

In the 16th century, absolute divorce was practiced by tribes as widely scattered as  the Igorots and Sagadans of the Cordilleras to the Tagbanwas of Palawan to the Manobos, B’laans, and Muslims of Visayas and Mindanao.

Also according to the JLP post, divorce was available during the American colonial period from 1917 to 1950. Divorce was not allowed in the New Civil Code that took effect in August 1950; only legal separation was, and this was adopted by the 1988 Family Code, which also “introduced the concept of ‘psychological incapacity’ as a basis for declaring [a] marriage void.”

There have been various incarnations of divorce bills filed in Congress as far back as 1999 at least. That one was filed by Representative Manuel C. Ortega (House Bill No. 6993). Senator Rodolfo G. Biazon filed one in 2001 (Senate Bill No. 782) as did Rep. Bellaflor J. Angara-Castillo (HB No. 878). This was followed in 2005 by one filed by Reps. Liza Masa and Luzviminda Ilagan (HB 3461).

The most recent version is by Reps. Ilagan and Emerenciana de Jesus (HB 1799). Belmonte said that this bill is still at the committee level and will not be taken up soon, with congressmen busy preparing for next year’s elections.

Why do we need a divorce bill?

Because under existing laws, marriages may only be “annulled” or rendered void at the start. The process is long, tedious, and expensive (costing P200,000 or more), making it available only to the moneyed who can afford to hire lawyers and obtain the psychological report that affirms the psychological incapacity of one or both of the parties involved.

This is unfair to most Filipinos who do not have the means for this legal maneuver, and instead resort to separating from their spouses and living with other partners, often resulting in legal entanglements involving conjugal property, benefits, and inheritance – the fodder of telenovelas.

A divorce would recognize that the marriage did exist but should no longer continue for a number of reasons, including domestic violence, infidelity, abandonment, non-support, and so on.

The chief opponent to such a bill would be the Roman Catholic clergy. Having received a jarring setback in their campaign against the RH bill, proposing a divorce bill would quite likely further enrage them. [Postcript 20 Dec 2012: And it has - read here.]

But if Muslim Filipinos can have divorce, why can’t other Filipinos? Just because the Catholics don’t want to have divorces doesn’t mean they should stop others, especially non-Catholics, from having them.

Why should a religious group be allowed to dictate what other people should or shouldn’t do according to the tenets of their religion? Is that fair or just to others who don’t subscribe to their faith?

A person’s religion is often arbitrary, dictated by birth; the law then should be a support system that can care for all members of society regardless of the constructed and sometimes illogical regulations of whatever their religion may be. Laws are for the good of many, not the one (or the one group).

Let’s face it, our (predominantly Catholic) society is a hypocritical one. It bars divorce but to get around this, cultural norms developed where it is considered acceptable for men to have mistresses and illegitimate children while their wives have to suffer it for the sake of the family (unless they have their own intimate affairs), and legal go-arounds such as annulment have been devised that benefit the wealthy few, not everyone.

As adults with functioning brains we are all aware that some things don’t last forever, that people must move on from situations that don’t work anymore, that it is often better to cut and cut cleanly that to slog on in an unhappy marriage marred by misery and desperation.

We need a law that gives us a chance to move on and start over, and it is only abysmal stupidity and selfishness that will deny this.

And this is the best time to work for the divorce bill, right after the RH bill’s passage. The discourse on human rights in general and women’s rights in particular must continue and the momentum for struggle be sustained, because things need to change for the better and as soon as possible, because too many people have been suffering for far too long and delay is a disservice to the people.

Let’s end the hypocrisy. The divorce bill should be next. *** 

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pop goes the world: hypocriciety

 POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  30 March 2012, Friday

Hypocriciety

The other day I received a forwarded email. The subject was “Dump Starbucks”, and turned out to be a link to an online petition to boycott the global chain for allegedly supporting same-sex marriage in the United States.

The debate on same-sex marriage is raging in that country. The issue gained prominence in the media, with high-profile celebrities either bashing or advocating same-sex marriage.

