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15 Mold-Breaking Heiresses You Should Know

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wikimedia commons // public domain

Movies and reality shows tend to show heiresses as scandal-attracting airhead socialites living the high life without a care. But for the historical heiresses below, growing up in luxury did not squelch their thirst for adventure, advocacy, or shattering the glass ceiling.

1. Helen Miller Gould Shepard // Spinster Turned Romantic Heroine

Helen Miller Gould was a generous philanthropist, and the first female vice-president of the American Bible Society. But perhaps the most extraordinary element of Helen's life was her meet-cute with future husband Finley Johnson Shepard. Still single at 44, she had long been written off as an old maid when the couple met at a trainwreck. Yes, a trainwreck.

While traveling to Chicago with some gal pals in 1912, a freight train in front of them crashed, tossing cars onto the track—which Gould's train then collided with. According to the New York Times, “the middle cars buckled upward  ... the private car in which Miss Gould was riding was ... wrenched and twisted.” As her story is told today at the Lyndhurst estate that she'd long preserved, Helen refused to flee to safety. Instead, she dove into the rescue effort, along with Mr. Shepard. In the midst of peril, the pair found love, and wed the next year in Helen's auspicious home.

2. Peggy Guggenheim // The Queen of Modern Art

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Peggy Guggenheim's passion for life and art was said to be insatiable. When her father went down with the Titanic, the 13-year-old New Yorker became an instant millionaire, and used her wealth to travel, take lovers at will (she was rumored to have thousands), view all forms of art, and make a long list of famous friends from Man Ray to Samuel Beckett and Piet Mondrian to Marcel Duchamp. But Peggy's true legacy became the art she brought into the spotlight.

Whether home in New York or abroad in London, Paris, and Venice, Peggy would create exhibitions and waves everywhere she went. Through her shows, encouragement, and patronage, she launched the careers of Mark Rothko, Clyfford Still, Robert Motherwell, and Jackson Pollock. Her "Art of This Century" gallery celebrated Cubism, Surrealism, and American Abstract Expressionism. In her own acquisitions, she took risks, buying the unsellable pieces ahead of their time or beyond description. Today, the Peggy Guggenheim Museum is one of the most popular destinations in Venice. And her impact on Modern Art as we know is incalculable.

3. Altina Schinasi // Mother of Harlequin

Artist and activist Altina Schinasi opposed McCarthyism and earned an Oscar nomination in 1960 in the Best Documentary Short Subject category. Yet this American heiress is most often remembered for how she forever changed the way we look at eyewear.

Having heard the Dorothy Parker verse "Men seldom make passes /At girls who wear glasses," Altina sought out to make eyeglasses glamorous. Pulling inspiration from Venetian masquerades, she created the Harlequin frame out of paper, and took the concept to companies like American Optical, Bausch + Lomb, and Ray-Ban, only to be rebuffed with comments like, "Well, when we're ready to sell glasses to lunatics, we'll let you know." Undeterred, Altina found a small company that took a risk, which paid off big. The Harlequin frame became a sensation in the 1930s, and is still quite popular today—though now it's known as the cat eye.

4. Tennessee Claflin // The First Woman Of Wall Street

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Tennessee and her sister Victoria Claflin Woodhull were not born into wealth, but instead served as eager apprentices to their snake oil salesman father. They got into the family business by promoting themselves as faith healers, drawing the attentions of the superstitious Cornelius “Commodore” Vanderbilt. Though 50 years her senior, the Commodore fell for Tennie, who he called, "my little sparrow." She called him "the old goat," and so blossomed a relationship both personal and professional: He became silent partner to her and Victoria's stock brokerage firm, the first of its kind, run by women.

Their opening in 1870 was a massive draw. Men rushed in to see how "Lady Bankers" did business, while the papers made sure to note that the owners of Woodhull, Claflin & Co. favored short hair and skirts short enough to show their boots! Their business thrived, and allowed for a safe space for women to take control of their own money. Next, the sisters began their own paper, Woodhull & Claflin’s Weekly, where they stoked the flames of their fame by promoting such taboo topics as sex education for young people, gender equality, and fair work conditions. Tennessee's 1885 marriage to Francis Cook, Viscount of Montserrat, is almost a footnote to her tale, falling far behind her stories of ambition and advocacy.

