For a time in high society, there was no one more dangerous than Daisy Fellowes. This acid-tongued heiress to the Singer sewing fortune made her name through shameless self-promotion, cutthroat rivalries, and mercenary marriages. But underneath her bitter bon mots and perfectly tailored clothes, Daisy Fellowes hid utterly tragic secrets.
1. She Had Piles Of Money
Life started out dazzling for the young Daisy, who was born Marguerite Severine Philippine Decazes de Glucksberg. As the daughter of the Jean, Duke of Decazes and Isabelle-Blanche Singer, little Daisy wasn’t just a noble, she also stood to inherit the millions amassed in the Singer sewing machine empire. But her nightmare began young.
2. Her Family Imploded
When Daisy was just six years old, a horrific tragedy destroyed her family. Her mother took her own life, leaving Daisy and her two brothers almost entirely alone in the world—albeit with that huge inheritance. To add insult to injury, their father either wouldn’t or couldn’t take care of them, and had them shipped off to their maternal aunt, Winaretta Singer, instead.
With this one move, Daisy’s infamous fate was sealed.
3. Her Aunt Was A Scandalous Role Model
From then on, there was probably no way Daisy would ever turn into a well-adjusted good girl. Not only was she dragging around the trauma of losing a parent, but her new guardian Winaretta was hardly a safe, steady harbor. Winaretta went through women like she went through wine, and Daisy grew up watching her raucous aunt seduce and then discard a series of famous lovers among the likes of Virginia Woolf.
It was a model Daisy would quickly follow. But before that, a cruel fate got in the way.
4. She Was A Teenaged Bride
Even with her aunt’s unorthodox example to go by, Daisy still knew what society expected of an heiress: To marry young and make more heirs. Thus, naïve and eager to uphold her family name, she tied the knot with Jean, Prince de Broglie, just a few weeks after she turned 19. In high society terms, it was an appropriate and respectable match. In real-life terms, it was a bald-faced fiasco—or so Daisy was about to find out.
5. Her Husband Had A Secret
According to the rumors of the time, Daisy’s new husband was hiding a ruinous secret. He was actually gay, a preference that was tolerated at the time only if you were very rich and very careful about it never getting out beyond your circle. Fortunately, the prince fulfilled those expectations—for now. Unfortunately, Daisy reportedly found out about her husband’s sexuality in one of the worst ways imaginable.
6. She Walked In On Her Husband With Another Lover
According to the lore surrounding Daisy’s origin story, the young bride once walked in on her husband in bed with the chauffeur, instantly shattering all her illusions about romance and the sanctity of marriage right then and there. And whether true or not, Daisy certainly underwent a chilling change during her marriage—and it started to show.
7. She Was A Cold Mother
Despite these, er, difficulties in their marriage, Daisy and the Prince de Broglie went on to have three daughters together: Emmeline, Isabelle, and Jacqueline. Except Daisy quickly proved herself to be utterly uninterested in the role of mother. One anecdote tells of a time that Daisy saw a bunch of children in a park and, momentarily charmed, went over to ask their nanny whose children they were.
The answer? “Yours, Madam!” Even so, that’s downright quaint compared to Daisy’s next actions.
8. She Loved Plastic Surgery
Around this time, Daisy went from merely notable to downright notorious. She had never been a truly beautiful woman—though she was a captivating one. Daisy didn’t let this stop her from trying to attain conventional beauty, however, and had her first nose job, without the aid of an anesthetic, by the time she was 20. Then she ramped her efforts up in truly disturbing ways.
9. She Had A Rampant Addiction
Before long, Daisy had put herself on one of the most punishing and scandalous diet regimes of the 20th century. She began with a proto-keto diet along with intermittent fasting, but soon relied on substances—particularly of a white, powdery nature—to keep her figure preternaturally trim. Perhaps it’s no wonder that famous Vogue editor Diana Vreeland once said Daisy had “the elegance of the damned”. But no one knew just how damned.
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10. She Pushed Substances On Her Friends
Eventually, Daisy was such a convert to her unorthodox weight loss method, that she was soon serving her “naughty salt” at tea parties. But she pushed the envelope further. She started proselyting even her acquaintances to the drug. When a ballerina working with the famed Ballet Russes had a headache, Daisy produced “a white powder which worked wonders” for the girl.