The cons include Carrie Prejean (2009 Miss USA candidate), actor Kirk Cameron (Growing Pains), and Mel Gibson (‘nuff said).

Among the advocates are actors George Takei (Star Trek) and Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother), who are gay, and George Clooney, who is not; they focus on the issue as being concerned with equality in general, with same-sex marriage being a part of equal rights for all.

In the United States, the states that allow same-sex marriage are: Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Washington DC, Iowa, and Washington. California recognizes the marriages it previously performed when it still allowed them, while Maryland recognizes out-of-state marriages.

The ten countries that allow full marriage equality nationwide are Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, and Sweden. Denmark is expected to pass a bill on same-sex marriage in June this year.

In Brazil, they are performed in some states although allowed in theory; in Mexico, they are allowed only in Mexico City. Israel recognizes same-sex marriages performed elsewhere, while there are ongoing debates to allow it in Australia, Finland, Uruguay, and France.

How relevant is all this discussion in the Philippines, when we remain the only country without a divorce law? While our intellectuals and advocates are immersed in the global discourse on social issues related to marital, sexual, and gender rights, the rest of the country has lagged behind.

With the local Roman Catholic church still heavily sustaining the majority’s patriarchal mind-set, divorce and contraception remain bones of contention while many laws favor men over women (such as those on adultery and concubinage).

In order to cope with the dissonance between norms and actual behavior, people employ mechanisms such as dedma, or turning a blind eye.

Spousal infidelity is rampant across society; among the elite, recall the public exposure of Paqui Ortigas and his wife Suzie Madrigal Bayot’s private lives, and the Aleli Arroyo-Grace Ibuna-Iggy Arroyo triangle. Multiple families are a fact of life, as are the concomitant problems that everyone concerned, including the children, have to deal with.

Aleli Arroyo and Grace Ibuna. Image here.

Here’s an example of the difficulties that arise: last weekend, the 7-year-old daughter of my ex-husband by another woman asked me, “How are you related to my dad?” Now, how do we answer questions like that without causing trauma to the child?

My ex told me that she asked him last year, when she was introduced to our daughters, “How come I met my ates only now?” A divorce law would have spared us, and many others in unhappy marital situations, a measure of the anguish that arises from unfaithfulness and separation.

As for LGBT rights, much more needs to be done. Our society is generally tolerant of gays – many are prominent businessmen, showbiz celebrities, world-famous designers and artists, and successes in other fields – but they do not have equal rights when it comes to marriage. Though they live together and behave as married hetero couples do, and the fact is accepted, it is unfair that they do not have the same marital rights under the law.

Pride March in Manila, Philippines, Dec 2011. From a private Facebook page. 

Cultural norms and values are socially constructed, meaning that they are generally shaped through consensus or agreement among the members of society. Sometimes these are imposed through force (war) or guilt and threats (religion).

All these rules, whether codified as law or unspoken as norms, are determined by man. If society is to serve its members, rather than the other way around, people must be responsive to historic shifts in thought and perspective that seek to find solutions to old, recurrent problems. With the discourse gaining even more prominence globally, now is the time for us to face this too.

The choice is between the hypocrisy our society has resorted to as a coping mechanism, or laws that reflect the current social condition and provide the means to properly deal with present-day situations.

We have evolved a hypocriciety. When will we accept that not all marriages work, and that people need the chance to start new lives? When will we throw away biological distinctions and gender-based prejudices and think of ourselves and each other simply as humans, all entitled to the same rights and privileges? *** 

George Takei image from his Facebook Page. Paqui Ortigas image here.

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pop goes the world: mo and rhian – should we care?

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  8 December 2011, Thursday

Mo and Rhian – Should We Care?

With the populace still reeling from the revelations of actress/model KC Concepcion about her breakup from actor Piolo Pascual, now comes another teary scandal, this time from disc jockey Mo Twister.

