A Wartime Romance

An unusual wedding occurred in Seaford 100 years ago.  Neither were local, but the bride was very well known; she was Gertrude Vanderbilt, the adopted daughter of an American millionaire.

Gertrude was born in Bath, England on 13th April 1892. Her father was Benjamin Harry Langley but when her mother died shortly after her birth she was adopted by the American Millionaire Frederick William Vanderbilt.

In August 1917 Miss Vanderbilt was touring England when she got appendicitis whilst in Scarborough. She was advised to convalesce on the south coast and after a few days in Brighton decided to recover in Seaford.

It was in Seaford where she met her husband to be, Lance Corporal Louis Lockquell.  He was a Canadian of Portuguese decent, the 25 year old son of a Professor at the University of Oporto.  He was born in Quebec in 1891 and had joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force in Montreal in November 1914.

It appears that Miss Vandebilt was riding near Eastbourne when she felt faint and got off her horse to catch her breath.  Louis was riding along and stopped his horse to check that she was OK.  A few days later Gertrude took her horse to a Seaford stables and, whilst she was sitting on a seat outside, Louis had passed and they had exchanged smiles.  They met again at a social event and this time Gertrude and Lewis spoke and the romance began. Louis had been wounded in France and had returned to Seaford to recover. They got married at St Leonard’s Church in Seaford on 21st August 1917.

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The newlyweds at Seaford

The marriage was reported around the world and Gertrude later told the Daily Mirror “My husband is kindness itself and it was love at first sight – we have tried to keep our marriage a secret and I am astonished to find that it has leaked out”  St Leonard’s was described as a quaint old English Church.

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In May 1919 she travelled alone from Liverpool to Quebec on board the SS Minnedosa. She is shown as a ‘military dependant’. After the war Louis got work as a Sales Manager with the “Alpine Clock Corporation” in New York. The 1940 census sees the couple living in the Queens District of New York with their 9 year old daughter Martha and a maid.  In 1942 Louis was running the company.

They may have fallen on hard times as in 1958 they made claims for Social Security. (Although this may have been registering for old-age pension) Gertrude died in New York in 1964. Louis died in March 1974.   I wonder if they ever returned to the quaint old English Church where they married?

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