Nancy Astor

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Nancy Astor (painting by John Singer Sargent , 1909)

Nancy Astor, Viscountess Astor , née Nancy Witcher Langhorne , (born May 19, 1879 in Danville , Virginia , United States , † May 2, 1964 in Grimsthorpe Castle , Lincolnshire , United Kingdom ) was a British politician .

Live and act

Nancy Witcher Langhorne was the third of five daughters of the American businessman Chiswell Dabney Langhorne (1843-1919) and his wife Anne Witcher, nee Keene. She grew up in the United States and married Robert Gould Shaw II (1871-1930) in 1897, with whom she had a son. The relationship did not last: the two separated in 1901. The divorce took place in 1903. The reasons for the breakdown of the marriage were Shaw's drinking and aggressive sexual demands.

John Singer Sargent : Nancy Astor, Viscountess Astor, chalk drawing, 1923

The following year she moved to England . There she quickly gained access to the British upper class, in whose social life she participated. In 1906 she married the US-born British Waldorf Astor (1879–1952). He was the offspring of the very wealthy Astor family and was a member of the British House of Commons from 1910 . On the death of his father William Waldorf Astor, 1st Viscount Astor (1848-1919), he inherited his British nobility title as 2nd Viscount Astor and Nancy received the courtesy title of Viscountess Astor . As a peer he moved into the British House of Lords and had to give up his seat in the House of Commons. In the by-election for his House of Commons in Plymouth Sutton, Nancy was nominated as a Conservative Party candidate and was elected on November 15, 1919.

The year 1914 marked a turning point in Astor's life, in which, according to her own statements, she was converted to the views of Christian Science , which had a lasting impact on her thinking and way of life. Astor also tried intensively to win over others to their worldview, so the politician Philip Kerr converted to Christian Science as a result of her persuasive work.

On December 1, 1919, Lady Astor became the first female Member of Parliament in the United Kingdom to take office ( Constance Markiewicz was elected to Parliament for Sinn Féin in 1918, who, in the Sinn Fein manner, refused to exercise the mandate) . In 1923 she submitted an application to increase the age to purchase alcoholic beverages to 18. She campaigned for universal women's suffrage and equality for women in civil service. Women over 30 were given the right to vote in Great Britain in 1918, and in 1928 the voting age for women was brought into line with the age of 21 for men.

In the years after 1936, Astor's public reputation suffered a severe setback when journalist Claud Cockburn publicly attacked her and her husband in the course of his attacks on the so-called " Cliveden Set ", accusing them of being a prime example of wealthy people who loved theirs Relationships and using their newspapers to deliberately subvert government policies. On the basis of Astor's various considerations that Hitler could be used as a bulwark against Bolshevism , Cockburn also connected them with the politics of appeasement . Nevertheless, she was re-elected many times and did not leave the House of Commons until 1945, at the age of 66.

Nancy Astor (1936)

Astor died on May 2, 1964 while visiting the home of her daughter, now Countess of Ancaster, at Grimsthorpe Castle , Lincolnshire. After a memorial service at Westminster Abbey on May 13, her body was buried next to that of her husband at Cliveden 's.


  • Robert Gould Shaw III. (1898–1970), son of Robert Gould Shaw II.
  • William Waldorf (1907-1966)
⚭ 1945–1953 Lady Sarah Kathleen Elinor Norton
⚭ 1955–1960 Phillipa Victoria Hunloke
⚭ 1960 Janet Bronwen Alun Pugh
  • Nancy Phyllis Louise (1909-1975)
⚭ 1933 Gilbert James Heathcote-Drummond-Willoughby, 3rd Earl of Ancaster
⚭ 1945–1951 Melanie Mathilda Elena Hauser
⚭ 1952 Bridget Aphra Wreford
  • Michael Langhorne (1916–1980)
⚭ 1942–1961 Barbara Mary Colonsay McNeill
⚭ 1970 Judith Caroline Traill Innes
  • John Jacob (1919-2000)
⚭ 1944–1972 Ana Inez Carcano y Morra
⚭ 1976–1985 Susan Eveleigh


  • Michael Astor: Tribal Feeling . J. Murray [London] 1964.
  • Anthony Masters: Nancy Astor A Biography . McGraw-Hill, New York 1981, ISBN 0-07-040784-3 .
  • Christopher Sykes: Nancy. The life of Lady Astor . Harper & Row, New York [et al. a.] 1972, ISBN 0-06-014184-0 .
  • JP Wearing: Bernard Shaw and Nancy Astor . University of Toronto Press, Toronto, Buffalo 2005, ISBN 0-8020-3752-6 .
  • Martin Pugh : Astor, Nancy Witcher, Viscountess Astor (1879–1964). In: Henry Colin Gray Matthew, Brian Harrison (Eds.): Oxford Dictionary of National Biography , from the earliest times to the year 2000 (ODNB). Oxford University Press, Oxford 2004, ISBN 0-19-861411-X , ( license required ), as of January 2011 (not viewed).
  • Astor, Lady Nancy . In: Collier's New Encyclopedia. Volume 1, PF Collier & Son, New York 1921, p. 314.

Web links

Commons : Nancy Astor  - collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography .
  2. Martin Pugh judges with a view to these allegations in his short biography Astors in the third volume of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography that the idea that Cliveden was the center of a conspiracy to enforce the Appeasement Course is "essentially regarded as a fiction" ("Is essentially regarded as a fiction"). He also points out that when Astor met the German ambassador Joachim von Ribbentrop, he got along extremely badly and that her name was on the list of people to be arrested in the event of a German invasion.