11. She Wore Attention-Seeking Fashion
Even Daisy’s fashion sense was caustic. She particularly liked the sharp, ironic designs of the visionary Elsa Schiaparelli, and famously wore Salvador Dali’s witty “high heel” hat about town. She didn’t limit herself to wit, though; Daisy was a punishing perfectionist in her looks, getting her hair done as many as 10 times a day and always wearing a symmetrical amount of enormous jewels on her wrists.
Eventually, though, these daring fashion adventures weren’t enough. Daisy wanted more—more scandal, more drama, more attention. And that’s exactly what she got.
12. She Scorned Her Own Children
By 1918, Daisy was almost in the full bloom of her power, but still very much married to the Prince de Broglie. She soon rebelled in an utterly scandalous way. That January, she gave birth to her third daughter Jacqueline—but according to Daisy herself, the girl was a product of an affair. Or, as she “lovingly” put it in an interview describing her daughters, “The eldest, Emmeline, is like my first husband only a great deal more masculine; the second, Isabelle, is like me without guts; [and] the third, Jacqueline, was the result of a horrible man called Lischmann”.
But if Daisy was chafing at the bit of her marriage, she didn’t have to wait long for it to go up in flames.
13. Her Husband Died Horribly
In February of 1918, just weeks after Daisy gave birth to Jacqueline, her husband the Prince de Broglie perished from a flu outbreak while serving in WWI. With a worldwide outbreak running rampant, the flu was a very common cause of early mortality at the time, and the hedonistic Daisy could hardly have been heartbroken over her indifferent husband. But there is a dark side to the prince’s end.
14. Dark Whispers Went Around About Her First Marriage
Daisy was already a scandal magnet even this early on in her notorious career, and soon vicious gossip mongers were whispering about the “real” cause of her husband’s passing. People rumored that the prince had actually taken his own life after someone exposed his bedroom preferences to the wider world. Not that Daisy let that tragedy stop her.
Instead, she came completely into her own—though this wasn’t a good thing.
15. She Was A True Gold Digger
With Daisy now single and ready to mingle, she came up with a shameless plan. Unabashedly out for her own interests, she was going to bag the richest man she could find. She started out by trying to seduce the hapless Earl of Pembroke, much to the horror of his family; the Earl’s son once sniped that Daisy’s “wickedness was on a scale that it had its own distinction”.
Unsurprisingly, then, this attempt at romance fell through—but the consequences were dramatic.
16. She Was In The Middle Of A Duel
Drama apparently ran in Daisy’s family, because when the Earl of Pembroke broke it off with her, Daisy’s older brother Louis took it upon himself to become deeply offended on his sister’s behalf. Indeed, he was so enraged at the damage the failed affair supposedly did to her “pristine” reputation, he challenged the earl to a duel.
Luckily for everyone involved, it didn’t end up happening. Something else sure did, though.
17. She Tried To Seduce The Future Prime Minister
After the Earl of Pembroke, Daisy moved on to more powerful—and more dangerous—prey. She had her eye on none other than Winston Churchill, then at the beginnings of his promising political career. The thing was, Churchill had just gotten married, a fact Daisy didn’t seem to much care about, and he graciously turned her down. In response, she came back at Churchill with an odd kind of revenge.
18. She Married A Famous Philanderer
Almost immediately following her failed play for Winston Churchill, Daisy turned around and shocked high society. In a matter of months, she went and bagged Churchill’s own cousin, Reginald Fellowes. Fellowes was no stranger himself to scandal, having carried on an affair with socialite Consuelo Vanderbilt, the wife of the powerful Duke of Marlborough.
But even with this taste of drama, Fellowes had no idea what he was getting into.
19. Her Husband Was A Dunce
In the end, Daisy chose Reginald as her second husband for more than just his family connections, his wealth, or his standing in society. She quite likely chose him because she knew she could control him. Bumbling and a bit dense—he had once gotten accidentally trapped in Germany as a civilian in WWI—Reginald was like putty in her hands. Well, she began using him immediately.