A video of a crying Mo (his real name is Mohan Gumatay) was recently uploaded to Youtube. In it he alleges that his then-girlfriend, actress Rhian Ramos, had their child aborted last July 2010 in Singapore.

An image of Mo Twister from the video, here.

From his @djmotwister account, he Tweeted, “I have a question about abortion. Should the girl ask the guy what his thoughts are and should he have a chance to stand up for the baby?”

Image here.

He followed this with other, more controversial Tweets: “Because no amount of inconvenience could ever justify treating the supreme creation of God with murderous contempt.” “…even the dictionary defines it, in its 2nd explanation, as monstrosity.” “Young child, don’t ever think you were never good enough. You just had no choice in the matter.”

Finally, Mo posted a photo of what presumably was his own shoulder, tattooed with the words “to the wounds that will never heal, 08/07/10.” The skin was still reddened; the ink looked fresh. (Check out http://www.spot.ph.)

Mo’s shoulder, presumably. Image here.

Rhian Ramos has filed a harrassment case against Mo. She claims that his insinuation that she had an abortion violates Republic Act 9262 (Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act). She has also asked for a temporary protection order to prevent Mo from making any more such statements.

We are merely spectators in all this and have no idea, at this point, what the truth is. Did she or didn’t she? Because he certainly did.

In any case, as I’ve said before, other people’s personal lives are none of our business. But since Mo (like KC) has made a private matter public, it is now fodder for all sorts of speculation and gossip.

Is Mo’s revelation vengeance, narcissism, or simply a man in pain lashing out like a wounded tiger, regardless of whom he hurts in his turmoil?

Can any good come out of this kind of exposure of private pain?

Rather than schadenfreudenly feeding off the suffering and misery inherent in the drama, let us deconstruct the concepts that arise and allow it to flow into the river of societal discourse: in this case, the topic of abortion.

Mo raises a good question – does the father of the child have a say in an abortion? The woman usually makes the decision to have an abortion, although it also happens often that it is instigated by the man. There are many reasons why the woman would have an abortion – youth, career, lack of finances, fear of disapproval and anger of parents and family, an unwillingness or unreadiness to be a parent, and the knowledge (or assumption) that the man will not be a good father and she’ll be raising the child on her own are just some of them.

In the end, what happens is that the woman makes the choice because it is her body, and it is her right to decide what to do or not to do with that body.

But why even have an abortion when contraception would have prevented the situation in the first place?

Given that the majority of Filipinos are Roman Catholics, and that the Church wields a strong influence in politics, and that the dominant ideology embedded in this culture is based upon Roman Catholic doctrine (sorry, other kinds of Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, and those of other, little, or no faith), prevailing attitudes toward abortion and contraception consider them abhorrent and sins against God.

In fact, so inflexible are the attitudes of some sectors of society that back-door influence has been brought heavily to bear against lawmakers passing the proposed Reproductive Health Bill, which in no way condones nor encourages promiscuity, homosexuality, teen – even child – pregnancies, or any of the other “abominations” ascribed to it by the paranoid.

Yet the behavior of teenagers – as opposed to attitudes – tells a different story. As of 2009, based on data from birth certificates, the number of teenage pregnancies in the Philippines was at 195,662, a 70 percent increase from the 114,205 in 1999. Of the 1.75 million live births in 2009, over 11 percent of those babies were born to teenage mothers.

According to the United Nations Population Fund’s 2011 annual report, the teenage pregnancy rate in the Philippines is at 53 births per 1,000 women aged between 15 to 19 – the highest among the six ASEAN countries.

A 2008 news article says the Philippines (where abortion is illegal) has a higher abortion rate than the United States (where abortion is legal), at 25 per 1,000 women compared to the latter’s 23 per 1,000 women. Consider also that the US has a much higher population – around 250 million in 2011; the Philippines has less than half at around 95 million.

The main drivers of the escalating teen pregnancy rate are poverty and ignorance. The RH Bill would try to minimize that, through certain of its measures that would provide sex education in schools.