5. Pannonica de Koenigswarter // The Jazz Baroness

Born in 1913 London at the height of her family's influence, Pannonica Rothschild went on to marry a baron and fight as part of Charles de Gaulle's Free French Army in the Congo during World War II. But what has defined this baroness's legacy is her contribution to bebop through her patronage of jazz legend Thelonius Monk. Enchanted by his 3-minute record "Round Midnight," she traveled to New York City to meet him. Though the pair weren't fated to meet for years, Pannonica made a big impression on the Jazz Scene in her long, white Rolls-Royce, luxuriously lengthy cigarette holder perched in slender fingers, and ocelot coat draped around her shoulders.

When she finally did find Monk, they became fast friends. Some have speculated they were lovers, but no proof of such a romance has ever surfaced. As his patron, she devoted herself to Monk's well-being, even taking the rap for a marijuana possession charge in 1958 and allowing him to move into her home in his later years, when he was plagued by mental health issues. But more than patron, Nica—as she was lovingly nicknamed—was a source of inspiration to scads of musicians. Monk remembered her with his song "Pannonica." And this is one of many named for her, like Sonny Clark's "Nica," Kenny Dorham's "To Nica," Tommy Flanagan's "Thelonica," Gigi Gryce's "Nica's Tempo," and Freddie Red's "Nica Steps Out."

6. Lady Hazel Lavery // The Embodiment of Mother Ireland

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Described as "The Most Beautiful Girl in the Midwest," this industrialist's daughter would grow up to become such a major part of Irish history that she'd be portrayed on the nation's money. After she wed Irish painter John Lavery, Hazel befriended revolutionary Michael Collins, and became so involved in Ireland's politics that the negotiations of the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 were held within her palatial home.

Though Hazel took Collins's 1922 assassination quite hard, she continued to fight for what she felt was best for her adopted homeland. In 1928, her husband was commissioned to paint a portrait for a new series of banknotes. When choosing who he felt might best embody the virtues of Ireland, Lavery chose his favorite model: his American wife. She appeared on Irish banknotes for almost 50 years.

7. Louise Boyd // The Girl Who Tamed the Arctic

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Born on the sunny coast of California, this heiress to the Bodie Gold Bonanza of 1877 made her name exploring the glaciers of the Arctic. Not long after a trip to Norway's North Cape gave her a taste for the chilly region, Louise arranged her first expedition in the summer of 1926, returning with thousands of feet of film and hundreds of photographs. Two years later, she set forth once more to join the rescue effort of lost pilot Umberto Nobile. Though unsuccessful in his recovery (Nobile was eventually rescued by the Swedes, but it’s a long story), her four-month effort earned Louise a medal of honor from the King of Norway.

Later scientific expeditions led to an area of Greenland being named in her honor (Louise Boyd Land). Her acquired knowledge of the Arctic's glaciers, fiords, and magnetic/radio phenomena drew the attention of the U.S. Department of the Army, who contacted her during World War II. At 68, Louise embarked on her last great Arctic adventure, becoming the first woman to fly across the North Pole. After that, she retired from expeditions, but continued to promote others as a board member of American Geographical Society.

For more tales of female explorers, click here.

8. Nancy Astor // Groundbreaking Parliament member

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Her father was an American railroad tycoon. Her husband was from one of the richest families in America. And to this heiress, great wealth came with great responsibility. Sometimes her charity was haphazard, like the time she plucked up a "lady tramp" from the side of the road and gave her a cottage to live in for the rest of her days. But by 1919, Nancy made it more than her mission to care for those in need—she made it her political platform in her adopted home of Plymouth Sutton.

Running for the seat formerly occupied by her husband, Nancy appealed to women who'd only recently been granted the right to vote, saying, "I think that women had better put a woman in the House of Commons. Much as I love you, Gentlemen, you have made a terrible muddle of the world without us." At 40, she became first woman representative in the United Kingdom's House of Commons, where she served for nearly 25 years. However, her legacy is a mixed one: She was praised for her promotion of women's issues, but scorned for her support of the Nazis before World War II began.

9. Gracia Mendes-Nasi // Sephardic Savior

One of the wealthiest Jewish women of Renaissance Europe, Gracia (a.k.a. Beatriz de Luna) used her great wealth to protect her fellow Jews from persecution. Her husband's death in January 1538 bestowed upon the 26-year-old a grand fortune. But when the pope began to push for a Portuguese Inquisition in the vein of the bloody Spanish one, Gracia fled with her surviving family, leaving much of her money behind. She'd long been a converso, masquerading outwardly as Catholic while secretly carrying on the religious traditions of her Jewish ancestors.

