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and life along the winding road

Friday, February 23, 2024

Mrs. Astor Regrets by Meryl Gordon

Meryl Gordon gives us a glimpse into the glitter and glamour of the Astor family and the dynamics between Brook Astor and her only child Anthony Marshall.

 Brooke Astor had an amazing life. Who wouldn't want to be a philanthropist, giving away millions of dollars to charities and attending balls and choosing which house you want to live in on a weekly basis? But Mrs. Astor's later years (she lived to be 105) were lonely and confined. Her son from a previous marriage, Anthony Marshall,  and his wife Charlene, helped themselves to millions of dollars and Astor property while removing people who were loyal to Mrs. Astor. Her butler and confidant, Chris Ely was fired by Tony Marshall and Tony also fired the groundkeeper/gardener who had worked for Mrs. Astor for over 40 years. Sadly, her will stated that the gardener would received $50,000 upon her death but only if he remained employed.

The dubious couple took paintings, sold them, and then claimed millions of dollars in commission for selling them. Tony Marshall purported that his income came from his job of handling his mother's money! He gave himself considerable raises,

David Rockefeller and Brooke's close friend Annette de la Renta began looking into Tony Marshall's overseeing of his mother's care after one of them approached her grandson, Phillip Marshall regarding Mrs. Astor's living conditions and lack  of  health care.

The result was a lawsuit against Tony Marshall and his wife Charlene. It was discovered that later wills may have had forged signatures and were written after it was thought Brooke Astor had limited mental capacity. Tony was convicted and spent a few months in prison before being released because of ill health.

Regardless of her sad ending, Brooke Astor touched many people with her flamboyant life, generous support for many of New York's cultural charities and beloved by her grandchildren and friends.