Thursday, April 2, 2015


 Image from Google Images
(May 20, 1887 Paris - October 29, 1967 Montmarte, France)
Her millionaire lover,  Benjamin Guggenheim, called her "Ninette."   He was a married Jewish man from a wealthy New York family, the second most wealthy man on the ship after Jacob Astor, and she was a Parisian night club singer and his mistress.  Benjamin bought tickets for himself and his valet (who shared a room), his chauffer, and Madam Aubert and her maid, Emma Sagesserm, so they could stay in separate cabins, and keep up appearances. They all boarded the ill-fated Titanic on April 10th, 1912 at the port in Cherbourg, France expecting to spend their voyage in the first class areas of the ship and arrive in New York City in high style. 
Ninette spoke no English.  She was just 24.   Benjamin, born in America in 1865, was a bit more than a decade older than she.  His father had made the family wealth in industry and Benjamin had retired from actively attending to business.  He had semi retired from his marriage.
When the Titanic hit the iceberg that would tear into it, Benjamin and his valet, in stateroom cabin #B82, slept through the impact.  But soon after midnight, Ninette and Emma, her maid, who had felt the collision while in their room, #B35, came into his room worried.  Benjamin dressed and was given a life jacket and a heavy sweater and they all walked out to the lifeboats.
When it was time to get into one, she and Emma entered boat #9.  Benjamin and his valet stayed behind, perhaps realizing how desperate the situation really was.  Last seen sitting on deck chairs by the women, it was later reported that Benjamin had managed to get a message to his wife through another passenger who survived.  He said, "Tell my wife, if it should happen that my secretary and I both go down, tell her I played the game out straight to the end. No woman shall be left aboard this ship because Ben Guggenheim was a coward."  Secretary?
In the famous film "TITANIC" by film-maker James Cameron, one perhaps never to be outdone, Ninette was acted by Linda Leisher in a scene in which she is mentioned as a bit of a society scandal.  In the scene in which Benjamin and his valet are joining other wealthy men who will go down with the ship to their death, he changes into his best evening suit.  Ever aware of his high class status, the character says, "We have dressed in our best, and are prepared to go down like gentlemen."  (That was a quote from an interview with Ninette after the sinking.)  The men drowned in the early hours of April 15th, just hours after the ship, which was branded and marketed erroneously as "unsinkable," hit into the berg.  Their bodies were never recovered.
Taken aboard the Carpathia, the steamship that made it to the scene of the lifeboats,  Ninette sent a Marconigram  (a radiogram) to Paris to let everyone know she was a survivor. 
She was interviewed and depicted the scene of the gentlemen calmly puffing their cigars and having brandy while watching the women and children get into the lifeboats. 
Maybe the men appeared calm because they were in denial, shock, or held to the belief that a rescue ship would come in time to save them.  
Ninette told others that once on the Carpathia she was near a nervous breakdown, and that her nervous system was permanently shattered by the ordeal and the loss.  At the time she may not have been exaggerating.  She wasn't the only person to be so effected by the horrific scenes of the sinking nor the only one to make an insurance claim. 
When the Titanic sunk Ninette suffered great loss; Benjamin, her hopes and dreams as a Mistress, her jewelry, clothing, and her millinery  (hats!) all went down with the ship.  She did make an insurance claim to receive some money for her personal possessions emphasizing that that it had been necessary to leave things behind and hadn't even been properly dressed for her escape. 
I've yet to learn if Madame Aubert got any inheritance from Benjamin Guggenheim, if there was any plan for what would happen if he died, but it seems unlikely.
It's said that she stayed in New York until May of the next year and then, upset and afraid, but unable to continue living in New York without anyone to support her, boarded another steamship, the Adriatic, back to France, leaving her trunk and railway tickets behind because of her nervousness.
In the end she recovered herself and lived a long life. Madam Leontine Pauline Aubert outlived Guggenheim by 55 years! 
(This article was researched and put together from information that is repeated on many web sites and in books.)
C 2015 All Rights Reserved on original writing.  Mistress Manifesto BlogSpot/ Missy Rapport

1 comment:

Laura Billingsley said...

Ninette never married, and it is said that she didn't even take a lover after the loss of Benjamin. If anyone has any further information about her, I would love to know!