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Madeleine Talmage Astor Dick, born as Force, formerly Fiermonte, was the second wife and widow of the famous millionaire John Jacob Astor IV and a survivor of the sinking of the RMS Titanic.


Early life[]

Katherine and Madeleine circa 1908

Katherine (left) and Madeleine Force.

She was born as Madeleine Talmage Force on June 19th, 1893, in Brooklyn, New York to William Hurlbut Force and his wife, the former Katherine Arvilla Talmage (1863 - c.1930). She had one sibling, Katherine Emmons Force.

Her father William Hurlbut Force (1852 – 1917) was a member of a well-established business family. He owned the successful shipping firm William H. Force and Co and his father had been prosperous in the manufacturing industry. In 1889 William had married Katherine Talmage who was the granddaughter of Thomas Talmage, a former Mayor of Brooklyn. William and his wife were part of the Brooklyn Society and he was a member of numerous prestigious clubs in this city.[1]

Madeleine was educated at Miss Ely’s School and then for four years at Miss Spence’s School, which was located at West 48th Street in Manhattan. According to one report, she was “counted an especially brilliant pupil” at this school. She was also taken abroad with her sister Katherine by her mother and toured Europe several times. When she was introduced to New York social life she was immediately adopted by the “Junior League” which was a clique of debutantes.[2] She appeared in several New York society plays and attracted quite a following. She was known to be a very competent horsewoman and enjoyed yachting. One report said that she was bright and good at withdrawing room conversation.[3]

Courtship and Marriage[]

Madeleine Astor 1911 2

Madeleine Astor after their marriage, 1911.

She met John Astor, reportedly the richest man in America, in 1910 and although it is not certain where they were first introduced there is a newspaper article which shows that he entertained the whole Force family at his home at Bar Harbor in September 1910.[4] During their courtship, he took her on automobile drives and yacht trips and they were often followed by the press. One of the press photos of Madeleine during this time is shown on the left.

Madeleine and John were engaged in August 1911 and married in September. There was a considerable amount of opposition to his marriage mainly because John had divorced his first wife only two years previously in 1909. Many were opposed to divorce at this time and felt that if people were divorced they should not be allowed to remarry. Some Episcopalian Ministers refused to perform the ceremony.[5] The couple were eventually married at Beechwood which was John’s mansion in Newport, by a Minister of the Congregational Church.[6]

After they were wed John Astor took Madeleine on his yacht and before he left he said. “Now that we are happily married I don’t care how difficult divorce and remarriage laws are made. I sympathize heartily with the most straight-laced people in most of their ideas but I believe remarriage should be possible once, as marriage is the happiest condition for the individual and the community."[7]

After their marriage they had an extended honeymoon. First, they visited several local places. In January 1912, they sailed from New York on Titanics sistership Olympic and enjoyed a long Egyptian tour.[8] It was while returning from this part of their honeymoon that they booked their passage on the Titanic.

Aboard the Titanic[]

Titanic-New York Herald front page

Newspaper report of the sinking of the Titanic. Most reports featured the Astors in the headlines.

Madeleine Astor, then five months pregnant, boarded the Titanic with Ticket 11754 as a First Class passenger in Cherbourg, France, with her husband, her husband's valet, Victor Robbins, her maid, Rosalie Bidois, and her nurse, Caroline Endres. They also took Kitty, Astor's pet Airedale, and occupied one of the state rooms on C-Deck, unknown which.

On the night of April 14, 1912, Colonel Astor reported to his wife that the ship had hit an iceberg. He reassured her that the damage did not appear serious though he helped her strap on her lifebelt. While they were waiting on the Boat Deck, Mrs. Astor lent Leah Aks, a Third Class passenger, her fur shawl to keep her son Filly warm. At one point, the Astors retired to the Gymnasium and sat on the mechanical horses in their lifebelts. Colonel Astor found another lifebelt which he reportedly cut with a pen knife to show Madeleine what it was made of. When it was time to board a lifeboat, Madeleine Astor, her maid, and her nurse had to crawl through a window in the First Class Promenade into the tilting lifeboat 4 (which had been lowered down to A Deck to take on more passengers). Astor had helped his wife to climb through the window and asked if he could accompany her as she was 'in a delicate condition'. The request was denied by Second Officer Lightoller.[9]

"The only incident I remember in particular at this point is when Mrs Astor was put in the boat. She was lifted up through the window, and her husband helped her on the other side, and when she got in, her husband was on one side of this window and I was on the other side, at the next window. I heard Mr. Astor ask the second officer whether he would not be allowed to go aboard this boat to protect his wife. He said, 'No, sir, no man is allowed on this boat or any of the boats until the ladies are off.' Mr Astor then said, 'Well, tell me what is the number of this boat so I may find her afterwards,' or words to that effect. The answer came back, 'No. 4.'"
    - Archibald Gracie, fellow passenger[10]

Astor and his valet perished in the sinking; the former's body was recovered on April 22. He was found to be carrying several thousand dollars in cash, brought with him from his cabin. His young widow and the other survivors were rescued by the RMS Carpathia.

