Since I've started reaching out to potential literary agents seeking representation for Adele, I've added the following line to my book summary: "This is the story of Adele Astaire, a forgotten heroine whose life rivals those of Grace Kelly and Meghan Markle." All three women left successful careers as actresses to marry titled foreigners, all three women left everything behind and started a new life, choosing family, position, and love over fame and success. So why is it that Adele isn't remembered or romanticized like Grace and Meghan have been?
At the time of her wedding to Charles Cavendish, Adele was at the height of her career. Newspapers in the U.S. and U.K. lamented her early retirement, and the news made headlines in both countries.
"Miss Adele Astaire to Wed Peer’s Son"- New York Times, 23 October 1931
"It Will by Lady Cavendish Soon for Fred’s Sis"- New York Review, 24 October
"Dancer’s Romance with Duke’s Son"- Sunday Mail, Glasgow, 25 October
According to Hannah Obee, the Chatsworth House curator, "It was so unusual at that time for an actress to marry into the English aristocracy. The fact that she's having this fairy tale romance with an English Lord just completely captivates everybody." -Secrets of Chatsworth
And Charlie and Adele even had to deal with the same type of media circus we see today surrounding a royal or celebrity wedding, with reporters swarming the ship when Adele arrived in England for the wedding, following her from Plymouth to London by taxi and by train.
And while Adele's mother in-law sought to keep the wedding an intimate family affair (not even telling the household staff when it would take place until the night before), there were still journalists stationed outside Chatsworth on the day of the wedding, hoping to get a shot of the bride and groom for Adele's loyal fans.
Though a small ceremony, the private chapel at Chatsworth was decorated lavishly. Just listen to this description from The Astaires: Fred & Adele by Kathleen Riley:
"The small seventeenth-century chapel, with its ceiling painted by Louis Laguerre, was decorated with daffodils and acacia; two myrtle trees stood in the sanctuary; the marble altar was flanked by scarlet camellias and vase of arum lilies. Adele wore a gown designed by Mainbocher, beige satin with touches of orange at the waist, a set of blue fox furs and a beige beret, a sapphire and diamond brooch...and a diamond bracelet from Charlie. She carried a bunch of orange carnations grown in the gardens at Chatsworth."
And yet Adele's wedding day, her romance with Charles Cavendish, and even her success on broadway have all but faded away. While I don't think the decision she made was any less significant than those of Grace of Monaco and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, a couple of factors have added to Adele's relative obscurity.
First of all, Adele didn't marry a prince. Charlie was the second son of the Duke of Devonshire, and consequently Adele won't be found on any of the lists comparing Meghan Markel to other so-called American Princesses.
But perhaps more importantly, consider the difference in the scope and reach of the media compared to just 25 years later when Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier III of Monaco. No film even exists showing Adele on the stage, whereas Grace Kelly was immortalized in her films (and even had her public wedding service recorded by MGM). And although Adele was a much sought after Broadway star, outside of the theater and the newspapers in America and England, her fame was nowhere near that of Oscar-winning Grace Kelly or Suits star, Meghan Markle.
So I suppose not everyone would group these three women together, but I think Adele deserves a place beside them. I don't wish to compare the dresses they wore or the status of the men they married. In fact, I should clarify that Before Ginger Rogers is not even really a romance. Romance does play a part of course, because Adele truly did love Charlie, but my book is the story of how a modern, successful woman could choose to give it all up for something she thought was more important. That's what drew me in. There is fulfillment and pride and joy in the path that Adele and Grace and so many others choose for themselves (with or without the castle and links to royalty), and I think that these stories need to be told more often.
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