WINNARETTA SINGER ,PRINCESS EDMOND DE POLIGNAC, known as “Winnie” died in London on November 26, 1943 *b: 1865): A musical patron, a notorious but discreet Lesbian, and the heiress Singer sewing machines.
After an unhappy marriage with Prince Louis de Scey-Montbéliard in 1887 (she was 22 years old), annulled by the Vatican in 1892, she married the following year to 59-year old Prince Edmond de Polignac, a discreet homosexual, each living freely thanks to this “white marriage,” (a chaste union.) In the parlance of the era, her divorce cast a shadow on her reputation that a marriage to a Prince illuminated.
The marriage had been arranged by the Countess Greffulhe and Robert de Montesquiou, declaring: “Thus we will marry the sewing machine with the lyre. And when the complicated estate of Isaac Singer – who had left two separate wills – was eventually settled, in 1877, Winnaretta received $167,000 (around $4.25 million in 2018 dollars) directly from his father’s personal savings account; in addition, she inherited part of the sale of the Singer Sewing Machine Company, more than $50,000 ($1.2 million) in cash and about $610,000 (almost $15 million in today’s economy) in shares. Another disposition left Winnaretta a part of English property. In the end, Isaac Singer’s will made Winnaretta a fabulously rich young heiress.
While they each pursued their other interests, they both were very much involved in music and the musical evenings of Polignac became regular and very sought after. All of Paris that counted then in the world of illustrious personalities in the arts, letters and sciences, pressed into their salons. But the Prince was beleaguered with fragile health and died on August 8, 1901, at the age of sixty-seven. The princess was deeply bereaved by the loss of the man who had been her best friend and had played such an important role in the world of art and beauty that she had created around them.
Winnie’s youngest brother, Franklin Singer, died in Paris on August 10, 1939. The princess accompanied her body to England to join the family of Singer in the crypt of Torquay, and she decided to stay a little longer to visit to friends. On September 3rd, England and France declared war on Germany. On September 17, the princess wrote to Nadia Boulanger and Francis Poulenc that her family had asked her to stay a little in England. She moved to Devonshire, where she had spent her younger years. She helped organize concerts whose profits were donated to the Red Cross. In the early spring of 1940, Winnaretta left Devonshire for London.
She organized many dinners, which included tenor Peter Pears, the publisher Cyril Connolly – who helped him record his memories – the writer Stephen Spender – who was curious to hear him recall his personal memories about Proust – composers Benjamin Britten, Lennox Berkeley, Gerald Berners, and other artistic and political figures. The princess died of a heart attack in the early hours of November 26, 1943.