Madeleine gave an account of what she recalled almost immediately after her arrival home through her spokesman Nicholas Biddle who was a trustee of the Astor Estate. The account given by her spokesman is as follows.

"On landing from the Carpathia the young bride widowed by the Titanic's sinking told members of her family what she could recall of the circumstances of the disaster. Of how Colonel Astor had met his death, she had no definite conception.


She recalled she thought that in the confusion as she was about to be put into one of the boats Colonel Astor was standing by her side. After that she had no very clear recollection of the happenings until the boats were well clear of the sinking steamer.

"Mrs. Astor, it appears left in one of the last boats which got away from the ship. It was her belief that all the women who wished to go had then been taken off. Her impression was that the boat she left in had room for at least 15 more persons. The men for some reason (that) she could not and does not now understand, did not seem to be at all anxious to leave the ship. Almost everyone seemed dazed." [11]


Madeleine Astor at Belmont Park 1915

Madeleine Astor in 1915.

After Madeleine returned home from her ordeal, she was kept in strict retirement. Her first social function was not until the end of May when she held a luncheon at her mansion on Fifth Avenue for Arthur Rostron, the Captain of the Carpathia and Dr. Francis McGee, the ship’s surgeon. She held this event with Marian Thayer, another well known First Class passenger and survivor of the Titanic. Both women wished to thank these men for their assistance when they were on board the Carpathia.[12]

In his Will, John Astor left Madeleine an outright sum of $100,000. In addition he bequeathed to her the income from a trust fund of $5 million and the use during her life of the house on Fifth Avenue. Both of these latter provisions she would lose if she remarried. A fund of $3 million was set aside for his unborn child John Jacob Astor VI, which he would control when he became of age.[13]

In August 1912, Madeleine gave birth to John Jacob Astor VI at her Fifth Avenue mansion. For the next four years, she raised him as part of the Astor family. She did not seem to appear very often in society until the end of 1913 when according to the press they were able to publish her first photograph since the Titanic disaster.[14]

After this, she appeared more often in public and her activities were frequently reported in the press. In 1915, she remodeled her house on Fifth Avenue and this was made a feature article in the New York Sun.[15] There were also many articles about her baby John Jacob Astor VI.


Madeleine JackAstor

Madeleine with John Jacob.

Madeleine Astor's second marriage was on June 22, 1916, in Bar Harbor, Maine. She married her childhood friend, the banker William Karl Dick (1888–1953), a vice president of the Manufacturers Trust Company of New York and a part owner and director of the Brooklyn Times. As stated in her late husband's will, Madeleine lost her stipend from the trust fund and the right to live in the Astor mansions. During the marriage, she and Dick had two sons: William Force Dick (1917–1961) and John Henry Dick (1919–1995).[16] They divorced on July 21, 1933, in Reno, Nevada.

Four months later, on November 27, 1933, Madeleine married 26 year-old Italian boxer Enzo Fiermonte in a civil ceremony in New York City. They divorced five years later on June 11, 1938, in West Palm Beach, Florida and Madeleine resumed her former surname, Dick.


Madeleine Dick died of a heart ailment in Palm Beach, Florida, on March 27, 1940, at the age of 46.[17] She was buried in Trinity Church Cemetery in New York City, in a mausoleum with her mother.


Titanic (1943)[]

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Charlotte Thiele as Madeleine Astor in the 1943 Film Titanic

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Madeleine Astor in Titanic (1943)

Charlotte Thiele portrayed Madeleine Astor in the 1943 Film Titanic.

Titanic (1953)[]

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Madeleine Astor in Titanic (1953)

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Madeleine Astor says goodbye to her husband in the 1953 Titanic

Frances Bergen portrayed Madeleine Astor in the 1953 Film Titanic.

S.O.S. Titanic (1979)[]

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Beverly Ross as Madeleine Astor in S.O.S. Titanic (1979)

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Madeleine Astor in S.O.S. Titanic (1979)

Beverly Ross portrayed Madeleine Astor in S.O.S. Titanic (1979).

1996 Miniseries Titanic[]

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Madeleine Astor in Titanic Miniseries (1996)

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Madeleine Astor says goodbye to her husband in the 1996 Miniseries Titanic

Janne Mortil portrayed Madeleine Astor in the 1996 Miniseries Titanic. This was the most accurate portrayal of Madeleine Astor. In this film, she was be friend with Isabella Paradine.

Titanic: The Musical (1997)[]

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Lisa Datz as Madeline Astor in the 1997 Broadway musical.

Lisa Datz played Madeline Astor in the 1997 production of Broadway.

