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A well-known fashion designer, Lady Lucy Duff Gordon was one of the survivors of the 1912 Titanic disaster.
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The craft had been built to hold 40 people. In later inquiries, this fact came under a lot of scrutiny as did the Duff Gordons. Lucy Duff Gordon drew the ire of her fellow passengers by complaining about her ruined nightdress at a time when other people were dying.
In response to her comment,
a crew member said that they had lost everything including their pay when the ship went down. Cosmo Duff Gordon then impulsively promised the seven crew members on the boat five pounds each to cover the cost of their lost possessions. This action was later viewed as a bribe to encourage the crew not to return to pick up more survivors.
On the morning of April 15, the passengers of Lifeboat 1 were taken aboard the Carpathia, a ship that answered Titanic’s distress call. The Duff Gordons’ behavior on board seemed odd to many. Lucy Duff Gordon asked the crew from her boat to sign her lifebelt as a souvenir and pose for a group photograph.
Not long after the disaster, the Duff Gordons were back in England. They became the subject of much ridicule in the press, with their lifeboat being called the “money boat” because the perceived bribe by Cosmo. The reports indicated that the money was offered to the crew to prevent them from returning to the wreckage site.
In May, both Cosmo and Lucy Duff Gordon were called to testify at a British inquiry into the sinking of the Titanic. While Cosmo found to be innocent of any wrongdoing, the whole incident cast a dark shadow over the rest of his life. Lucy returned to her fashion work and even had a column in Harper’s Bazaar for a time. Not a skilled business manager, Duff Gordon had to close up Maison Lucile because financial mismanagement in the mid-1920s.
A year after Cosmo’s death in 1931, Duff Gordon wrote her memoirs, Discretions and Indiscretions. She died on April 21, 1935, in London.
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