The discussion of sex is still taboo in many sectors of Philippine society, even if as an activity it is frequently and enthusiastically practiced (see: Philippine population, number of offspring sired by Ramon Revilla Sr.).

But these are pressing issues that people face every day. Birth control, sex, abortion – they need to be discussed, they need to be faced, because people live and die over these matters.

We have a long, long way to go. We don’t even have divorce in this country – the only one left on the planet that refuses to let people start over.

So, should we care? Mo Twister opened up a can of squirmy things living in the dark. We need to drag this all into the light and let clarity, logic, and reason illuminate the important life issues we have long kept on the dark side of our collective soul.   ***

Teen mom image here.

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pop goes the world: pass the divorce and reproductive health bills now

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 2 June 2010, Thursday

Pass the Divorce and Reproductive Health Bills Now

With Malta having approved a divorce law after a recent referendum, the Philippines remains the only country on the planet today that has no divorce law.

The Vatican, a city-state, does not recognize divorce either; this is only to be expected in the tiny (less than half a square kilometer in area) enclave of the Roman Catholic Church.

Ninety-five percent of Malta’s population is said to be Roman Catholic; yet, a couple of weeks ago, nearly 54% of its 306,000 voters cast their choices in favor of a measure that many feel is long overdue.

Maltese citizens enter the building to cast their vote in the divorce referendum on May 28.
Photo via BEN BORG CARDONA/AFP/Getty Images here.

Chile, in 2004, was the last country before Malta to legalize divorce.

Gabriela partylist representative Luz Ilagan is now seeking approval of a divorce bill (HB 1799) that had been filed during the previous Congress, but that was shelved.

Rep. Ilagan has been quoted as saying, “I appeal to my colleagues in Congress to… give Filipino couples in irreparable and unhappy marriages this option.”

House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte favors the move, having said to reporters, “It is very difficult to let two people who cannot live together, continue to live together.”

Senator Pia Cayetano is also in favor, while in opposition is Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, saying, “Let’s not get into the habit of copying what other countries are doing.”

Naturally, the Philippine Catholic hierarchy announced “it would oppose any attempt to introduce divorce in the country through a referendum.” Archbishop Ramon Arguelles said referendums are a political act, “not a moral exercise.” Says Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz, “What is right or wrong is not dependent on how many voted for it. What is moral or not is not a question of popular vote.”

With a related topic being discussed by lawmakers and society in general – the reproductive health bill – it is time for our country to face these issues head-on and make decisions that will benefit the greater number of Filipinos – not just the Roman Catholic ones.

The majority of marriages are broken up by infidelity and domestic abuse. The 2010 Annual Human Rights Report, conducted by the US State Department and released last March 9, points to “an alarming increase of domestic violence” in the Philippines – a 91% upward spike on the abuse cases reported to the Philippine National Police.

The only legal remedy Filipinos can resort to is a petition for marriage annulment; these are very expensive, which is unfair to the greater number of Filipinos who cannot afford this legal remedy, or any legal remedy for that matter.

It is also apparent that the majority of people filing for annulment are women, as fellow MST columnist Atty. Linda Jimeno said in one of her previous columns. It is often left to the women to clean up the messes made by the men in their lives. Why make it hard for them to have a second chance at happiness?

The OFW diaspora is also one reason for the break-up of families, through the adultery of either or both of the spouses. One of the negative factors that has led to this phenomenon is the framework of economic policies that promotes the Filipino worker as our number one export as a stop-gap to the overwhelming poverty in our country.

However, the social costs are high, from children growing up without one or both parents, and broken relationships that can no longer be made to work for a myriad of reasons.

The reality is that not all marriages work out. Not everyone is Catholic. But everyone deserves a chance to start over and find peace and happiness.

I myself had to save up for eight years to afford an annulment, because my ex-husband, who had left me and my children for another woman with whom he had a child, refused to get one; however, it was clear to both of us that we could never reconcile, because I was a victim of domestic abuse. The police refused to help me, saying the beatings were not their concern: “Away mag-asawa yan.”

