Read Previous Installments of the Vanderbilt Custody trial here:
As the third week of the Gloria Laura Vanderbilt (Little Gloria) custody trial began, her mother Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt (called “Morgan” herein) could finally rally her own troops, as her brother, twin sister Thelma Furness, and former fiance Prince Hohenlohe (Gottfried, 8th Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg) finally pulled ashore from Europe to help plead her case.
The Judge closed the hearing to the public and media, but himself gave summaries of the testimony to the press, in the second week. The judge then took a lower profile after getting carried away and comparing the trial to Iolanthe. Judge Carew did not disclose testimony from Laura Morgan and Gertrude Whitney, the duo Whitney’s attorney, Herbert Smyth, called to wrap up his case. At noon, the reporters came to Carew for their daily session of questions and he rebuffed them, saying, “I think you will all agree with me that I have tried to be pleasant and courteous. I have reached the conclusion that these conferences serve no useful purpose. They are likely to be distorted [yes, by the judge himself] and give out an erroneous impression. So, I’ve made up my mind to stop them.”
The trial was open for its first two days when witnesses testified against Morgan. Judge Carew also gave summaries of testimony against Morgan, but once it was time for Morgan’s case to be presented, he clammed up. He wouldn’t let the press hear her side. When the reporters approached him again for their daily summary the Judge growled, “Get out of here.” The judge also gagged the witnesses, warning, “they are not allowed to tell what happens in the courtroom.”
Morgan’s frustrated attorney Nathan Burkan couldn’t comment on the one-sidedness: “I can’t afford to go to jail for contempt.” Asked if he would push for the press to be readmitted, Burkan said, “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”
Whitney’s doctor treated Little Gloria for two years after Gertrude Whitney, according to Morgan, had the child “spirited away” from her mother’s home. The physician testified, “I am of the opinion that her health and welfare require that she remain quietly with her aunt. Mrs. Harry Payne Whitney at Old Westbury, L. I. at least until it has been decided with whom she is to reside permanently. To require her to go to her mother now might endanger her well being.” Consequently, the Judge ordered temporary custody of the girl to Whitney.
Questioned about her mother’s role in aiding Whitney’s battle, Thelma Furness (Lady Furness, having once been married to Marmaduke Furness, 1st Viscount Furness) declared herself to be shocked. “I am amazed at my mother’s attitude. Of course the charges are ridiculous. It’s all lies. It’s a gross injustice.”
“It’s ridiculous. My sister is a better mother than our own mother. She at least does not turn against her own children as our mother has. I am amazed at my mother’s attitude. I have no idea what she is doing. She must be overawed.” Was this Furness’ way of saying that her mother was so in awe of the Vanderbilt wealth and status that it caused her to betray her daughter, without justification. Overawed by what, Furness was asked.
“Oh, just overawed,” she answered. At that, her brother Harry Morgan helpfully chimed in, “I think so too.” Much like Rob Kardashian, Harry Morgan was largely ignored by the public, because he wasn’t as glamorous or rich as his sisters.
Thelma Furness continued, “I know one thing. Little Gloria should be with her other. Every child should be with its mother.”
Prince Gottfried, took it upon himself to refute the testimony offered by Morgan’s maid and nurse. He denied being intimate with Morgan (though they were engaged). He was only seen with her in pajamas, because they all wore pajamas in that house. It was like a big ‘ol slumber party. She was only spied crying in his presence because her peculiar mother always made her cry. The Prince insisted Morgan was an excellent mother and proved it by choosing her child over him. The Prince also thought his new wife could help him rehabilitate Gloria Morgan’s reputation by joining with him to attest to Morgan’s virtues.
Oh, that is nothing unusual to be in one’s pajamas at Biarritz. We seldom wore anything else after returning from bathing. We even had dinner in our pajamas, as everyone else does there. Why, even the nursemaid wore a bathing suit and she wasn’t a fine figure either.Prince Gottfried Hermann Alfred Paul Maximilian Viktor Fürst zu Hohenlohe-Langenburg
The Prince began by noting the drama, “We are injecting ourselves into a situation out of the cinema.” When questioned about the nurse seeing him in Morgan’s room in pajamas, the Prince answered, “Oh, that is nothing unusual to be in one’s pajamas at Biarritz. We seldom wore anything else after returning from bathing. We even had dinner in our pajamas, as every one else does there. Why, even the nursemaid wore a bathing suit , and she wasn’t a fine figure either. Also, you say that Mrs. Vanderbilt was in tears and that I was with her. I often came upon her in tears. Of course, she was in tears many times. Her mother always pestered her.”
He called Mama Laura Morgan “a very unusual person” who “pestered the life out of her daughter.” Of Gloria Morgan he said, “She was always a good mother and her whole life centered about the child. Frankly I thought I would have made a good father for the child. I am fond of children.” But Morgan broke off the engagement because she thought if she married and lived abroad, she would lose the money (administered by a New York surrogate) from her late husband’s estate, necessary to travel from Europe to the United States and support her heiress daughter’s interests. Although titled, the Prince himself was broke.
While Gloria Morgan’s mother was adverse to her own daughter, the Prince’s own mother was a staunch ally. The Prince hoped to present two letters of testimonial from his mother to Morgan showing in what esteem he and his family held her. Even his current wife loved Morgan. “My wife can substantiate me in that. She knew Mrs. Vanderbilt some years in advance of myself. So far as I know Mrs. Vanderbilt never took a cocktail. she occasionally drank champagne or sherry at her meals.”
The Prince’s wife, Princess Margarita averred, “I have utter faith in my husband and Mrs. Vanderbilt.”