Widows: Laudable Achievements in Outliving Husbands

1. Queen Victoria takes First Prize – half a century. Prince Albert died in 1861, she in 1901.

2. Empress Eugénie is a close second. She died in 1920, fifty years after her husband, Napoleon III was overthrown. He had died in Chislehurst, Kent, in 1873.

3. Cosima Wagner (1837–1930), the daughter of Franz Liszt and dominating guiding spirit of Bayreuth, died in 1930, outliving her husband, Richard, by forty-eight years. Their son Sigfried died in the same year, at sixty-one.

4. Adele Strauss, the widow of Johann Strauss, died in 1930, outliving her husband by thirty-one years. Brahms had scribbled on her fan the first three notes of The Blue Danube, “Regrettably not by me.” Johann called the chambermaid in Die Fledermaus Adele.

5. Geneviève Strauss survived the composer Georges Bizet, her first husband, by fifty-one years. He had died in 1875 at the age of thirty-six of a sudden heart attack, three months after his opera Carmen was first performed. They had been married for six years, interrupted by a short separation. In 1886 she married Emile Strauss, a lawyer for the Rothschild Bank. The novelist Marcel Proust was among many celebrities who frequented their elegant and brilliant salon. Geneviève became a model for his character Oriane de Guermantes. She died in 1926.


7 responses to “Widows: Laudable Achievements in Outliving Husbands

  1. A remarkable tribute in the Times to an actress on the Yiddish stage. At the cemetery (where many in the trade are buried) the reporter noticed a grave where the husband died 22 years after the wife. The wife’s tombstone had the message: “So? What kept you?”

  2. Horace Krever

    Good but Nu? What kept you? would be better.

  3. Those survivors always amazed me. But I can only say that I am the obvious opposite. I survived my first wife, so far, by 27-1/2 years and my second by 10 ! The average is obviously against me.

  4. A further example is Alma Mahler, who outlived the composer by over 50 years – and went on to marry Walter Gropius and Franz Werfel (an author), as well as having affairs with various influential men. Tom Lehrer memorialized her as follows:

    Alma, tell us
    All modern women are jealous;
    you ought to be modeled in bronze
    For bagging
    Gustav and Walter and Franz.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alma_Mahler-Werfel (song from memory)

  5. I thought of Alma too late. A musician friend of mine visited her in the Plaza Hotel in New York in the late fifties – she died in 1964. She had a large suite, with enough rooms for each of her hsubands and lovers, containing relics of each of them