There was only one thing that Barbara Hutton truly wanted—a Prince to match her unbelievable fortune. However, she soon realized that being an eligible socialite was far more dangerous than she’d ever imagined. As fortune-hunting suitors seduced her into scandal and exploited her inheritance, Barbara fell deeper into depression and addiction. But that wasn’t the worst part.
After decades of ruined dreams, her tragic demise was so chilling—it’s unforgettable.
1. She Came From Money
Although destined to enjoy a life of luxury, Barbara Hutton dodged disaster at every turn. Born in 1912, she was the only child of a very well-connected couple—Franklyn Hutton and Edna Woolworth. However, no amount of money could buy Barbara a happy childhood. Although her father was a masterful businessman, he was also an abysmal family man with an unsettling dark side.
2. Her Father Ruined Everything
You see, Barbara endured the consequences of her father’s selfishness. Franklyn Hutton had numerous vices that only poisoned his marriage and blotted out any chance of real joy. He was a vicious drinker and an unabashed cheater who kept numerous mistresses on the side. Franklyn treated his wife terribly, and sadly, this broken homelife led to the most traumatic moment of Barbara’s formative years.
3. She Made A Chilling Discovery
When she was only four years old, Barbara entered her mother’s room and tried to wake her—but when she approached the side of the bed, she made a horrifying discovery. Her mother lay there unmoving. Dead. According to reports, Edna passed from chronic ear disease. However, many didn’t stand by this explanation. Instead, rumors that she poisoned herself went around.
With the sudden loss of her mother and the unfeeling obliviousness of her father, little Barbara felt more alone than ever before—and it was only going to get worse.
4. She Didn’t Have A Home
After losing her mother, Barbara soon realized that her father wanted nothing to do with her. He was still too preoccupied with his women and his booze. And so, her relatives shuffled her around, hosting Barbara in different homes and sending her to a variety of rich boarding schools. There was no such thing as a real home. Not for Barbara. Not anymore.
At a very young age, she’d already let her childhood slip through her fingertips. She grew up far too quickly, and it came at a terrible price.
5. She Had Money To Blow
Barbara certainly wasn’t your typical teenager. By the age of 15, she had already moved into her very own New York City apartment. After all, in 1924, her grandmother had left her a staggering inheritance of $26.1 million. Of course, this promised wealth didn’t come without its demons. Barbara soon learned that most people were drawn to her not for who she truly was, but rather for the size of her pocketbook.
Still, as a member of high society, Barbara wouldn’t say no to the lavish traditions of the elite. And nothing feeds the fire of scandal like a beautiful young girl with money to blow…
6. She Knew How To Party
Nothing screams “extra” like a débutante ball, and Barbara Hutton certainly threw a party to remember for her 18th birthday. She spared no expense and hosted some of the most notorious names of the day: There were Rockefellers in attendance, and the entertainment was none other than Rudy Vallée and Maurice Chevalier. However, not everyone rejoiced in such excessive revelries.
7. She Ran From The Press
With the Depression descending, Barbara faced some extremely harsh criticisms for spending a whopping $60,000 on one night. This was a downright fortune and it certainly rubbed people the wrong way. The press began hounding her, and so in an effort to escape the slander, she jetted off to Europe. But did this turn Barbara off of partying? Absolutely not.
In fact, more than ever, this high-flying heiress wanted to kick up her heels. Her school days were over and the tantalizing party scene beckoned her. However, as an eligible millionaire, she became a prize worth having—and it certainly got her into some serious romantic scrapes.
8. She Met A Fortune Hunter
When Barbara Hutton met Alexis Mdivani in France, it was trouble right from the get-go. You see, Alexis had his beady little eyes on Barbara’s massive fortune and wanted nothing more than to marry her and get his hands on it. But there was one thing that stood in his way: He was already married to Barbara’s friend, Louise Van Alen. Undoubtedly, this twisted little love triangle was about to drag Barbara through unbelievable scandal.
9. She Was Their Golden Ticket
Alexis and his conniving sister Roussie were masters of manipulation and came up with a brilliant plan to rope Barbara into their family. By winning Alexis a hasty divorce, he’d be freed to marry one of the richest women in the world. How? Well, to begin with, Alexis and Barbara had to be caught together in a compromising position. Only then would they have something to blackmail her with.
