Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Mrs. Astor Regrets

Brooke Astor died last year at age 105, a victim of pneumonia and Alzheimer's, but not before her once-elegant Park Avenue life had deteriorated into a family soap opera, spread across the front pages of New York's tabloids.

Astor's only son, Anthony Marshall is heading to court in January on a variety of charges stemming from how he handled his mother's affairs in her final years. Among the 18 indictments are grand larceny, conspiracy, forgery and criminal possession of stolen property.

It was Astor's grandson, Philip Marshall, a college professor in Rhode Island, who petitioned the courts in summer 2006 to remove his father as his grandmother's guardian, charging him with elder abuse.

Marshall claimed his grandmother, who became a multimillionaire after the death of her third husband, Vincent Astor, heir to John Jacob Astor's fortune, was forced to live out her days on a urine-stained sofa in a cold apartment, removed from her beloved dachshunds, her devoted butler and her closest friends.

The courts named Astor's best friend, Annette de la Renta, her guardian, replacing her son, and Astor finally was taken to her country estate to live out her last months with her staff and dogs.

The sordid tale then became a legal battle over a plundered $200 million estate that involved revised wills with millions designated for charity transferred to Anthony Marshall. Astor's beloved painting, Flags, Fifth Avenue, was sold by her son, who pocketed a $2 million commission, despite Astor's desire for it to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Meryl Gordon followed the family fight for two years.

Her new book, Mrs. Astor Regrets: The Hidden Betrayals of a Family Beyond Reproach, is an even-handed and fascinating portrait of a wealthy family torn apart by money, jealousy and emotional distance.

'Mrs. Astor Regrets' captures socialite's deteriorated life

"In the end, Gordon tells a sad and moving story of elder abuse." - Publishers Weekly
Mrs. Astor Regrets
The Hidden Betrayals of a Family Beyond Reproach
by Meryl Gordon

See also:
Too Sick for Court?

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