20. She Had A Cruel Sense Of Humor
Within months or even weeks of her nuptials to Reginald Fellowes, Daisy had taken up extramarital affairs—but she didn’t stop there. According to one story, she and one of her lovers, Fred Cripps, once tailed Fellowes on a lark, watched him go into a dingy brothel, then witnessed him paying and then performing with one of the women.
For the cherry on top, Daisy then delightfully informed Reginald later that she’d been there the whole time. Still, Reginald brought some unpleasant surprises to their marriage, too.
21. Her Husband Embarrassed Her
When Daisy married Reginald, she was an incredibly rich woman, but his own mountains of money via his stockbroking firm certainly helped sweeten the deal. Except, shortly after their marriage, Reginald lost it all: The firm collapsed, thanks partly to Reginald’s own idiocy. Likely embarrassed, Daisy was quick to rectify the situation in her own “special way”. By which I mean, more betrayal.
22. She Went After Another Newly Married Man
Daisy seemed to have a thing for newly married men, so when the virile, good-old-boy politician Duff Cooper made the society wedding of the season by marrying socialite Lady Diana Manners, Daisy immediately pricked her ears up and approached him for a roll in the hay. This time, it worked: She and Cooper fell into a torrid affair…with bizarre results.
23. She Had A Formidable Rival
As it happened, Lady Diana Manners was more than a match for Daisy Fellowes. Although Diana sniffed that her rival was “the very picture of fashionable depravity,” she also knew the best offense was a good defense. She played at magnanimity about her husband’s infidelity, mostly tolerating the dalliance between the two of them and coming off cool as a cucumber.
Until, that is, the day Duff took it too far—and Daisy felt the wrath of a woman scorned.
24. She Demanded All Her Lover’s Attention
By 1921, Daisy and Duff were practically inseparable, and Duff started getting careless about hiding the “secret” affair from his wife Diana. That summer, Duff would usually spend all afternoon with Daisy, but meet up with Diana in the evening to keep up appearances. Except, one night at the casino, Duff decided he wanted one more go-around with his mistress and abandoned Diana by the blackjack tables. Her revenge was swift and brutal.
25. She Got A Taste Of Her Own Medicine
Diana, offended at her husband’s lack of effort in even nominally pretending the affair wasn’t going on, decided to teach the philanderer a lesson. Extremely “distressed” at her husband’s sudden disappearance, Diana called the authorities and proclaimed her fears that someone had killed her husband in the streets.
No doubt Daisy and Duff got quite the surprise that night, but it didn’t deter them one bit. Besides, there was a hugely naughty reason they couldn’t quit each other.
26. She Used Substances For Her Bedroom Performance
Daisy Fellowes had gone from a meek 19-year-old marrying a fairy tale prince to a voracious man-eater, all in under a decade. But she had something of a secret weapon. Duff Cooper once confessed that Daisy liked to take a dose of opium before love-making so that all her inhibitions—what few she even had—fell away. And Daisy was developing other disturbing tendencies, too.
27. She Was Addicted To Intimacy
Daisy Fellowes was one of the most modern women of her time, and was completely shameless about her desires as well as her libidinous ways of realizing them. Still, bedroom conquests seemed like an addiction to her, with the heiress once describing the rush of a new lover as “a thrilling feeling, like taking absinthe for the first time”.
On the bright side, she did have a sense of humor about these addictions.
28. She Could Make Fun Of Herself
Throughout all her man-eating, Daisy maintained her sharp wit. In one famous example, she kitted out the front of her house at Donnington with the statue of St Joseph, and was quick to quip that Joseph was “the patron saint of cuckolds”. Nonetheless, her predatory quality only grew as she aged, and her behaviors became more eccentric—and unhinged.
29. She Knew How To Rile People Up
In the 1930s, everyone in high society knew the name “Daisy Fellowes,” and she’d developed a devoted following of acolytes and enemies alike. She also reveled in her polarizing nature: Daisy liked to meet her friends in her bathtub wearing only a custom cellophane cape. When she was dressed, she stormed around in Avant-garde fashion, leading one observer to comment that she was a “Molotov cocktail in a Mainbocher suit”.
But even the impeccably vicious Daisy Fellowes was beginning to show cracks in her armor.