10. She Ran From Scandal
During a trip to San Sebastian, Spain, Alexis set to seducing Barbara in a private guest cottage. Meanwhile, Roussie orchestrated the humiliating run-in with Alexis’ wife, Louise. To Barbara’s dismay, an entire party of people caught her and Alexis in bed together. Overcome with embarrassment, she immediately escaped to Paris, hoping against hope that she could dodge such a scandalous debacle.
Unfortunately for Barbara, however, there was just no way out of this mess.
11. She Fell Into A Trap
If Barbara thought she could slip through the cracks of this scandal unseen, she was sorely mistaken. With her plan in full effect, Roussie delivered the worst kind of threat imaginable: She threatened to destroy Barbara’s image with bad publicity if the heiress refused to marry Alexis. Barbara had no choice but to fall straight into the Mdivani trap.
12. She Married A Prince
In the summer of 1933, 20-year-old Barbara Hutton walked down the aisle and said “I do” to Prince Alexis Mdivani. She had the fortune, and he had the title—but no amount of wealth or status could ever make this marriage a success. On their very first night together, Alexis told Barbara something so chilling, it shook her confidence to the very core.
13. Her Self-Image Took A Hit
There was no romance on that first honeymoon night. Alexis looked at his new bride and told her that she was “too fat.” Barbara, beyond hurt by this cruel criticism, took her husband’s words to heart. From that day forward, she was always on a diet. And as her self-image crumbled, she also suffered from anorexia—something that would follow her for the rest of her life.
14. She Financed His Idiocy
Only five months after the wedding, Alexis got everything he ever wanted when Barbara finally turned 21 and gained access to her entire $50 million inheritance. He also got his grubby fingers on another incentive: A $1 million dowry. Alexis’ greed pushed him to squander Barbara’s riches on all kinds of personal purchases like ponies, clothes, and jewelry.
He lived out his dreams on her dime—but it was never meant to last.
15. She Wanted A Fairy Tale
By 1935, Barbara wouldn’t abide by her ridiculous prince any longer. Although the couple finally divorced, in the end, it was Alexis who got the last laugh. Because of this marriage, he’d become wealthier than his wildest dreams. Barbara, on the other hand, wanted a real husband—someone worthy of everything she had to offer. She wanted a fairy tale…but what she got instead was a downright horror story.
16. She Married A Monster
If Barbara thought Alexis was a horrible husband, she had no idea just how bad it could get. Count Reventlow was her second shot at happiness, but she soon learned that Reventlow was a dangerous man—cruel and out of control. On one occasion, he beat her so bloody that she ended up in the hospital. But this was only the beginning of the nightmare.
17. She Started To Flounder
When it rains, it pours—and nobody knew this better than Barbara. Reventlow was one despicable piece of work and a manipulative one at that. He somehow convinced her to surrender her American citizenship in exchange for a Danish one. This turned out to be a significant error in judgment, and incited more hate than she’d ever expected.
18. She Was Outrageous
The public outcry after Hutton renounced her citizenship was nothing short of shocking. Americans thought she was ungrateful to the country that made her, spurring angry workers to demand a living wage in the streets. Columnist Walter Winchell denounced her as “Society’s most outrageous child,” and even the New York Times snarled that she was “despicable.” But that wasn’t all.
Amidst the stress of the public’s criticism, as well as her husband’s constant tirades, Barbara turned to drugs as a coping mechanism. Even with storm clouds racing in on all sides, however, one silver lining remained.
19. She Fought For Him
With Reventlow, Barbara welcomed a son, Lance, but sadly, there would be no other babies…ever. As her anorexia only persisted throughout her life, she was never able to bear another child. But even with a bouncing baby boy, trouble came calling. When she and Reventlow finally decided to call it quits, little Lance got caught in the crossfire of a horrendous custody battle. Thankfully, Barbara came out on top.
Weary from yet another disastrous marriage, Barbara was a bachelorette all over again. Still, she looked forward with an open heart and hoped that the third time would be the charm.
