Friday, December 20, 2019

The American Lady Who Almost Became An Infanta of Spain: Mrs Mabelle Gilman Corey

Luís Fernando de Orleans y Borbón, Infante of Spain
Mrs William Ellis Corey (née Mabelle Gilman); almost an Infanta of Spain

In April 1929, Mrs Mabelle Gilman Corey converted to the Roman Catholic faith ahead of an upcoming marriage to Infante Luís Fernando of Spain. Luís Fernando (1888-1945) was the younger son of Infante Antonio of Spain (1866-1930), Duke of Galliera, and his wife Infanta Eulalia (1864-1958), a daughter of Queen Isabella II of Spain.



A native of San Francisco, Mrs Corey was born Mabelle Lavona Gilman on 4 December 1874 as the daughter of Charles Henry Gilman (1845-1909) and his wife Jeannette Curtis (1854-1946). Mabelle Gilman attended Mills College in Oakland, California. Mabelle went on to become a stage actress, specially in musical comedy. She appeared in many performances in the United States and Europe.

Mr William Ellis Corey

In 1905, Mabelle Gilman first met William Ellis Corey (1866-1934) in Pittsburgh. William Corey was the President of the Carnegie Steel Company. He had married Laura Cook (1866-1960) in 1883; the couple had one son, Alan Lyle Corey (1889-1970). William Corey and Mabelle Gilman began a relationship, which led to the termination of Corey's union with Laura. In their 1906 divorce at Reno, Nevada, Laura Corey was awarded custody of the couple's son Alan as well as a settlement of $3 million (roughly $84 million in today's terms). On 14 May 1907, William Corey and Mabelle Gilman were wed at the Hotel Gotham in New York City. Corey bought his new wife a chateau in France, bestowed upon her valuable jewels, and gifted her one million dollars as a wedding present. Corey's Reno divorce from his first wife Laura and subsequent marriage to Mabelle helped put Reno on the map as a destination for quickie divorces.

Mrs Mabelle Gilman Corey

The marriage of William and Mabelle Corey ended in divorce at Paris in November 1923. In 1924, newspapers spread rumours that Mabelle was engaged to Luís Fernando of Spain, but these reports were denied. Five years later, the reality had changed. In April of 1929, it became public knowledge that Mabelle Gilman Corey was affianced to Infante Luís Fernando of Spain (1888-1945). Mabelle took the step on 20 April 1929 by converting to the Roman Catholic Church, to which her future husband and his dynasty belonged. Infanta Eulalia, Luís Fernando's mother, was present for Mabelle's first communion. Mabelle hoped that she and the infante would be wed within a few months at her French residence, the Château de Vilgenis.

Mabelle Gilman Corey and Infante Luís Fernando of Spain in 1929

The marriage plans came to naught. Luís Fernando and his lawyer kept trying to extract a higher and higher annual allowance from the wealthy Mabelle, who refused to budge beyond a certain point. By June 1929, Mabelle had decided that her engagement with Luís Fernando had run its course. She gave a rare interview in which she discussed the situation:
Everything is finished. I met Don Luis on my honeymoon. We have loved each other for twenty years or more. It's hard to be broken off, but it is impossible to turn the sacrament of marriage into a bargain counter. I don't know if I'll ever love another man. For the present, I don't care. I have always said that American men make the ideal husbands, although they lack the polish that many Europeans possess.
It was noted that her closest companion was her Great Dane. "There is an advantage in dogs over men," Mabelle quipped. "They at least are faithful."

Infanta Eulalia of Spain, Duchess of Galliera

Infanta Eulalia, the mother of Luís, was also rather disappointed at the breakdown of her son's engagement to the eligible (and rich) Mabelle. "I deeply regret the marriage will not occur because Mrs Corey took such a deep interest in my son, who needs a wife who is devoted but severe."

Vittel Interment Camp

Mabelle continued to reside in France after her terminated royal engagement. In October 1942, she was briefly interred at the Vittell Internment Camp in Vichy France. However, she was released from Vittel soon after her arrest, as the Nazis determined she posed no threat to their schemes.

Mabelle Gilman Corey's 1921 application for a US passport: she chopped 12 years off of her age.

Mrs Mabelle Lavona Gilman Corey died on 14 November 1960 at the Blessed Trinity Missionary Cenacle in Brooklyn, New York. Per her wishes, she was cremated, and her ashes were spread in the garden of Blessed Trinity. She was eighty-five years-old. Mabelle had never remarried after her engagement to Infante Luís Fernando of Spain, who she survived by fifteen years.

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