And yes, before I filed for an annulment, I had counseling by a psychologist-priest who, in a lengthy therapy session, helped me realize that I could no longer stay with someone who was harming me and with whom I was not safe.

It was only after I obtained the annulment that the relationship between my ex and I improved. It was mainly because all expectations were lifted and we were both free to go on with our lives. We have also matured enough to settle into our roles as parents to our two daughters, something we were unable to do properly with unresolved issues hanging over our heads.

For people who cannot afford annulments or refuse to file, they simply leave their spouses, some to cohabit with other partners and have more children out of wedlock. Is this not what the Catholic Church calls “living in sin”? Yet this is the reality that they seek to perpetuate. Hypocrisy rears its ugly head once more.

Although it is claimed that 85% of Filipinos profess to be Roman Catholic, how many of them actually are? Where does this statistic come from? Why do clerics and congressmen cite this figure to claim “majority support” against the RH Bill and various incarnations of the divorce bill?

Are we a nation of children? Are none of us old nor mature enough to decide for ourselves, that a patriarchal society heavily influenced by celibate clerics bent on curtailing womens’ rights over their bodies and over their lives, still insists on having the final say?

What we are looking at here is a question of freedom of choice. Catholics and those who, for personal or religious reasons, do not wish to divorce nor use contraceptives need not do so. But let the options be available for others to take if they so decide.

Image here.

Lawmakers, whether they are Catholic or not, have to remember that they are representing not only Catholics, but also people of other faiths and ideologies. It is through using logic, reason, and science that they should decide about matters that also affect non-Roman Catholics.

Meanwhile, the average person shrugs and goes with the dating gawi. As a person living with a “second wife” said, “Walang pakialam ang kahit sino kung ano ang gawin ko sa buhay ko. Diskarte ko ‘to.”

This is not about “copying other countries”. A referendum will decide once and for all what the people really need and want. This is not about “moral” issues. This is about the law and about choices for all Filipinos.

We are not a nation of children. We can make our own decisions and take a stand. In the matter of the RH and divorce bills, all we have to do is insist on our human rights and claim the freedom of choice that is rightfully ours. ***

VAW poster image here.

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amanda mackenzie stuart: consuelo and alva vanderbilt

Consuelo and Alva Vanderbilt is Amanda Mackenzie Stuart’s biography of mother and daughter Alva and Consuelo Vanderbilt, of the American railway fortune – where the moral of the story is, riches can’t always make you happy. Only love can.

Stuart takes us into America of the late 1890s, when opulence and decadence were the hallmarks of the lifestyles of the rich, while frightful squalor and poverty afflicted the less fortunate. Fortified by great wealth, ensconced in her grand mansion called Marble House, Alva did not have much to do in her cosseted life save to look after her milionaire husband William Kissam Vanderbilt and their children (Consuelo, William Jr., and Harold Stirling), and to seek dominance in upscale New York and Newport society, dominated at that time by Mrs Astor.

In her quest to become “Queen of Newport” during that fussy, protocol-laden era, the determined and bossy Alva married off Consuelo at 19 to the 9th Duke of Marlborough. Not only was the teenager tall, beautiful, and endowed with swan-like grace and high intelligence, she was also obscenely rich, with a dowry in the millions of dollars.

The Duke, called “Sunny” (from one of his hereditary titles, “Earl of Sunderland”, and not because his nature was particularly bright), only wanted Consuelo’s money to save his family’s aged ruin of an ancestral palace, Blenheim Castle.

Though Consuelo was in love with another man (socialite Winthrop Rutherfurd), Alva railroaded the marriage through. Predictably, the marriage was not happy and did not last, ending later in divorce. Consuelo married again, to Lt. Col. Jacques Balsan, the love of her life, with whom she spent her twilight years.

Aside from being a window into the past, it is a brilliant story that reinforces an idea I’ve formed through the years – that many times, first marriages don’t work out and it’s the second one that brings wedded bliss.

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