20. She Had A Famous Fling
Barbara’s most well-known love affair was with the famously strange director Howard Hughes. The tryst was as steamy as it was brief, and Hughes spent a series of afternoons with Hutton at the Savoy Hotel in London. According to Barbara’s glowing recommendation, Hughes “doesn’t bombard you with a barrage of ideas, doesn’t pry, never argues. The charming thing about Howard is that he isn’t charming.”
However, Hughes lacked one very important thing…
21. She Couldn’t Climax
Though Barbara took to Howard Hughes, he wasn’t exactly the best lover. Apparently, the first night they were together, Hughes was obsessed with pleasuring Barbara, but when she wouldn’t climax, he quickly lost interest. As she recalled, “He could not take it when a woman lost herself in pleasure because he felt he must absolutely be in control of a situation.”
Although Hughes never put a ring on it, Barbara wasn’t too worried. After all, fate led her straight to one of Hollywood’s most desirable heartthrobs…
22. She Fell For Hollywood Royalty
Barbara Hutton met the dashing actor Cary Grant while crossing the Atlantic and immediately warmed to his irresistible charm. In a happy turn of events, Barbara fell deeply in love with Grant, and for once, these feelings were genuinely reciprocated. Grant was an undeniable gentleman and treated her with respect (unlike her other husbands).
But as blissful as their beginnings undeniably were—this loving couple was always doomed to a heartbreaking end.
23. Her Friends Used Her
Because of her wealth, Barbara’s friends often circled her like vultures, always ready to take advantage of the wealthy heiress. Grant recognized this immediately and absolutely abhorred the circles Barbara ran in. He was, perhaps, the only man that didn’t seek to use her. After they married, Grant continued to prove himself as a worthy Prince Charming, even fostering a close relationship with her son, Lance.
But as perfect as he seemed, not even the dreamy Cary Grant could hold on to Barbara’s heart.
24. She Wanted All Of Him
Barbara loved Cary Grant, but couldn’t understand why he still wanted to work when her fortune provided financial security for life. Grant, of course, wasn’t about to give up his career just to keep his wife company on her many trips. He loved his job. Increasingly dissatisfied with her marriage, Barbara went behind her husband’s back and dealt him a terrible betrayal.
25. She Betrayed Him
In 1943, Barbara met the fashion designer Oleg Cassini and made him a wild proposition. According to Cassini, Barbara had tired of Grant and wanted to be with Cassini instead. However, there were more than just a few problems. You see, Cassini was married to actress Gene Tierney. Weirdly, this didn’t faze Barbara at all. With all the money in the world, she felt confident that a “happily ever after” could simply be bought.
26. You Can’t Buy Love
Unfortunately for Barbara, she sorely underestimated her rival, Gene Tierney. Even with romance, Barbara was a businesswoman through and through. She asked Cassini to approach his wife with a generous deal: If Gene and Cassini amicably divorced, Barbara would give Gene $1 million. The self-assured heiress hadn’t banked on Gene actually wanting to keep her husband…
The scandalized actress turned down the $1 million, effectively dashing Barbara’s hopes of marrying the handsome designer. Now, Barbara had two failures to contend with: Oleg Cassini’s brutal rejection and her crumbling marriage to Cary Grant.
27. She Looked For Greener Pastures
Despite being a model husband, Cary Grant just couldn’t satisfy his wife, and the couple eventually sought a divorce. Barbara’s time in California had come to a heart-wrenching close and it was time to seek out greener pastures. Unbeknownst to the hopeful heiress, her happiest times were already behind her. After a short stay in Paris, Barbara traveled to Tangier where she bought a palace and decided to plant some roots.
28. She Kept Losing Husbands
Perpetually drawn to royalty, Barbara Hutton hoped to get back in in the saddle…preferably with a prince in tow. This time, she set her sights on a Russian prince named Igor Troubetzkoy. But not long after their wedding, Barbara noticed troubled waters in the distance. This time, it was her husband who filed for divorce, and it sent Barbara into a downward spiral.