After years of fleeing persecution, Gracia was imprisoned in Venice, her wealth confiscated. Two years of negotiations earned her release. Establishing a new home in Constantinople, she and her daughter shed their Catholic façade and lived openly as Jews. A savvy businesswoman, Gracia grew her wealth, then used it to help conversos and Jews throughout the world. She bribed corrupt anti-Semitic officials for releases. She built synagogues, yeshivas, and libraries, funded Hebrew book printings, and gave money to countless conversos so they might rebuild their lives in friendlier lands. Today, her reputation is so great that the Sephardic community embraces her as "Our Angel."

10. Madame Barbe-Nicole Clicquot // Grand Dame of Champagne

Having narrowly survived the French Revolution's assault on the bourgeoisie, two neighboring textile merchants decided to merge their businesses through the marriage of their children. And so, Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin became Mrs. (or Madame) Francois Clicquot. Though their marriage was arranged, the two shared a passion for business and bubbly. Together they took over the Clicquots' small wine operation, learning the ins and outs of it together. But when Francois died abruptly from typhoid six years into their marriage, it was up to Barbe-Nicole to keep it going when her father-in-law lost faith.

Barbe-Nicole lived by the words she'd later write to her grandchild: "The world is in perpetual motion, and we must invent the things of tomorrow. One must go before others, be determined and exacting, and let your intelligence direct your life. Act with audacity.”

She staked her inheritance on saving the business, and concocted a timesaving fermentation process called "riddling," which is still employed by modern champagne makers today. It wasn't easy, but this businesswoman believed that her atypically sweet champagne would be a hit with the Russians. Nearing bankruptcy, she smuggled her goods to Russia's border, and waited out the end of the conflict. The war ended in the nick of time. Tsar Alexander I proclaimed Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin was the only champagne he'd drink. As he went, so did the world. Thus, Barbe-Nicole built an empire that continues to thrive today.

11. Frances Glessner Lee // Dollhouse Homicide Detective

The Chicago-born heiress, who is said to be the inspiration for Murder She Wrote's Jessica Fletcher, only began pursuing the career for which she's known in her 60s. While other women of her station were hosting galas for society's elite, Frances hosted elaborate dinner parties for medical examiners and homicide detectives, who were encouraged to share every grisly detail of a case. Through these, Frances became a student of forensics and investigation. Understanding how crucial physical elements of a case can be to solving it, this home-schooled amateur sleuth created the diorama series “The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death” through the 1940s and '50s, which were presented at week-long conferences for cops.

Built to scale with an intense eye to detail, every dollhouse presented a scene complete with corpse, blood spatter, and potential clues. Each was based on a real crime scene, built in miniature so detectives could observe and educate themselves on deductive reasoning and assessing a scene. Her studies revolutionized the way American investigators operate, and are still used to teach forensic investigation today.

12. Katharine McCormick // Mother of The Pill

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An outspoken advocate for women's rights as well as a biologist, this American heiress managed to dovetail these interests in her later days to win one of feminism's most important victories. Once this suffragette had seen women earn the right to vote, she focused on bringing birth control to America. Her early efforts in the 1920s involved seemingly breezy trips to and from Europe, which were actually smuggling operations to get much-needed diaphragms stateside. But as the second woman to graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Katharine believed the real key to effective change for women needed to be in pill form.

She actively sought researchers who would dare tackle this topic despite the societal taboos. It wasn't until 1950 that science could even truly conceive of such a thing, and that’s when Katharine found her partner, biologist Gregory Pincus, who'd had success controlling the hormone levels of test rabbits. Funded by Katharine, Pincus moved on to human testing under the guise of "fertility treatments" in 1954. By 1960, the Food and Drug Administration had approved the pill, and so began a new wave of feminism thanks to one of its fierce foremothers.

13. Caterina Sforza // Tigress of Forli

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Perhaps the most infamous woman of Renaissance Italy, Caterina earned her nickname when her husband (Girolamo Riario, the Lord of Forli) was killed by rebels in 1488. After smooth talking her way through these foes into the safety of an ally's fortress, she took to the top of its barricades and hurled obscenities at the rebels she'd tricked. Incensed, they threatened to murder her children, held hostage. The Tigress responded by pulling up her skirts, exposing her genitals and callously proclaiming, "Kill them. I can make more."