30. She Mean Girled Her Own Friends
Eventually, even Daisy’s so-called friends began to tire of her constant bitter wit and her complete disregard for other people. Daisy had two yachts, and she liked to invite her friends on them for pleasure cruises. They would live to regret accepting her invitations. Photographer Cecil Beaton boarded the ship one season and almost immediately wanted to jump off, describing how Daisy amused herself by persecuting each one of her friends in turn.
As Beaton put it, “She is spoilt, capricious, and wicked”. As it happened, that wasn’t even Daisy’s most disastrous yacht trip.
31. She Chose Lust Over Friendship
Later on, fellow socialite Nancy Mitford also accepted an invitation from Daisy to come on the yacht…and this time, Daisy’s contempt had reached epic proportions. She summarily “chucked” Mitford off the boat after only a few days, all in order to make room for her newest lover, Lord Sherwood. Daisy was burning her bridges fast—and she was losing other things too.
32. Her Facelifts Got Out Of Hand
As Daisy entered middle age, she didn’t exactly go gracefully. As an early adopter of plastic surgery, she continued the practice and had multiple facelifts throughout her life. Truman Capote once cattily noted seeing “Daisy Fellowes (her face lifted for the fourth time—the Doctors say no more)”. Not that Daisy cared. She was hardly one to dwell on insecurity—and she soon had much more pressing problems to worry about.
33. She Had A Love Nest
As WWII dawned, Daisy probably thought she’d get through it without any significant change to her lifestyle. At first, she was right. Duff Cooper, with whom she was still carrying on an affair, became the Minister of Information for the War Cabinet, and (insensitively) installed Daisy in a London house that belonged to his wife’s family, all so that he could see her easily in between his busy schedule.
But this love den wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
34. She Grew Painfully Isolated
Duff Cooper would always have a soft spot for Daisy, but he also had a job to do in Britain’s defense—not to mention he had another official mistress, installed over in Paris, who he was spending the rest of his free time with. As such, Daisy now whiled away the last days of WWII isolated and mostly alone in London, waiting for Cooper to pay her a visit.
And when the conflict ended, this only got worse.
35. She Tried To Win Her Lover Back
Daisy exited WWII more determined than ever to flex her power over Duff Cooper, and she returned to Paris immediately after to flaunt her jewels and perfect tailoring right in the other mistress’s face. Well, she got what she wanted: The mistress was so upset, she actually went running to Duff Cooper’s wife Lady Diana for comfort and an assurance that Cooper liked her more than Daisy.
In many ways, this was Daisy Fellowes’ last pure victory. A downfall was on its way.
36. Her Daughters Humiliated Her
While Daisy fought over the affections of Duff Cooper throughout WWII, her family was falling apart. Two of her daughters, Emmeline and Jacqueline, were caught up in collaboration charges with the Axis powers. While Emmeline spent five months behind bars, Jacqueline had her head shaved as a sign of her humiliation. This, more than anything else, felt like a true hit to Daisy’s reputation. But Daisy responded like Daisy: With an appalling lack of tact.
37. She Was Utterly Insensitive
At the end of WWII, a whole generation of men was returning with new ghosts to haunt them, the economy was a disaster, and the Fellowes’ name was mud. None of this kept Daisy from her hedonistic pleasures. In 1946, she ostentatiously partied on the streets with her friends in a Rolls-Royce with a glass roof. But even if Daisy couldn’t pay attention to global tragedies, a personal one was coming right for her.
38. She Lost The One Constant In Her Life
In 1953, Daisy’s whole world changed. That year, her husband Reginald passed on after three decades of marriage. And while Daisy had hardly been faithful, she had been loyal to Reginald in her way. He in turn kept her grounded as much as any one person could keep Daisy Fellowes grounded. Is it any surprise, then, that she soon went off the deep end?
39. She Owned A Famous Diamond
One of Daisy’s biggest contributions to the style world was her own color. While swanning about high society one day, Daisy wore the massive, bright pink 17.47-carat diamond called the “Tete de Belier”. Once owned by Russian royalty, the diamond was made to attract attention, and it certainly caught designer Elsa Schiaparelli’s eye, who started thinking of a way to use its “shocking” and “pure and undiluted” color.
Daisy Fellowes was about to be immortalized.