29. She Tried To End It All
Finding herself in a dark place, Barbara did the unthinkable: She attempted to take her own life. Of course, this personal tragedy only made for salacious tabloid fodder. The press dubbed her “Poor Little Rich Girl” and the media took this snappy moniker and ran with it. Readers loved consuming all things Barbara Hutton. Behind the scenes, however, her inner turmoil only intensified.
30. Her Addictions Swung Out Of Control
By 1951, Barbara and her Russian prince were officially over. Hungry to fill the emptiness, she kept her eyes peeled for the next man in line. But this wasn’t her only worry. Her destructive lifestyle was starting to take its toll. You see, over the years, Barbara’s drug addiction and penchant for drinking had swung out of control, and it transformed her entirely.
31. She Was A Zombie
For Barbara, it was dangerously simple for her to get access to as many drugs as she wanted. Any doctor wouldn’t hesitate to write her a prescription. To make matters worse, because she wasn’t eating, the combination of drugs and excessive booze was even more taxing on her frail body. Later, her biographer, C. Heymann, said, “She was a zombie. You can see that in the photographs of her. She just has this vacant stare.”
32. She Had A Legendary Rivalry
In the early 20th century, socialites had infamously bitter rivalries—but Barbara’s feud with the beautiful Doris Duke is legendary. The childhood friends were born less than 10 days apart from each other, but they began to drift apart as adults. Doris was envious of Barbara’s beauty, while Barbara called Doris “cheap” because she was more careful with her money. But that was just the beginning…
33. She Had The Nerve
On one infamous occasion, Doris invited Barbara to stay at her Hawaii mansion, where their friendship truly crashed and burned. Barbara didn’t show Doris’ home one ounce of respect and decided to change it to suit her own taste. She redecorated the space with Japanese furniture and disposed of Doris’ own belongings. When Doris saw what Barbara had done, she kicked the daring heiress to the curb.
But believe it or not, this rivalry still wasn’t over. Somehow, these two heiress enemies managed to marry the same man.
34. She Fell For A Playboy
If Barbara’s last husband was too boring, then her fifth one was certainly no slouch. In fact, Barbara gravitated to a wild card and his name was Porfirio Rubirosa. Now, Rubirosa was not Prince Charming—not in any sense of the word. As a notorious womanizer and scoundrel, he had a taste for wealthy brides. In fact, he’d already been married to her old “friend,” Doris Duke.
Undoubtedly, Barbara Hutton was right up his alley.
35. She Married Her Enemy’s Ex
When Doris Duke caught wind of Barbara’s relationship with Rubirosa, she practically saw red. She believed that Barbara had only pursued Rubirosa because she coveted everything she had. But between these squabbling millionaires, it was Rubirosa who knew how to play the game best. In the end, neither heiress found the happiness they so desperately grasped at.
36. She Wore Black To Her Wedding
Now creeping up on middle age, Barbara’s cracks started showing. Her addiction and eating disorder had certainly aged the heiress beyond her years and she’d lost her vivacious beauty. On the day of her wedding to the dapper Rubirosa, she wore black. Considering the disappointment of her wedding night, the color of mourning was certainly fitting.
37. She Never Slept With Him
Later, Barbara claimed that she and Rubirosa never actually consummated the marriage. Instead, her husband was often away, seducing his mistress Zsa Zsa Gábor. And he wasn’t subtle about it either. There were pictures of Rubirosa and Gabor in the tabloids, and it humiliated Barbara to no end. The marriage seemed doomed from the beginning, and in the end, it lasted less than six months.
Of course, Rubirosa didn’t walk away empty-handed.
38. She Was Too Generous
Perhaps one of Barbara Hutton’s biggest faults was that she was too generous with her ex-husbands. In her divorce settlement with Rubirosa, she gave him a veritable fortune: a coffee plantation, jewelry, polo ponies, a B-25, and a whopping $2.5 million. He’d certainly gotten what he came for, but Barbara found herself alone once again. Of course, Barbara being Barbara, she was already on the lookout for husband number six.
39. Her Husband Was Gay
When Barbara met the German tennis player Gottfried von Cramm, she fell deeply in love. This could have undoubtedly been “the one,” if there hadn’t been one huge problem standing in the way: von Cramm was attracted to men. Still, Barbara convinced herself that she might be able to change him, and decided to marry him away. Bad idea. Unsurprisingly, this was a crash course for heartbreak all over again.
