Last time we heard the tale of how the young and beautiful American heiress Clara Ward became a European princess by marrying Prince Joseph of Caraman-Chimay. The couple had two children and spent six years together before Clara, who was famous for her rebellious streak, took off with a gypsy violinist called Rigó Jancsi. Today we will carry on with Clara’s tale.
When news broke about Clara and her lover eloping together, Prince Joseph secured a divorce easily due to Clara’s reputation. Clara refused to attend the divorce hearings and lost custody of her children, though she was obliged to pay child support to Joseph. Clara did not seem to care about all that she had lost and said: “I am done with it all; I wanted to be free”. She said of aristocratic society, “It does not want me, and I do not want it”. Of course, the press went wild for this story, a Princess leaving her husband for an illiterate, impoverished fiddler was just the scandal needed to sell papers. The press followed Clara and her lover Rigo all over, reporting on what they got up to and where they were; from visiting Rigo’s mother, to living for a time in Egpyt.
Clara loved all of the attention, and while living in Paris, she would smoke in the streets or ride around on a bike in her bloomers. She then even began to perform at the Moulin Rouge and other theatres to bring in some money. Clara would stand on stage wearing skin-tight body-stockings which caused an uproar. This was nothing new for Paris at the time, but people could not cope with the idea of a former Princess parading herself around half-naked on stage with her lover. One show was even cancelled when the audience were planning to throw rotten food at Clara. Clara caused such scandal around Europe that Kaiser Wilhelm II banned the sales of her pictures and people even went to prison for selling them but, of course, the public loved the scandal, and in Budapest, a famous cake was even named after Rigo Jancsi!
Clara married Rigó Jancsi in 1898 once the divorce from his first marriage came through and the pair spent their time travelling everywhere they could; Rigó would play his violin and Clara would perform on stage as they travelled. The couple was madly in love with each other, and Clara loved to spend all of her inherited money showering her new husband with expensive gifts. She bought him new violins and jewels, paid for all of their travel expenses which often involved building a new palace wherever they were living at the time. Clara also purchased some more unusual gifts for Rigó, including buying the whole mountain which his mother’s house sat on in Hungary and buying him a zoo filled with animals!
After a few years, Clara and Rigó’s relationship began to fray at the edges, and they were often spotted having blazing arguments in hotels. Clara’s mother Catherine had heard the reports of how much money Clara was wasting on silly things, and so she tried to bring her daughter into line. Catherine had Clara’s money transferred into her uncle’s name, and her uncle was then in charge of giving Clara a yearly allowance of around $2 million in modern money. A large amount of this sum had to be sent to Prince Joseph for the upkeep of her children. Unfortunately, the scheme did not stop Clara from spending money, and it just made her rack up huge debts which her uncle then had to help her clear.
By 1904, Clara and Rigó had divorced. Despite spending around $20 million on anything and everything that her husband wanted, it was not enough, and their marriage came to a bitter end after eight years as a couple. Before the papers had finished reporting the break-up of Rigó and Clara, Clara had found another love interest.
It is believed that Clara met Giuseppe Ricciardi on a train where he was working as a baggage handler or a waiter, but details on him are sparse. We do know that Giuseppe was very handsome and that the couple were married in 1904, but like the two marriages before, this one lasted just over six years and the pair were divorced in 1911. Ricciardi apparently sought a divorce because Clara was having a fling with the butler.
After her third divorce, Clara announced that she would get married again as she was unhappy when alone. She stuck to this and was married a final time to a man named Signor Cassalota. This marriage was kept out of the press, and even Clara’s family knew nothing about her fourth husband, so very little is known about him.
Clara’s relatives first heard of husband number four when he sent a telegram to them to inform them that Clara had died of pneumonia in Italy at the age of just 43. The couple had been married for five years by the time Clara passed away in 1916.
Clara’s will had been made when she was married to Giuseppe Ricciardi and was not updated during her fourth marriage. Clara’s estate was divided between her third husband, an American cousin and her two children after her death; her fourth husband was left with nothing as he was not named in the will.
A newspaper in Detroit wrote of Clara Ward: “She died an outcast, an old woman of 43 years, just when she should have been in her prime.”