- From the New York Social Diary's "Astor Lives and Astor Wives, Part II
The jury of Mrs. Astor’s friends, are not out on her son Anthony Marshall. He is well-liked but with frequently expressed reservations. His mother is credited for his progress in life and his intellect gets little if any credit at all. He’s only twenty years younger than his mother and so now is in his eighties. About fifteen years ago in Northeast Harbor, Maine, he met a younger woman named Charlene Gilbert who was married to the local Episcopal minister of the church, as a matter of fact, that was attended by Brooke Astor.
The meeting of Mrs. Gilbert and Mr. Marshall, was, in the eyes of their neighbors (and Northeast Harbor is a small town with small town values and small town habits), not an accident. Some took note of how frequently Mrs. Gilbert passed by Mr. Marshall property, making herself a familiar sight. If that is so, then Mrs. Gilbert succeeded. An affair began between her and Mr. Marshall, (already twice married). The affair became public knowledge and when it was announced that the preacher Mr. Gilbert’s wife Charlene was leaving him and their children to marry Brooke Astor’s son, even Brooke Astor heard about it.
The matter so embarrassed her, she never set foot in Rev. Gilbert’s church again. And as for Charlene Gilbert? Mrs. Astor was the child of tradition and decorum. A lady is as a lady does and vice versa. She tolerated Charlene Gilbert. And when she married Tony Marshall, she kept up appearances with grace and courtesy. Aside from Charlene’s relationship with her son, she was not of interest to her. She may even have not trusted her.
If so, she may have been right in thinking such a thing. Saturday morning’s (July 29, 2006) New York Times carried a story about how the property that Vincent Astor gave to Brooke in Northeast Harbor had recently been transferred entirely into the name of Charlene Marshall. Mrs. Astor had given the property to her son three years ago and not long thereafter it was placed in his wife’s name. This came as a great surprise to Mrs. Astor’s grandson Philip Marshall, who made public the matter of his grandmother’s debilitating circumstances, as he had once been told by his grandmother that one of the guesthouses on the property would be his and his wife’s.
It is possible that Mrs. Astor never intended to leave a piece of property to her grandson. Or that she changed her mind. Or, that by 2003, when she was already running into problems processing information, she wasn’t quite sure what she was doing. What she was doing, however, aside from what she knew or what she intended, was signing over, consciously or otherwise, a multimillion dollar piece of property to a daughter-in-law, the same daughter-in-law who had embarrassed her publicly. This was the same daughter-in-law whom it has been said, canceled orders Mrs. Astor’s prescriptions for cheaper brands, and cut back on her maintenance. This was the same daughter-in-law who was seen in public wearing Mrs. Astor’s jewels.
Reports of neglect, of objects and pieces being removed from the Astor apartment, of other things being oddly amiss had been circulating for some time. Rumors and suspicion of neglect had long been in the air. Nevertheless, Annette de la Renta, her young friend of longstanding checked in on her friend daily to see that she was comfortable and cared for. And then stories circulated that there came the time when Mrs. de la Renta was informed that she would have to make an appointment to see her ailing friend. Henry James or Edith Wharton couldn’t have created a better plot point. It suddenly appeared to some that Brooke Astor, the great philanthropist who had devoted the past forty years to improving the lives of the community, who had the good fortune to have the means to care for herself in her declining age, appeared to be a prisoner in her own home. A prisoner of somebody she instinctively never really liked: her daughter in-law, the one-time preacher’s wife from a coastal village in Maine who now by some stroke of fate or some kind of intent, was accumulating the Astor property in her own name.
- Which I discovered after reading this paragraph in the Bar Harbor Times, "Year in Review: Part 2"
Northeast Harbor summer resident Tony Marshall, and his wife, Charlene,, have agreed to relinquish the stewardship of his mother’s Brooke Astor’s personal and financial affairs. Mr. Marshall ceded the care of his ailing, 104–year-old mother to her longtime friends, Annette de la Renta and J.P. Morgan Chase. He and his wife have also agreed to repay his mother’s estate $1.3 million and return important works of art and valuable jewelry and put the Seal Harbor cottage, Cove End, up as collateral pending further litigation following Mrs. Astor’s death. These concessions end months of public family feuding following allegations by Mr. Marshall’s son, Philip Marshall, this past July that his father was mishandling both his grandmother’s money and her personal care.
Note: Both of the above clips were copied and pasted, so I'm not responsible for their odd phrasings.