While this (remarkably) did not lead to the death of her children, it did mark her rise as a notorious warlord. But for all the murders, torture, and destruction she wrought, Caterina's most outrageous crime was when she allegedly tried to kill Pope Alexander VI (a.k.a. Rodrigo Borgia). In 1499, she sent the pontiff a curious package of letters, swaddled in a scarlet cloth. How this was meant to kill the pope is a matter of debate. Some suggest that Caterina's interest in alchemy inspired her to employ a poison that should have been absorbed through the skin. But others suggest that the Tigris had attempted early germ warfare by wrapping the letters in the clothes of a bubonic plague victim. More shocking might be that this warlord met no violent end. Though briefly imprisoned, she was released after the pope's natural death, and spent the rest of her days dabbling in alchemy.

14. Katharine Drexel // Actual Saint

While many wealthy women (and men) have given money to charity, few have gone as far as this 19th century heiress to a J.P. Morgan financier's fortune. By age 33, Katharine had become a nun, and as Sister Katharine she used her great wealth to build schools for the underserved populations of Native Americans and African Americans she had met in her cross-country travels. She founded and funded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored People. Known today as the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, this group has opened 145 missions, 49 elementary schools, and 12 high schools.

For her faith, missionary work, and donating an estimated $20 million to charity before her passing at the age of 96, she was canonized as Saint Katharine Drexel in 2000. Her feast day is March 3rd.

15. Krystyna Skarbek // "The Very First Bond Girl"

Also known as Christine Granville, this Polish heiress's heroics in World War II inspired author Ian Fleming's Casino Royale character Vesper Lynd. Though raised in luxury, Krystyna knew how to get down and dirty when it came to battling Nazi forces. While being interrogated by the Gestapo, she bit her tongue so hard she was able to cough up blood and feign tuberculosis, winning a release. Another time, she scared off a troop of would-be German captors by raising her arms—in seeming surrender—to reveal a pair of live grenades.

When WWII broke out, she volunteered herself to the British government as a spy, even offering a plan to disrupt Nazi influence in Hungary through pamphlets, using skis as transport. The British Special Operations Executive said yes, leading to her fateful meeting with Andrzej Kowerski, who'd become her partner professionally and romantically. Their missions sent them again and again into enemy territory, and her successes earned her the honor of being called Churchill's favorite spy. This wily woman's reputation has understandably become legendary. British ambassador Sir Owen O'Malley once declared, "(Krystyna is) the bravest person I ever knew. She could do anything with dynamite—except eat it."

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(c) Field Museum, CSZ5974c, photographer Carl Akeley, used with permission.
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Animals
The Time Carl Akeley Killed a Leopard With His Bare Hands
(c) Field Museum, CSZ5974c, photographer Carl Akeley, used with permission.
(c) Field Museum, CSZ5974c, photographer Carl Akeley, used with permission.

Carl Akeley had plenty of close encounters with animals in his long career as a naturalist and taxidermist. There was the time a bull elephant had charged him on Mount Kenya, nearly crushing him; the time he was unarmed and charged by three rhinos who missed him, he said later, only because the animals had such poor vision; and the time the tumbling body of a silverback gorilla he'd just shot almost knocked him off a cliff. This dangerous tradition began on his very first trip to Africa, where, on an otherwise routine hunting trip, the naturalist became the prey.

It was 1896. Following stints at Ward’s Natural Science Establishment and the Milwaukee Public Museum, Akeley, 32, had just been appointed chief taxidermist for Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History, and he was tasked with gathering new specimens to bolster the 3-year-old museum's fledgling collections. After more than four months of travel and numerous delays, the expedition had reached the plains of Ogaden, a region of Ethiopia, where Akeley hunted for specimens for days without success.

Then, one morning, Akeley managed to shoot a hyena shortly after he left camp. Unfortunately, “one look at his dead carcass was enough to satisfy me that he was not as desirable as I had thought, for his skin was badly diseased,” he later wrote in his autobiography, In Brightest Africa. He shot a warthog, a fine specimen, but what he really wanted was an ostrich—so he left the carcass behind, climbed a termite hill to look for the birds, then took off after a pair he saw in the tall grass.

But the ostriches eluded him at every turn, so he returned to camp and grabbed the necessary tools to cut off the head of his warthog. However, when he and a “pony boy” got to the spot where he’d left the carcass, all that remained was a bloodstain. “A crash in the bushes at one side led me in a hurry in that direction and a little later I saw my pig's head in the mouth of a hyena travelling up the slope of a ridge out of range,” Akeley wrote. “That meant that my warthog specimen was lost, and, having got no ostriches, I felt it was a pretty poor day.”

