Gloria Vanderbilt

Information about Gloria Vanderbilt

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When Vanderbilt was 18 months old, she and her half-sister became heiresses to a half share each in a $5 million trust fund, equivalent to $71 million in 2018 value, upon their father's death from cirrhosis. The rights to control Vanderbilt's share while she was a minor belonged to her mother, who traveled to and from Paris for years, taking her daughter with her. They were accompanied by a beloved nanny—Emma Sullivan Kieslich, whom young Gloria had named "Dodo"—who would play a tumultuous part in the child's life, and her mother's identical twin sister, Thelma, who was the mistress of the Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII) during this time. As a result of her spending habits, her mother's use of finances was scrutinized by the child's paternal aunt, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. A sculptor and philanthropist, Whitney wanted custody of her niece, which resulted in a custody trial. The trial was so scandalous that at times the judge would make everyone leave the room so as to listen to what young Vanderbilt had to say without anyone influencing her. Some people heard weeping and wailing inside the court room. Testimony was heard depicting Vanderbilt's mother as an unfit parent, including an allegation from a maid of a lesbian affair with a member of the British royal family. Vanderbilt's mother lost the battle and Vanderbilt became the ward of her aunt Gertrude.