Cornelius Vanderbilt III
The son of Cornelius Vanderbilt II, Neily, as he was called by friends and family, earned the ire of his parents by eloping with Grace Wilson, a New York socialite whose two sisters had married into London society. Neily’s mother made clear that she regarded Grace as a social climber of no account, and his father cut Neily’s inheritance to just $1.5 million. Neily’s brother later gave him another $6 million, which came in handy, because Grace’s spending was profligate.
Grace and Neily remained married until his death, and Grace created a niche for herself in New York and Newport society, throwing lavish dinner parties in the mansion at 640 Fifth Avenue which Neily had also inherited. Grace promptly had the entire interior gutted and rebuilt, at a cost of $500,000, which Neily could ill afford. Though they had two children together, a son named Cornelius Vanderbilt IV, and a daughter named Grace Vanderbilt the following year, they paid them little attention.
Neily’s time was taken up by yachting and later military service in World War One; Grace’s time by entertaining and socializing, draining the millions bestowed upon them. By 1908 she had assumed the role of the Queen of New York society, based upon the spending of Vanderbilt money. She hosted two types of dinner parties, large gatherings of over 100 people, and smaller, intimate dinners of fifty or so guests, an invitation to which was a mark of social success.
Eventually, Neily’s mother grew to grudgingly accept her daughter-in-law to the point where she began to provide some financial assistance, largely to prevent the Vanderbilt name the shame of indebtedness. The gesture only encouraged Grace to spend yet more, demanding her husband purchase for her a steam yacht. Neily did so, after which he entered the army, mostly to escape his wife and family. He also began drinking heavily. He eventually became a general.
Neily disowned his son when he learned that the young man wanted to enter into a journalism career. He retreated to his other yacht, which was paid for by his mother, and avoided both his wife and the spotlight. In 1940 he sold the New York mansion, with the proviso that he and his wife be allowed to remain in residence until his death. Neily left behind the proceeds from the sale of the mansion following his death, about $4 million.