As the sun began to set, Akeley and the boy turned back to camp. “As we came near to the place where I had shot the diseased hyena in the morning, it occurred to me that perhaps there might be another hyena about the carcass, and feeling a bit ‘sore’ at the tribe for stealing my warthog, I thought I might pay off the score by getting a good specimen of a hyena for the collections,” he wrote. But that carcass was gone, too, with a drag trail in the sand leading into the bush.

Akeley heard a sound, and, irritated, “did a very foolish thing,” firing into the bush without seeing what he was shooting at. He knew, almost immediately, that he'd made a mistake: The answering snarl told him that what he’d fired at was not a hyena at all, but a leopard.

The taxidermist began thinking of all the things he knew about the big cats. A leopard, he wrote,

“... has all the qualities that gave rise to the ‘nine lives’ legend: To kill him you have got to kill him clear to the tip of his tail. Added to that, a leopard, unlike a lion, is vindictive. A wounded leopard will fight to a finish practically every time, no matter how many chances it has to escape. Once aroused, its determination is fixed on fight, and if a leopard ever gets hold, it claws and bites until its victim is in shreds. All this was in my mind, and I began looking about for the best way out of it, for I had no desire to try conclusions with a possibly wounded leopard when it was so late in the day that I could not see the sights of my rifle.”

Akeley beat a hasty retreat. He’d return the next morning, he figured, when he could see better; if he’d wounded the leopard, he could find it again then. But the leopard had other ideas. It pursued him, and Akeley fired again, even though he couldn’t see enough to aim. “I could see where the bullets struck as the sand spurted up beyond the leopard. The first two shots went above her, but the third scored. The leopard stopped and I thought she was killed.”

The leopard had not been killed. Instead, she charged—and Akeley’s magazine was empty. He reloaded the rifle, but as he spun to face the leopard, she leapt on him, knocking it out of his hands. The 80-pound cat landed on him. “Her intention was to sink her teeth into my throat and with this grip and her forepaws hang to me while with her hind claws she dug out my stomach, for this pleasant practice is the way of leopards,” Akeley wrote. “However, happily for me, she missed her aim.” The wounded cat had landed to one side; instead of Akeley’s throat in her mouth, she had his upper right arm, which had the fortuitous effect of keeping her hind legs off his stomach.

It was good luck, but the fight of Akeley’s life had just begun.

Using his left hand, he attempted to loosen the leopard’s hold. “I couldn't do it except little by little,” he wrote. “When I got grip enough on her throat to loosen her hold just a little she would catch my arm again an inch or two lower down. In this way I drew the full length of the arm through her mouth inch by inch.”

He felt no pain, he wrote, “only of the sound of the crushing of tense muscles and the choking, snarling grunts of the beast.” When his arm was nearly free, Akeley fell on the leopard. His right hand was still in her mouth, but his left hand was still on her throat. His knees were on her chest and his elbows in her armpits, “spreading her front legs apart so that the frantic clawing did nothing more than tear my shirt.”

It was a scramble. The leopard tried to twist around and gain the advantage, but couldn’t get purchase on the sand. “For the first time,” Akeley wrote, “I began to think and hope I had a chance to win this curious fight.”

He called for the boy, hoping he’d bring a knife, but received no response. So he held on to the animal and “continued to shove the hand down her throat so hard she could not close her mouth and with the other I gripped her throat in a stranglehold.” He bore down with his full weight on her chest, and felt a rib crack. He did it again—another crack. “I felt her relax, a sort of letting go, although she was still struggling. At the same time I felt myself weakening similarly, and then it became a question as to which would give up first.”

Slowly, her struggle ceased. Akeley had won. He lay there for a long time, keeping the leopard in his death grip. “After what seemed an interminable passage of time I let go and tried to stand, calling to the pony boy that it was finished.” The leopard, he later told Popular Science Monthly, had then shown signs of life; Akeley used the boy’s knife to make sure it was really, truly dead.

Akeley’s arm was shredded, and he was weak—so weak that he couldn’t carry the leopard back to camp. “And then a thought struck me that made me waste no time,” he told Popular Science. “That leopard has been eating the horrible diseased hyena I had killed. Any leopard bite is liable to give one blood poison, but this particular leopard’s mouth must have been exceptionally foul.”