40. Marilyn Monroe Owed Her A Favor
Schiaparelli couldn’t get Daisy’s pink diamond out of her head, and she decided to use the color, which she dubbed “shocking pink” on the packaging of her new perfume. It was an instant sensation: The perfume, also called “Shocking,” is now iconic, and the pink would go on to grace some of the most famous costumes in history, including that dress and glove set Marilyn Monroe wears in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. All because of Daisy Fellowes.
41. She Was In A Ridiculous Cat Fight
Daisy had always had female as well as male friends, but she had never been above a good old womanly rivalry. In 1957, she got right in the middle of a catfight. That season in Venice, Lady Marriott invited the aging Daisy to a dinner party, and Daisy just couldn’t help but try to sabotage it. She got much more than she bargained for, though.
Lady Marriott, incensed at the socialite, responded by “stealing Daisy’s hair appointment and trying to steal her evening coat”.
42. She Wasn’t Book Smart
Daisy had always been a self-assured woman with a silver tongue, but there was something most people didn’t know. Although she could turn a phrase with the best of them—she once took up a post as the Paris editor of Harper’s Bazaar and wrote several novels—she wasn’t necessarily the most book-smart person in the room. This sometimes caused trouble in her pretentious high society circles.
At one point, her lover Duff Cooper was appalled that she thought Gustav Flaubert wrote Stendhal’s then famous, but now rather forgotten novel The Charterhouse of Parma. Honestly Daisy, I’m on your side on this one.
43. She Tried To Take Her Own Life
As Daisy entered her 60s, her thoughts began turning dark. Without Reginald there to bring her back from the brink, Daisy began remembering her mother’s suicide, and attempted to take her own life more than once during these years. In the end, though, death was as cruel to Daisy as Daisy had been to herself.
44. She Was Alone
It took until 1962—and the dawning of a Swinging Sixties that had no idea who she was—for Daisy Fellowes to finally succumb to a bad heart at the age of 72. By then, she was a shadow of her former self, and very few of her dazzling friends were alive anymore to mourn her. But when she passed on, Daisy’s biggest secret was revealed.
45. She Was Nearly Penniless
Daisy had always lived like she had no fears or worries, but her death made one thing very clear: She was holding on to a very precarious existence. Although she had inherited millions when her mother passed, by the end of her own life there was precious little money left; just under 80,000 pounds of the formerly staggering Singer fortune.
And while that is certainly still a lot of money, in Daisy’s lifestyle it could have meant penury in a few short years.
46. She Was Friends With The Prince Of Wales
For all that Daisy was one of the biggest bad girls of the early 20th century, she almost had even more infamy. On one of her many yacht trips, the future King Edward VIII happened to be one of her guests. Edward, who was just as fun-loving and notorious as Daisy, made for the perfect playmate—but Daisy also witnessed a state secret on this trip.
47. She Witnessed History
While playing host to the prince, Daisy accepted one of the royal’s own guests aboard; the delicate-featured divorcee Wallis Simpson. And while Edward and Simpson’s affair would eventually tear apart England and force him to abdicate his throne, at this point in time the romance was extremely new, and extremely hush-hush.
But it didn’t exactly get Daisy’s seal of approval.
48. She Almost Became A Royal Mistress
Although Daisy managed to keep Edward and Wallis Simpson’s love a secret—she was a high-class broad, despite everything else—she also reportedly had her eye on Edward the whole time. According to one bystander, if Edward hadn’t been so obviously in the passionate first stages of love with Wallis, “make no mistake, Daisy would have gone for him”.
49. She Once Pretended To Be A Commoner
Daisy’s parties were legendary, and for good reason. She loved a theme, and once threw a costume party for her friend’s birthday where everybody had to come as “somebody else”; in classic witty fashion, Daisy decided to go as a cloakroom attendant. Even so, that wasn’t her best party idea—that honor went to an extremely wicked theme.
50. She Staged A Mean-Spirited Party
From her cordial relationship with Duff Cooper’s wife Diana to her constant simmering feuds with society ladies, Daisy Fellowes was truly one of the most successful frenemies in history. And one day, she took it to the next level: This absolute legend threw a party where she only invited people that she didn’t like. You have to respect it.