It’s sad to say that most of the best love stories are not widely known. We hear a great deal about people to split up, but real-life romances are not as celebrated.
They happen. In all time periods, classes, places, and people-groups, true love has a way of making ordinary life rather extraordinary.
As we’ve toured the Biltmore the past few weeks in Book Journeys, we’ve had opportunity to see the beautiful creation George Vanderbilt envisioned when he first entered the mountains years before his grand estate was finished, but of all the beautiful things the estate housed…the relationship between George and his wife, Edith, was probably the most memorable for me.
George was considered a confirmed bachelor and Edith an ‘old’ maid at the time the two of them began an attachment. Having been among the same circles for years, it wasn’t until one of George’s friends encouraged the two of them to spend time together as they traveled aboard ship to France, that a romance began to bloom.
George’s more introverted and bookish personality bloomed in Edith’s vibrant and social wake. There was a genuine excitement about their marriage to each other, and despite the immaculate wealth of the Vanderbilts, they both chose a fairly simple wedding.
The Philadelphia Record reported this of the wedding: It was a union of quiet contentment…There probably never was so unostentatious a Vanderbilt wedding since the family made its millions. It is true that the church was full of costumes and the company was very fine, but there was an altogether marked quietness of tone and an absence of display.
After a four month honeymoon abroad, they returned home…man and wife, with great fanfare from the townspeople, tenants, and servants from Biltmore. The tenants lined the road as George and Edith rode forward and in the quiet of their first evening in their magnificent home, fireworks lit the night sky.
They both had an abiding love for learning and bringing education to others. With their quick minds and compassion, they opened schools of various kinds for the mountain people of Appalachia and took a surprising interest in the meekest and poorest of those people within their influence.
Edith Vanderbilt’s reputation was one of sophistication, grace, and the unique ability to relate to people of all different social classes and rank, which would become one of her most memorable features to the servants and townspeople of Biltmore. George was a visionary with a generous heart.
Biltmore truly became a ‘home’ for them, especially when their only child, Cornelia, was born.
Though their marriage ended too soon with George’s untimely death only sixteen years after they married, their legacy of compassion, ingenuity, and helping-others-help-themselves continued on in Edith’s life. She pursued her and George’s dream by selling a large portion of land to the United States Forest Service to create Pisgah National Forest. Her legacy, and Biltmore’s, continued and still goes on today…but the ‘story’ of their romance is worth telling.
I hope to do that some day 😊