Titanic (1997)[]

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Madeleine Astor during the dinner in the 1997 Titanic

Titanic - Character portal - Madeleine

Madeleine Astor in the 1997 Film

Charlotte Chatton portrayed Madeleine Astor in Titanic (1997). She has only one line in the entire movie: "How do you do?" when Rose introduces Jack to her and J.J. She also appears in a deleted scene during the sinking in the Gymnasium.

2012 Miniseries Titanic[]

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Angéla Eke as Madeleine Astor in the 2012 Miniseries Titanic

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Madeleine Astor in Titanic miniseries (2012)

Angèla Eke portrayed Madeleine Astor in the 2012 Miniseries Titanic. She also has a very few lines, and was mistakenly portrayed to have escaped on Lifeboat 5. Later, Grace Rushton gave back J.J's dog, Kitty to her.

Other Appearances[]

  • Mary Shipp (1955) (You Are There) (TV series)
  • Millette Alexander (1956) (Kraft Television Theatre) (TV series)
  • Piper Gunnarson (Ghosts of the Abyss) (Documentary)
  • Madeleine Astor was referenced in the first episode of the ITV drama Downton Abbey. When Cora, the Countess of Grantham, was informed of the sinking of the Titanic, she immediately says, "Did J. J. Astor get off? Of course, that new wife of his was bound to have been rescued."
  • With her husband confirmed to appear in the upcoming video game Titanic: Honor and Glory, Madeleine is likely to appear as well.

External links[]

  1. Jervis, A. 1893 “The Eagle and Brooklyn: the record of the progress of the Brooklyn daily eagle”, p. 1016. Online reference http://archive.org/stream/cu31924092229347#page/n379/mode/1up
  2. The Washington Times., August 3, 1911, p. 8. Online reference http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84026749/1911-08-03/ed-1/seq-8/
  3. The Washington Times., August 3, 1911, p. 8. Online reference http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84026749/1911-08-03/ed-1/seq-8/
  4. The New York Times, September 4, 1911. Online reference http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=FA0F10F7355D16738DDDAD0894D1405B808DF1D3
  5. Meriden Morning Herald, August 9, 1911, p. 9. Online reference http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=419HAAAAIBAJ&sjid=tf4MAAAAIBAJ&pg=2297,6445286&dq=madeleine-force&hl=en
  6. Meriden Morning Herald, September 14, 1911, p. 10. Online reference http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=kk9HAAAAIBAJ&sjid=cv4MAAAAIBAJ&pg=4002,2593850&dq=madeleine-force&hl=en
  7. Meriden Morning Herald, September 14, 1911, p. 10. Online reference http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=kk9HAAAAIBAJ&sjid=cv4MAAAAIBAJ&pg=4002,2593850&dq=madeleine-force&hl=en
  8. Maxtone-Graham, J. 2012 “Titanic Tragedy: A New Look at the Lost”. Online reference http://books.google.com.au/books?id=5s7t6O7U5XYC&pg=PT84&dq=john+astor+titanic+honeymoon&hl=en&sa=X&ei=18p_T9anBJOgiQeJxpTGBA&ved=0CFcQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=john%20astor%20titanic%20honeymoon&f=false
  9. "Colonel John Jacob Astor". encyclopedia titanica. http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-biography/john-jacob-astor.html. Retrieved April 4, 2011. 
  10. United States Senate Inquiry into the Titanic. Online reference http://www.titanicinquiry.org/USInq/AmInq11Gracie01.php
  11. The San Francisco Call., April 19, 1912, p. 1. Online reference http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85066387/1912-04-19/ed-1/seq-1/
  12. The Evening World (New York)., May 31, 1912, p. 1. Online reference http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83030193/1912-05-31/ed-1/seq-1/
  13. The Evening News (Providence R I), May 7, 1912, p. 1. Online reference http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=QupgAAAAIBAJ&sjid=u2MNAAAAIBAJ&pg=2415,1723472&dq=madeleine+force+astor&hl=en
  14. The Logan Republican., November 29, 1913, p. 1. Online reference http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85058246/1913-11-29/ed-1/seq-1/
  15. The Sun (New York)., April 25, 1915, p. Supplement 9. Online reference http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83030272/1915-04-25/ed-1/seq-41/
  16. Havemeyer, Harry W. Merchants of Williamsburgh, (Privately Printed), 1989, Appendix B
  17. "Mrs. Fiermonte Dead In Florida". New York Times. Associated Press. March 28, 1940. http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/item/3259/. Retrieved October 19, 2010. "The household of Mrs. Madeleine Force Astor Fiermonte stated early today that she was dead. Mrs. Madeleine Force Astor Dick Fiermonte was married three times, and divorced twice. Her first marriage to Colonel John Jacob Astor, head of the Astor family in this country, was of short duration, ending when he lost his life in the Titanic disaster. Her second union, that with William K. Dick, member of a family whose fortune was made in the sugar refining business, terminated when she divorced him in Reno. ..."