40. He Was The Love Of Her Life
Although Gottfried von Cramm was gay, Barbara still had her heart in the game. Actor Cliff Robertson later admitted, “She did say, at one point, that von Cramm was the love of her life.” Unfortunately, over the course of their five-year marriage, von Cramm’s preferences weren’t budging. He continued to indulge in affairs with other men, and it eventually tore them apart.
41. She Made Him A Prince
Although she didn’t know it at the time, Barbara Hutton was about to find her seventh and final husband. In 1964, she met painter Raymond Doan who just didn’t have the status that Barbara usually lusted after. To remedy this glaring issue, she decided to make him a prince by buying him a title. She transformed her lowly beau into an illustrious Cambodian prince for the price of $250,000.
42. She Circled The Drain
While money might buy you royalty, it certainly can’t buy you love. By 1970, Barbara Hutton was alone once again, and even worse, her large inheritance had shrunk with each passing decade. With her health concerns rising and no husband in sight, Barbara took comfort in the one constant in her life, her son Lance. But even this bright ray of hope was about to be blotted out completely.
43. She Endured A Horrific Tragedy
Barbara’s son enjoyed flying his own plane, but on one fateful day in 1972, he was more reckless than usual. It was an overcast day and he’d received a warning not to go flying. Unfortunately, Lance took off anyway—and the consequences were unspeakable. He crashed his plane and passed away, leaving Barbara stricken with insurmountable grief.
44. She Fell Into A Deep Depression
Suddenly, Barbara realized that her life was out of control. Everything she’d ever held dear had been ripped away from her, and her quest to find true love kept being foiled time and time again. With her finances, she was her own worst enemy. Now, the grief over the loss of her son sunk her even deeper into a depression, one that would follow her to the end of her life.
As her mental health plummeted, so did her physical health.
45. She Didn’t Seek Help
In 1971, when she was almost 60, Barbara caught her foot on a carpet and fell, breaking her hip. Instead of seeking immediate treatment, however, she postponed a much-needed trip to the doctor. This was a huge mistake. From then on, the damaged hip never properly healed and caused her extreme pain. But the consequences were even greater than she’d ever imagined.
46. She Couldn’t Walk
Because of her injured hip, Barbara was never able to walk properly again. When she wasn’t in a wheelchair, she had to be carried around. And that wasn’t her only ailment. You see, Barbara had started to go blind. Many people often speculated that her need to be carried everywhere had more to do with keeping her blindness a secret than the hip itself.
Sadly, her troubles didn’t end there.
47. She Had No Real Friends
In the mid-1970s, Barbara moved into the home she was destined to waste away in—an upscale hotel in Beverly Hills. After the loss of Lance, she didn’t really have much to live for. She withdrew from the superficial pleasures of society and found that she had nothing. She had no real friends that truly cared for her, and with no money left to give, Barbara became useless in the eyes of her greedy acquaintances.
48. She Lost All Her Money
In order to survive, Barbara had no choice but to begin liquidating her assets. To make matters worse, her lawyers had been stealing from her. Still, Barbara just didn’t know how to budget herself and continued to generously give her money to strangers as she was known to do. However, the worst was yet to come.
49. She Wasted Away
Near the end, Barbara transformed into a disturbing echo of the beautiful heiress she’d once been. She spent most of her time in bed, drinking Coca-Cola and chainsmoking. Oleg Cassini remembered, “She was very thin. Gone. The spirit was gone. The life was gone out of her.” In May 1979, Barbara Hutton suffered a heart attack and passed at the age of 66.
However, the aftermath of her death revealed a truth so devastating—it’s unforgettable.
50. She Had Nothing Left
According to one biographer, Barbara Hutton had only $3,500 in her bank account at the time of her demise. Even more depressing? Only 16 people attended her funeral. Barbara Hutton, born to unimaginable wealth, had fallen from grace in the most tragic way possible—her cautionary tale leaving behind one chilling lesson: Money can’t buy you love.