What Actually Happened To Titanic Survivor Madeleine Astor

Married to the richest man of her day, John Jacob Astor IV, and pregnant with their first child together, Madeleine Astor (pictured above, with John) boarded the Titanic to return home after traveling to Egypt, Paris and England. Colonel Astor made Madeleine Force his wife at 18, in 1911. She was a year younger than his son. "There was much opposition to the marriage, mainly due to their age difference and the fact that Astor was a divorcee," said The Famous People.

The scandal rocked the media and the couple sought to leave the drama behind them. They booked First Class passage to New York on the new vessel, the RMS Titanic in the spring of 1912. When the boat hit ice on April 15, neither seemed concerned at first. "Even as the boats were loaded Astor appeared unperturbed, he ridiculed the idea of trading the solid decks of the Titanic for a small lifeboat. 'We are safer here than in that little boat,'" he said, according to the Encyclopedia Titanica. Astor eventually changed his mind as he helped his wife into the lifeboat number four and asked if he could accompany her since she was with child, but he was told he must wait until all women and children occupied a spot.

Colonel Astor drowned, along with about 1,500 others, and his body was found on April 22, brought home, and buried in New York's Trinity Cemetery. Madeleine survived the sinking, and her son, John Jacob V, was named after his father.

A string of broken marriages

The night the Titanic sank, Madeleine huddled in the lifeboat until the liner Carpathia rescued her and the other passengers. According to the Independent, Captain Arthur Rostron said at the time, "Through it all that quietness reigned as though the disaster were so great that it silenced human emotion." 

Like other survivors, Madeleine only had the clothes she wore from that night. They arrived in New York on April 18. While Madeleine did inherit a $5 million trust fund and a Fifth Avenue mansion, among other things, Astor's will dictated that to keep the fortune she had to remain a widow. She decided to remarry anyway, wedding sugar refinery heir William Dick, a childhood acquaintance, in 1918. The couple and their two sons enjoyed 15 years together until Madeleine met a 26-year-old Italian boxer, Enzo Fiermonte, on a cruise, and divorced Dick in 1933.

Her divorce and marriage to Fiermonte imperiled her happiness. She fought vigorously with her new husband, who sometimes became violent, even breaking her bones. In 1938, after five years of marriage, Madeleine divorced him, according to The New York Times. She still wasn't rid of Fiermonte's presence though. He sold an account of their time together to the tabloid True Story, which became a serialized collection of articles. That exposure and Madeleine's mother's death demoralized her and she started regularly taking, perhaps abusing, prescription drugs.

Madeleine died on March 27, 1940 from heart failure, although rumors swirled that she overdosed on pills. She was 46.