John Singer Sargent's Lady Astor  (Frontpage)  (What's New)  (Thumbnail_Index)  (Refer This Site)
Hever Castle 

Hever Castle aerial 
(thumbnail only) 

Lady Astor
National Trust, Cliveden
Oil on canvas
149.9 x 99 cms
Jpg: Olga's Gallery. local

Lady Astor - Nancy Witcher Langhorne Astor, Viscountess (1879-1964)

She was born  Nancy Witcher Langhorne, an American daughter of Chiswell Dabney Langhorne of Danville, Virginia. Her first husband was Robert Gould Shaw; they were divorced in 1903 and then she moved to England. Three years later she married Waldorf Astor (1879-1952). 

Her father-in-law, William Waldorf Astor, was the great grandson of John Jacob Astor. He became a naturalized British subject, bought Hever Castle -- pouring millions into restoring it, got elected member of Parliament in 1910, raised to peerage in 1916 (House of Lords), and then was created Viscount Astor in 1917. His son won his seat in the House of Commons. 

In 1919 her father-in-law died. Nancy's husband succeeded his father as the second Viscount Astor of Hever Castle and he entered the House of Lords, vacating his seat in the lower House. 

Nancy became a candidate for her husband's  vacant seat and won -- the first woman to ever hold a seat in the House of Commons. She would hold that seat, as a Conservative Member of Parliament until retiring in 1945, serving the Sutton division in Plymouth. One of her political legacies is of a champion of women's and children's rights.  A less flattering look at her political views paints her as an elitist who felt she and her social cast (the cultured elite) could better benevolently lead the rest of us commoners than we could lead ourselves.

She was known as a fierce debater. There is a famous exchange between Winston Churchill and Lady Astor when they were both staying at Blenheim Castle visiting the Marlboroughs. The two politicians had been at each other's throat all weekend when Lady Astor said, "Winston, if I were your wife I'd put poison in your coffee." Whereupon Winston said, "Nancy, if I were your husband I'd drink it." (1)  

- Viscount Astor, by whom bequeathed to the National Trust in 1942  
- London, Royal Academy, 1909, no 24  
- London, Royal Academy, Winter exhibition, Exhibition of works by the late John S Sargent RA, 1926, no 311  
- Literature - Charteris, The Hon. Evan, John Singer Sargent, 1927, page 274  
- Mount, Charles Merrill, John Singer Sargent, 1957, page 439  

Thanks to Wendy & Gordon Hawksley of Sheffield, England for Provenance and additional information   

1) Famous Quotes & Stories of Winston Churchill  

The World Book Encyclopedia, 1958 

Bibliography notes -
The Sins of the Father: Joseph P. Kennedy and the Dynasty He Founded, 1996, by Ronald Kessler, page 159-160, (Joe, referring to Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., former U.S. Ambassador to England)

Sargent Portrait "Mugs" 
Mrs. William Waldorf Astor, later Viscountess Astor   
c. 1907-1908   
Rt. Hon. Viscount Astor  
Charcoal on white paper "Mug"  
61 x 45.7 cm (24 x 18 in.)  
signed and dated  

Mrs. William Waldorf Astor Profile  
c. 1907-1908   
Rt. Hon. Viscount Astor  
Charcoal on white paper "Mug"  
61 x 45.7 cm (24 x 18 in)  
Signed and inscribed "to my cousin [sic] Nancy/John S. Sargent"  

Nancy Astor, Viscountess Astor 
National Portrait Gallery, London  
55.9  x 38.1 cm (22  x 15 in.) 
NPG 4885 

"Three Sisters, from Charcoal Drawings by John S. Sargent" 
The Century Magazine 

Pauline Astor 
c. 1898
Sister-inlaw to Lady Astor)


By:  Natasha Wallace
Copyright 1998-2005 all rights reserved
Created 1/17/2002