A TEAR DROP’S STAIN
The Strange Romance of an Old and Precious Heirloom
[Chicago Chronicle] On the North Side there is a wedding veil that has done trousseau service for exactly 12 brides and a half, and now is owned by a man. But he soon will adorn his bride with it, and thereby hangs a tale. The veil is a web of misty Brussels lace, and it is so old that orange blossoms in the pattern have turned the color of the fruit. The first wearer of the dainty veil was the three times great-grandmother of a Washington girl, who will probably be the next bride whose head it will adorn. Last winter this girl’s mother lost her money in the epidemic of bank failures, leaving the two almost as pathetically helpless as that pair of babes in the woods. Quite by chance, when the mother was sick and the daughter unhappy, and both as poor as church mice, the girl read a newspaper account of the difficulty a certain New York woman was having in matching a pattern of lace. The description tallied with the orange border on the family veil. So she sketched a bit of the design and, inclosing it with the heirloom’s pedigree, sent them to the New York lace hunter, who caught at the bargain at once.
Now this veil was to be worn by the daughter of the lace hunter at her bridal, and in great triumph she showed it to an uncle of hers from Chicago, who had come to the wedding. He read the Washington girls’ letter. He compared the veil with the etching, and then he made a discovery. It was a tear. It had raised a welt on the paper, and he vowed by the dismal little splash that he would buy that Brussels veil if it took every dollar he was worth. He was worth a great many dollars, but his niece owned an equal amount of will. He—and only he—had seen her trying on that veil, and had said she was simply divine. Under such circumstances a woman becomes a human Gibraltar, and no one knew better than the rich uncle that Gibraltar is not to be moved. When the wedding night came, however, the bride was gowned, veiled and blossom crowned, she dismayed her attendants by commanding somebody—everybody to help her off with that veil. She said that splash seemed to dampen every pleasure the hour brought. She could defy her rich uncle, but she could not fight a tear.
It will be worn the next time in the spring by one of the prettiest girls in Washington, but the North Side man will not say how he got her promise to wear the veil of her ancestors.
Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 25 January 1896: p. 12
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Brussels lace was highly desirable and very costly. The flax for this lace was grown in Rebecq-Rognon, Belgium, and might cost $2,500 per pound (in 1901). It was processed in dark, moist cellars by women who spent their lives spinning underground so that the threads did not separate. The lacemaking was also done in rooms with limited light. Hundreds of bobbins and multiple lacemakers were employed on a single piece.
The Brussels lace veil pictured above was commissioned for the wedding of Princess Stéphanie of Belgium for her ill-starred wedding to Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria, perhaps best remembered for being found dead in bed with his lover at the hunting lodge of Mayerling. Princess Stéphanie sold the veil and other items when she fell into financial difficulties. The Habsburg veil was purchased for her daughter Adelaide’s wedding by Mrs. Marjorie Merriweather Post in 1925. Mrs. Post was also the possessor of a tiara and necklace given by Napoleon to Empress Marie Louise, earrings worn by Marie Antoinette, and jewelry which was formerly the property of Emperor Maximillian of Mexico.
Mrs Daffodil understands the impulse of wealthy Americans to purchase some sort of pedigree. She was once lady’s maid to what is popularly called a “Dollar Princess.” One’s gentle attempts to correct the young woman’s notion that all people have their price and that anything, including breeding and honour, could be bought, were met with scorn. The heedless creature came to an unfortunate end; what was believed to be her body was found in the Thames in such a shocking state of decomposition that she was only identified by her diamonds.*
Mrs Post’s attempt to purchase the glamour of the crowned heads of Europe for a beloved child was no doubt well-meant, but the Imperial marriage was scarcely one a mother would wish her daughter to emulate. The superstitious might note that Adelaide’s first and second marriages ended in divorce. Perhaps the story of the Chicago man and the Washington girl had a happier ending.
*The story is “Mrs Daffodil and the Dollar Princess,” (2014).