Over the years, many Americans have joined various royal families across the globe – some more well-known than others. One woman who has not been discussed in much detail was Princess Anastasia of Greece and Denmark, born Nonie “Nancy” May Stewart Worthington Leeds in Zanesville, Ohio.
A daughter of a wealthy merchant, Nancy was born on 20 January 1878 to William Charles Stewart and Mary Holden Stewart (m.11 December 1874). Two years later, the family moved roughly two and a half hours north to Cleveland, Ohio, located on Lake Erie. Mary would pass away not long after arriving in Cleveland, and William would later remarry.
Nancy’s education was mainly at home, at least until she was 17-years-old. At that point, she was enrolled at the private college preparatory school for girls, Miss Porter’s School, in Connecticut.
By 1894, she was married to George Ely Worthington, whose grandfather was the Cleveland industrialist George Worthington. The union only lasted roughly four years before they divorced in 1898, and by 1900, US census records show she was again living with her father and step-mother. This did not last long as she married for a second time in August of that year to William Leeds – known as the Tin King who was worth 35-40 million US dollars. Two years later, their only child, William Jr, was born on 19 September 1902. William Sr did not get to see his son grow up; he died four years later in 1908 in Paris leaving Nancy, who inherited the majority of his $35 million fortune, a widow.
Nancy elected to remain in Europe after her husband’s death and began to socialise with the aristocracy on the continent. This would lead to her meeting her third husband, Christopher of Greece and Denmark, who was ten years her junior. They met in 1914 Biarritz, France, and their engagement was announced that same year on the island of Capri. As Nancy was a divorced commoner, many in the Greek Royal Family had reservations regarding the marriage. Nevertheless, love won out, and they married on 1 February 1920 in a Greek Orthodox ceremony in Vevey, Switzerland, after World War One caused them to postpone their nuptials.
Nancy joined the Greek Orthodox Church upon her marriage and took the name, Anastasia. The monarch at the time, King Constantine I made her a princess in her own right – making her title Her Royal Highness Princess Anastasia of Greece and Denmark. Intense media coverage from the United States then commenced.
The next year her 19-year-old Eton educated son, who she had believed was too frail as a child and kept him isolated through the majority of his childhood, also married into European royalty when he wed Princess Xenia of Russia. Xenia’s mother was his step-father’s sister. Anastasia was not happy about the union believing they were too young to marry; it was said that she cried for three days and nights because she was so distraught over their young age. The fact that they had only known each other for 24 hours before becoming engaged no doubt played a part, as well.
Anastasia was diagnosed with cancer not long after her wedding, and her son travelled to Greece to be at her side. As a result, her marriage to Christopher only lasted three years due to her death on 29 August 1923 at the age of 45 in London at Spencer House.
She was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Queens, New York, as per her wishes in her will.