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Gladys Vanderbilt Széchenyi : biography

August 27, 1886 - January 29, 1965

Gladys Vanderbilt Széchényi (August 27, 1886 – January 29, 1965) was an American heiress from the prominent American Vanderbilt family, and the wife of a Hungarian count, László Széchenyi.



Gladys Vanderbilt married Hungarian Count László Széchenyi on January 27, 1908 in New York City. The couple visited Hungary almost every summer with their five daughters:

  • Cornelia Széchényi who married Eugene B. Roberts of Bowie, Maryland, and had three children, Gladys, Cornelia and Eugene.
  • Alice Széchényi married Hungarian Count Béla Hadik and had two sons, László and János.
  • Gladys Széchényi married the English

Earl of Winchelsea and Nottingham, and had two sons, Stormont and Robin.

  • Sylvia Széchényi married Hungarian Count Antal Szapáry, and had two children, Pál and Gladys.
  • Ferdinandine Széchényi married the Austrian Count Alexander zu Eltz and had two sons, Peter and Nicholas.

Family background

Countess Széchényi was born Gladys Moore Vanderbilt in 1886, the seventh and youngest child of Alice Claypoole Gwynne and Cornelius Vanderbilt II, the president and chairman of the New York Central Railroad. Gladys grew up in the family home on Fifth Avenue in New York City, and their summer "cottage," The Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island.

She inherited about $25 million from her father's estate and a further $5 million from her mother's estate. She also inherited The Breakers. In 1948, as a widow, she leased The Breakers to the Preservation Society of Newport County for $1 a year. She continued to maintain an apartment in The Breakers by agreement until her death.

In 1972, the Preservation Society purchased The Breakers for $365,000 from the Gladys' heirs, but Gladys' daughter maintained the apartment on the third floor.

Her first cousin was Consuelo Vanderbilt, Duchess of Marlborough.


Countess Széchenyi died in 1965. Her daughter, Countess Sylvia Szapáry maintained a residence at her grandparents' summer "cottage", The Breakers until her death on March 1, 1998.

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Living octopus

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