He and the boy must have been quite the sight when they finally made it back to camp. His companions had heard the shots, and figured Akeley had either faced off with a lion or the natives; whatever the scenario, they figured Akeley would prevail or be defeated before they could get to him, so they kept on eating dinner. But when Akeley appeared, with “my clothes ... all ripped, my arm ... chewed into an unpleasant sight, [with] blood and dirt all over me,” he wrote in In Brightest Africa, “my appearance was quite sufficient to arrest attention.”

He demanded all the antiseptics the camp had to offer. After he'd been washed with cold water, “the antiseptic was pumped into every one of the innumerable tooth wounds until my arm was so full of the liquid that an injection in one drove it out of another,” he wrote. “During the process I nearly regretted that the leopard had not won.”

When that was done, Akeley was taken to his tent, and the dead leopard was brought in and laid out next to his cot. Her right hind leg was wounded—which, he surmised, had come from his first shot into the brush, and was what had thrown off her pounce—and she had a flesh wound in the back of her neck where his last shot had hit her, “from the shock of which she had instantly recovered.”

Not long after his close encounter with the leopard, the African expedition was cut short when its leader contracted malaria, and Akeley returned to Chicago. The whole experience, he wrote to a friend later, transported him back to a particular moment at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, which he’d visited after creating taxidermy mounts for the event. “As I struggled to wrest my arm from the mouth of the leopard I recalled vividly a bronze at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, depicting the struggle between a man and bear, the man’s arm in the mouth of the bear,” he wrote. “I had stood in front of this bronze one afternoon with a doctor friend and we discussed the probable sensations of a man in this predicament, wondering whether or not the man would be sensible to the pain of the chewing and the rending of his flesh by the bear. I was thinking as the leopard tore at me that now I knew exactly what the sensations were, but that unfortunately I would not live to tell my doctor friend.”

In the moment, though, there had been no pain, “just the joy of a good fight,” Akeley wrote, “and I did live to tell my [doctor] friend all about it.”

Additional source: Kingdom Under Glass: A Tale of Obsession, Adventure, and One Man's Quest to Preserve the World's Great Animals

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Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons // Nigel Parry, USA Network
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crime
Meghan Markle Is Related to H.H. Holmes, America’s First Serial Killer, According to New Documentary
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons // Nigel Parry, USA Network
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons // Nigel Parry, USA Network

Between staging paparazzi photos and writing open letters to Prince Harry advising him to call off his wedding, Meghan Markle’s family has been keeping the media pretty busy lately. But it turns out that her bloodline's talent for grabbing headlines dates back much further than the announcement that Markle and Prince Harry were getting hitched—and for much more sinister reasons. According to Meet the Markles, a new television documentary produced for England’s Channel Four, the former Suits star has a distant relation to H.H. Holmes, America’s first serial killer.

The claim comes from Holmes’s great-great-grandson, American lawyer Jeff Mudgett, who recently discovered that he and Markle are eighth cousins. If that connection is correct, then it would mean that Markle, too, is related to Holmes.

While finding out that you’re related—however distantly—to a man believed to have murdered 27 people isn’t something you’d probably want to share with Queen Elizabeth II when asking her to pass the Yorkshire pudding over Christmas dinner, what makes the story even more interesting is that Mudgett believes that his great-great-grandpa was also Jack the Ripper!

Mudgett came to this conclusion based on Holmes’s personal diaries, which he inherited. In 2017, American Ripper—an eight-part History Channel series—investigated Mudgett’s belief that Holmes and Jack were indeed one in the same.

When asked about his connection to Markle, and their shared connection to Holmes—and, possibly, Jack the Ripper—Mudgett replied:

“We did a study with the FBI and CIA and Scotland Yard regarding handwriting analysis. It turns out [H. H. Holmes] was Jack the Ripper. This means Meghan is related to Jack the Ripper. I don’t think the Queen knows. I am not proud he is my ancestor. Meghan won’t be either.”

Shortly thereafter he clarified his comments via his personal Facebook page:

In the 130 years since Jack the Ripper terrorized London’s Whitechapel neighborhood, hundreds of names have been put forth as possible suspects, but authorities have never been able to definitively conclude who committed the infamous murders. So if Alice's Adventures in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll could have done it, why not the distant relative of the royal family's newest member?

[h/t: ID CrimeFeed]

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